(Pico was someone I knew once. He is gone now but he left behind this little diary. Most of it is just random scrawling, some on loose pages even. At the risk of offending his memory, here are some words from the diary.)
Date: 14th August, 2006.
A virgin bar, that’s good, very good. I am first there, there’s no one before me and there’s no one there but me. I don’t like bright lights, so the bar’s got to be dim and it is. You get to introduce the smell of cigarette smoke to the dull tiny-room atmosphere that hangs there, still, hushed. The chatter-and-chime of the TV is politely asked to be turned off. The waiter immediately sees that thing, that thing within your eyes, swirling, concentrated, dark, and behaves correctly, leaving you to the company of yourself. The bar is silent, in slow motion, out of time, beyond this world, a rock on a planet far away, frozen and dangerous.
A minute-full of solemn breathing and then the ritual begins. As the waiter tends to my order, I carefully arrange the table how it should be. The paper-napkins, the coaster, the salt-and-pepper dispensers, the toothpick-holder and the chutney-bowl belong to the far right of the table and that’s where I put them. I will not need to look at them anymore and they are gone and finished. The cigarette packet, the matchbox, my cellphone wait to my left, on alert for my attention. The ash-tray is closer but still to my left. The space in front of me, it’s been cleared and emptied and now it has to be filled and here’s the waiter now, with his dented metal tray, carrying all I ask of the universe - a bottle of rum, cola, a glass and ice. Clunk, clink, shhh and plop and my drink is made. I take a sip, a cool, short sip and shudder involuntarily to a sudden flash of taste-plus-memory. I take out a cigarette, light it up, lean back and wait.
I feel like a genie who’s waiting for someone to rub the magic-lamp. Ah, for a rub and what magic I shall unleash.
I don’t have to wait long, of course. As always, the rum is doing its rubbing just fine. With a little more than half-the-glass done, I am free, springy, re-powered, un-deadened. The clock on the wall shows 6 o’ clock and I think that there’s another kind of creature that also comes alive around now – a vampire. Before long, other citizens of this half-light enter the room, moving silently, each tugging along a cloud of thoughts around a bowed head. I look at each carefully, trying to pry out their secrets with a penetrating look.
Oh Pico, what brings you and keeps you in this dingy room, all alone, with such men as silent company? I drown the thought with the last of my glass and the waiter comes to fill it up again. “Chips?”, he asks as an offering of something crispy to go with the rum. I smile and say I don’t want any. He walks back to the corner of the room, turns around and smiles at me. I smile back and nod my head. Like all good waiters, he knows that the best thing he can do is just wait.
Like a kite unattended to in the wind, my mind was getting all loose and wobbly and going this way and that. I snap it to attention – so what’s the feature presentation going to be tonight?
I remember this dark, creepy dream I had a couple of nights back. I didn’t like the dream, in fact, I had woken up feeling disturbed and violated, and I wanted to know why. I focus, dig out my memory of the dream and relive it again.
The young woman was tied onto the ground.
She was naked with her four limbs spread outwards, held in place by strong, thick ropes tethered to wooden stakes hammered into the earth. She was screaming, eyes swirling, her fair face whipped by the sweat-wet streaks of her own hair; she was screaming and weeping and babbling all at once, thrashing her head this way and that, and shaking her limbs as much as they could despite the painful knots at the ends of them. She was screaming not for help or mercy as these were never to come. She was screaming because her head was already full of the horrible pain that was about to be inflicted on her, to be unleashed on her soft, vulnerable, helpless body. In her mind, her torture had already begun.
This was the prescribed first phase of classic ritual torture, performed to infuse anguish and pain into a given place, to add suffering to the air as it adds blood to the mud. The aura of the place was about to get a giant dose of fresh human torment
Suddenly, the girl went all quiet, her head cocked up inches from the ground. She had heard something or someone out in the darkness around her. The sounds, still indistinct, were coming from somewhere beyond her right leg and she lifted her head, seeing through a veil of sweat-matted hair, staring into the cloudy darkness, trying to see who or what it was. She was then …
Excuse me … can I please uhh disturb you Sir?
My dream was gone and back here I was, staring into my glass. I look up to see who just spoke to me.
There are places that look like someone has deliberately squeezed every last cubic-millimeter of style out of it, leaving behind a grey-brown collection of bad lighting and bad furniture. This bar is one of those places. And then there are people who seem to have grown magically out of such places, like mushrooms on a damp surface. This man is one of those people.
Sorry, sorry Sir, I saw you sitting here, I sit there with my friends there, that table …
I turn to my left and on a table, two rows away, I see two men lost in conversation. I look back at the man speaking to me.
Just two minutes, I want to just talk to you …
Yeah … yeah, of course, please sit.
I lean back; make room for the glass of whisky he holds and he sits down heavily opposite me. I slide the ash-tray to be roughly at an equal distance from both our cigarettes. I pull the cola bottle, the rum bottle and my glass closer to me.
Thanks, thanks. He stretches out a hand, gold-coloured watch flashing in the dim lighting. Hi, my name is Vikas.
We shake hands and I take a good look at him. He has a dash of white hair that looks like surf on the top of his head. His face is dark, large-pored and broad. There are small pock-marks all over his upper cheeks. He wears glasses, with eyes tripled and blurred behind the thick lenses. He looks somehow too damn intent on talking and I already wish I had told to him to fuck off. But there’s something about this guy that would have not taken a ‘No’, even if it came his way rudely. I was, to use a favoured word of mine, intrigued.
He looks down at the table, fumbles to light a cigarette, stares diagonally past me and blows a thick cloud into the space between us.
I tell him my name. He repeats my name (“Pico, Pi-co, Pikko, Peeko”), slowly and carefully, all the while looking at my face as if to check whether he was indeed saying it right.
Yeah. So you come here often, Vikas?, though I didn’t care whether he did or not. I just wanted to know why he was so insistent on talking to me.
(Dear reader, so sorry but this page of Pico’s diary ends here. The next two pages are mysteriously missing, ripped off perhaps by Pico himself. So how does this little entry end? We shall have to wait and see what turns up from the many torn loose pages bunched up at the end of the diary. Strange things happen within diaries and Pico’s is a bit stranger than most.)