To Paradise and Back Home – Rumman R Kalam

“Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand
Hey Joe, I said where you goin’ with that gun in your hand, oh -”

It’s a 4 P.M. afternoon; the careless voice of Jimi Hendrix and the butchered tone of his guitar fill up my room through a broken Chinese phone. As religiously as I love Hendrix, I’d hate to wake up to his voice even if he was a 17-year-old vestal virgin. Who cares? Today’s the day I finally get to smoke pot with my boro bhais. Ever since I was sixteen, I’ve been fascinated by weed. It makes people so chill and the whole world adores it. With a scream of, “Legalise it!”, I get up and walk out of my house without doing anything else.

Mum’s a teacher, so she’s most probably taking care of other people’s children instead of her own. Dad’s either making money or spending it on alcohol somewhere in Gulshan. All the better for me: an 18-year-old barely needs parenting. There’s no time for me to dwell on inconsequential things; I need to get to Shaon Bhai’s house. He’s the one who promised me pot. And pot is where the psychedelia starts.

“Ah, Rakib. Did you buy the cigarettes?” I’m greeted by a pair of dark circles. With each passing day, Shaon Bhai looks more like an inverse Pepé Le Pew and less like a human being. Any normal person would actually call Shaon Rashid a skunk, except for the fact that he’s a man of nature. Which reminds me of the first pearl of wisdom he dropped onto me when I called him a ‘man of nature’: “Rakib, Rakib, Rakib. A ‘man of nature’ can be anyone. It can be a man who responds to the call of nature more than any of us; it can be a man who gives into his beastly desires and becomes an animal or it can be someone who considers nature the grey buildings of a metropolitan.”

That’s how Shaon Bhai’s brilliance left a mark on my life — his ethereal words. No wonder he could survive all alone at twenty-five in his flat without doing anything. Our society needs more thinkers and less 9-to-5 addicts. What’s the point of life when all you do is shift corporate blame and push papers? The biggest adventure those guys could think of is masturbating to midget porn inside the office. I’d rather give everything up and fold into nature.

“Are you going to sit there and think forever or should I finish the joint?” cuts in Shaon bhai.

I give a quick laugh and take the joint from him.

“Don’t inhale it like a cigarette. Just slowly take it in, keep it inside for a while and let it out,” instructs the Master Stoner. I put the joint to my lips and inhale. The acrid smell just goes up from my mouth to my nostrils and down to the lungs themselves.

I almost hurl my guts out but stop just in time. This is nothing like the Instagram photos of girls smoking weed with the tag #LEGALIZE. How on Earth do people manage to smoke this thing? Not wanting to look like a fool in front of Shaon Bhai, I take a few quick puffs and pass it back to him.

He smiles at me, and a few puffs later he says, “You’re stoned already,” and smiles. No, I’m not stoned. I just feel sleepy and I want to get this thing over with. I can’t believe I waited two years to smoke crap rolled in toilet paper.

All of a sudden Shaon Bhai starts laughing at me and I realise I was lost in thought while staring at his crotch. This is not good: not only am I not enjoying this, I’m beginning to make a fool out of myself. By this time Shaon Bhai is done with his turn and the joint comes back to me. Great, I’ll end up even more messed up. Thankfully, it’s almost finished and I take a last few puffs which almost burn my lips.

“We need some music now. Let’s listen to some Radiohead.” He puts on my least favourite Radiohead track: “Bodysnatchers”. The day can’t have gotten any better: I’m in for a VERY bad trip. Gradually, the music begins to rise and suddenly I feel all the different tunes slowly melding into one and filling up my mind. Speaking of my mind, it feels like a football field. Like someone expanded it and gave me a lot of room for thought. Shaon bhai is blabbering away about trying everything at least once in your life but never getting addicted to it. Do I really look like I give a damn if I get addicted to air fresheners?

6 months later

“Ma, the dark circles under my eyes are there because I stay up at night,” I say with incredulity.

“Baba, no one stays up at night for work. You have lost a lot of weight and you look like a drug addict!” My mum is trying to reason with me.

