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Published: June 24th 2013
In the evening Frank took a taxi to Jenny's house, clutching his bag of hasheesh. Bernadette Metrier, Jenny's French guest, would not join Jenny and him in lighting up. She said she would observe the effects on them first, which struck Frank as being a little unfair, casting them in the role of guinea-pigs.
Jenny was the first to fall under the influence of the drug, suddenly announcing: “Frank, you even look handsome tonight!” She put on some guitar music to create an ambience. “I feel romance in the air!” she declared. Her guest looked on with languid interest.
“Really?” Frank said, as though she had made an interesting philosophical statement. He was conscious of Miss Metrier observing, cat-like, and was determined to keep his own behaviour under control.
“Yes! What does that candle remind you of?” asked Jenny.
“A candle,” Frank said, non-committally.
“Oh, Frank! That candle must remind you of something!” she said. He wished he could have warned her what a fool she was making of herself.
They had supper, and after the meal the visitor consented to have a puff or two. She succumbed in a different way. She felt sick, lay down, and fell asleep vowing never to try it again. Jenny and Frank sat dreaming to some guitar music, and every now and again, she exclaimed: “I feel great!” or “Love is in the air!” Frank thought, through the mist of his own drug-befuddled brain, he heard her saying: “I must go back to Africa and have a passionate love affair, and then everything'll be all right.”
Frank found his reaction to the jerkiness of the music too violent, and felt uncomfortable. He began to feel profoundly sad, and yet found himself giggling hysterically at Jenny's unintentionally outrageous remarks. She caught the giggles, and neither of them could stop although there was a complete mismatch between his gloomy internal state and the ridiculous, uncontrollable laughter that held them captive. Maybe he had hit upon a significant philosophical truth: that beneath the superficial surface of our lives, in spite of the laughter, lay a deep undertow of unhappiness that was our true state. But he wasn't sure whether a drug-induced insight, however profound, counted in philosophical circles.
When Jenny came to her senses, she was aware of the compromising state she was in. It was early morning, and his presence in her house at such an hour, with a French UNESCO expert laid out on a sofa, could give rise to scandal. Frank was shown to the door, and so made his way home through the medieval lanes of Kathmandu in the darkness. A walk through this city, with its wooden-shuttered shops, and its filthy, wandering lanes, and rickety, over-hanging second stories, was a walk through medieval London.
His arrival back at the flat disturbed a bat that had taken up residence in his absence. It flew around and around the room at head height, swerving at the last second to avoid hitting him. He picked up a wicker stool, and as it came around, whacked it. It lay stunned, and he tentatively approached, towel in hand, to pick it up and let it loose outside. But it revived suddenly, and he sprang back with a cry. The dare-devil circling recommenced. He took a few deep breaths and tried again. This time he moved faster. The animal woke up to freedom in the garden, and he was finally able to go to bed.
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