I’ve been tucked away in Calcutta, enjoying the soon-to-come winter weather and the luxuries of home. I’m here attending a Fiction Writing Workshop lead by Amit Chaudhuri an English author and academic and Adam Foulds, a British novelist and poet. What I’ve appreciated about the past five days is the structured time to read, write and engage in a literary debate which has reaffirmed my love for Literature. While some of my parameters for good writing have been challenged and I’ve also been exposed to some excellent writing by young, Indian and International writers who form the class.
I had to present a piece of fiction to the class, which was critiqued and analysed. I thought it might be nice to chronicle the story on my blog as well. So here’s Acid House, an expert from a large work-in-progress. It won the ELLE Fiction Awards a couple of years ago.
Acid House by Abhik Bhattacherji
11: 20 PM: Brittany and I drove to a party downtown. It’s Saturday night, forty minutes to midnight; the night is an infant, and the morning far away. The limo sped down the highway, the roof was open. We swayed our drunken heads to the expensive music. Champagne flutes tossed on the floor, we drank from the bottle. We turned our heads, stomped our feet, shook off sleep, shut our eyes and let the wind sweep away beads of sweat. Lip gloss, Hermès shirts, Ferragamo shoes, and vintage Gucci scarves. Brittany kept playing with her hair; her high heels were her best friend that night. I lit a cigarette, we both sang, we were happy and free spirited like the pelicans and the unicorns.
11:58 PM: The limo stopped at a long, dust track. The chauffeur held the door open. We adjusted our vision, aligned our steps, and walked until the road met the magnanimous pillars. The sounds of psychobabble engulfed us, we stumbled greedily to re-fuel and dance under the moonlight.
12:09 AM: I was pinned against a brick wall covered in indecipherable graffiti. My legs were wound around the waist of a strange man, with neon blue wrists, orange hair, a fake mole, a rather tight black vest and a caustic tongue. My hands grazed against cement and stone, my lips bruised, make-up smeared, the heaving man licked my neck. I was drunk but claimed to be awake and alert. Moaning contentedly, as my waistband was loosened, and a singular hand crept inside. I needed alcohol, I pushed him away. I steadied my step as I began to walk, but turned around, grabbed his tie, pulled him and kissed him, a kiss that would make him come back home with me.
12:17 AM: The Bar, strobe and laser lights played magical tricks on our heads. Pulsating dance floor, bodies and limbs moved in faultless harmony to the music. The tall bartender (a part-time porn star who paired up with the cover girl of a Brazilian fashion magazine), pulled my left shoulder across the mirrored counter. Sly, long-haired, tattooed, he offered me two dew drops of purgatory, I pulled out dollars, stole my drops, kissed him on the lips, grabbed an energiser, I needed to find my friends.
12: 22 AM: Brittany: Smoking with strangers turned friends, eyes moist and crimson. She dances with Joe, next to a table laden with equipment. Cigarette papers, and hash unite to save their night. Her long golden hair made my eyes swim towards her, I extracted her from Joe, she inhaled and smooched me, an insane amount of sooty hash, made my lips burn. I kissed her back, she turned and slid down my body, her head kneading my chest, my belly, my crotch, and it did not loiter! She sat on the floor pulling me along with her. I resisted, while Joe obliged, I took two long, deep, soul-cleansing drags from a passion joint.
12: 41 AM: The music was purple, the floor green, the roof was white, and the ocean breaks got in touch with my ears. I walked into the mass of bodies, I was embraced, I closed my eyes, and let the music encompass me, like basic instinct the crowd moved, each had space to breathe and yet feel one another. The colors were exquisite. The smells fantastic, no emotion obscured the mind. We moved, mentally. I concentrated on my feet, the world swirled, kaleidoscopically. The mirrors on the wall haunted me; I licked my lips, to moisten them.
1:18 AM: Atif held my waist and rudely pulled me into his shape. I kissed him. He held my waist as I arched my torso backwards, my head moving slowly, with measured sways. He drew me up, his elbow holding my neck in place, his nose grazing mine, the room froze, the lights went out after an instant returned, the music broke, we levitated, I looked into his navy blue eyes and we kissed, his tongue swooping through my mouth, his lips gliding as intelligently. The music drove us insane. Like an infection, our bodies spread over each other.
