Every Shadow is black (work in progress)
Prologue. Misty Green: April 2010, Goa, India
MY LIFE WAS EVERYWHERE and nowhere. Scattered about in bits and pieces, much like the sand under my feet as I stood ashore watching the waves make a return trip. I was on the edge of the beautiful blue-green Arabian Sea in Goa, west of India. One more time and maybe the waves would wash me away. I looked around me and thought perhaps my life was as scattered as the grains of sand that only God could comprehend. I heaved a sigh and took a step backwards as the waves hit this time almost throwing me off my feet and dragging me into the vast ocean with her. I tasted salt. Bitter-sweet salt on my tongue, piercingly painful salt that stung my eyes and nostrils.
I always thought that the beaches of Goa were divine! I would always go there whenever I wanted to feel pure and to experience a little bit of peace in a bid to get away from all of my worries. Goa was a long stretch of land by the Malabar Coast with the Arabian Sea by the west. And the singular view of the stretch of the beaches of Goa was heavenly breathtaking. Of all the beaches in Goa, Anjuna beach was simply my favorite spot.
I moved further away from the shore as I saw the waves come again. They looked vicious. Ready to take me away, but I was nowhere near ready to leave. My life was not over yet. As much as I tried to block out the goings on around me as I tried to soak myself deep within my thoughts, connected to reality only by the certainty of the vast sea before me, I couldn’t help but allow a bit of distractions once and again. Over the course of my three-month stay in Goa, I had gotten used to the conglomerate of people that came through the coastal city. People of all shapes and sizes — of all races and colors. And then there were the hippies. Anjuna Beach was once home to the hippies, most of whom have now moved on, but their legacies remain. The hippies always stood out from the rest of the crowd actually. With their forced-dreadlocks and unusual tattoos. And the beaded necklaces and bracelets they wore around their necks and wrists. And their crazy and weird sense of fashion that could never be traced to any age in the history of the metamorphosis of world fashion. And their absolute love for everything ‘nature’ could bring especially the brand of weed my friends and I steadily supplied. And their faces always smiling and cheerful from the peace our marijuana brought to them. And their messages of peace and unity, telling us all to embrace nature and save the planet. The hippies were always bound together and were unflinchingly distinct from the rest of the tourists who came into Goa in the droves every single day. I always wondered how the hippies managed to keep up with their happy mood all the time. Perhaps God really spoke to each of them, as Mr. Richards would always say. ‘God speaks to us all, ma boy’, he would say as he would stagger away flanked by his female hippy counterparts all smiling and singing and hitting little drums as they moved along intoxicated with Kingfisher, high on Mary Jane and filled with diluted ‘spicy’ Tandoori Chicken. Mr. Richards once said he had fucked all the women in his group and he said that with such confidence that you could tell that was the most his had achieved in his lifetime.
The man cracked us all up, especially given the fact that he was a dirty old slob who left his family in England some fifteen years ago in pursuit of happiness, and after travelling through India visiting one Ashram to another hoping for a Guru to show him the way to the light of his life, somehow he was led straight to the Goan shores. Who would let him stick his dirty old cut dick in her? Mukesh would say while cringing in disgust.
It was Wednesday and I realized what Wednesday meant at Anjuna beach. Flea Market Day! The Wednesday Anjuna Beach flea market was bigger than ever, and after the day is over, the crowds would descend on the shacks along Anjuna beach to listen to psychedelic trance as they watched the sun go to sleep. Affie’s Shack, Mukesh’s little thatched sea-side shack-bar right at the southern end of Anjuna beach, was the most happening spot. Most shacks closed by midnight due to sound restrictions, but at the rocky northern end of the beach you’ll find some that stay open all night. Anjuna’s infamous Eurosopia Disco Lounge was also located at this end of the beach and that was my biggest marketplace.
