They tittered away, thick as thieves, both being drawn to the chasms of vices, without them knowing of it. They had managed to pilfer two packs of cigarettes from the convenience store. Rinsed with a new-found caffeine rush, the two set out on foot to smoke their first cigarette, then the next, and then, maybe one more. One, armed with her writing pad and blunt pencil, the other her sketching book and a small chunk of charcoal.
They reached the banks of the hushed, deep river, the sun upon them. One was an expert with matches, so she lit the cigarette and dragged in her first tobacco-laced puff. The other watched on with curiosity. She struggled with matches, but was finally able to light hers. The wind over the water, brought in a mixture of smells; dead fish, putrid faeces, lifeless crushed grass. Their olfactory senses did not make anything of this foulness and instead concentrated on the burning tobacco. She was smoothly able to draw the smoke in and out of her lungs, the other grappled with the power she wielded between her fingers. She kept toying with the butt of the cigarette, watching the water slowly glide under the bridge. In between a hacking cough, she uttered, “This isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.” The other, nonchalant, blew something that came close to a smoke ring, and laughed, “You’re not doing it right.”
They went through one whole pack between the two of them, one getting a heady tobacco rush, the other hacking and cackling like she had slugged a bag of glass marbles. The nicotine in their blood streams now, they drew out their notebooks. One drew the other, with a piece of charcoal. The other, wrote the other, with her blunt pencil. They looked at each other’s work and guffawed at their tomfoolery. They ripped out pages from their notebooks and tore them into little pieces, littering all around them, laughing wildly all the while. As the clouds gathered over the blue river, greyness took over. “It may rain”, said one to the other. It was nearing evening, and evening meant darkness. One pulled out a little yellow plastic jar, which she had sneaked out of her father’s medicine cabinet. Both opened their mouths wide and carefully placed the pea-sized white pill on their tongues. They let the warmth of their tongues melt away the chemicals into their bodies. They waited. To be swayed, to fly, to float, to wing away like butterflies.
The pregnant clouds above them burgeoned the sky and down came the pitter-patter drops of water. They decided to stay put, watching the bits of paper around them getting muddy wet. With the continued onslaught of the rain, evening turned to early night. The city lights came on. Wet and cold, they felt no magic of the tobacco or the chemicals. They were disappointed. They walked back through the muddy puddles, under the swaying trees. They both grumbled, splashed, and howled at the rain. They struggled to roll up their jeans, way up to the knees. Their canvas sneakers were already indelible and they liked them that way. Deep inside, they felt a tinge of happiness, but none spoke of it. They decided to call it a wasted day and parted ways.
The next day, they again met at the river, with the leftover pack of cigarettes. They first popped open the yellow jar that contained the pearly white that would set them swaying and dancing and floating and gulped down the entire contents of it. Then, without waiting for the fog to clear from their minds, they lit a cigarette each and puffed away. They did not want to write or draw or rip paper today. They only wanted to float. One cigarette gave way to the next and then the next and before the sun had reached its peak, the whole pack was done with. They felt like they could climb a mountain, they felt like they could swim the entire stretch of the river, they felt they could cry, they felt they could laugh, they felt. Wading in the cold water, they both felt like everything was being washed away; they forgot that night of being violated, they forgot the running, they forgot the shivering, they forgot the fear. They let the water take over, until their lips turned blue. And then they floated, like they wanted to.