Medium said “write a story”, am writing my first.
Aimlessly wandering through medium articles, I hovered over my profile menu to realize for the first time that I should actually write a story. It is truly fictional, of course.
“Van Vieng is beautiful place in Laos”, said the guest house operator excitedly. “You go, can see… I book tickets?” She asked, pointing to a picture on the wall behind her, with emerald colored paddy fields, hazy horizon, high Karst mountains, beautiful waterfalls, and azure waters.
My friend and I had two days to spare in Laos. Van Vieng was five hours by bus and we heard the happy cafes there are good. We needed to have our fix of grass before we headed back to the ‘fine city’ life outside Laos. So we agreed and the next day morning the pickup was waiting for us outside our guest house.
The ride was grueling through pothole filled roads. Van Vieng may have been just 150 Kms from our guest house in Vientiane, but it took us nearly five hours to reach there. The destination was worth it in the end. We ended up in a classy boutique hotel, that would cost upwards of 300 dollars in Singapore, for the cheap right next to the river.
We relaxed with Lao beers and chatted away the evening watching a beautiful sunset behind the Karst mountains. As the night set in, the entire town built for tourists started rocking. We could see many tourists come out and the happy cafes open up. So by 9 PM we set out to eat, drink, and have a ‘happy time’. My friend who swears by lonely planet guides already knew where we were headed.
I simply followed my friend as I always do with such reading, planning, and traveling people. My style of spontaneous travel and ‘let’s go there to figure out what we do’ has its own charm. But the ‘travel guide in hand’ types never fail to surprise us with the best places to stay, dine, drink, and have a good time. And they took me to a highly rated cafe with amazing ambience.
The cafe had everything happy about it. From drinks to desserts, from happy pinacoladas, to happy pizzas and happy pralines, the menu was a happy menu. Patrons already seated seemed happy as well. The server was friendly and explained to us about everything on the menu. Including Coke… yeah, you heard it right, Coke!
I settled for a Happy Lassi to drink, thinking it must be like Bhang. I do not remember what my friend got. But in 15 mins, I was feeling relaxed. I knew things were about to get good. I was smiling at my friend, who was also looking back at me with a grin. The music I was hearing soon was melting around me. I felt something completely connected me to it.
Soon I went into a trance. The entire world went silent. Time went so slow I could hear my heart beat like once a minute. Objects lost definition, blending into each other. Colors were vibrant and were also mixing and stretching like rainbow patterns of oil on water. I was losing the concept of both space and time. I lost the feeling of my body as well. I wasn’t floating too, there was no feeling really.
Half of me wanted to pull myself back to reality, or at the time what I felt like the illusion of life, and not go away. But other half was asking me to let go of the world into some bright depth I really can’t explain. That side looked like ‘waking up’. I now and then drifted into reality and felt the music too loud, filling me up. I remember complaining to the server about it with him grinning back at me.
I drifted away again into a timeless, blended world. At the moment, or what felt like eternity, or anything in between as I could not ‘feel’ time, I had no other thoughts I can remember. It was all eternal peace and quiet. There was this white depth that was there before me, which I could step into. And at the same time, I felt like I had a decision to make. To go back or not. I decided to go back.
Somehow I didn’t want to make people who love me sad and go away. Apart from that I felt like I didn’t have any other problems going to the other side — this felt like a very conscious choice I made and time was so still for this decision. And it felt like someone was there waiting for me to do it.
And once I made the choice, I was back into some sort of distorted present. Time came back, I could hear thumping music of the party street in Van Vieng. I could feel my mouth so dry, and realized I was no longer in the cafe but far from it. I was sitting on the footpath, holding my chest, and feeling like I was about to have a heart attack. My friend was nowhere to be seen!
With all the worldly feelings, fear came. And it was a fear of death I have never experienced before. I was now so sure the cafe had laced my Lassi with something very dangerous. Remembering the waiter pointing to Coke was giving me more panic attacks. I raised my hand for help. And there was a group of drunk European tourists who were passing by who came to my aid.
They surrounded me and gave me their beer to drink, yes beer! And were asking me something which I could not understand. They helped me to their hostel nearby. I could walk and I was feeling a bit less scared as I didn’t yet die of the heart attack I was so sure I was having. I was asking for my friend but nobody knew anything about them.
The hostel owner, a local, checked me. Splashed water on my face and gave me some to drink. And he asked me where I went and what I had. I didn’t remember the cafe. I think he told me it is just an effect of whatever I had and that I was fine. He also arranged a guy on a two-wheeler to drop me back to my hotel nearby.
At the hotel, I found my friend frantically calling somewhere from the reception. They were telling me something like they were searching for me. All I remember is I was damn tired and fell asleep. I woke up at 3am in a pool of sweat. Though it felt like I slept all night, it was just two hours since I came back to the hotel. My friend was still awake and on my bed, sitting over me with an anxious look.
They told me I had walked away from the cafe. They had to pay and come, but I was nowhere to be found. They asked me if I was fine and I burst out laughing so much after that. I understood what R-O-F-L really meant that night. Later, as they went to sleep, I drank coffee, munching on packets of chips from the pantry sitting by the river laughing to myself.
From the next morning, I think my perspective on life changed. I feel I have become more spiritual and in touch with my own emotional self. I wasn’t like that prior. Till date I haven’t understood that experience. I have laughed, cried, felt like starving, had a panic attack, felt so relaxed, connected with music and all that before. But have experienced nothing like that night.
When I think of it even now, I feel that’s how death may look like. Beautiful, bright, and calm. I still don’t know what lies on the other ‘waking’ side. Maybe I should have given it a peek!