Before A.D. - One
Survived through idiocracy, through gullibility and for what? Not to know how the difference I could have made played out? However this was only taught to me now, how could I be oblivious to sin? Even the shooter knows why he is firing, but why was I promised to feel nothing when I let everything go? Late books and greasy fries along with reassurance from the right made everything unspeakable. Never mind as hopefully the Day of the Lord will help a dog kneel or fall into the crack that he came from.
If the dog had not witnessed what I went through then there would be no problem but to silently sit and observe the flowers growing around him. I flowered him with love and appreciation with whatever he said even as he didn’t say much, and based on the fact that he was blessed much greater than us. He was my confidence patch, Romeo. A simple stranger who I mistakably spoke with and only after ten years I realized that the reason why Romeo didn’t say much was because all he had to speak of was lies like my mother.
Irony of the matter was that I, Shankar, met Romeo through a night of religious reformation at the local community centre in Leicestershire, England. A cold night in October and the only warm place to stand happened to be by a radiator that was already occupied at the Charotar Patidar Samaj.
Samaj’s (communities) like so many others in Leicestershire and around the world were filled with music and dancing of a native ritual through nine days out the year for Nourta. (A festival celebrating the Lordess Mother of Hindus through a mythological passage in Sanskrit). However now the celebrations were more like a place to pass time, only a few people considered the spirit of a Lord and actually came to celebrate that, socializing was the main aim of this event. I attended for God, this being consciously or not, I always felt that I should fill these days of the year to show gratitude to my mother’s faith.
At fifteen I stood by Romeo towering him easily by a foot and him shadowing me by six years. The first thing I asked him that cold night was which one of the hundreds of girls attending Nourta did he have his eye on? The surprising thing was that he had his eye on the same girl that I thought to be most attractive and from then on we were best of friends.
Neither of us tried to speak to this anonymous girl. All I heard from him was that she was older than I and hence not to pounce at that opportunity. Throughout the time I knew Romeo he never took that chance; fair enough, no courage, no humiliation and no loss right?
In spite of this, did he feel pride when I lost after taking a dose of spinach? I never heard sorrow from him. I spent most my time with him complaining in hereditary language how everything was awful and not once I heard from him, ‘don’t be stupid!’ His friend, Tamal, who was his confidence tried to teach me one night, but I placed race before wisdom and disregarded what he said. Later I ended disregarding Tamal, Romeo’s childhood friend, Romeo said nothing.
Life has a way of drifting by and slowly so did Tamal, for marriage and children he worked around the clock. I began to grow a beard and we drifted further still. He came to visit me when least expected and now I realize this he was doing for me as then I had plenty of pride to believe I needed him. Through Romeo Hindu’s became silently obscure and Allah’s truth became dismissed. (Kudha forgive me and forgive my elders and give us sight to read Scripture. Amen).
I began neglecting my family and spending more time with Romeo and Tamal. They were older and hence cool and Tamal had his own car, and Romeo apart of the same caste of community, like two Methodists and a Baptist, one for thought and one for love, I felt invincible amongst my own peers.
This I strongly needed at that time of my life as I was a victim of school bullying, “pea-head, pea-head,” people cried since some crazy physicist in the sixth grade made that up. I was not raised to stand up for myself so I remained silent with no insult of any form of swear or lyric to shut that from spreading. Pea-head spread extremely fast and before I realized girls called me this to ease their moments of discharge and I still said nothing. Carry on with work and I’ll be out of The City of Leicester School, in no time.
This school was famous for well-known celebrities like England soccer stars Gary Lineker in 1984, and Emile Heskey in 1999, and growth of an explosive irregularity in 1996. Well by the time O-levels were done I was drinking but most unfortunately was smoking too. There was no point living at home as home was a place I tried to be away from.
The early days of meeting Romeo and Tamal were harmless; I was still in diapers at sixteen years and followed them around Leicester town, to the slot arcades, and through the mall to the billiard house. We spent most of our time mastering the art of playing eight ball stars and stripes. Conversations were around where the balls were placed and when my next exams were.
Tamal was not fortunate enough to get to university as he was needed at home. Romeo had been to some university in England where he had graduated with some certificate in computing, and the only story that I remember him speaking of was when he got drunk over cocktails and passed out in the toilets of some club. Since then he had stuck to drinking Budweiser. I drank cider even though I wasn’t much of a fan for apples, but this drink quenched my thirst and remained filled throughout our hour of passing time and speaking about which girl I thought was hot. At that time hot was classified as who dressed the least, nothing really to do with name or personality as the personality of the girl was just as the crazy physicist’s. Nothing really ever mattered in my pea-brain those days besides who would hold the win on that day, Romeo or Tamal? With my money running on Tamal, Romeo upped his stake.
In the ninth grade my confidence rose. I attended afternoon smoke sessions with Huliyo as that comforted my thought process on why Sarah had broken my heart. Huliyo did not forcefully ask me to smoke, but I was stupid and had no other sense of direction or purpose besides fulfilling my grades and trying to be liked by the opposite sex. Throughout that summer before the change of school venue and the growth of extreme late puberty I had visited my cousin in India, and all his friends, of which all of them smoked. Then back to England with a carton of Benson and Hedges in my pocket ready to begin college away from peas and any other type of vegetable.
