I stood leaning on the door of the piratemaster of our undergraduate hostel, scratching my left forearm under the elbow. The day was really sunny outside and if you were someone sitting inside the dimly lit room, high on the latest episode of Breaking Bad, one look at me would have gotten you cracking. With the rich, bright, sepia sunlight streaming in from behind me, I looked totally like a goodoldgone addict itching for more methamphetamine to shoot up my bloodstream — even mosquito bites on my forearm, from last few nights, had been scratched enough to look like puncture marks from overused needles.
However, the guy, who actually was sitting in that room, wasn’t one who cared about the little good things in life. In fact, he didn’t even bother to turn towards me and look at my face. He recognised my voice, alright —he knew who I was — but, he just didn’t find it worth his time to flex his neck muscles.
“You almost make me laugh, facche. Almost.”
For those of you who haven’t gone through engineering schools in India, let me clarify what the word faccha means. Politely put, it means you are a freshman. To be brutally honest, though, you are actually from that batch of individuals who have been brainwashed into removing the words “dignity” and “self-respect” from their personal dictionaries. You are the ones who are perpetually at the beck and call of seniors who want you to fill their water bottles, bring them food from the canteen, copy assignments from the one person in their class who was chicken enough to write it down first and of course, to bring back their bicycles that they had left some ten thousand miles on the other side of the local river — God help you if your college is in Guwahati.
“I don’t understand,” I replied to the thick wiry loofah of hair that had spoken to me earlier. “And I am already in my second year, here. No longer a faccha.”
“Almost funny, facche. Almost. For me you’d always be a faccha, unless you wish to challenge me on that.”
I was still talking to a thick wiry loofah of hair, sprouting from the backrest of an almost dilapidated chair. I could see a pair of bulky legs propped up on a table that held a big screen playing the latest Brazzers punishment movie. In HD. I looked at the screen, gulped my spittle down, chose to ignore the jab and asked again, “You got anything for Saturday, or am I simply wasting my time here?”
“Don’t you kids have an exam to take next week? I’ve never seen your bloody nose out of a book till now. How come you want stuff for Saturday, anyways?”
Normally, if he had been any other pirate, this customer engagement would hardly be the thing I’d have expected from him. He was supposed to be just the supplier, who had no business figuring why I needed stuff. Figuring was always bad for the business. But this fellow wasn’t just any other pirate — he was the fucking piratemaster himself. And when he asked you a question, you’d better answer him. Getting on the bad books of the piratemaster means you get nothing — no movies, no shows, no porn. Yes, you heard me, no porn!
“I usually take a day off before the D-day Sunday. It helps me study better. Helps me with…”
And with that, I had done it. He literally started laughing his butts off — the few extinguished pieces of sucked out cigarettes that he had been too lazy to throw off his T-shirt, now found themselves falling down to the ground to join their kin who had built neat settlements there. Piratemaster sat up on the chair, barely able to handle himself, keeping one hand on the armrest and one on the other thing he had been massaging for a while. He stayed in that position for so long, laughing all the while, that I started feeling my amygdala kick in saying “Run, idiot.” Instead, I stood there, frozen like a cat in front of two mating dogs.
I gulped the spittle again before saying, “You OK?”
“Helps me study! Helps me study, he says. You have to be the crappiest bullshiter here.”
“Arey, it actually does. It’s like cleaning the blackboard before each class.”
That’s when he turned. Finally, I was going to talk to the beard and not the hair. “Who the fuck do you think you are — Rainman or something? Go bury yourself in your books, facche. Go, go.”
“I didn’t come here to go without…stuff. The others have run out of the good…stuff.”
“You telling me you have gone through the whole set we shared last week? That was like what… three fucking terrabytes?”
“I said the good stuff. The 3 TBs are full of only two-to-three-star material. Those wouldn’t cut it.”
“Aren’t you a little bitch! You fancy yourself as some aficionado? They don’t produce five-star content everyday, you know.”
Frankly, I didn’t think he would take that tone or that he would know what an ‘aficionado’ meant. It almost felt like the piratemaster did not have what I was asking of him.
“Wait, you don’t have five-stars? Wow!”