As I stood by the sea reminiscing and watching the waves come and go, I noticed the usual pair of lazy beach-going couples — as the locals called them — in need of some respite from the sun’s heat. I could see the adrenaline junkies — young white boys taking adventure to a whole new height by jumping into a plane and traveling eighteen hours to India to ‘experience’ life — parachute through the sky with a trailing rope latched to a raging speedboat below. It never seemed all that exciting to me though; no wonder it was often reserved for the tourists. I envied them sometimes too because in Goa, the appeal was in the unrivalled bird’s-eye view — the enticing sight of India’s unheralded landscape, of course, but also the boundless ocean below. It’s as easy as a thousand rupees to get that experience. You sit in the harness, legs stretched and backside floating in the water. The speedboat starts to gun its motor and soon the cool air lifts the parachute up, taking you with it. The experience was always brief but breathtaking, or so I have been told on countless occasions by those who have gone up, kissed the sun and lived to tell about it — floating freely with the endless horizon to the right and tourists lazing on the hot beach on the left. I would imagine, when the unbearable sun has you longing for a breeze of any kind, you could do far worse things to get the high of the wind thrash through your face. Goa was: sun, surf and sand. But that combination varied for a lot of people and, dare I say, I was a major denominator in that variation. And I made it my business to be.
I was a few yards away from Mukesh’s little thatched sea-side shack when I noticed him walking my way. I knew what he wanted. They all looked the same. They eyed you from afar as if you were a prostitute walking the red-light districts of Lagos’ Allen Avenue in Ikeja. They smiled and showed so much teeth than was necessary as if you were the bearer of the news that they had won the lottery. They looked like they could bend over anytime and let you fuck them anywhere of your choosing just for a taste of the gifts you come bearing. Perhaps he was the one I was waiting for. You never really know who you are waiting for anyway. A good customer brings nothing but good luck wrapped in good money. Especially that early on in the day. But I was hesitant as usual. I had to be. It was a dangerous trade. And I did not come to Goa to get busted.
As he got closer to me our eyes met. My heart raced a few beats facer. It wasn’t because I was scared. No. I was excited. It must be the adrenaline rushing through my veins. Mukesh always made me guzzle down all sorts of energy drinks before I went to meet clients or in search of new ones. Perhaps the drink was the cause of my anxiety, or herhaps I was just being careful.
He nodded at me and I returned the nod before looking away. I did not know why I did that but something about him was not right. The atmosphere around me suddenly didn’t feel as divine as they usual felt. Call me paranoid, but I think I had hung out so much with Mr. Richards that his hippie-ness had rubbed off on me. It made me feel like I had a special connection with nature. As I turned and began to make my way on the hot sandy beach back to Mukesh’s shack I could see a lone ranger-type Caucasian guy — well built, probably in his late twenties, blonde hair glistening in the sun — as he began to kayak into the serene Indian Ocean. One has never truly seen a sunrise or sunset until you do so while floating down a quiet river — the light emerges through the pre-dawn darkness and, as it does, the lush, untouched landscapes of West India begins to shine.
“Dude yaar, what are you doing?” Mukesh asked from over the bar counter as I approached him. I didn’t know he had been watching my every move as I stood by the sea trying to sell my pinch.
“What do you mean?” I asked as I turned to watch the man I had exchanged a nod with walk away.
“You don’t think he wants to buy some?” Mukesh continued.
I ignored the question for a minute and kept my gaze on the man until he took a turn and left my focal point. I turned to Mukesh and smiled.
“One Kingfisher please. Large.” I ordered. I knew that wasn’t what he wanted to hear. He hissed and went to get my beer.
“Dude, what the fuck yaar. You knew the guy before?” He asked. I knew he wouldn’t give up. Mukesh was smart and very different from all the other Indians I had come across. Born and raised in the South Indian city of Bangalore, save from his curly and shiny dark hair and other obvious Indian features, Mukesh hardly behaved like a typical Indian. Perhaps it could be attributed to the fact that he had been in Goa serving drinks to Europeans and other foreigners for the past ten years leading up to him owning his own shack or to the fact that he was an IIT drop-out who was still very much a computer whiz seeing the world through the eyes of his computer screen. Mukesh didn’t speak with atypical Indian accent or with the customary head-wobble. According to him, he lost the wobble a million years ago when he realized that the best way to make it in Goa with the foreigners was to be as much like them as was possible. And to him everything was possible. He spoke English, Hindi, Kerela, and Konkani very fluently. He could communicate very comfortably in French and Portuguese. How Mukesh managed to become the thirty-one-year old man he was today was beyond me. A husband to a beautiful Brazilian-Liberian girl and a father to two little girls, he was the center of their world. But away from his charm, Mukesh was the middle man between most of the boys in my trade and the man upstairs who supplied us our shit and he never played with his business.