I attended Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College, set beside Leicester University; famous for discovering genetic fingerprinting in 1985 by Sir Alec Jeffreys. The campus was beautiful and was attended by an average of all student bodies around Leicestershire. My major was in science and math, and I attended college on a regular basis. No insults, no embarrassments, just plain old living, learning and socializing with most if not all the college. This period of two years to earn A-levels were a highlight of my life. There was life in the air and each day was a blessing of which I thought none the wiser. I finished college with flying colours but nothing on my future agenda besides a hint by a close friend Amos to build a future in dental medicine.
I was confused on which degree to sort. Top marks from year one at college, along with top friends, I had the world at my finger tips and a beat to a drum, but all I knew of was what my elders knew and that was to be a doctor. And not a doctor of psychology or education, but of whom was only heard from ancient India.
Sitting with Amos at lunch I decided to follow his path upon becoming a dentist. Nine to five works, and pay is well, and this would keep the elders grateful. So I applied to universities around England, especially in London, a city far from home and full of opportunity to discover my new born gift, smoking and socializing.
In the meantime I had built a tolerance for alcohol. Studying had not been difficult for me so that left plenty of time with Tamal and Romeo. Tamal introduced me to late night clubbing at seventeen; I easily walked past doormen working for nightclubs aged twenty-one and over. This was not a state in the States, this was Leicester, a town filled with mixed ethnicity and drinking was legal at eighteen. That night Tamal managed “to-score.” What a brilliant way to pass time away from books, un-delightful tyranny, and arguments from home, drinking, smoking, dancing and making meaningless conversations with strangers after lights went out. And I managed to make this a routine.
The summer vacation after graduating from Q.E. and before attending university was spent at my cousin’s wedding in New Jersey, USA. Romeo accompanied my family and I to America as my mother loved Romeo, and I thought that this would be a great idea, such a great idea that I wished Tamal to come with us too. He had agreed but not knowing full well of his family situation and hence declined. My father hated this financially or just anciently racist and I began to hate Tamal too. Disappointed for myself rather than for him our ties became loose. Romeo said nothing; he remained a silent partner on my side and whatever on Tamal’s, overall he enjoyed the vacation.
Back from holiday and now attending the world’s most prestigious medical university, King’s College London, class of ’98, a fantastic new beginning for students from all around and an interesting one for the university. King’s College had joined with Guy’s Hospital London to bring a new perspective to their teaching; none of this mattered to me at the time. I cared for myself, an insecure individual that hid behind cigarettes whilst opportunity to try and thrive for others began to quietly chip away.
From week one I was nostalgic and not that of home but from Tamal and Romeo. From the first weekend I returned home from London, (this was not a bright idea, but who knew the repercussions of that idea would turn a ripple into a tide? Nevertheless I had no good guidance and all I felt with strength was that received from being with the lads). That weekend I met Lara, in a club, she was wearing a short silver dress and holding a bottle of Budweiser, dancing with her gorgeous hips which moved her hair and her smile that could only be expressed as graceful as a tear. From that night on for a year and a half there were regular fortnightly trips back by rail from London to Leicester back to London. Romeo and Tamal helped arrange Lara and I to meet and to party like there was no tomorrow.
“Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.” May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.”
[Song of Songs. 7:7-9]
From the time I failed with Lara, Tamal was more distant than Romeo, probably on the fact that Tamal now was married with children. Romeo was still Romeo and nothing deceived my opinion of him. Throughout my cruel break out with Lara and my twenty-first birthday drug fest and many other alcohol/cannabis encounters there was no control to my behaviour, and no purpose for my actions, with and without Romeo. Yes I felt sorry for him, I had no idea why, probably the anticipation that he may begin to speak freely or have the ability to get married.
Six years now had past and I realized that this stranger was no longer to be spoken with. He was not a great friend or a good friend, matter of fact he was no friend, but I was now obsessed with green leaf that decisions and emotions became erased at every chance I had away from work. I had spoken to Romeo during the last days of my stay in England that I felt cheated by his friendship. Nothing of that made any sense as why should that? I was on drugs multiplied by nth factor and he was sober. I can’t remember him ever smoking to the amount I or the others did, but what I can remember about the others is that they spoke freely. Something I expected Romeo, my first friend, whom I considered a brother to do instead of quietly holding open the door to hell and letting anyone holding my hand in. I had no confidence and all I had I sucked out into a spell with the only ones who listened, my friends.
The last memory I have of Romeo was early summer of 2006. An evening by a table, with drinks and laughter, smoke and Butch with a large Rottweiler leashed on an one inch steel chain, anything but Butch’s idea. They walked over and sat with us on this warm evening at an outdoor bar beside a canal, and we watched the birds fly and the drinks refill. Then the sunset and I asked the Lord to please let me forget my last ten years.