“What do you think I am doing up at night? You saw for yourself the past few weeks when you randomly came into my room with your key. Did it look like I was doing drugs? Or have you seen something new on TV about potheads writing on paper and getting high?” I shout at her. This is getting stupid.

“This is not a joke! Look at yourself!”

“I would if you stopped shouting at me and started shouting at dad instead. He’s the one who is drinking himself to death. He barely shows up!”

And with that, I exit the dining room. Bringing my mother’s inability to deal with my father into an argument always works wonders. Her insecurities spike up her back and leave her speechless. I hate to do this but I gotta keep them off my back. Growing up alone and without any friends for a major portion of my life left me with my own set of insecurities. It’s like being forced to work in disguise at KFC when you’re a chicken; you gotta be so good at hiding that you forget you’re a chicken. You either get fried or you gotta fry your own kind.

I’m waiting for a group of kids to come to my house. They aren’t that young but they are kids in a sense that they still think that their internet girlfriends will last forever. To them, true love is signified by curving your fingers to form a heart and uploading the screen-cap on Facebook. To this day, I have not figured out how they press the print-screen button without their hands. I guess the flexibility of the girl is what attracts them and makes them wait forever.

Receiving the missed call from the kiddies, I open the door and usher them in. The problem with kids is, if they know they’re doing something wrong, they just march right into your room without saying a word. Like a line of ducks quacking after one another. Except these don’t quack, they just… scuttle like scared cockroaches. I go back into my room to find all three of them sitting tightly next to each other on my bed — ducks huddling together in fear.

“‘Sup Shihab, how are you Wasim, Wasif?” I shake hands with each of them and they look up at me with awe. These kids think I am the Rastafarian Jesus just because I get to smoke pot at home. I don’t blame them; they think true love happens at 16. I am the one who’s dumb enough to let The Ducklings into my house to smoke pot. This isn’t their first time; kids nowadays find pot everywhere. Shoeboxes in the 90’s had Playboy magazines and hopeful condoms; shoeboxes now have marijuana and rolling papers. The shoebox in my drawer has cut-outs of Betty & Veronica in bikinis with a few scattered Pokémon cards: the mark of someone detached from society.

I ask Shihab to pass me the lighter and then I pull out the headliner of this evening — a bong. The Ducklings have never seen one before. Hell, even I’ve only used bongs rarely, Shaon bhai brought this from Thailand as a birthday present.

“Open the windows, Wasim. This evening, you’re all in for a treat.”

3 months later

Despite popular belief, stoners don’t necessarily have bad grades. I got six A’s and a C in my O levels. But then again, popular belief includes my mother telling me that she saw a rickshawala lying on the ground with his lungi drenched in urine; this rickshawala was a pothead, apparently. Weed is harmless, I stay high 24/7 nowadays. People don’t give a shit and everyone still loves me. It’s opened up many creative doors in my mind.

Today, I am hanging out with friends. To think three years back, I had no friends at all and all I could call a friend was a boy with an acne problem who smelled like rotten onions. He was Shaon Bhai’s cousin, that’s how I got to know my mentor. And here I am, sitting in Shwarma House with six people, all of whom think I am the funniest man ever.

“Rakib, pass me the pepper.”

“If I pass you the pepper today, who will pass you the pepper tomorrow?” I reply with a serious face. A few of my friends let out polite-ish laughs and the girl, Shamima, who asked me the question, gives me this incredulous look of distaste. That joke might not have been funny but their reactions are for sure.

A further 6 months into my life

What leads a man to melt and dissolve heroin on a spoon? Is it weed, the so-called gateway drug? Is it two decades’ worth of family problems? Or is it simply because the whole of society is a pile of goat-dung labelling itself as Maltesers?

