ii. cast away your troubles

I walk from Central Station to my hostel, earbud headphones and a Xanax pill in my bloodstream separating me from the real world.

Ajitesh -- my cabbie -- did in fact know some good music, or, at least, some very catchy music. I am listening to a track called "Chak De Saare Gham", which he informed me translates to "Cast Off Your Worries". Appropriate. Thank goodness for YouTube and my phone's mobile internet.

Ajitesh looked at me like I was slightly mad when I left the cab, but he was smiling, at least.

"It's just Bollywood junk," he said, referring to the song still playing from my phone's speaker. "But it is very catchy, very fun."

"No, no, catchy is good! Catchy is very good."

Catchy was good because it drove the hallucinations away. While I was listening to the bright, poppy music, I couldn't hear the hallucinations.

I paid Ajitesh the fare and put ten dollars on top of it, simply because he kept me sane. Or slightly sane. (He didn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Clever boy.) Despite my reservations, I dry-swallow another pill as soon as the taxi drives away into the Sydney night light. My heart is thumping, I'm sweating and lightheaded, and I can hear Alex's worried voice in my head. I hear my own worried voice talking over the top of his. I had to disconnect, or I would never have been able to walk to the hostel.

I breeze in to the hostel -- or pretend to breeze in, one or the other -- at some time past midnight, and offer the people manning the desk overnight a vague sort of wave, but I don't pull my headphones out, not until I'm safe in my dorm, still empty except for me.

Hesitantly, I remove the buds from my ears and stand in the dark room, my back to the door. I wait for a heartbeat...a handful of seconds...maybe two or three minutes...

I can't hear anything but the far off, tinny sound of "Chak De Saare Gham" playing from the tiny earbud speakers.

Cast, cast, cast, cast off your worries.

I let go of a breath I hadn't realised I'd started holding, and flick the light on. No hallucinations -- nothing visual nor auditory. It's just me and my phone in the near-silent room. Everything is precisely where I'd left it when I took off for the gig. Bed rumpled from my earlier nap, my night bag slung over the chair, lipgloss and hairbrush left on the strange little excuse for a dressing-table in front of the low mirror. Everything in its place.

I sigh again, letting all the fretful thoughts leave me. Hallucinations, once again, gone. I'll talk to Alex when I get home. I'll talk to my usual doctor, as well. Hell, I'll talk to the freaking Prime Minister if that gets rid of them. But right now, the most important thing is catching forty winks before I have to get up at 4 AM to catch my insanely, almost cruelly early flight back to Brisbane. (But hey, it didn't even cost me a hundred. I wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth any more than Ajitesh did.)

I flick off the light, and sink onto my bed with a smile. No point in changing, I'd be awake in another three hours. I set my phone's alarm for four, and lie down in the darkness that would be total if I could manage to close the curtains properly. They're stuck, and city light is pouring into the room like water from an ewer. It tints everything in deep blues and silver, and it's soothing.

Worry about hallucinations when I get back to Brisbane, cast off your worries for now. Chak de, chak de, chak de...great silly Bollywood tune, that. Glad I asked. Doubles as a hallucination-breaker, no less. Maybe it's not actually silly at all...

At some point, moving through these tangle-fool thoughts, I fall into a light, comfortable sleep.

Chak de, chak de, chak de...chak de saare gham...

go to chapter: i. wintering | ii. cast away your troubles | iii. hallucinoghosts | iv. planespotting | v. a short guide to the afterlife | vi. rules of engagement | vii. thin ice
side-stories: let's get high

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