Sell Souls – Dawood, Jammu & Kashmir

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Yesterday was a good day for yesterday I poured my heart out to Adin. It was evening when I left home to meet Adin. I thought of my dead grandfather and how happy he would have been for me! He would have probably kissed my forehead and wished me all the luck in the world. If only, he would take some time out of his busy schedule and come pay me a visit. When we are alive, we have time. But when we are dead we have none.
Seated on a bench, overlooking the Dal Lake, Adin looked beautiful. A glint appeared in her eye. A good sign. Behind us: scores of tourists, probably honeymoon couples from across the mountains, clicking silly photos, dressed in traditional, obsolete Kashmiri attires. Long earrings, dangling from their ears-dragging their ears down by their sheer weight. Heads covered with tedious scarves, reminiscent of an unholy past. Scarves that can transform cute girls into ugly dolls. These gullible tourists with an IQ of a lamp post (her words exact). She cracked jokes at their expense and laughed at her own jokes. The wrinkles that formed beneath her eyes when she laughed betrayed her humaneness. Everything else about her was angelic.
As she talked and laughed and talked, I wanted to make love to her. She told me about this two-storied house in her neighborhood with six rooms that housed six families. All six of them brothers- living with their respective families. I imagined myself living in one of those kitchen/bedrooms, eating egg sandwiches and making love to her-TV turned to full volume to drown our moans. Pure eternal bliss. The sun was on its way down and light fading fast. Hues of scarlet across the ripples of water painted a perfect picture. Precisely the time I was waiting for! I turned towards her- my heart pounding against my chest. The voice of muezzin calling the faithful to prayers interrupted me. Come to Nimaaz…Come to Nimaaz. She adjusted her dupatta. I bit my tongue. A holy silence descended down upon us. Guilt and reverence.
‘I love you,’ I said as soon as the muezzin finished his call. She stared back with hollow, blank eyes. As if I was speaking a different language.
‘What do you mean? You love me or you are in love with me?’
‘What is the difference?’
She leant forward, placing her chin in her right hand and took her time to answer. The pause felt like an eternity.
‘You can love a friend but you can only be in love with a lover,’ she answered.
‘If that is the case… I am in love with you’
Her face turned blank. I could hear my heart pumping blood. Bellyache. Drops of sweat running down my cold cheek.
Woe to her! Woe to her! May she never find true love. I looked for a sign, in her eyes, on her face. None!
‘You are a good guy- a nice guy, but don’t get me wrong…you are ordinary. I don’t want to waste my life with mediocrity. If only you would have been more talented, more gifted…’
‘Wait,’ I interrupted her and raced to a shop that sold souls located up a dark cobbled alley. My feet tap danced without any rhythm, turning heads as I bumped into people.
Huffing and puffing, I asked the shopkeeper about a talented soul. ‘Well that’s our bestselling category,’ he told me and came back with four talented souls. A footballer, a painter, a writer and a fourth soul that I don’t remember. It was a singer or maybe an actor. My choice was easy. I chose a writer. He quoted a price. I didn’t haggle. As soon as I put on the soul, I could feel plots gushing through my veins. I pictured myself churning masterpieces after masterpieces and if luck managed to stay on my side, maybe a few might even become bestsellers.
Once back on the bench, I saw her buried inside her phone-her face illuminated by the light. I asked her: Would you like a talented writer to be your lover?
She took her time to reply. Eerie Silence. My palms started to sweat. Finally, she spoke: Writers are eccentric. I don’t think I can handle a writer. Fame can turn normal people into asses.
I couldn’t think straight. A buzzing sound originated in my head.
She continued: Moreover, I don’t want people making fun of you. They would be quick to pigeonhole us: “the beauty and the beast.” You know how insensitive people can be!
Fuck the people, I said on the inside. On the outside, I took a deep, deep breath, looked over my shoulder and took out a Marlboro. I peeked right and I peeked left and with no familiar face nearby, I lit one.
A warm surge of energy shot through my spine. I saw her lips tremble and her eyes quiver as she waited for my reply. I swear I could have kissed her, right there and then.
Not one to lose hope, I asked her to wait for me and darted across to the shop that sold souls.
