Three Old Men

A young man dropped off his girlfriend and ended their relationship. Unable to know what the right course of action is, he receives advice from an unexpected place

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1. That's pretty much it

                                         Three Old Men

I took a huge puff from my joint. I sat there completely amazed at the beauty that laid before my eyes. The sun was slowly revealing itself, spreading its warmth across my body, and illuminating what once was inky blackness to crystal clarity. We were always at the mercy of Mother Nature’s fickle mood, slowly bobbing away, vulnerable like a turtle on its back. A pair of caramel dipped eyes bobbed through my vision. The stench of strawberry scented body mist hit my nose and my mood went completely sour.

I was docked at the Oahu Island. I was brought back to reality by a call from the shore. A figure slowly emerged from the distance. A black dot on the horizon danced around till it slowly came closer. It morphed into a human body which climbed onto the ship.

He said “Are you going back to the Maui Island?”

 “Yeah, I was just about to head out.”

“Shukriya”

“What?”

“That’s Hindi for thank you. People usually get really excited when they hear Hindi.”

“Haha alright”

 He was short but his t-shirt was tight enough for him to pass as a professional bodybuilder. Unnaturally large matte black eyes with a slight twinkle in them. It was as though the universe was trapped in his eyes. He had a smile that was a little too broad with an unusual amount of teeth between his lips. His face was wrinkled in places I did not know wrinkles could exist. Bronze colored skin…..or was it green? I would have guessed that this man was in his late 40s. I flicked my joint into the sea and watched the orange glow extinguish with a hiss. The squiggly lines slowly inched towards each other to create the deck. I could feel the redness of my eyes gradually retract and reveal a set of baby blue pupils. With that, all my problems flooded back in. Glancing upwards in an attempt to try to get my problems to roll out from the sides of my ear, I noticed a cloud in the shape of a question mark. I must have been staring at it for too long because the man was started giving me weird looks.

I glanced upwards and asked “Do you see that weird cloud shaped like a question mark?”

His eyebrows scrunched together as he looked up “What? There aren’t any clouds in the sky. Are you sure that you can sail this boat?”

“Haha! Yeah I just woke up. Don’t worry, I have sailed in worse states.”

            I searched the sky again for the same cloud but there were no clouds floating around. The sun was shining in all its glory. There was definitely something weird in that weed. I pulled up the anchor and we set sail.

I was busy admiring how shiny the wheel was when he interrupted “My name is Ali by the way”

“Oh yeah sorry. My name is-”

“Mark. Yeah I know.”

“Wait. How did you-”

His lips stretched upwards and formed an eerie smile “You already told me.”

I did not recollect any part of that conversation but I just assumed that it was probably the weed to blame for that. A slight shiver trickled down my spine. There was something a bit off about this guy.

“So what brings you to the wonderful Island of Maui?” He asked

I stared out at the sea. I felt like that cloud had started inching back into my frame. I wasn’t sure to what extent I should engage this old man. I said “I had some work to do so I just thought I would sail-” Fuck it, it’s not like I am ever going to see this old man again, I continued “Actually I went to drop off my girlfriend. She got a job in Maui as an executive accountant or something pretentious like that”

“Are you guys still together?”

“Yeaaah no. I tried long distance once, it did not work out for me. I promised myself that I would never do it again. No matter how much I might love a girl.”

“Did you love her?”

“More than I could put into words”

“Any regrets?”

“Man, I really don’t know. How could you ever possibly know what is the right answer? Do I try long distance because she might be the one? Do I let her go and find someone new? Will I find someone else? I hate how we were so close, I know everything about her. I know about her insecurities, her dreams, her problems with family. Everything. And now we are just going to be strangers who occasionally message.” I didn’t really expect to reveal so much to a complete stranger but I felt like my brain would implode if I didn’t take this load off.

“Hmm…. I have lived a fair share of my life so I might be able to help you out. Let me tell you a story. It’s a part of my life story, possibly a decision that made me the man I am today.”

“Yeah alright. We got time.”