I don’t know. Somewhere along the way, I lost the plot. Some people enjoy counting money after working all day then spending it to earn even more. Some people enjoy gaming for twelve hours until their eyes water. Some people enjoy beating their wives. I, on the other hand, enjoy an elevated state of mind. That moment when your mind takes the leashes away from you and goes insane. Your limbs feel like they are made of jelly. The best jelly ever, the one made from your bones and coated with your skin. You get that solid kick in your spine and you’re inside paradise. The paradise doesn’t last long, though. Once you come down from the stuff, you realise you’re in a dump. The country’s a dump, the society’s a dump, your room is a dump and you’re a dump. That’s when the Need kicks in, you crave to go back into paradise and paradise has a price. Usually 100 bucks and soiled pants.

After twenty goddamn years, my parents noticed that their kid is up to no good. Not even my parents can ignore a heroin addict lying around the house. It’s good in a way, you feel loved for once even though you’re a burden. My dad shifted the blame onto my mother as usual, telling her that it’s her fault for not being a good mother. Men always blame women for their fallacies and women always blame men for their lack of emotional communication; it’s a vicious cycle.

Once you elevate your mind for a good amount of time, you begin to see everything from a third person perspective. It’s like your life is a video game and you’re the kid behind the screen; watching, playing and deciphering the story. A game where you don’t get a second chance. I hobbled off to my stereo and put on ‘Heart-shaped Box’ by Nirvana. Who else apart from Kurt Cobain can relate to my feelings? He’s another sociopath who saw enough of society from the top to know a shotgun is better than a million arguments.

Life’s a junkyard and that’s my cue for a second hit.

Addicts don’t have that many friends. Yeah, we do take our hits in a circle and we do have our sympathetic dealers. I only had one person I could call a friend, Tanvir Karim. This guy was a year or two older than I am. A son of a rich garments manufacturer, Tanvir was never short of money. Most people assume that a rich guy with drugs is just the recipe to create a douchebag. Not in this case; Tanvir’s a model good guy. Like a man straight out of the old-time movies. Strong, silent and noble. How’d I know he’s noble? For starters, you never run out of cigarettes when Tanvir is there. Hell, he even loaned me money loads of times for a fix. Just me, though. He’s smart enough to know who’ll pay him back and who won’t. What struck me as odd was that throughout the months I’ve known him, he’s never had any love interests. Good-looking rich guys are never single; even if they are, their Facebook is usually filled with pictures of girls glued to their sides. His profile is a barren wasteland apart from the regular Instragrammed snaps of his food. And what’s more, Tanvir hangs out with the elite of the elite in the tri-state area. You’ll see him show up in his preppy hipster clothes for a fix around 8 P.M. once or twice a week. I decided to dig up a bit once I heard he goes to the gym. Something didn’t add up.

Upon asking Shaon Bhai what’s the case, he just laughed for a while before answering.

“Oh, Rakib, Rakib-Rakib… there’s more than one kind of a person in this world,” was all the reply I got.

Not that anyone ever gave Tanvir any shit about his habits. Tanvir’s an amphetamine junky who rarely does heroin. Like all the other people I meet, we met in Shaon Bhai’s drug-den. Six or seven people lying together in a circle with their respective vices. Some take their shit and pass out and some end up screwing in the middle of a circle. To a foreign observer, it’s barbaric; to us, it’s just independence from social shackles.

And while everyone was being an animal in their own rights, Tanvir and I talked. What do two addicts talk about? Themselves. They just exchange opinions and if it works out, they become friends. Tanvir’s a pill-chasing junky, he actually remembers and realises what he talks about while I on the other hand, don’t. From what he said later on about our conversation, it went something like this:

“Do you see Shaon Bhai, Tanvir? I am gonna shave his head off.”

“Why, man? He’s a good guy. You don’t do that to good guys,” smiled Tanvir.

“Good guy? See all of us around here? He gave us all the drugs. What’s the goddamn point? Yeah, we see life from a new perspective, everything makes sense and we get to do what we want but who the fuck wants to lie down and escape from society?” I was making my point. Always the same point: society. Screw society. We’re all here for a common cause — escape.

“True, true. Why shave his head, though?” asked Tanvir

“Look at his hair, going down to his fuckin’ waist.”

“Hahahaha, fuck, man. Now that you mention it, it’s hilarious.” And Tanvir started laughing.

“Damn right, it is. I am gonna teach him a damn lesson.” That was it.

At that point, I got up and grabbed the scissors that we used to grind our pot. Right then, I hated Shaon bhai’s hair for no viable reason but the chemicals in my blood muted all sense of judgment. Shaon’s an experienced junky, he knew when things go down, you remain calm and handle it. Instead of retaliating, he started laughing at the image of me standing there wearing torn jeans, a dirty white Beatles t-shirt and dishevelled hair.
“Look at this guy with the scissors! He thinks he’s gonna save the world!”

The whole room started laughing. Tanvir was laughing, the unknown junkies were laughing and I was laughing. I don’t know why I was laughing, I found the whole situation hilarious. I found myself hilarious and the scissors slipped out of my hand. I sat down and my back gave in, I was lying on the ground and bliss swept over me.

I woke up with a start. It wasn’t Shaon bhai’s den, it was my room and I was under the covers. I looked around to see an unfamiliar yet known character — Tanvir. He was on my laptop trying to figure something out. Pill-addicts do that. They have this absolute need to spend their amphetamine-fuelled energy on something. I never tried uppers, why on Earth would I need extra energy to face more of this cursed world?

“Tanvir, dude, what the hell are you doing here?” I asked.

“Right, man. Sorry about that. Shaon asked me to take you back home. I didn’t want to at first but then he told me how your house is always empty. I brought you here and found the keys in your pocket,” said Tanvir apologetically.

“Didn’t the guards ask what the fuck you’re doing with me passed out?”

“I told them you had a little too much to drink.”

“ARE YOU FUCKIN’ CRAZY? THEY’LL TELL MY PARENTS.” This guy was crazy. He’d taken one too many liberties.

“No, they won’t. I paid them both two hundred each to look after the car. Unless your parents pay them more, they won’t open up.”

“Screw you, man. Thank God you have a little bit of sense left in you.” I sighed a breath of relief.

And that’s how our friendship started. Tanvir’s a good guy but his tastes were known throughout all social circles. It doesn’t help that he’s a pillkhor either. Tanvir’s a lone-wolf. He has to be, since most Bangladeshi guys are too scared of people like him. Another one of our banana-fed society’s many prejudices. Tanvir’s a good man, a junky but a good man.

I don’t remember how many months passed at this point

“Rakib, Shaon Bhai’s been arrested,” says a harassed-sounding Tanvir over the phone.

“WHAT?” This hits me hard. I can’t process anything at all.

“Yes, the police raided his den this morning and arrested everyone in sight. I heard the footsteps and voices then took the fire exit with the excuse of going to the bathroom.”

“What the hell, man? Why the fuck would you desert everyone?”

“I can’t bloody save everyone; it was either me or all of us go to jail.” The eloquent apologies, yet again.

“Screw you, man.”

“I’m coming over. I need some pot to calm myself.”

Here’s Tanvir with his immaculate sense of self-preservation. He can smell danger miles away and no one knows how. I doubt even he does. Most paranoid druggies are annoying ass-hats who ask you to sniff them and check them for any signs of recognition. Dude, if you’re loaded, you’re gonna end up looking like a pensioner no matter what. Tanvir’s different, his paranoia stays within himself and he does what he thinks is right. This one time, I remember stopping him from trying to saw the grills of my window with a penknife in an escape attempt. His excuse was that my parents were standing outside the door.

I open the main door and Tanvir enters my house. He has bloodshot eyes and the air of one suffering from withdrawal.

“What’s up, man? Why do you look like you’ve had the air sucked outta you?” I ask.

“I am giving all of this shit up. No more pills for me.”

“What the fuck? Why the fuck are you doing this?”

“Everyone’s getting arrested. Shaon’s den is the fourth one this week to get raided. We keep this up and you’re getting screwed as well.”

“Just sit down and let me roll one up.”

