I was not meant for mediocrity, that's why I did it...
"Don't throw your life away like this!” said my mom. "I can handle myself mom. I can quit this stuff when I want.”
Dragging himself through the doors, Ammar threw his bag against the wall and slumped his aching body face first onto his bed. As he heard the whirring of the fan above him, accompanied by a creaking noise every now and then, he began pondering upon the path of uncertainty his life was taking.
His thoughts started drifting to three years ago - his cleaved discipline throughout high school, getting straight As, while adhering a bare minimum social life; taking part in committees, becoming the school prefect and then earning a scholarship to a prestigious college. He was what every mother nagged their child to work towards and every teacher presented as a badge of pride to - the ideal student.
Ammar came from a humble background. His father was a clerk at a local bank and his mother was the average housewife. In spite of his upbringing, he believed he was special; and the one thing he had always despised was mediocrity. For him mediocrity meant that you became a step in the ladder of ambition - a step that others would climb. Although he loved his parents reverentially, he always held their status in society in contempt. This contempt was his driving force to achieve greatness and to leave a mark in this world. Intelligent, ambitious, resourceful and a smooth talking individual - people were sure he was going to make it to the headlines one day.
He picked himself up from the bed, albeit with much difficulty; his mind still fuzzy and joints burning with the slightest of movements, he slumped on his study desk. His eye caught his family portrait in a broken frame, erected against the wall. The glossy photograph against the fluorescent light in his room made the picture more animated. He could feel the muscles around his neck tense as he looked at his father’s smiling eyes - a source of warmth and comfort once upon a time.
Taking a deep breath, he leaned his head back with eyes closed shut, trying to fight the flashbacks that followed such reminiscing.
The phone call he got as he sat on the courtyard bench of his hostel.
The bottomless sinking of his heart, on the plane back home.
The shrieks and wails of the people around the hospital room.
His mother, feeble and delusional, on a chair surrounded by hordes of people.
The police questioning him about motives and known enemies. And finally, him face to face with his with his father’s lifeless body spread across the hospital bed with his paleness ironically making him radiant.
He completely broke down. His knees buckled, with a wretched howl followed by tears that stained the white sheets that he wrapped himself around his father’s torso, hoping his firm hold would squeeze some life back into his father, even if for a little while. If only his mediocre father could hold him one more time...
He wrenched his eyes open and grabbed the bag beside him. Opening the bag, he pulled out two bags full of brown powder. Tearing the top of the plastic bag with his teeth, he spilled some of it over an old anthropology textbook. Anthropology was one of his favourite classes. He enjoyed the concept of how people are so divergent, highlighting the ever evolving depth of the world.
This was before his house utility bills and rent had started stacking up on his helpless mother, after his father’s demise. His father’s old boss proposed to give him a position in the bank. It was not a high paying job but it was enough to make ends meet. Ammar dropped out of college and was forced to settle for mediocrity.
As months went by, Ammar worked for the bank, but the noise in the back of his head telling him he was meant for more kept growing louder and louder. With the urgency to make it big elevating and his options skydiving, ideas formulated in Ammar’s head and he decided to act on them.
There was a peon named Mikaeel - a shady character in the bank who dealt drugs. Although his lewd activity was not well known, Ammar was one who always kept his ear to the ground. One day he decided to approach Mikaeel,
“I heard you’re the man to contact if someone’s looking for some stress relief?”
“Give it to me straight or get lost!”
“Okay... What kind of drugs can you get me?”
Mikaeel looked at him up and down, squinting all the while, took a deep breath and turned his face away.
“What do you want?”
A lopsided smirk spread across his greasy face, as his moustache twitched with amusement.
“You look like a good little boy, I think heroin’s a bit too strong for you.”
“Just get me the amount I’ve written on this paper, and I’ll get you your money!”
Mikaeel’s eyes widened as he glanced at the piece of paper, and looked at him again but very differently this time.
A couple of days later he got his stash and started frequenting the most desolate of places to establish buyers. His rule was to never touch the stuff himself; it wasn’t a moralistic thing but more of a business principle - separating dealer from the submissive customer.
Back in his room as he was burning the spoon next to the heroin solution, Ammar smiled at his past self’s naivety of thinking nothing could go wrong.
The first time he tried it was with a customer who was buying heavy. He had insisted that Ammar try it with him as a token of respect otherwise he would not make the deal.
“I’m not like these degenerates,” he said to himself, “I can handle it.”
As the powder diluted in his bloodstream, the ecstasy he felt from every pore of his body was indescribable. He was on his own planet - there were no bills, no pressure, no rat race. It was just him and the cloud of euphoria that encompassed him. His stress and anxiety evaporated into blissful ignorance. He could just sit in one place and not be bothered whether the sun rose or the moon shone. The universe had spat in his face despite him making all the right moves his entire life, and this drug provided a ward against that reality.
He started using more and more out of his own stash, until he started buying just for himself. He could not maintain his employment because his being moaned when he was not using, and when intoxicated, he was next to useless. Duly his mother found out. He still recalls their last conversation.
“I never thought you of all people would throw your life away like this!”
“How am I throwing my life away? I can handle myself and I already quit this stuff.”
“Look at yourself! Your father’s death should have made you realise how precious life is and you decided to waste yours.”
“What kind of precious life have we been leading so far? Bowing our heads to people with fatter pay checks? Living by rules set by someone who bribed his way to the top? Life isn’t fair and I’ve just decided to play the game. I’m going to get us that big house and I’m going to make sure we live by our own rules.”
His mother was staring straight into his eyes the entire time, and at the end of the speech she grabbed her handbag and left. He heard a muffled sob before she banged the door shut. She began to live with a distant cousin afterwards and never contacted Ammar.
Looking around the room, there was just the study desk, bed and his family portrait in the broken frame in his apartment - the only things that remained after selling everything to keep the high going. Tightening the band around his arm, he tapped the needle on the syringe and looked at the smiling faces of the portrait again. He said, in a withered whisper:
“This is the last time, I promise. I’m not meant for mediocrity - not in this life.”
Ammar’s body was found by his landlord. He had overdosed.
In the end, the only mark he made were the ones on his arm. The only headline he got was “Man dies from drug overdose: Body found after five days”.
Read more by Taha here or follow him on Twitter @tahaali329