“I am from the mysterious sub-continent of India where our culture probably makes even less sense to you guys than it does to me. I stayed in India till my early 20s. This was right after we got our freedom from the British. Mera Bharat Mahan! Sorry I just miss saying that. I was adopted into the Patels. I was eleven years old when I was adopted from my orphanage. I was in extreme poverty where we had days without any actual food. Life was harsh. Do you know what it feels like to be eleven years old and to have already given up on life? There was always slight hope that someone would adopt me that kept me going. I prayed and Bhagwan replied. This couple took a chance on an older child and I was eternally grateful.

            Starved of love and warmth, these people were complete angels. They showered me with love and affection. I wasn’t used to the hot food or the comfortable beds. I always expected to just wake up and it be a dream. My dad was a stern guy, no doubt about it. He taught me how to be tough, how to handle people and how to take care of yourself. He was a well-built Indian with short cropped hair and light brown eyes. For him, organization is everything. We would pray to Brahma every morning before leaving the house. No T.V during meals and all meals have to be served at a particular time. He only hugged me three times in my entire life. I felt the same way about my mom. She was short, caramel skinned with long black hair. My mom was Pakistani. This always drew weird stares from people who knew but my parents didn’t care. She was the opposite of my dad. She taught me how to be compassionate, to love unconditionally and to respect people. She would let me stay up late some days without telling my dad. I had everything I could possibly want. It was a Thursday when I think I got the call. My parents were in a car accident and both of them died on the spot. My entire body went numb and the phone dropped to the ground. I saw the temple lying five feet away from me. When I got back into my senses, all the gods were lying in pieces and I was hugging myself. Tears fell to the floor. I kept asking myself “What did I possibly do to deserve this?” The next few months were a blur. Family came and left. Lawyers showed up, I had to sign documents and I was finally sitting at the dining table with a check. It was my inheritance. I looked around my house for any sign. What do I do now? My eyes caught this atlas, torn and abandoned on the side. I had nothing left in India. Everything was gone except for bittersweet memories which left a burnt taste in my mouth. I packed up my stuff and left.

I travelled the world. Met with people from so many different cultures, fell in and out of love. I managed to grow so much more as a person from that one experience. I learnt to cherish everything I got. I loved my parents even more. I’m telling you, take this boat and sail the world. What’s stopping you?”

I stood there in complete silence for an entire minute. I tried processing the entire story. I could feel the cogs in my head slowly turning, disintegrating the cobwebs that was stuck between them. I wondered about the possibility to take this boat around the world. Even though the boat is a rental, I think I have enough money nestled away for a holiday. Sarah always took care of the money. Interrupted by the thought of her, I was suddenly transported to the past.

“Hey babe, why are you up so early?” she asked. She looked unnaturally beautiful for someone who just woke up. Large caramel dipped eyes looked at me inquisitively and said “I have never seen you move a muscle before 12 in the afternoon and only after I drag your sorry ass out of bed”

“I had to pee and I got distracted”. She gave me one of her famous “you are hopeless” smiles and curled up next to me on the deck chair. My eyes scanned the horizon, trying to imprint this image into my brain for a slow day at work “That’s quite something, isn’t it?”

“It’s quite beauti-”

“Beautiful!, completing each other’s sentences….Aww Sarah could we get any cuter?”. Cosmetic surgery would be required for her to roll her eyes any further.

“David, I love you and all that but it’s 8 in the morning, shhhh”. I laughed and wrapped my arms around her, she fit perfectly across my body.   

            Flashbacks of the ride over here kept intruding my thoughts. I looked out towards the horizon. The sun had already set. I looked over at Ali, he seemed deathly pale. His t-shirt hung loosely over his body. His hair turned white and started falling off till there was nothing left. I tried to grab him but all I got was his clothes which crumbled into dust. All that was left on the chair was a shriveled head attached to a spine. Suddenly muscle tissue started developing around the bones. Arteries, veins and muscle slowly branched outwards from the spine. Soon a complete body sat in the exact same spot. Another old man took the place of Ali. He wore jeans and a loose Hawaiian shirt. He had a baseball hat, worn backwards. White skinned with dark brown eyes. I flipped out to say the least.

