It’s All Within Us
“Cuckooooo!!! Look who’s here!” I heard Jake’s jeering voice as I climbed up the few stairs leading up to our local club’s front door.
Two years my senior in school, Jake was a feared bully when he was in our school, and now in university he’s with my older sister Tisha. His long drawn slang ‘cuckoo’ was well-known within our school circles. He is still the same, I concluded.
I had not seen Jake for two years and here I was face to face, as he stood leaning against the wall, with his overlapping legs crossed towards the feet, while his one arm was way up the wall. A defiant pose with head tilted upwards.
All the courage that I had gathered to reach up to this club, only to see Jake, now seemed to be vanishing as I heard his gruff voice.
“Care to have a drink, ehh?” Looking penetratingly at me in the eye, he twitched his lower lip.
With bent head, I found myself awkwardly fumbling inside my school bag that hung from my shoulder. I gulped nervously and heard myself think “No thanks! I don’t drink alcohol.” Except that I didn’t say this. Even if it was true that I had never tasted any beer before, I didn’t want this pseudo to think of me as any less of a man.
“Bah!! You still a chicken? Bet you don’t drink!” Jake seemed to have read my mind. So I replied promptly “I do! Let’s go”
Jake straightened his posture. Yawning upright till his arms stretched upwards, he deliberately made a crackling sound with his hands that were knuckled together.
“Follow me!” he gestured with one hand as he took big strides ahead to enter the bar room. I had no choice. After all, I needed to talk to him about why he had been chasing my sister for a month now.
As we sat, he asked “Mixed or neat?”
His question made no sense to me but I dared not ask what he meant. Pretending unperturbed I replied, “Neat”
He whistled some peppy tune before he signalled the waiter to fetch drinks. With my ignorance about drink names, I heard him mention ‘malt’ and I wondered what’s ahead.
Staring sheepishly at the plush wine glass placed elegantly on the silken tablecloth, I held it shakily with both hands, quite like a child holds a glass of milk. To boost my nerves, I consciously pulled myself upright.
With him staring at me, I had no choice but to start sipping. A bit of this dark fluid will not harm me, I convinced myself. After all, even as a kid I never got tipsy with strongest of cough syrups that mom gave me.
The first sip was ok. The taste was overwhelming while I felt burning sensation inside my food pipe, just as my stomach knotted. Starting to feel strange, I decided to bring up the issue.
“What do you want from Tisha?”
Dear me! I should have asked “Why are you after Tisha?” Obviously I had put my question wrong, so the answer came out more obscene than probably Jake ever intended to.
“Cuckoooo! What da ya mean I want? Hah plentiful. But what a bomb of a sis you have!”
Fuming with rage, I picked the glass. I felt like throwing the bitter brown syrup on his face, but instead I gulped it all in one go. Within minutes I was up from my seat, staggering up the nearby podium as I faced the microphone.
“Helllloo!!! Listen! Listen! Let’s meet Jake, the biggest lout you will ever come across….”
The usual continuous murmur of the well-behaved gentry turned into silence as everyone looked up to pay attention. Actually ours is a small cosy town so I knew many of the faces sitting down there.
After that, God knows what (or who) came over me, that I spoke full throttle, attributing all possible vile adjectives to Jake, while disclosing all his actions, his eve-teasing, his bullying….
The crowd listened rapt. Enraged Jake, who was more boozed up than I was, came up to me and slapped me hard, right there in front of everyone. I retaliated more vigorously but soon I was beginning to sink.
At that very moment things took a different turn. Lucky for me, Uncle Tim, my neighbourhood constable was watching it all. He came to my defense. Soon a huge drama unfolded that I watched with hazy eyes and groggy mind.
After Jake got the bashing that he would remember his whole life, he left the place. Uncle Tim dropped me home, much to my mom’s dismay on seeing me in that state. But she didn’t ask anything.
In the coming weeks, I feared the worst. Without any emboldening liquor, I would be no match if burly Jake were to corner me on a lonely road.
But it was all quiet for the whole week, and surprisingly Jake was nowhere around my sister. Just to ensure her safety, I decided to drop her and pick her up from her university each day.
Then one day, I saw him. He was coming towards us as we walked. He stopped.
“Hello Bob! Hi Tisha ”
Tisha ducked behind me and before I could reply, Jake apologized to me for the whole episode. He also said sorry to Tisha while we both looked at him in disbelief. Never did he misbehave after that day.
I’m still figuring out what brought this change in Jake, and what was it that worked for me that day at the club? But I learnt for sure that the world takes us just the way we present ourselves to it. If we are scared of someone, he or she will not be scared of us.
Bold, scared, funny, beautiful, happy – we can be what we want to be. It’s all within us. We don’t need a drink for that, do we?
©2016 Alka Girdhar
For: Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes Prompt Challenge #31. The prompt word given was “Have a Drink”