That job sucked anyhow, I tell myself as I stand on the crowded subway platform waiting for a train home. I readjust the strap of my messenger bag, and debate taking a swig of the bottle of gin I had stolen from the Post Office where I’d just been fired, for lack of “professionalism”, can you believe that? I was only 20 minutes short coming back from lunch. I decide it is more effort than it is worth to dig through my bag, and that the booze can wait until I get home. I wasn’t going to steal the bottle, not until that thick necked red faced oppressor told me to pack my shit and go home, and not to bother coming back. It was just sitting there in the busted crate that had no address label, red face was probably just going to end up with it, I reason. Besides, I deserve it for putting up with all their crap. Stacey is going to be pissed but after four years rooming together you’d think she would be used to me being short on rent by now.
It’s not my fault, not really, I just have a really hard time holding jobs that stifle my need for expression. Errr, yeah, let’s go with that. It certainly isn’t my inability to deal with authority figures or, you know, getting up at a decent hour every day, day after day, week after week. Awwww, fuck it, as they say, “It is what it is.”, as I finish my thought aloud I get some sideways glances from the other people on the platform, a couple of them noticeably inching away from me.
Luckily for me, Stacey wouldn’t be home for a few hours yet, she’ll be at the law firm where she works as a clerk until 5:00pm and then she has her nightly yoga class. It will give me time to get half in the bag before I come up with a logical excuse as to why this job, like the many before it, wasn’t a good fit for me. Yeah, I’ll lie through my teeth, not that she’ll buy any of it but being the class act she is she’ll go along with it and we’ll finish the bottle off together while deciding what takeout food place to order from tonight. Truth is, she never gets mad about much. Maybe it’s the yoga, maybe it’s that she doesn’t really need the money having been left a small fortune by her workaholic capitalist father, maybe it’s just that she’s a really awesome friend who never fails to support whatever stupid endeavor I am on at any given moment. “Sydney, you just need to find your passion.” that’s what she always says when I get fired. Where’s that train? I need a drink.
I shrug off my bag as soon as I enter the condo that Stacey and I share in downtown Toronto, fishing the gin out before dumping it at the door, heading to the kitchen to grab the first available glass. Eager to put the day behind me, I head out to the balcony overlooking the lakefront and settle into my favorite spot on the swing bench, legs up. I eye the label on the bottle, trying to determine where my new friend is from. The bottle itself is unlike any other I have seen, and I have seen a lot of liquor bottles in my time, it’s old, a deep rich green color, slightly dusty, and bares cool etchings. The label, unremarkable, simply says, “Gin” with a bunch of words following in a language I have never seen. There doesn’t appear to be a brand name, or location of origin. I hope it’s good. I crack it open and notice, with disappointment, that there is an audible whoosh, “Awwww crap, it’s probably turned” I mumble to myself, wondering if gin can turn.
“What is gin?” wondering if the fumes from the ancient bottle are getting me high, I hear a voice beside me and turn to see a blond haired, blue eyed, tanned, sandal wearing Adonis in blue flowered swim trunks and a tattered rock band tee, sitting next to me on the swing, “Ummm, hello strange hallucination, gin is a wonderful liquid that makes me feel less crappy about my station in life, who are you?” I really should be more concerned about the sudden hallucination but eh, I’ve had a rough day and it isn’t even 4:00pm yet. Maybe an imaginary friend is just what I need. “I am a Djinn, that’s my bottle you’re holding, Sydney” he says with an all too bright smile while gesturing to the gin bottle in my hand and saving me from having to introduce myself to my own hallucination — because that would be weird. I look at the label again, and then sniff the contents, convinced it must contain liquid LSD. I realize the bottle is empty.
“Okay Genie, do you have a name? And how does this work? Do I get 3 wishes?” I decide to humor my pretend friend. “My name is Bodhi, it’s Djinn please, and yes, you get three wishes after which my bottle and myself move on to our next Master and then the next and the next and the next…” He looks a bit sad as he says the last part, and stares off for a moment. “Bodhi? What kind of name is that? Shouldn’t Genies be exotic or something?” I wonder why I would choose such a funny name for my imaginary Djinn, maybe I’m not all that imaginative or maybe it’s because I watched Point Break the night before. “Djinn please, and I dunno.” He shrugs. Real helpful. “Alright, Bodhi the beach Djinn, how do the wishes work? Can I wish for anything? Is there a catch?” I admit, I am mildly curious as to where this lucid dream could go, and it sure would be nice to be able to pay the rent on time for a change. “It’s super simple, Sydney. You command 3 wishes from me, I grant them and voila! No catch.” Damn, this sounds too good to be true.
I contemplate the prospect of 3 wishes, what do I really want? Money? Love? Bigger boobs? “What if I don’t want 3 wishes?” I ask Bodhi. “Ummm, dude, who wouldn’t want 3 no strings attached wishes?!” he asks as he shoots me a perplexed look. “I suppose you’re right, can I think on it a while? Fuck, maybe I should wish for a real bottle of gin…” the need for a drink becoming very real, “Do you wish for a real bottle of gin?” Bodhi looks at me with all seriousness. “No, no, I think I have vodka inside.”