I fell down. My legs shook vigorously in rhythm with my hands. I might have possibly let a couple drops of pee as well. Shaking with fear, I screamed “What the fuck! What the fuck just happened?! Where the fuck is Ali?! Who in the bloody hell are you?!”

“Chill the fuck out man, I come in peace and all that crap. I heard you were dealing with a problem and I thought I could give my two cents into this.”

            I’m not ashamed to admit that I might have cried for close to five minutes. Completely lost and unable to comprehend what was happening, I just accepted it. My hands were still trembling slightly. I took a deep breath and said “Alright then. Tell me your story, Demon”

“Woah man. No need for name calling. I would prefer the name Ben if anything.”

“Alright Ben. Go ahead”

“I don’t like that tone you are using, my friend. But nonetheless, I will tell you my story. Like many stories from before my time and many stories from after, it starts with a girl. Her name was Phoebe. We dated for about four years in college. My girl was attractive, she had a body that would leave people gawking on the streets. I loved her more than I love my whiskey and that’s saying something. We had one of those weird politics class and would argue incessantly. We had opposing views on everything. This one time I remember we had a really heated debate on whether drinking half of the five hour energy drink would give you two and a half hours of energy or five hours of half assed energy. I never really considered dating her but at one party we both got drunk. We were in college, people over there are like 90% horny. So we hooked up and it just felt normal. The next day we just sort of started dating, it was weird. The arguments that we kept having turned into motivation to push each other to do well. We moved in for the final year in college.

In the final year, the pressure to do well set in. I stopped drinking till I puked on the weekends and started studying a lot harder. My dad was strict. He made his money after working his way through the ranks and finally owning his own company. We weren’t born rich but became wealthy. He never let me forget it. Money was everything. He never loved my mother but married her for the connections. He never hugged me or showed any emotion but every Friday, he would settle into his armchair with a glass of 50 year old scotch and tell me various tales of his childhood. That was the only time he ever gave me attention. That might have been the reason for why I did what I did. He always expected greatness from me and that pressure started settling in. I would start arguing with Phoebe when she wanted to spend time. I started picking fights with her for no reason just to get rid of my anger. We had one free day before the exams started. We took a couple of brewskis to the highest point of our campus and just sat there till the sun came up. I would point out to bullshit constellations in the sky and she would pretend to believe me. The best I came up with was probably Orion’s Pants. She somehow always smelt like donuts and that smell haunts me to this day. Exams ended and I had to find a job. My dad kept pressurizing me to go abroad for a job as the market was better. I did not want to leave Phoebe. Phoebe told me to go as well but I knew she wanted me to stay. I was in complete conflict. My dad calls me one day to tell me that he landed this amazing job at a top company. I honestly cannot for the life of me recall the name of this company. It was an amazing job and the prospects for later on were even better. I had to make a choice. Stay with her or go to Australia.

My dad convinced me to go to Australia where I made ten million bucks a year. I have a mansion, helicopter and two pools. But I never found love again. I always put my career first. And now I just roam around in my 100 million dollar mansion looking for answers I will never find.”

I pondered over this. This man-demon whatever he is, made a good point. I love Sarah. I feel like I always will love Sarah. She was my constant for a very long time. I questioned whether I would ever find love like that again. She might have been my one. The one. I could feel my stomach attempt acrobatics. I zoned out, completely unaware of my surrounding.

She came out in her lazy day clothes, shorts and a sleeveless tee but armed with a fishing rod. I have been dating her for 3 years and yet I still get remnants of the same butterflies in my stomach when I see her. She playfully prods me with the fishing rod “You ready to lose Capitano?” I yanked the fishing rod and she came with it. She fell in my lap and I said “I was born ready.....wait no that’s not what I meant” “Just grab your rod, you idiot”. We sat beside each other, mano y mano with our rods in the sea. Sarah turned towards me, flashed her dimples and one eyebrow arched. I knew what was coming. “Let’s make it interesting, the first to catch a fish wins and the loser has to eat part of the bait” “Yeah alright, I’m game”. Fueled by my desire to not eat anything squishy or squirmy, I picked up my rod, ever so gracefully arced it and watched it sail away into the water.

