Brother from another mother

“Pan masala on a fruit bowl and two waters please” I say to the waiter. It is an order well rehearsed for both Vivek and I. My mouth already begins to water in anticipation of the flavored tobacco. The aroma of the shisha reminds me of the onyx incense sticks my mother places every morning in front of her small statues of deities while she prays. We fill each other in on the week, finally releasing the stories that we had been storing for this very meeting. The dialogue runs rampant with inside jokes and nicknames. So much so that if the other patrons were to listen in, they’d believe we were speaking a different language. They would not be mistaken. Our language is a unique one, refined over the years that we have known each other. It is an accumulation of phrases and alterations of everyday words that leave smiles on the lips from which they are uttered.No topic is untouched in our discussion. The topics range from women and work to comedy and confessions.

Eventually the hookah, the size of a small toddler is placed between us. Though inanimate, it seduces me. Whether it is the pleasing curves of glass that catch my eye or that it promises relaxation for a troubled mind, I cannot say why I am attracted to the apparatus. Either one of us, whoever is in arm’s reach, will gingerly uncoil the pipe that is wrapped about its stem. The coals are next. Four glowing orange cubes rest on the tray underneath the bowl. The tongs supplied to place them atop the bowl is already warm to the touch due to its proximity to the coals. A satisfying sizzle erupts from the tin foil covered clay bowl as the coals begin to sear the fragrant tobacco underneath. Moments later we become forces of nature. With just an inhale we can create clouds that rival those we see in the sky. The deep slow breaths in combination with the effects of the nicotine release the tension in our limbs. I feel myself sinking into the wooden divan with padding designed with flowery embroidery reminiscent of Saharan art. The conversation becomes lazy as well, we are still actively participating but we welcome the bouts of comfortable silence. If not only for a moment I feel that we assume the likeness of maharajahs that would rule the land of our ancestors. Neither Vivek nor I have courtsmen or concubines, we retreat from constantly governing the many facets of our lives to enjoy the luxury of a refreshing vapor filling our throat and nostrils.

As the moon makes it steady climb higher into the night sky and the hour grows late, our conversations take a deeper tone. We talk of machinations of the fairer sex and how they continue to elude us. We talk of ambitions that plague all twenty somethings as we begin to realize the world offers everything imaginable, all we have to do is reach and take. And sometimes we talk of issues that disturb us and our opinions regarding them. Thoughts that, we know without having to be instructed, are not to reach another’s ears. At last, our throats are spent and our lungs weary of the smoke. We decide whose turn it is to pay and leave the lounge. Near our cars and still reluctant to leave each other’s company, we resume our light hearted discourse that started the night. On teetering chuckles, we finally conclude the night and wish each other a safe journey back home.

I describe this scene, not in an attempt to promote the hookah lounge or even in the pleasures of smoking. My intention is to highlight the relationship I have with my close friend and maybe to exercise the muscles in my mind that pump out descriptive writing. I have known it for a while, but only have recently admitted to myself that our bond will survive the tests of time. Being an introvert, I rarely go out of my way to converse with others, preferring the comfort of solitude more often than not. Still I notice among my peers, be they socialite or recluse, the art of conversation is fading. We have grown accustomed to only focusing on ourselves and have neglected the rewarding experience of opening up and talking to another. Somehow it has been ingrained into us that only significant others offer the safe space that is conducive for dialogue of the soul. And even when the urge arises to share we have become dependent on the social lubrication that alcohol or other drugs provide. It can be argued that I abuse hookah the same way. I would say that it is one vice that does not alter my thought process. Still the argument has merit, and it is something that I will have to work on.

So I leave you with this, instead of ‘killing that handle’ or ‘popping those pills’, find an hour during the 168 hours you have during a week to sit down and just talk with a good friend. If you fear uncomfortable silences, add an activity that requires only limited attention. Still, it may be awkward but with enough effort and willingness to be an open book to another, you will find that your counterpart will reciprocate. You will discover that it will be a relationship that grows immensely stronger and one that you will forever cherish. You will realize that even though you share no blood with them, you will have added a brother or sister to your family. Some of you probably already have this, and to you I say never take them for granted. Make them aware that they are appreciated whether it is through your words or your actions.

Thanks for reading, if you have made it this far, hopefully I have given you something to ponder about. Feel free to comment, or just reach out to me on your own thoughts. I always love hearing from you all!

Also shoutout to Vivek, thanks for being my boy, DAAAaaaaAAAAAGGG!