Shofi woke up in cold sweat. His slender frame and his habit of curling up in a fetal position when he slept, made him look like a small child. He never quite managed to fall asleep properly in the last few months. Most nights he simply twisted and turned while his blood itched for sweet relief. His poison of choice, you ask? Heroin. “Poison of choice,” Shofi often thought wryly; it was no more a choice for him than breathing. But tonight, he had hoped to avoid his usual drug induced stupor. Shofi had been dreading this moment all week. His eyes found the dusty old calendar hanging at the edge of his room. It was two years too old. He fumbled for his phone in the heaps of sweaty old clothes scattered across his bed. His room was pitch-dark and the light from his phone’s luminescent screen stung his eyes. A date was splashed across the screen in giant lettering; as if to mock him. “It’s her birthday,” he thought bitterly. Shofi made a strange sound between a grunt and a snort. It amused him how he could never remember her birthday during the entire three years they were dating. Now every year he dreaded this day to the point of having a nervous breakdown. And Shofi was no stranger to nervous breakdowns. He had a bad case of jangled nerves which was acquired and cemented through a lifetime of verbal abuse. His father had written him off as a lost cause, and never missed an opportunity to remind him so.

During the better part of his childhood, Shofi loathed himself. With age, he had learned to channel that loathing towards his father, the abusive teachers who beat him repeatedly with a long thin bamboo stick. The scars in his body had long since faded, but the ones in his mind still haunted him. The bloody and gruesome face of his father often flashed before his eyes, along with everyone who had ever abused him. He often had flashbacks that left him in a state of seizure. “Just another day in hell… just another day in hell… just like all the others,” Shofi muttered furiously under his breath whenever this happened. She had taught him that. He could feel her presence somehow, whenever he uttered those words. She always had a strangely calming effect on him.

Shofi propped himself up on his elbows and took a deep breath. The room smelled like sweat, semen and stale vomit. He wrapped himself in musty old bed-sheets and stumbled towards the balcony. Shofi prayed that he would find what he was looking for.  He felt the craving kick in and almost lunged towards an empty carton of cigarettes. His hands frantically swept every inch of the box…nothing! He cursed and kicked the small coffee table, spilling its contents all over the balcony. A half finished cigarette rolled out of the crystal ashtray and immediately caught Shofi’s eye. The normally white portion of the stick had a khaki brownish tinge to it. His hands shook feverishly and his blood itched as if consumed by longing. Shofi lit the cigarette on his third attempt, breaking off the first two matchsticks from being overly enthusiastic.  He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. An overwhelming sense of peace washed over him. Shofi smiled almost benignly and savoured the high. His heroin induced euphoria took him back to happier times.

He remembered a girl with a pleasant face, kind smile, and starry eyes. A warm happy memory, from another lifetime past. It was one of those magical days where everything was a surreal shade of yellow. The trees, the pavement, the flowers, the birds even the sounds seemed to be bathed in a glorious shade of golden light. It was one of those days. He was on a rickshaw with his arm nestled around her waist. The golden yellow light seemed to bounce of her face and pale in comparison. Shofi remembered gaping at her in awe; every time he sat next to her on a rickshaw. What else was a boy to do, he thought; in the presence of such fabulousness? He told her so, whenever she pretended to be annoyed by his relentless staring.

“Honestly, what’s wrong with you? Why to do have to gape at me like a halfwit baboon whenever we get on a rickshaw?” She would ask in mock annoyance. His answer would always be the same, “What else would you have me do? I am but a simple peasant, awestruck by your fabulousness.” That had always made her laugh.

Shofi took two more hits and finished off the cigarette laced with his “poison of choice”. His body had stopped twitching and he could think clearly again. He got up from the balcony floor and slumped towards his bed. He curled up into his usual fetal position and let the delicious drowsiness engulf his senses. “Another day in hell…. just like all the others…. this one too… will pass,” he muttered, almost like a prayer; before finally falling asleep.

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