            I looked up and this time I knew what to expect. Or I thought I did. Ben started shrieking in pain. A small hole formed at the center of his chest. A pair of hands slowly came out of the hole and tore apart his ribcage. I could see directly into his body, it was completely black. An arm came through and then a head. Blood poured out of Ben’s body, he was dead. Organs slowly dropped out of his body and turned to dust when it hit the ground. I ran to the side of the boat and puked. When I turned around, there was a man sitting in the same chair. The deck was spotless, not a single drop of blood. He seemed calm and composed. Wearing what might have been a cheap suit, on him, it looked like it was worth a lot more. He was old but had a full head of hair, it was combed to the side without a single hair out of place.

He looks at me with these calm blue eyes and asked “So you know how this works right?”

My stomach tried to attempt another purge. I held back and said “Yeah I know. Do you have a name?”

“My name isn’t important. But my story might be. It was in the 1950s. It was a much simpler time. It was where I met her. I was in my early 30s. She was the first woman I ever loved. Her name was Nicole. It has been so long, her face slowly decayed from my memory. But the joy that she gave me every time I saw her, it remained. She was always so lively and energetic. The world was too small for her ambitions. She wanted to explore everything and she always had the last say in a conversation with a witty one liner. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at an early age. I didn’t know much about her childhood, but from what I could pick up from conversations with her, it was bad. I met and fell in love with her during her good phase. We moved to a small apartment in the city. We had our fair share of financial issues but we were happy.

Nicole got worse. Her mood was in a constant state of flux. Everything either made her too happy or too sad. I was used to the random changes in her mood from time to time and could help her mood. But her mood switched faster than I could deal with it. Her work slowly got affected as she couldn’t concentrate, she became irritable and would snap at everyone in the clothes shop where she worked as a sales clerk. People were sympathetic but after she snapped at her boss, it was the last straw. She was fired and I was forced to work two shifts to pay the rent. She would hang around the house either staying in one place for the entire day or starting these grandiose plans for the future which she never got around to. One of the mailmen came up to drop off a package while I went out to get milk. I saw a cop car whizz past me on the way back and I got a nasty chill down my spine. I ran towards my building and watched my wife being taken away by the cops. She assaulted the mailman because he needed government id for the package but she didn’t want to show any. I went to bail her out, on the way back I saw a matte black Rolls Royce parked below the building. I opened the door and this couple was sitting on the couch. I could feel their D&G matching suits radiate disgust as it was sitting on a couch from goodwill. The same feelings were translated to the owners as they looked around the room. It was her parents. We had a polite conversation and then they brought up lobotomy treatment. I did not know much about it and I don’t think Nicole did either. They were willing to spend as much money as necessary, it seemed like they cared a lot but I could tell that Nicole held animosity towards them. They showed me legal documents which stated that they were in charge of her well-being and have full authority over her treatment. I blindly agreed and Nicole had no reaction whatsoever. She was taken away before I realized what happened.

I spent the next two days just doing research on lobotomy surgery. I sat there in complete horror, waiting for Nicole to come home. Her parents didn’t let me see her for an entire month. She came back, completely zombie-like. She had nothing in her eyes. A few days went past with her just passively moving around. She was unable to control her bowels at times. I would give her pills every day. She never made any conversation with me but just hung around the place. I would cry every night. She would whisper “Kill me” sometimes. She went to sleep and I held a pillow across her face. She didn’t struggle. I killed the only woman I have ever loved. And yet, I am here. Life goes on. It really doesn’t matter what you choose to do.”

I looked out towards the horizon. The sun slowly came back up, lighting up the entire boat. I didn’t know what to say. My night was already messed up with Sarah and now this fucking shit. I was done. I had no solution. I turned around to give this guy a piece of my mind. The seat was empty. I sighed. All these stories bumped around my head, I tried to make some sense out of everything. I just stared out at sea.

 

   

 

 

 

 

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