We have just spent the night pickling ourselves in vodka from a nearby bar, and we were out in the street, reluctant to go home and sleep.
My friend Heidelberg handed me the makeshift pipe, or whatever it is called, which Vanderbilt had expertly made out of the paperfoil from his cigarette pack. I took a long drag, holding the smoke inside my lungs as long as I can.
“That’s right, buddy,” they egged me on. “Keep it inside, as if you’re underwater and you’re holding your breath.” The metaphor was of course hilarious, but I did as I was told, obedient boy that I am.
When I finally could not take it any longer and exhaled the smoke, I felt a roughness in my throat that sent me coughing, indeed like someone who has nearly drowned, straight out of the bloody water. Then I felt an alertness taking over, the sort that sharpens the senses into clarity.
The stupid look on my face satisfied and assured my friends that my first was finally over and everything went as expected. They had been bugging me for weeks since they found out that I have never done it. It was a novelty that fascinated them endlessly.
“How do you feel now?” they asked me expectantly, like I was some sort of experiment. But I knew they only missed the feeling of doing something for the first time, and that they wanted to remember what it felt like. Old people.
By the third round, we were already making jokes about Heidelberg’s army of suitors. I told her she could easily stage a coup d’etat whenever she likes. Vanderbilt however was more creative, saying she could buy a small, remote island instead, where she and her suitors should settle in permanently.
“You could start a fucking race. Pun intended,” he told her, rousing us into mad laughter at the mere thought of it.
We had endless things to laugh at: the Indian bosses at the office, Vanderbilt’s vow of celibacy, my bouts of depression, Heidelberg’s obscene beauty. Just for pure entertainment, when we were begining to get bored, we even gave each other dares.
I honestly felt like an idiot for joining in the madness. I almost regretted doing it. But I realized then that such hysteric abandon, such carefree happiness is a gift only to the disconsolate–to those who hold their breaths underwater, knowing it is vain to clutch at straws to keep afloat.
The echo of our own voices amazed us as we laughed at everything and anything–at the crooked trees we passed by as we cruised along the empty, dimly lit streets of the young city, at the long shadows we cast on the pavement, at the stars in the nightsky above our foolish heads.