Going up a hill

by Haider Shahbaz

The first was happy to observe. The second wanted to create. The third was always mimicking. The first one, Mike, tall and thin with bushy Jewish hair was wrapped in a blanket that reminded you of your last LSD trip: colourful, torn and full of bunnies. The second, Dario, with his round face, generous smile and serious eyes was in a tweed coat. Of course, he was in a tweed coat. The third, Danyal, singing and smoking, creating rap songs from conversations, was wearing sandals and a huge shawl. He liked to show that he was ethnic. They were walking – walking on roads that led nowhere. That led from night to day and day to night.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this. I still have to finish the essay that was due last week.”

“Calm down. You’re always panicking about work. It’s your American blood. Do you still have some of Tony’s stuff left?”

“Yeah I brought it with me. We’ll smoke it when we get up there.”

Danyal, in the background, was rapping. He knew Mike too well. He always complains. He makes a resolution every morning, only to meet Tony that night, or a bottle of cheap rum. And then, ends up with ugly chicks. Just like that girl last week who he met in a party when he was horny and drunk and admittedly insecure. She was ugly; he knew it. Damn it, he knew it.

“Will you stop that?”

Dario didn’t like rapping. He only liked Rilke. And sometimes, Dadaists and Mayakovsky too, when he had to pretend he wasn’t attached to the canon and Harold Bloom as much as he was. But nothing got him more excited than talk of modernity and post-modernity and other such dangerous passions.

“Okay Okay. Chill. So what’s our plan?”

“We’re going up that small hill. It should take us about an hour. We’ll watch the sunrise and then come back and sleep.”

“What happened to catching a train to New York and acting like beatniks?”

“We can’t drink on the train.”

“Are we drinking now?”



“Can you ever be sober? Mike said he has Tony’s stuff.”

“Mike! Can you tell Dario not to be an asshole. I think he wants to start talking about modernity again.”

Mike changed the conversation.

“You know the tracks are right here. For all your pseudo hobo-ism, Danyal, we should come here and jump on some cargo railways.”

“Man, that ‘Into the Wild’ stuff is bullshit. Anyways, we decided last night that Day-Lewis kicks the shit out of Sean Penn any day. We need to run to the oil fields, not to Alaska. Let’s see some real America, huh? You’re always telling me to go see more of America before I start abusing your people. What do you say, Mike? This spring break: let’s go cross-country.”

“Yeah, maybe. My brother is finally going to be back home so I don’t know. We’ll see.”


The road, unwinding, lazily wrapped itself around the hill. It was four in the morning, pitch dark and slightly cold. Dario was scared. Mike was talking. Danyal was listening.

“I should take a gap year; go back to Guatemala and farm. It was warm there. I went right after high school.”

“Why did you ever come back? To go to fucking college?”

“I don’t know. Father stopped sending money.”

“That sucks.”

Dario was still scared when they reached the top. But he was, also, euphoric. They all were. They felt meaningful and accomplished. They were smiling, widely too. They lit a joint and told stories. Mike told one from the New Testament; Dario about tea with a professor emeritus; Danyal was too stoned and couldn’t think, he recounted Snoop Dogg’s interview with Larry King. They all laughed. But, really, at the top of the hill there was nothing. They waited, silently and earnestly, for someone to whisper from across the road, the block, the city, the seas and the winds. Whisper, they knew. Someone will whisper. They waited because amidst cyber smatterings and language sputters and accidental bumps and deliberate kisses they still had not heard what they were waiting for. And in their anxiety, they danced and smoked and waited and said:

“Fuck the gap year. We’ll drop out. All three of us. Like the sixties. We will trip and travel. Roam the world.”

They talked and waited for another second. And another. And another. But nobody whispered and the sun never rose.