2: 03 AM: I turned around, to see Brittany inching her way towards us. She’s in between us as the rush comes, she gyrates against Atif and me, we kiss, she unbuttons the second button of his shirt, her hands in the air, her hands return to the third, they graze his cleavage, the fourth, his chest moist, her fingers up in the air. We fit into each other, like a mug in a dishwasher.
2:37 AM: I held their hands and dragged them towards the hay filled bathtub. I saw mountains and cheese, we fell, each neatly on the other. There were white beams over our head, purple cushions under us, stray hair around us, warm sensations inside us, and disarrayed clothes upon us. Atif’s fingers ran through her hair while mine dexterously undid his denim. We heaved, we savored the moment, and the three become singular. The music peaked and so did we, we fell each on their back, spent, but ready to re-start. We lay there as the music dips, becomes haunting, mellow, serene, lonesome, the beats suddenly start quickening, the crescendo heightening, the rhythms pounding, the incessant note was not ceasing, the waves rising, and our feet involuntarily moving.
3:49 AM: I went back to the dance floor, it had fewer people now. The night sky had turned a shade of greyish blue. The birds were rising. The candles were burning low. The mystery man re-appeared, walked purposefully towards me. I scanned the room with bloodshot eyes, my hair and clothes are dishevelled. The man dances with me. We don’t touch, just dance beside one another, inching our way towards the wall of pulsating speakers.
4:14 AM: Joe and Brittany were on their knees, worshiping an invisible god. Their bodies moved in perfect semi-circles. I saw them rise, I saw smoke, and I saw another burning joint. The mystery man is removing the straps of my vest. I want him to have more of me. I feel hot and claustrophobic, thirsty, I kiss his mouth, a long wholesome kiss, and it does not satiate my thirst. The music grew louder, stronger, and gothic. The sky turned dull silver and then cobalt blue or Manhattan white.
4:51 AM: The limo, Brittany and I. Coldwater, empty bottles of Champagne. We sat nestled in each other’s arms. We needed a smoke; we smiled as we crept towards the grand finale of our night.
5:01 AM: It’s raining, as I walk into the gold lattice archway leading to a marble waterfall, chandeliers lighting my way to the reception.
5:06 AM: “Good Morning”, he’s expecting you, this way please”,
5:11 AM: Carlos smiles as his robe slips to the carpeted floor, I don’t scream, but I cry, Carlos is on top of me, he can’t see my tears.
5:39 AM: Spent and satiated he slips off and falls asleep.
5:44 AM: I pick up my shoes and the envelope, shut the door behind me. Never a word, always the envelope, always the five thousand dollars in crisp hundred dollar bills. My daily bread safe in the envelope.
My only client, my only sin. I don’t know that I’m alive, my only indulgence, but not my only source of income. “Carl speaking, 11:45, the Meridian, D will be there to pick you up”. Double whisky, one, two, three, four, I’m nearly there, two more. D, one arm supports me while the other unlocks my door. He knows I’ll be fine from here. I sleep. Whisky and toast. No time to cry. Under eye makeup and I’m at work. I’m no longer dissatisfied with my job. I’m indifferent. My knees cave at the altar. Tears flow, it’s only here that I surrender, “make me believe, make me believe” is my song. Gucci’s hide the shame in my eyes. The clock strikes twelve. Mid-day traffic drowns my thoughts. A black bird flies over the rafters. I light my cigarette. I walk and I cry. “Double whisky please”, I sleep alone that night, again. I like standing under the hot shower. For a very long time, till I get wrinkles on my fingertips. The water hot, steamy, battering against my body. I close my eyes and become one with the sound of the water on my body. My nude body and soul are ignorant of shame. I bleed. I cry. My bath water treats blood and tears equally, washing both away. I tremble. I stretch my palms on the steamed wall.
While the inconsistencies in the tense helped some readers navigate the narrative arch, it confused a few. The imprecision and ambiguity of the gender of the protagonist was enjoyed by most readers in the class. Some would have liked the piece to have been rooted in a specific geographical landscape while others claimed that the cosmopolitan nature of the events made them imagine and interpret the location to be situated in multiple spaces. I’d love to hear your critical and literary feedback on the piece. And I would love to read things you might have written, you could email me on email@example.com
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