May 12, 2009

It started as a one-time thing once she realized how close she actually lived to the hookah bar, but pretty soon she was going and getting a hookah by herself almost every night. What made her realize it was at all strange is she realized she had been driving there every night, and once she realized that, and that she could just walk, she did, the next night, the six blocks to the hookah bar, which was called Raj Mahal. She was walking just to save on gas and out of general environmental guilt, it wasn’t like she was getting too drunk to drive. She would get a couple of beers or a couple glasses of wine, but it wasn’t really about that, and somehow the fact that she wasn’t getting REALLY drunk made it that much more depressing: if it were really about the drinking then she could’ve said, “So this is alcoholism,” but as it was, she was just getting exactly too drunk to work on her thesis. The first time it had been, “I am really stressed out, what can I do to relax? I live very close to that hookah bar. I remember from high school that smoking a hookah is very relaxing.” So she had gone and gotten an apricot hookah, and sat at a table, because sitting in the back on the floor among the silks and pillows by herself would’ve been weird, like she was the lonely madam of a shitty harem who had such little business she could wear blue jeans and a fake-vintage Blondie t-shirt and it wouldn’t diminish her mystique any, and she ordered a glass of white wine and then later another one, and the next night when she came back she briefly toyed with the idea of ordering a peach hookah, or maybe strawberry, but she got another apricot one, and from then on she pretty much restricted the variety-is-the-spice-of-life thing to her choice of drink, though it pretty much always vacillated between beer and wine. And always water in the little red pebbled-plastic glasses. She would zone out on the foreign news shows on the little wall-mounted TV, shows she assumed were Indian but didn’t know enough about India to be sure and she wasn’t sure the owners were Indian, necessarily, though she knew it was racist to assume they were and also a little racist to ask. On subsequent evenings the mostly teenage mostly foreign staff would greet her in a way that she would have assumed was special if they had not greeted her that way the first night. It cost about twenty dollars an evening, some money, but not outrageous.

What was really scary was it wasn’t that bad. She knew it was strange behavior and vaguely unhealthy, but the scariest part was that it didn’t really affect anything. She would turn off the TV or close her book and leave her apartment and go down two flights of stairs and walk across the parking lot to the street and then six blocks to the hookah bar, where she would sit and smoke and drink and pay and leave, and walk home, a little concerned about getting raped or murdered, but not unreasonably so. It was exactly that way and it stayed that way until it wasn’t that way anymore.

Posted by DC at May 12, 2009 01:22 AM
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