HAPPY NEW YEAR
(a fiction short story)
She licked the salt from her hand and drank the shot, in one go, then a long swallow of beer that met the tequila’s burn as it rose.
Everyone clapped and cheered. With that one act she had crossed the barrier. She was no longer the rustic girl from the mofussil. Now, she was one of “them”. No longer would she have to hear those derisive jeers and taunts which pierced her heart – dehati, behenji, ghati – for now she would “belong”.
“Hey, Mofussil, that’s not the way to have a shot,” Cute Girl said.
“Please don’t call me Mofussil,” she said and looked at Cute Girl. Cute Girl was one of those sophisticated synthetic beauties who looked real chic – her role model.
“Then let me see you do a Los Tres Cuates.”
“The Three Chums. The best way to drink tequila. Look,” Cute Girl said. She put some salt on her palm, licked it off, downed the neat tequila shot, picked up a wedge of lime and pressed it between her teeth biting hard into it.
The girl they all called Mofussil sprinkled some salt on her left palm and picked up a tequila shot from the bar with her right.
“Be careful,” a voice said, “It’s her first time.”
“Oh, come on, killjoy. She’s a tough girl. She’ll drink all of us under the table,” Cute Girl said.
It was now or never. Once she proved her capacity to drink she would gain real respect in this crowd. She downed the shot in one go. As the shot hit the pit of her stomach, a rash of gooseflesh raced up from her insides, tremors reverberated through her body up the back of her neck resonating into her brain and she felt her brain she might explode – like a terrible black orgasm.
And then she felt a high, a high she had never felt before.
Everyone cheered and a voice said, “Let’s drink to that,” and they all had a few shots. In quick succession. One after another.
“Let’s hit the dance floor,” someone shouted, and propelled by unseen hands she was in their midst swinging away on the dance floor to the rocking music. The atmosphere in the disco was electric, fantastic, like she had seen in the movies. She felt wonderful, mesmerized, and with her inhibitions dissolved in the alcohol inside her, she let her hair down and danced so unabashedly and vigorously that soon she lost herself in the ultimate state of frenzied ecstasy she had never felt before. This was the hep, hot and happening way to celebrate New Year’s Eve – not sitting with a pizza and ice cream watching the boring New Year’s Eve programme on TV like she had done for the past few years and her roommate was doing right now.
She danced continuously without break. The dance-floor was packed with bodies, rubbing against each other. Suddenly, the lights went off and it was pitch dark. The DJ announced, “Ten seconds left for the New Year.” And then he began counting: “10, 9, 8, …, 3, 2, 1” and suddenly all the lights came on and everyone seemed to have gone berserk. Hooters, whistles, horns, drums, shouts – all had raised the noise level to a din. Total strangers hugged and kissed her wishing her a Happy New Year. The reverberating music, the crowd, the dancing strobe lights, the smoke, the cacophony, her exhaustion and the alcohol inside her – it made her head swim so she negotiated her way and swayed across to the nearest sofa and slumped down on it.
She tried to focus on the dancing couples. Everything was a bit hazy. Her head began to swim even more and she felt thirsty and reached out for the glass of water across the table. As she stretched across the table she swayed and rolled back uncontrollably into her chair. Her stomach seemed to be full of mercury, ice-cold and enormously heavy. Her face felt hot and beads of perspiration began to appear on her forehead. She pushed herself forward again, trying to reach the glass, and knocked it across the table. Her brain began to fade, and she leaned her elbows helplessly on the glass edge of the table and felt her head fall on her wrists.
“You’re okay?” Cute Girl asked.
“I don’t know, “ she said.
“Come,” Cute Girl said holding out her hand, “Let’s get some fresh air.”
She took Cute Girl’s hand and followed her like a zombie into the dark. Outside it was cold, and she could sense a maze of hands groping her, supporting her unsteady body and propelling her towards the car park.
She felt there were two persons within her as result of the baleful double personality that comes into being through drunkenness. The first acted as if without any brain at all, in a mechanical, vacant manner, and the second observed the first quite lucidly, but seemed entirely powerless to do anything.
“Shove her in the backseat,” a male voice said.
“And you come in front,” the man in the driver’s seat told Cute Girl.
The car drove off into the darkness, and hearing a shuffling noise in the rear the diver asked, “Hey, what are you guys up to?”
“Giving her a drink.”
“Be careful, she’s already had too much,” Cute Girl said.
“Just priming her up!”
“It may be her first time.”
“Really? Then she’ll need more priming. I’ll give her one more swig.” And he forced the bottle into her mouth.
“Shall we do it here?”
“No. Not in the car. We’ll go to our usual place.”
“Shit! Bloody Shit!”
“Bloody drunken bitch! She’s vomiting all over me. Stop the car before the whole place is covered in puke.”
They stopped the car.
“She’s badly sick,” Cute Girl said, “It was her first time and she’d had too many shots. I told you not to force booze down her throat.”
“What do we do?”
“Let’s clean her up and go ahead.”
“Shit! She’s still puking. It’s bloody nauseating. I’ve lost it.”
“Disgusting! Let’s dump her here.”
“Here? No. Let’s drop her back,” Cute Girl said.
“Drop her back? Are you crazy? And ruin our New Year’s fun?”
“We’ll get into trouble.”
“Bullshit. She’s so drunk she won’t remember a thing.”
So they dumped her in a desolate spot and drove away to enjoy the New Year.
Wallowing in her stinking vomit and shivering uncomfortably, she stared vacantly into the dark sky, never so frightened, never so alone. She wanted to cry but tears refused to well in her eyes and her throat felt dry. Her recollections and images of the terrible night were just vivid flashes in a void. Her head throbbed with pain and her body ached as she retched again and again till there was nothing left inside her. Feeling totally shattered and enveloped by unimaginable agony she lapsed into a zombie-like state of suspended vacuum.
And at exactly the same moment, her roommate, drifting off to sleep tucked in her comfortable warm bed, after watching the boring show on TV, is thinking about her, wishing she had accompanied her to the party. Wondering with envy what she’s up to she dials her cell number to wish her Happy New Year. The mobile phone rings in her puke-drenched purse, but the totally inebriated girl is dead drunk, passed out stone-cold, oblivious to her surroundings, so her roommate send her an SMS: “Happy New Year”.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
(a fiction short story)
Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve