Dirty, white, misshapen snowflakes rushed past the windows, momentarily dancing in the yellow streetlights before returning to the darkness. He was hungry, thirsty, tired and several hundred dollars poorer. His hair was ruffled, his shirt was stained and untucked and one of his shoes was untied. And, strangely, his lucky green bracelet was missing. Yet, despite it all, Krish was happy, cozy, warm and content. How much of his spiritual stillness stemmed from the excessive amounts of alcohol in his system, he could not say – nor did he really care to. He slouched in his seat, crossed his arms over his stomach and closed his eyes. A rhythmic illumination beat on his eyelids as the taxi wound its way through the slumbering city. A blissful, noiseless sigh slid down his chest as tranquility coursed through his veins. A wide, playful smile cracked his lips as the night’s glories once more sprang to life upon the canvas of his mind.
He and his three closest friends met at their favorite bar in the city a few hours after dusk on a typical Friday in mid-January. Dillon was back in town after working and living in California for the past couple years and so was Jeremy, who had spent nearly half a decade in Boston for medical school. Lee and Krish ended up in Chicago after college, Lee working as a corporate lawyer and Krish as the executive chef in his own restaurant. Meeting as undergraduates at Northwestern University instantly turned them all into believers of destiny. It was just meant to be. They were all incredibly different from one another in terms of interests and upbringings, but it didn’t matter, for they shared laughter as their first language. They shared ideas and experiences, happiness and heartbreak, insight and confusion – and love. Always love. And, without the least bit of effort, they shared good conversations – especially in the absence of sobriety. Though Lee and Dillon always preferred smoking to drinking while Krish and Jeremy preferred reading to either of the two, each put aside his personal preferences in light of their four-year reunion. The unanimous consensus was to get as hammered as possible.
At first, they did more talking than drinking. One story fluidly transformed into the next as they wove tales of academic and professional work, new relationships and surprising lifestyle changes. They fondly reminisced and laughed raucously as they did so, going back to the good old days when life seemed to revolve around little more than crazy studying, insane parties and fanatical girls. Soon enough, though, a tingling feeling slowly spread over their scalps, a slight slur wormed its way into their words and they began cussing belligerently. They washed down some greasy pizza with one last round of beers. And then, they headed to the club.
They arrived around midnight. The rest, though, was as picturesque as a Cubist collage – a colorful, dizzying blur of exotic shots, blinding laser lights, and half-naked goddesses almost as inebriated as they were wealthy. Krish remembered feeling like he had to throw up. Was that why that one girl accompanied him to the bathroom? He remembered dancing until his toes were sore and his shirt was drenched. He remembered shouting to his friends that he loved them before affirming his feelings with yet another shot. Wait – did Lee get slapped? Did Dillon really fall asleep at the bar? Was Jeremy wearing my bracelet? A look of puzzlement briefly crinkled his face as he shifted his head on the backseat. He would have to ask them tomorrow. He vaguely recalled a sloppy, heartfelt goodbye at four in the morning, shivering throughout hugs and handshakes and slipping and stumbling into his cab. Suddenly, a voice that strangely sounded like Jeremy’s rang distantly in his ears, saying, ‘That’ll be $45.’
He handed the driver a couple of crinkled bills and torpidly clambered out onto the street. He did not seem to notice the angry, deeply accented yelling as he made his way to his apartment. His building was relatively small; there were only five stories with one condo per floor. He chose the topmost floor mostly because it provided access to the roof, from which he could see Chicago’s skyline when his heart desired. Also, climbing the fire escape in the back offered a decent workout when he didn’t have time to make it to the gym – or so he liked to believe. The upper north side of Chicago was more peaceful than places closer to the loop. Krish liked that it got quiet and stayed quiet at nighttime, even on weekends. Running a business was stressful, demanding and often helplessly chaotic. Lunch and dinner rush hours were even worse. His condo was his respite, his abode, his space. He drunkenly idealized falling into his bed as he reached for his keys. Not in his pants. Not in his shirt. Not in his coat. Wait – I’m not even wearing it. Damn, it’s cold. Fortunately, college taught him a thing or two; he had a spare key hidden near the rear entrance.
The night’s thin blanket of snow continually grew thicker, muffling any sounds that dare disturb its dormant denizens. His feet soundlessly created a fresh trail as he made his way to the back of the building. The zigzagging metal staircase that wound its way up to the fifth floor appeared on his right. God damn it – since when are there so many steps? He hugged himself as he dazedly ascended, trying to be careful not to slip. Being cold can be distracting, especially when warmth is waiting. It’s like trying to study on your birthday after your girlfriend says she is on her way over. Concentration is broken, and details are missed. In Krish’s case, being drunk did not help either. Another day at 4:30 AM, he might have noticed the other footprints on the staircase. That they continued until the fifth floor. That they only went in one direction. That his key was not exactly under the bottom-left corner of the doormat. That the door handle was not as cold as it should have been. Another day, Krish very well might have decided to wake up Akshay on the fourth floor. But, he didn’t. He burst inside, closed the door quickly behind him and leaned against it, letting the warmth wash him over.
His breathing relaxed as soothing heat glided through his airways. After a night of heavy drinking, Krish usually ate a quick snack, drank several glasses of water, took a warm shower, brushed his teeth, took an exceedingly long piss, set five different alarms and passed out. This typically prevented skull-splitting headaches the following morning. He contemplated his extensive list of habits for a few seconds while he dragged himself toward the kitchen. Nope, not happening. Wait, why is the bathroom light on?
His condo was his favorite non-culinary creation. The flooring was Brazilian Rosewood; the metallic light fixtures were imported from Germany; and, in the kitchen rested thick, smooth slabs of veiny black marble. He picked the details meticulously, and every now and then, Krish appreciated how well his living space suited him as a person. As for tonight, thoughtful self-reflection would have to wait. I never leave the light on. Why is it on? He gulped down a couple glasses of water before heading back towards his room, at one end of which was his bathroom. He never liked doors and liked closing them even less, and yet, his bathroom door was closed. Why did I do that? His heart rate quickened momentarily, though Krish was not sure why. As he reached for the door handle, a tendril of caution tickled the fringes of his consciousness. Then, he remembered how sore his bladder was. He jerked open the door, quickly scanned to the left and right – and found nothing. He rested his chin upon his chest as he relieved himself, already half-asleep. He looked down into the water that was quickly turning an unnaturally deep shade of yellow and noticed little pieces of tattered green cloth floating on the surface. Is that my bracelet? What is going on? He decided that he was far too drunk to deal with such perplexing peculiarities at the moment. He finished up in the bathroom, turned off all his alarms, and fell into the welcoming arms of his bed.
He was immediately taken by both happiness and exhaustion. Scattered memories and dissonant sounds surged from one side of his fading awareness to the other. Tired as he was, he could not help but feel incredibly fortunate. He owned a peaceful home; he loved his job; he received a world-class education; he was blessed with lifelong friends; and, to top it all off, he had a fantastic night. A coat is trivial, and I don’t need a bracelet to bring me luck. Life, life is good.
The forgotten coat lie in a corner of the club, untouched and unnoticed. Much like Krish’s closet. The same closet that now sheltered a barren hanger and gentle breathing. Blinded by joy, he saw little to nothing. Another day, he might have been less confused and more suspicious. He might have remembered that he only got two hugs before getting into his taxi. He might have escaped destiny. But, he didn’t. He was sound asleep when the closet door slid open and a slender blade emerged. In Krish’s dream, a strangely familiar voice whispered, ‘What a great…’