Black tar, like the kind she loved in high school.
Rolled into small balls, sometimes smoked in a marijuana joint. Sometimes savored on its own.
Where in the world did Midwestern teenagers get this stuff?
The same poppy product adored by the Rajasthani man with tar-stained teeth who had no shame in offering it to the American mother in her navy a-line skirt sitting beside a chubby toddler in his tan and black fedora.
It was always her favorite drug.
She remembered the high well.
Smooth, relaxed, easy…
For 16 years whenever asked which she preferred best, opium, she’d say.
The last time she tried it, she was a child.
Two men sat on the bench across from them in the cement block tea stahl near the fort first gate.
Their pale blue button downs neatly pressed, their milky brown skin just a few shades darker than the chai in slender glasses before them.
Government workers, simple, looking at the plastic baggy of opium held open to the mother, eyes wide, but smaller, than her own.
She watched them watch her, and the son, also eyeing the baggy, the chocolate inside.
The mother clenched her jaw and pursed her lips, an attempt to declare hostage status in the exchange.
Take opium? He asked, sliding the black tar onto his finger, dime-sized dollop oozing.
My life is clean now, I heard her say.
He scraped the resin onto his tongue, pressing the skin against sharp teeth below.
Winding the baggy round itself he returned it to his pocket, reached for the water in front of the son, half a liter down his throat. A swallow of chai.
He crossed his legs above the knee, held the glass with charisma, confidence.
The son banged a red litchi juice carton on the table and demanded attention from the audience already watching.
Name is Garfur, he told her. Relative of the politician owning her hotel. Last name Khan. Muslim warrior clan.
Three daughters, one son. Worked in camels before, now a tuk tuk driver.
Life is good, he said. Opium, cigarettes, marijuana, chai. Smooth, relaxed, easy life.
Who knows what my future brings, I heard her say, but now, this isn’t for me.