‘I want a good-looking soul,’ I told him.
A smirk crossed his face. He showed me a few souls and I chose one of them, albeit arbitrarily. I put it on and looked into the mirror. The face that stared back at me was indeed better looking. Strong jawline, chiseled cheekbones, blue eyes, silky hair. Happy with my choice, I raced back and found her perched on her seat. Without a word, I sat next to her. The seat was still warm.
‘You nearly gave me a heart attack,’ she said and then she went silent. Her eyes glued to my face; her jaw dropped.
‘How do I look?’
A swarm of butterflies flapped inside my stomach; my arms outstretched, waiting to pull her in my arms. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
‘I liked you better before,’ she replied in one breath. ‘Now that you are a good-looking guy, girls will swoon over you. I am pretty sure that soon, you will find a girl, better looking than me, dump me for her, only to dump her for the next bimbo’
Her words stung me. I pictured her as a snake; her tongue transformed into a fang. All I wanted was for her to love me. Love me like I loved her. And all she did was crib and complain and come up with silly excuses. So, I decided to stand up, stand up for myself, for my love, our love, our future.
How the fuck can you predict the future? I asked her.
‘I don’t know but I can sense it and women are great at sensing these things,’ she replied staring at the vast expanse of water in front of her. The moon was out, gleaming over the lake, as if taunting me for my follies. I wanted to claw at something like cats do when they come back from the wild or better, burn her hair. Instead I said: You are not making any sense.
‘Don’t yell’
And with that, she burst into tears. Thankfully, all the happy people had long gone; otherwise it would have been embarrassing. I tried to calm her down but the more I tried, the more she slipped out of control. I looked here and there, for help that never came. I tried apologizing and, somehow, that infuriated her further.
I fumbled through my pockets for a handkerchief but instead retrieved one laden with phlegm. Then, and I sense the hand of something unnatural in it, I remembered something that I read in one of those girly magazines: Women love chocolates. So, I gave her a box of chocolates (a gift I had bought for her to solemnize our love). And lo and behold, she stopped crying.
‘You know what I like in a man?’ she said between mouthfuls of chocolate. ‘Sensitivity, good nature, confidence, intelligence, and of course…sophistication’
And like a dog, I lapped it all up- nodded in agreement and made a mental note of these qualities. Could one soul have so many qualities? Was it even possible? I had my doubts. I recalled a line I read somewhere on Facebook: Winners never Quit and Quitters never win. What can I say? This desperate, gullible heart of mine was grasping at straws. So, I decided to give it another shot. I raced back to the shop that sold souls. It was closing time and the shop had an eerie feeling to it. As if it had a life of its own; as if it had worn itself out from all the ramblings it had witnessed during the day. The shopkeeper, out of pity or out of good nature decided to entertain my request. It is almost impossible, he said as both of us dug our heads into the shop like miners, in search of Californian gold. The narrow alley outside had emptied and all that was left was a pack of dogs, eyeing us from distance, waiting for us to leave so they could rule the darkness. Finally, the shopkeeper found a soul that ticked almost all the boxes. He charged me twice the price.
Adin was still as a corpse when I returned. The only thing that breathed apart from her was the long street lamp under which a pack of mosquitoes buzzed around.
‘How do you find me now?’ I said, out of breath, putting myself out in front of her like those whores that put themselves out for desperate horny men. And like those insensitive pricks, she rejected me again.
‘Why don’t you get it? You are a dear friend to me and I don’t want to ruin our friendship’
My mouth went dry and my blood froze. I could not believe her. Everything in front of me was enveloped by darkness. Her face opened to me as it was. The face of Medusa. Around me, I only saw darkness, pitch black darkness, complete absence of light.
She tugged at my sleeve and said something. I pushed her away. I put my hands inside the pockets of my overcoat and walked away.
‘Please, don’t leave. I’m sorry…’
Her voice fizzled out behind me. She became a distant dream.
Finally, I am free. Free from the invisible shackles that I had so willfully put on. I can write again. I can masturbate again without any guilt. I can do whatever I want. Not a care in the world.
Yesterday was indeed a good day!

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