“Mukky, there’s only one skill needed in this business and it doubles as a rule: ‘learn to use your head’. You taught me that, remember.” I said as I brought the large bottle of beer to my lips.
Mukesh didn’t say another word.
“He didn’t fit the profile man.” I added.
“Better luck next time ey.” He finally said.
Better luck indeed. I would need those because it seemed a lot of them were scarce these days, I thought.
I was halfway through my thought when suddenly a guy ran passed us from the mainland towards the beach from where I had just returned. He was probably in his early forties, killer mustache — it made him look awfully like a character straight out of a Bollywood movie, a Salman-Khan type perhaps — agile, well-built and very fast especially given the fact that he was running on sharp sand.
“Yo. What the fuck was that?”
“Dude, dude that guy is a cop”, Mukesh said quickly
“Nah. I know a lot of the cops in Goa bro. They don’t…..” I couldn’t speak any further. I believed Mukesh immediately I saw what was coming my way.
Ejiro was running and waving his hands at me. Two men ran behind. Too close for comfort. One of them was the Bollywood-type-looking guy who had just run passed Mukesh and me. The other was the guy who had earlier shared the look with me.
I didn’t need any further sign or warning. The gods didn’t need to send an emissary; I knew what I had to do. I jumped to my feet, abandoned Mukesh and my half-finished large bottle of Kingfisher and bolted.
Mukesh was saying something but I did not hear a word he said. I was gone with the winds.
As I meandered on sharp sand through the corners of the many shacks by the rocky shores of Anjuna beach, I thought of one thing: get rid of the evidence. I looked behind me quickly and realized no one was following me. Poor Ejiro. They must be hot on his trail. I hoped he didn’t get caught. And if he did get caught, I prayed he wouldn’t rat me out. Or would he? Oh I didn’t think so. Ejiro wouldn’t do that. Not after all we had been through together. I stopped quickly and dug a hole. I hit water soon after I began and stopped digging. I emptied my pockets as fast as I could. The little wraps of cocaine were undeniable. They would have been the death of me. I covered the hole and continued unto the main road to where my white Honda Activa 2009 scooter was parked beside a road-side restaurant filled to overflow with tourist from around the continent. The savory smell of Pork Vindaloo danced sumptuously around my nostrils as I jumped onto my scooter and brought the little machine to life.
My head was filled with many questions as I sped back to the apartment I shared with Ejiro. Who were those men? They indeed did not look like Goan policemen. A lot of the policemen in Goa were simple and easy and cheap. They laughed and shared drinks with us even though most of our pockets were loaded with little wraps of cocaine we called ‘pinch’ or with marijuana or both, but with a little ‘something’ they could always look the other way, no questions asked. They went clubbing with us and made sure we were let into the choicest and grooviest clubs where we would be sure to offload our bounty in no time at all.
The usual near-forty-minutes ride through the country side of Goa to Mapusa where we stayed seemed to have flown by like a few minutes. I didn’t look over at the beautiful Born Jesus Basillica or other historic sites as I would normally do during my rides through Goa. My head was somewhere else, my head was everywhere.
At the old and almost-rundown Goan-Portuguese villa where Ejiro and I shared a room, I parked the scooter and rushed into the building. I ignored the porter as she began to speak to me as I rushed in. I wondered what the old hag wanted. How many ways could I tell her that I did not want to put my dick anywhere near her pussy that could very well had given birth to me? I had tried being nice but that didn’t work so I tried been rude the last time she made her advance at me and that was what did it. Although that put me in her blackest book — the one that had the names of all her jilted lovers who were so bad that the actual black book seemed too good a place to have their names.
