Stairs. Why are they so important? Why are stairs so necessary to reach our dreams? Can't we just cheat and take the elevator up?
Going up, in the glass elevator of Hotel Oberoi International, Ishan pondered on about his inclusion to the new IPL team, Kolkata Knights. Was he really worth it? The speed and strength which the selectors saw in him was not his own after all. Consumed by a dream, the dream, of becoming the greatest cricketer of his times, Ishan had chosen to take the shortcut, the elevator to the top. The vials of Nandrolone and the syringes may be obscured from everyone else's vision, but Ishan knew they were source of his success. Was it right? He didn't know. Sometimes, he felt as though he was cheating on his one true love, cricket. Every push of the needle, every ejection of the performance-enhancer, always felt like another drunken one-night stand to him. Yet, it was becoming a habit, an addiction. Ishan wanted to fight back, to scream, to shout, to cry. He wanted to confess, and beg the forgiveness of his true love, but feared rejection. He needed cricket, to survive, as it was the only thing that gave him purpose.
The elevator dinged to indicate that he was at his desired 10th floor. Walking down the corridor to room number 103, he felt the weight of drug and syringe in his pocket grow heavier and heavier with every step. He was not sure why. Maybe it was nerves. It was an emotion he very rarely felt; last time he felt this was when he saw his mother's body being carried away to last rest. Fear. The fear of insecurity. The fear of losing the only thing you love. Back then, a 10-year Ishan had feared the loss of security and stability which he was stripped of through the loss of his loving mother. Now, his fear was of the loss of secrecy, of being exposed cheating on his beloved, the game.
Ishan knocked on the door. A tall, muscular teenager with dark-brown eyes opened the door. "Hi!"
Ishan walked past him, through the lounge area of the five-star suite, into the bedroom on the left. Shoaib followed him, repeating "Hi!"
This was exactly what Ishan feared. An over-friendly roommate! He hated the concept of roommates. It took away the privacy of doing what he wanted in his room. The last thing he wanted was a friendly roommate witnessing him, drunk on his anger and need to succeed, committing the utmost act of disloyalty to his soul-mate, cricket. Besides, wouldn't he, being the good-guy he is, reveal all the truth to the governing body, making sure that Ishan was separated from his love forever.
Shoaib started entering the room. Ishan, almost instinctively, moved forward to block the door.
"House rules!" he declared. "No one enters the other's room without permission. We respect each others' privacy and wish of being left alone. Alright, kid?" Ishan wasn't sure if adding the 'kid' was ok, because Shoaib was born on November the 1st, and thus a month and 13 days older than Ishan.
However, Shoaib backed off slightly, standing right outside the door now. Clearly, Ishan was going to be the boss. Satisfied, he walked off to the wardrobe and opened the door with one hand, while taking out the dreaded pharmacy packet with the other. The only legal way of buying Nandrolone was through a prescription from a pharmacy, but Ishan had managed to blackmail a poor pharmacist in Dombivali suburb of Mumbai to write him a prescription under the name of his intern-doctor daughter and sell him the drug. The poor guy had needed money for the daughter's medical school registration when Ishan had paid him to sell the drug 'under-the-counter'. Now, threatening to reveal that old cheatery of his, Ishan made the old man sell him vial after vial of Nandrolone.
Ishan tried his best to shift the package from his pocket into the wardrobe unnoticed, but in vain.
"I know what you are hiding!" Shoaib said with sly look. Ishan's heart skipped a beat. The worst had happened. His dirty secret discovered. His heart, now recovered from the missing beat, started thumping at a record-breaking speed, making him feel as if it might fail any moment now.
"Listen, dude," Shoaib spoke. "I don't mind you doing this. But keep my name clear of it. And make sure you do it in your own private space. I don't want stains on the lounge-rug or sofa, ya!" Shoaib winked.
Ishan's heart calmed down a bit. He thinks I am going to bring a girl home! Of all things! Ishan thought. He chuckled in his mind. Anyways, if he thinks so, fine. At Least, it hides the real truth, Ishan thought.
"You be careful, mate. Get prepared yourself. I don't want some high-pitched calls from your room, while you bang my door, begging for..."Ishan whistled softly, winking. "I wouldn't probably listen. I would probably play very loud music to block out the sound effects." Ishan whistled AC/DC's "You shook me all night long". Shoaib flushed, the lyrics of the song clearly vivid in his mind.
"Na, bhai!" Shoaib blushed. "Nothing like that! I swear. I am clean."
Ishan closed the wardrobe and walked out of the room, still whistling.
"I swear! Trust me. I don't do those. Honestly. I respect women."
"And I respect my own needs." Ishan smirked. "And right now I need some coffee. Do you? Great! Make us some!"
Ishan fell onto the sofa and draped his legs over the armrest.
"Honestly-speaking dude, do you not do 'it' 'cause are you...?"
"What? Religious? Yes, maybe. Maybe, I just am happy that I have so much. I have my game. The love of my life. It's enough to fulfill all my 'needs'. It tires me out enough physically, and satisfying enough emotionally. What else do I need? If I let my body want 'it' then I am just weakening myself. Wanting, needing a girl to provide me the satisfaction, the relief, I could find within my world, my game? Nah!"
The words hit Ishan in the face. Suddenly, he was too weak, too needy. Why couldn't he just do what Shoaib does! Be happy with your game. No, he needed to get that relief from somewhere else. Not only was it from something else, but it was something unnatural. If letting a girl control your body's needs was bad, what would you say of letting a vial of Nandrolone doing so? If bowing down to female touch was weak, what did bowing down a vial containing 2.5 ml of steroid equate to?
Shoaib quickly changed the subject, maybe thinking that Ishan didn't like being called weak from needing 'it'. "So what's happening of the party tonight? You coming right?"
"Oh? Oh! yes. Yes, definitely. I heard some new model joined the broadcasting panel. She is bomshell, apparently. Can't wait!" Ishan winked. Shoaib laughed.
Clearly, the two were going to go well together, although, it will be just an artificial thing. After all, in the two bedrooms were two wardrobes, and in each wardrobe, was an ageing picture. Ishan's father's photo gave him anger, hatred and a purpose to strive for: to prove him wrong. Shoaib's family photo made his heart ache, begging to be loved, crying for affection. As the two young men strive towards their team's success, using muscle and brain,their hearts wept inside, forgotten.
Ishan's heart battled for mercy, fighting the case of his needled-thimbled body. Shoaib's heart begged to hear the doting calls of his family once again. Yet, they both smiled and winked and joked and laughed, silencing the begging battle.