With that, I sit down to think and roll. Shit has gone down and the raids have begun. Thing is, Shaon bhai’s well-connected. He simply doesn’t get caught that easy. It’s not as if he was short of money either. Most probably he fed drugs to someone important and the shit hit the fan. I am almost twenty years old and without Shaon bhai, I am gonna be in deep shit. I don’t know any other dealers. Good idea: I should get a new one.

“Can your Y guy get me some hero?”

“Are you crazy? Hero and Y cost ten times as much as they used to before and scoring it will surely get you arrested. They don’t even accept bribes anymore.”

“Dude, that’s messed up, I’m sure someone out there is willing to sell.” I’m desperate at this moment. The source of my daily fix just dried up and I’m left all alone.

“Bait and switch, man. If you buy, you’ll most probably end up in a sting. We’re screwed for the next six months. Either give this shit up and sort out your life or you’re done for. How much Hero do you have on you?”

“I got enough to last me a month or two. Or a week if I wanna be happy.”

With that, Tanvir gets up and pulls out my underwear drawer and gets the shoebox formerly filled up with Pokemon cards.

“I’m taking all of your hero and you’re giving this shit up.”

“What the fuck?” I get up and start advancing towards Tanvir.

“Chill, I’m not gonna smoke it up nor am I throwing it away. You’re the one who’s gonna be taking all of this over the next six months,” I hate Tanvir for this. His cold maturity always speaks out and for once, I’d love to see him break.

“Fuck you, man. You’re not my fucking wife!”

“Don’t flatter yourself, you’re not my t-”

At this point, I’ve had enough of his self-righteous bullshit. Who is he to order me to give up? I go to push him away and he shoves me back. Tanvir’s a big man. He’s six feet one inches tall and he goes to the gym regularly to burn the Y energy. His shove feels as if someone punched the air out of my lungs. I fall back onto my mattress and hit my head against the wall. Everything blacks out.

“Dude, you alright? Dude, wake up. Hey, man. I’m sorry. Look, I got paranoid and shit, man. Don’t you die on me.”

My head feels like a Hindi song in the hands of a Puran-Dhaka DJ. Violated. I don’t stir, though. Let Tanvir sweat it out. He deserves it for pushing me.

“Look, man. I’m sorry, okay? I love you, man. There’s no fuck-head out there who cares for me enough to let me into their house. Now you won’t either after this.”

Great, he loves me. Just what I need.

“I know you ain’t like that, but I don’t care. Just forgive me, okay?”

If I were sober enough, I’d freak the hell out and actually ask him to leave but opiates are painkillers and even though my bleeding head is hurting, it isn’t hurting as much as it should. I’m laughing on the inside because here I lie, properly loved for the first time and for all the wrong reasons. I always promised myself as a kid that I’d love someone back if they loved me. Anyone at all. Here’s one of God’s many jokes played on my life: a man loves me and at the same moment, I remember the promise to myself that I’d love someone back. I need to step in now before I find out he’s also a necrophiliac or something.

“Fuck you, man. Going all romantic on me. Don’t you ever fuck with me like that again,” I cut into his melodramatic whining.

“Damn, how long have you been conscious?” asks a relieved Tanvir.

“A while, I was watching you sweat it.”

“I’m sorry, man. Look, I’ll leave you alone and never show my face again, okay?”

“Shut it, listen, I’m gonna clean myself up and I’ll need your help.” I decide what needs to be done with my life.

“Why the sudden change of heart?” he asks.

“Yeah, this shit needs to stop. My savings are almost done for and I don’t wanna die.”

“I thought you wanted to die all the time with your speeches about overdosing and being Kurt Cobain.”

“That shit is ridiculous. I feel sober as fuck. How long was I out?” Blood rushes to my head and I change the topic to remain calm after that jab at my idol.

“Three or four hours. What do you mean it’s ridiculous?”

“Shit, I am sober. Look, my savings are gonna run out in a month or so if I keep this up. I don’t wanna die. I’m scared of dying, I don’t wanna go to hell.” Fear is sinking in and I could feel my chest feeling empty; burning.