“Iyke! Iyke!” I heard her scream my name as I skipped steps on the staircase and arrived on the first floor before she could come after me. I opened the door and slammed it behind me as I entered. I was panting. I sat on the bed and scratched my head as more thoughts ran through my head. The bed couldn’t contain me so I slipped to the floor and sprawled my legs in front of me like the women in the ancient city of Benin would do when they were in mourning. Those policemen were different, that fact I had established. But what drove me crazy was the way they operated. It would have been the perfect set-up if I had not followed my instincts. And to think that Ejiro had been doing this long before I came to India. How could he not have known? Or did they come for him? Was he their target? A million images flashed before my mind’s eye as if I had been plugged into a machine when suddenly I heard heavy bangs on my door.
The images disappeared. Everything seemed to freeze except the beating of my heart which increased way more than my ribs could handle. I collected myself and tried to steady my breath which was gushing out in heavy gasps. Perhaps it was my dirty old porter coming to give me more grief for not fucking her. But what if it was the police? What if Ejiro had been caught and he had spilled his guts to them telling them everything about me and where we lived?
My mind flew to the pistol I had hidden in an opening in the wall behind my cupboard. I was tempted to spring for it when the bangs came again this time accompanied by Mukesh’s voice.
“Open the fucking door man.” He shouted from outside with such urgency that I sprung to my feet and went to let him in.
“Mukesh, damn you scared the crap out of me.” I was trying to catch my breath as I spoke.
“Fuck that yaar. You gotta leave town dude. NOW!” He said and rushed to my traveling bag and began to throw things into it. He didn’t care to ask if he picked my things or any of Ejiro’s but he just threw whatever his hands touched into the bad.
“Wait, wait, wait Mukesh. Those things are not mine. What’s going on man? Tell me dude. Was Ejiro arrested?” I was beginning to panic but I used every nerve in me to mask it from him.
“Fuck’al police dude. They fucking have Ejiro. And my informer says he’s singing like a fucking bird. The entire operation has been compromised. Dude yaar, I had to close down my shack to come here. Tell me, when have I ever closed down my shack?” He spoke in one breath. I could see the panic visible on his face. He had reasons to be worried. He had a family and a thriving business to think about and the penalties for drug trafficking in Goa was not something anyone should take lightly. And yet we dabbled all the same, I wondered.
“Relax Mukesh. So what do I do now man? Just pack up and leave town?” I asked unsure of the answer I would get. At this point I had begun to unpack Ejiro’s stuff from the bag replacing them with my things. At least the most important things I would need. It was clear what I needed to do and where life was taking me. I had to heed to Mukesh’s words, I had to leave town. One moment I was admiring the beautiful sun, and the next….
“Man the boss has given the word. All ties have to be cut. You have to leave now. Dude, it’s not safe.”
“How do you mean cut all ties?” I began to ask as if I didn’t see the answer written clearly on Mukesh’s face.
“Here, take this. Be safe and call me when you get out of town.” Mukesh said and pressed a wad of money into my hand before he turned and left just as swiftly as he had come. I could see tears in his eyes. We had come to see each other as friends and maybe kinsmen over the time I had been in Goa working the streets for him. I looked down into my hand at the wad of one-thousand-rupee notes and put them in my backpack concluding my packing. I handed the pistol over to Mukesh before he left. It was ‘company property’ after all.
As I rode to the Kadumba bus terminal where I was going to get the night bus to Mumbai I thought of what I would tell Kelly when he sees me back in Mumbai barely six months after my departure. I thought of everything I was leaving behind. I had built a life here. Or at least I hoped. And now I was leaving without as much as a goodbye to Bernadine. She would hate me forever.
As I sat in the coach bus and prepared to bid farewell to Goa, I brought out my cell phone and dialed Kelly.
“Oh boy! The thing don cast. I dey come Mumbai!”