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I made phony coughs or started humming songs trying to drown their whispers

August 23, 2003
The Iranian

After many hell-raising years, I decided to clean up. I washed all the ashtrays, tossed out the matches and lighters, poured the booze down the drain, broke the bong, threw out the Zigzag, pressed the roach clip out of shape, shattered the tiny bottles, bent the tiny spoons, dismantled the pipe, and used the acid stamps for postage.

I then sat on the floor and started listening to Huey Lewis' song "I want a new drug", over and over again.

I didn't go to rehab. I didn't attend any 'anonymous' group. I didn't go through no 12-step program. I didn't shake or shiver or puke, nor did I get the runs. I didn't lose sleep. I didn't relapse. I didn't start to exercise to get the dopamine flowing. I did none of that.

Instead I cracked pistachios and ate grapes to wash the nuts down. I chewed gum and I chewed gum and then I took a pause,.... and then, I chewed gum again.

I drank a lot of tea too. Black tea with lots of sugar. Every time the Indian secretary caught me pouring sugar in my cup, she went "Making sharbat again?"

I started reading a lot. I read and reread every damn book in my possession. Then as I ran out of books, I started reading labels and billboards, and people's faces. Then I read palms. Then I ate dates. Then I went on dates. Then the dates passed before my eyes, October 25, March 22,...

Life was sweet. Between the sharbat and the dates and the grapes and my hypoglycemia, a balance was struck.

I called my high school sweetheart and told her how sweet my life was. She cursed and hung up on me. She is a grandmother already, with a belly and somewhat sagging breasts, and no more eggs to crack. She eats toast and butter for breakfast everyday. Must be depressing. At least I have eggs. I can make omelets, or quiche. That's why I am so happy.

I realized I was using the first person singular pronoun excessively. I was so wrapped up in myself I had given the word 'introverted' a new meaning. Dictionary publishers were after my picture. I didn't relent. "I am not the only one," I told them.

People to my sides whispered to stop me from hearing them. I told them I don't give a shit. But they still whispered. I guess they don't give a shit either. They just like to whisper. I let them. I even made phony coughs or started humming songs trying to drown their whispers. They still whispered.

My head is clear, so clear you can see through it. I am approaching Nirvana, I think.

A homeless man in the street approached me the other day and said, "Let a man have a mitzvah today." I guess he took me to be Jewish. I gave him a can of Spam.

A friend of mine was a Jain, from Gujarat. He went to a Vietnamese Buddhist retreat in Northern California, where they meditated for seven days and seven nights. Then he came home and hung himself in his garage. I guess the retreat didn't help, or maybe it did. He was a Nirvana fan all his life but didn't even know Kurt Cobain.

Another homeless man was talking to himself in the bus line. We both boarded the bus. He pulled a vintage cordless phone out of his bag. Put it to his ear, and continued talking. He was trying to legitimize his schizophrenia. Except he spoke ceaselessly. The other party (?) didn't have a chance to put in a word edgewise.

Nebuchadrezzar came to me in a dream last night, grinning from ear to ear. I asked him, "What maketh thou so jovial, Sire. Art thou not renowned for your scowl?" He came out singing in the Reggae style. He went "Don't worry. Be happy."

Even in Babylon, it seems they've got the beat.

Crossing paths with a hunch-backed, limb-less man on a motorized wheelchair. I don't stare. I don't even look. But he makes a sound in utter disgust as he passes by me. "I am in hell!", his cry sounds like.

I once went to the shrine of Daniel in Susa, or Shoosh. People of all faiths visited the shrine. Suicide attacks didn't exist then. Even Kamikaze pilots were flying commercial airlines.

My mind is clear as an 8 by 11 transparency. I could go on for hours. But I won't, thank God.

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By Shahriar Zahedi





Book of the day

A Fool of God
Mystical Verse of Baba Tahir
Translated by Edward Heron-Allen

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