“I thought you weren’t even religious? What the hell, man? You’re fake.” These jabs keep hitting where it hurt. I light a cigarette just to calm myself down before replying.

“We all are. Come tomorrow, I am gonna get suicidal and I need a solution,”

“Open up to your mother.”

“Are you crazy? She’s gonna go ape-shit!” I replied incredulously.

“Ape-shit or not, she already knows what you’re doing and she’s scared of you. Even she has given up.”

This is a revelation. I know my mother is a pushover but I never realised she’s this weak when it comes to family. This must be International Revelations Day.

“What do I do? Go to rehab? That’s out of the question. We all know how much they work,” I said.

“Ask your mother to call me whenever you start fucking things over. Clean up your room, get my Xbox and game all day.”

“I’m trying to clean up and you’re asking me to game?”

“Trust me, man. It’s the best thing to clean up. I have a friend whose brother was a grade-A pillkhor and he just shunned society for six months and played videogames.”

“This is crazy.” I roll my eyes and heave a sigh. I’m beginning to lose hope.

“So are you. You needed a solution, I gave you one.”

Stop being so calm, Tanvir. Goddamnit.

“And what the hell are you gonna do to stop me from killing myself?”

“Live with you if I have to.”

“Fuck no.”

I have no other choice, I know Tanvir’s joking and my only hope in life was this. You see, revelations don’t come slowly. When all hell starts collapsing and you’ve seen enough people get killed thanks to addiction, hitting your head and passing out can give you a taste of death. I needed to talk to my mother.

“Stay here until my mum comes home,” I ordered Tanvir.

“She’s already home. She was crying to me in the living room a few hours back.”

“Let’s go and talk to her.”

It’s been a year since I properly talked to my mother. Our conversations mostly end with her giving me money or shouting at me. She knows that I’d kill myself if she didn’t pay. All she has is hope and its time I give her some more.

We find her sitting in the living room staring at a game of golf. No one watches golf and my mother is no different. She’s just sitting there wondering what she’s done wrong to deserve this. Thing is, society mars our sense of judgement to the point where one thinks that ignoring their family and working day and night to raise other people’s children is a noble cause. It’s not. You might be helping kids get good grades but you create a cancer within your own house, simply by not instilling values into your children. Your husband ends up coming back home to find cold dinner on the table; your son comes back home from school to an empty house with no life, everything is in a catatonic state. I’m not saying a woman shouldn’t work or that making dinner is their job but why give birth to a child if you end up neglecting it just to push papers? At least keep a good cook, goddamnit.

“Ammu, I take heroin,” that’s how I open up. Blunt and honest.

“Is this something new? Is this your new way of making my life more of a joke?” asks my mother with a tear-stained face.

“Sort of. I want to give it up and be a normal person.” Keep calm, Rakib. Keep calm.

“What?”

“Yeah. I want to finish my A-levels, get into a university, get a job and pay you back for all the trouble I gave you for a year.”

“What convinced you to do that? What am I hearing? This has to be a trick to get more money out of me. You could JUST ask me for it instead of torturing me like this.”

“I AM NOT TORTURING YOU!” I shout. The ignorance of this woman is torturing me as much as anything I’d done to her.

“Look, aunty. Don’t mind him, let me explain it to you,” cuts in Tanvir. Let’s see if he can get through to my mother. I get up and begin pacing the room. Stay calm, Rakib. Stay calm.

“What will you explain to me about my own son, baba? I can see he’s up to no good and he’s dragging you into this mess.”

“No, aunty, he’s not. He really does want to give up because everyone he knows is getting arrested and he’s scared out of his mind. He wants to give up that life. He knows that his life is horrible because of himself. All druggies realise that at one point and that’s what makes them take even more drugs to forget it.” Eloquent as always, that bastard.

“Are you serious? Why do you care about him?”

“I am his friend. And he’s my only friend. I am the only one who can make sure this happens.”