He let that expression stand in the air for a while. With his head down, thick beard sticking like velcro against the old T-shirt, he sighed audibly for effect. Then he shook his head. God, this guy thought he was Dumbledore or someone. Then with a distant look in his eyes, he took his time getting up from the chair. He fixed his gaze on me, walked through the five feet that separated us, and told me on my face:
“Stay here. Let me clean up and come. I’ll fix you up with the real deal that’s raving up the charts this year. Then, you’ll know five-fucking-stars.”
He walked out of the door, heading out in the direction of the washroom. I saw him walking with a sense of purpose that was rare in an individual as completely detached from the real world as he was. For the few minutes that he was away, I surveyed his room from where I was standing. The floor looked like a war-trench — hundreds of cigarette butts lay there like the empty shells from some Gattling gun, amidst rotting food and rotting rodents. There were wires everywhere, supplying the blood 24×7 to various vital extensions of the piratemaster’s body: Playstation remote-controls, external hard-drives, USB hubs, wired and wireless mice, and a WiFi router. These electronic appendages lay almost anywhere they could find space, most of them covered nicely in blankets of dust. He had books too, more than what you’d expect in his room. He seemed obsessed with design and architecture of computers, an agreeable passion had it not been for the stacks of counter-terrorism and assassination novels. Some of the stacks had fallen down, rupturing the spine of a couple of books. There were mountains of fantasy fiction and here and there, he had philosophy too — Sartre, Nietzche, and the more recent Chomsky. The walls were bare mostly except for the occasional piece of rant that exploded, “NOT GOOD ENOUGH. STILL.” or “IN THE END…IT DOESN’T EVEN MATTER.” The one thing that stood out in his room was the bed. It was incredibly clean. It was made, as if in a fit of strict military discipline — an island of primness in an ocean of chaos. I tried to understand why it were so. Someone who had absolutely no regard for cleanliness anywhere else, held this bed as a shrine.
“What are you staring at my bed for? I have to sleep somewhere, sometime.”
I let him pass through. He opened up his computer, searched a few folders, got what he was looking for and asked, “You have a stick, or you want me to shoot it up the LAN?”
“LAN would be nice.”
He typed out a few commands, moved the mouse around a bit, clicking away at things at warp speed. I noticed how he clicked in bursts, a habit developed after years and years of playing Counter Strike on the LAN. He was legendary for his economy of ammo— he never sat on the trigger raining bullets. He would always aim and fire in bursts of three. If the arena was big and the match was long drawn, you had to pray that you don’t run into him from the front.
“There, I have started it. It will take around twenty minutes. There are ten episodes.”
“What is it? Why does it have episodes? Aren’t these things supposed to come in solo packs?”
“This is an exam pack, if you will. Not the regular stuff. It’s a new show on HBO called Game of Thrones. I am telling you, you would get a better kick out of this than any of the horseshit you came to get.”
“Hey, man, that’s not even fair.”
“Shut it. You know what, the books are better. I’ll have them ready for you tomorrow.”
“I only intend to watch this on Saturday. I can’t afford to start a series of books. Anyway, I am not into the written… stuff.”
“Don’t underestimate the potency of what I have given you. The books are better than the ones in The Lord of the Rings series.”
“LOTR is a single book. Only the movies…”
“Yeah, nerd. I know. Fine, if you like gay wizards over the Grey one, let’s just say it is an adult Harry Potter thing. Wait, no. It is hardly a Potter thing.”
I shrugged and was about to leave, when he called my name again.
“Start now if you want to take your exams on Monday. Don’t leave it till Saturday.”
“I have other things lined up for…”
“Shh. Today. You will be here at my room in about ten and a half hours. You will need time to read those books too.”
“Dude, as I said, I am not planning to read anything.”
“I will keep the books near the door, so you can pick them up even when I am sleeping. Now get your face out of that door. You are blocking the sunset.”
I came out on to the corridor, looked at the crimson sky, trying not to see what it was suggesting. There was blood on the horizon. I waited for the sun to go down completely before I walked back to the stairwell.
He had kept his promise. The books lay in front of his door, neatly stacked.
Minakhi is an LSD alumnus. This story is pure fiction — he doesn’t even know what Brazzers are. Mother-promise! And he watched Game of Thrones only on HBO along with all the commercials that were shown in place of the scenes that others keep searching on YouTube.
This story was originally published at his blog.