Rhea felt a slicing taste on her tongue as she took another sip of Vodka. But it wasn’t a bad taste, the way she had feared it would be. In fact, contrary to what others had said, she liked the way Vodka felt in her mouth. Its taste tangy and springy and sharp. As if an entire orange has exploded in her mouth. A tingling sensation. Only a hundred times more thrilling. She downed the remaining Vodka in one go.
In all of her twenty-five years of life, Rhea had never boozed. Brought up in a conservative neighborhood, the ideas of a girl drinking was unheard of. In her neighborhood, most of the girls weren’t even getting a chance to study beyond school. Forget about going to a city outside Dehradoon and living independently and then boozing over that. And she knew how lucky she was in this regard. Lucky to have parents who weren’t tied up to the age-old traditions of the society. Not allowing their daughters to go for higher education. That they sent her to college and then join an IT firm after that. It was enough blessing in one lifetime.
But it wasn’t that she was dying for partying and boozing anyways. In fact, she had never felt an urge to get sloshed in the first place. In the fresher’s party of her college she had seen her roommate get sloshed after the first drink, puked all over the place, and due to an allergic reaction ended up in hospital. She often thought that it could be the reason for the aversion. She didn’t know. The fact remained she refrained from drinking, despite being surrounded by people in college who drank like a fish.
But today as she looked into the empty glass, the first drink of her life, she smiled at her childishness. She remembered the moment when she had stood in front of the mirror and pledged to never drink in her life. How silly I was, Rhea thought. Wasn’t it so stupid? In that instant, looking into that glass, the four years that had passed since the day she had resolved to never drink, felt like a lifetime. A smile spread on her face.
“This is not done,” she heard a voice behind her back. It was Rahul. He came from behind and took the glass from her hand. “Here people are dancing, and you are standing alone, holding the empty glass, lost in your thoughts” he said teasingly.
“Okay, okay,” Rhea replied, “I’m having it. Now don’t start blabbering about it.”
“That’s like it,” Rahul said as he went to the table and poured an inch of Vodka in her glass.
Rhea followed him and stopped beside the table. From where she stood she could see him preparing the drink for her. His eyes locked in intense concentration as he poured two inches of Vodka in the glass. His eyes – that was the first thing she had observed about him Black eyes, deep as well, which often brightened whenever he was concentrating on something.
It was Rahul who helped her out in the beginning of her career. It really helped her. Easing the transition both from college to work, and from a small town to a big city like Bangalore. It didn’t take her long to learn the ropes, and soon she gained a sincere respect from her colleagues. In six months, she developed a confidence she had never felt in her life.
“Now take this,” Rahul said as he gave her the glass. “It’s a cocktail. You’ll love it.”
It was in this moment as Rahul looked into her eyes while handing her the glass that she became sure of what she often felt . She was in love with this man.
Lights – bright and blazing. Colourful. Shapes – floating and morphing and twisting. Eyes. Rahul’s Eyes – big, and black, and beautiful. Eyes. So clear. Everything. Like she had never felt before. If she had loved his eyes before, now Rhea felt like jumping into them, and get immersed into its depth. Infinite, neverending depth. She heard him laugh. That unabashed, childlike laugh. So close to her, as if he was whispering in her ear.
She remembered drinking the second glass of Vodka. But not finishing it. By the time she had half-emptied the glass, the world around her had started spinning. A drone sound had started buzzing in her head. Why she had not drank before! She kept on thinking. It felt so good. So amazing. So liberating.
It was her third drink after which Rhea had felt something was different, changed. The drone sound had grown in her head, drowning out all the other thoughts. Her doubts, and her apprehensions. Her insecurities and dilemmas. Everything had vanished, disappeared. What was left was that drone sound and the sound of her laugh. And a feeling that everything around her was good. Life was good.
Everything felt amusing. Sahil rolling on the floor like a three year old baby. Nisha lying on the sofa and singing a god knows what song. Varun doing an impression of belly dancing, with his shirt off. And Rahul. Rahul beside her, his hand wrapped around her waist. His words like a symphony. A flash, and all of a sudden, she was dancing with him.
She could feel everyone looking at her, at them. But unlike other times, when she would have got conscious, this time it egged her even more. Nothing mattered to her then. Nothing at all. Just the fact that Rahul was with him, dancing with him. That was enough to lit up every atom of her body.
More lights, red and green and blue, blobs of different shapes and color. The bigger blobs shrinking, the smaller ones growing. A hand, pulling her head down, the taste of Vodka in her mouth, or was it Vodka, or something else, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the jolt she felt in her head everytime she felt a liquid rushing down her throat. She felt more and more alive.
The last thing she remembered seeing was that there were three Rahuls. How can you be three, she had asked. Even her words were coming out all funny. But there were three of them, she even touched them to confirm. This had laughed so much. Three Rahul! That was amazing.
She loved this high, loved being this free. She reached with her hands and touched one of the Rahuls, the real one. And pulled him towards her (or it was the other way round, she couldn’t tell) But then she remembers what came after. That’s what mattered. The taste of Rahul’s’ lips. Taste of salt and whiskey in her mouth. The mouths pressing, tongues rolling. Then she had pushed him back, got up and gone back. Laughing all this time, Rahul was laughing too. All the three Rahuls.
At some point, the darkness became so heavy that she shut her eyes. Everything had turned black, but even then she could remember running, jumping. She could feel the sensations – different, good or bad? She didn’t know. Just movements. She was soaring in the clouds one moments, then drowning in the deepest of the oceans in the another. And then, she stopped feeling any sensation.
And she saw a hand, the light glittering through a glass, the transparent liquid … she gulped it… And cold fingers ran through her throat. And she felt good, parched, and then the lights started dimming, the world started spinning… are you alright, someone asked, one of the three Rahul.. “I love you… “ she said one more time before she passed out.
When Rhea woke up, a slice of sun through the curtain was warming her face. She squinted and then covered her face with her hand … A horror of realization swept through her.… Continue reading the second part here.