“And how do you propose we do that?” asks my mother sarcastically.

“I suggest you take everything out from his room,” continued Tanvir, ignoring my mother’s tear-stained sarcasm. “Install a TV but make sure it’s secured so he can’t break it. Just a sleeping bag so he can’t use the bedsheet to strangle himself. No ceiling fan or any sort of fan either. Use an AC, just a bed, a TV and my Xbox. He’ll eat, sleep, game and read. Take him to a psychiatrist and do everything at home.”

That bastard has no respect for me at all. He just suggested to my own mother that I’ll kill myself. Not that it’s anything new to her.

“Why home? Why not send him to a rehab?”

“Because rehabs don’t help everyone and you can’t keep an eye on his mental health. He needs our love.”

My mother tenses up; she knows Tanvir just hit the nail on its head. “I don’t know if this is a joke or what but I am going to go with this for my son’s sake.”

This is how my rehabilitation, and more importantly my realisation, begins.

Exactly a year later

Some people are blessed and some people choose to damn themselves. Amongst the damned, most enjoy their pain. Why enjoy pain? It makes one feel special and different from others. A suicidal urge to be a nonconformist, to stand out and be unique in society. The same society where everyone has the same haircut. Just sheep that are all sheared at the same time. I was someone who was blessed not only with a responsible friend but with my mother’s realisation alongside my own. She quit her job and decided that her son needs her more than her school does. As for my dad, he drinks at home now, good for me since I can steal a few pegs off him when the Need kicks in from time to time. My recovery wasn’t smooth but at least my life began to heal.

I remember the time I decided to kill myself by charging at the wall head-on. I bet Tanvir didn’t count on that happening. Unfortunately for me, my opioid dependency marred my sense of direction. I ran around in a circle instead of my straight-on path and ended up stumbling through the door. My lock only works from the outside and the door is kept ajar at all times so my mum can keep an eye on me from the living room. I crashed right through the door and slid into the living room. I screamed, “I WANT TO KILL MYSELF,” and started rolling around. It looked as hilarious as it sounds. My mother had gotten used to these tantrums in the past few months. She’d left the tantrums to be handled by the bua when I was an infant, now she has to deal with the same thing, except her child is a grown man. My mum called Tanvir and the rich man’s son appeared within ten minutes. The whole of ten minutes, I spent rolling on the ground and screaming. She knew what Tanvir did to calm me down every month, and no one spoke of it. Tanvir dragged me into my room and handed me a joint laced with hero. Each time, he lowered the amount of hero in a joint. I didn’t realise that, I was just after Paradise. This thing went on for 9 months until my addiction slowly started to subside. It’s still there but at least I don’t pretend to be a rhinoceros. No point either: my wall got padded after that incident.

Here I am now, in an IT firm where I work as a part-time web developer. As a kid, I was always into computers and having lots of internet friends and no real life meant that I, at the very least, picked up a few skills. A friend of dad’s decided to give me a chance and now I am the top developer here. I earn thirty thousand a month. A year back, that meant more visits to Paradise, now it means that I can buy gaming consoles and a new LCD TV. Tanvir was right, my new addiction was gaming.

As for Tanvir, his dad pulls millions out of his socks for fun. Tanvir doesn’t need to do anything to find a place in society. I tried to convince him to go abroad for fashion designing or choreography. That was met with a lot of scorn, though. I was caught stereotyping him yet again. In my defence, I wasn’t that far off the mark; he finally managed to convince himself that his Instagram-junky tendencies called for a degree in photography (do those even exist?). I don’t know what’s worse, spending millions on drugs or spending millions learning to take pictures.

My judgemental tendencies didn’t stop, though. I retain one good thing from my visits to Paradise. I can still see the world from the third person. I fire up my PC and turn on the latest Call of Duty. Upon entering a server, my headphones started buzzing with the voice of pre-teens cursing my mother. I ask myself yet again, “What’s worse, Rakib? Willingly destroy your life with drugs or willingly hear kids call my mother a fat whore?”