Monday, October 24, 2011

Then and Now 19 - Hookah

Then and Now 19 - Hookah
Time: Mid-2007, single and at the hostel.

I wandered around the main city for hours, seeing strangers, window shopping, and following bus routes on foot to get the lay of the land. I was pretty beat when I got back to the hostel that night. I had just crashed on my bed, eyes heavy, when a familiar voice called out, "Hey!" It was Ken, wondering if I wanted to go hang with him, Harry and Vicki at a hookah bar. I shook the cobwebs out of my head and agreed immediately. The two of us went outside to catch a late night bus, and in no time, we were at our destination.

All four of us met up in a cozy suburban alley between two normal looking houses. The lights were off in both of them, but there were streetlights that provided more than enough light to look around. After a bunch of hellos, hugs and handshakes, we all went down some stairs that led to the basement of one of the houses. Inside, we were in a dark room that was occupied by a number of locals. Everything was very calm there, though there was an undercurrent of hushed excitement, and a sweet smell in the air. The four of us took a seat, and Harry told us that the last time he had come to this place, he had toked from an incredibly smooth hookah, and that he wanted to get the same one again. The only problem was that he didn't know the word for "base" in the local language to ask for the "hookah with the wide base" to get it again.

Coincidentally enough, that was one of several hundred "simple" words I had memorized in the previous few weeks. I told him the word, the whole table cheered, and soon enough, a local girl came up to us and asked us what we wanted. Harry told her about the special pipe, and off she went to bring it to us. In the meantime, we had a conversation about race, or more specifically, which combinations of race and gender were considered the most attractive to the world's population. It was only discussing other people's perceptions on the issue, not our own, so it wasn't that serious.

When the hookah showed up, I started to have an even better time. I had only ever smoked cigarettes and a single cigar in my entire life, so when I took my first toke of that thing, I was absolutely amazed by how smooth the hit was. The taste was shockingly sweet and good, the smoke didn't burn at all, and it tasted even better on the way out. It was, literally, the best smoke I've ever had in my life. I must have been making a mild "O" face at that point, because everyone at the table snickered and congratulated me on my obvious first toke of a hookah pipe.

From then on, it was a relaxing night of hit after hit, topic after topic. Harry told us all about an excellent banking job he had lined up for himself in America. Vicky told us about some missionary work she was doing for the locals. Ken and I joked about our trip to the beach, about me getting tossed into the water, and how everyone except me had been attacked by jellyfish. We also discussed whether we would date any of the local girls. Ken said that if it happened, it happened, and he didn't award or take away points for where a girl came from. I felt the same: a woman's heart was the most important to me, and her birthplace was just an interesting point. After a while, we all split the bill, then headed back up outside to go home.

Ken and I took a taxi back to the hostel, and on the way there, he got into a conversation with the driver. Thanks to Ken's polite questions and inquisitive mind, I learned the local word for "seatbelt" that night. In no time, he and I were back home. We took showers, complimented the great taste of the hookah through our respective curtains, dried up, said good night, then went off to bed.

That was a real turning point of a night for me and my friends. It was the last time I ever saw Harry, because he was leaving the country pretty soon after that. Ken and Vicky ended up getting together less than 24 hours later at her apartment, and the two of them became a bit too busy to hang with me much more. As for me, I didn't let a few goodbyes slow me down, even though I was sad to see my friends leaving. I still got to see Ken and Vicky one more time, when they came by for my party in Then and Now 4 before they finally left the country for good a bit later.

That's about all I remember Ken, Harry and Vicky. If I remember any more tidbits of them, I'll be sure to put them in a future "Odds and Ends" post.

As for today...

I woke up at 11:00.
I hung up wet laundry.
I went out with my son and wife to the beach to play in the water, then we all got lunch, then we went home.
I watched TV.
I played video games.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I ate dinner.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I did the dishes.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I slept.

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