“Bloody hell. I don’t think there is any booze here.” I slam the last cupboard door shut, mildly annoyed that my imaginary friend is still there, watching me from the sliding balcony doors but equally annoyed that I apparently live in a dry home. How the fuck did that happen? I start to wonder if I have finally gone mad but decide not to entertain that idea. “Okay Mr. Djinn, I think it is time for us to find a bar. Perhaps a drink or three will help me decide what’s lacking in my life”. “Good thinking, besides if we don’t leave here soon he will find us.” He replies simply. “Uh, he who?” I know I shouldn’t be encouraging this hallucination anymore but what can I say? I get bored, and so bloody curious, “My previous Master.” He says. “Gotcha. And what does this dude want?” I really, really should know better — “He wants something from me that I refuse to give…” Bodhi looks away, obviously not wanting to say more. “Please explain…” I say, grabbing my jacket from the closet and heading towards the door, my desire to find a bar rising. “He has been trying to get his hands on my bottle for a while now…” I scuff at the obvious innuendo but let him continue, “I fear he may do anything to force me to do what he wants.” I pause, my hand on the knob, “What do you mean by anything?” “I fear he may hurt people.” He says, entirely too calmly. “Is this man dangerous?” I ask, starting to take things a bit more seriously. Bodhi nods. “To himself, and others.” Yup, definitely time for a drink.
Bodhi, the Djinn, and I are both pensive as we walk the half a block it takes to find a pub in this city. I find myself perhaps a little weary of this whole situation, and start debating calling up that therapist one of my exes had recommended years before. My potentially dissociative personality, Bodhi, and I settle in on stools in front of the bar and order a couple of gin and tonics.
“What happens when you go back into the bottle?” I ask Bodhi once we have our glasses in hand, “I surf mostly” he replies. “You can surf in a bottle?” I ask with a raised eyebrow, he looks at me like I am daft, “Well, no dude, I am not actually, like, tethered to the bottle, I can go anywhere I want, you know?” I don’t know actually, never having been a Genie myself, “But, like, don’t your kind go pft and turn into a pile of smoke that goes into the bottle…?” I make a pft motion with my hands, it’s a thing. “Yeah but like, I think the bottle is a teleportation thingy, I go into it but come out wherever I want, when not summoned by my Master, I surf.” A surfing Djinn, just my luck, I guess this explains the trunks, “Okay, when you are not surfing what do you do?” I am trying so hard to understand the life of a Djinn… “I go to work and -” he says, and I interject, “Whoa, wait a second, you have a job?” He gives me a funny look and replies, “Umm, yeah, a Djinn’s got to eat too, you know?” Do they? I ask myself before asking him, “Where does a surfing Djinn find work?” He smiles, “I work at the Burger Palace just off of Venice beach -” … “Are you shitting me? My Djinn flips fucking burgers for a living?!” He looks a little hurt, “Hey man, I really like burgers.” I think about apologizing but decide it is time for another round, “Bartender, two more gin and tonics, this time hold the tonic.”
“Were you always a Djinn?” I meet Bodhi’s eyes in the mirror behind the bar. His eyes darken and he sighs heavily, “No, I was human once. Like you, I had found a Djinn bottle on the beach and over time I made three wishes. I didn’t become a Djinn until I made my fourth wish…” He looks down into his glass. “Fourth wish?! I thought you said we only get three?” He shifts uncomfortably on the bar stool. “You are granted three wishes when you find a Djinn. It is possible to get a fourth but the price is high, had I known I may not have…” He trails off and finishes his drink, motioning for the bartender to refill. “I am sorry I don’t mean to pry, it’s just I have never met a Djinn before, it’s really none of my business.” I gently touch his hand, trying to be empathetic and kind but inside burning with curiosity.
“It’s okay,” Bodhi stops and thinks carefully before responding, “You should know. My Djinn didn’t tell me and here I am. If you ask for a fourth wish once it’s granted you take the place of the Djinn, becoming the Djinn. They never tell you this, they figure if you get greedy you deserve to be cursed. And being greedy means their freedom because once you take their place, they become human again, and above all else a Djinn wants to be free again.” I ponder his words for a moment, “So, why are you telling me?” I ask, suspicious, he looks me in the eyes, and I can see the pain in them, “Because no one deserves to have their freedom taken away like this. I do not want to ever give a fourth wish, I couldn’t enslave someone else, not even for my own freedom”. I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but I can put two and two together, “Is this what your previous Master wants?” I ask pointedly. Bodhi nods silently, his beautifully tanned features suddenly looking grim. I am not sure if I accept Bodhi as real but I think, at this moment, I accept he might not be pretend.
“What was your fourth wish?” I ask, delicately. He takes a sip and there is a pause before he responds, “My sister was sick. It was sudden and she wasn’t going to last the month. She was eight.” I nod my understanding, unsure what to say to comfort him, suddenly his face noticeably lightens up and I see hints of a smile as he continues, “She is seventy-two years old this year, with three kids and seven grandchildren, it was worth it to see her live.” My jaw nearly hits the floor but before I have a chance to comment on how great he looks for his apparent age, there is a large kerfuffle behind me and I hear people yelling out, “Gun!” just before I hear a shot fired. I am still processing all this as the mirror in front of us shatters into a billion pieces.
“He’s found us, we need to leave, NOW!” Bodhi jumps off the stool, grabs my arm and steers me down the hall leading to the bathrooms, looking for a back door. We are in luck, past the bathrooms is a bright green ‘Exit’ sign, we rush out into a filthy alley just as we hear another shot ringing out. After running a couple blocks, I stop and lean against a wall trying desperately to catch my breath, “How… how could he… sorry… air… how could he find us?!” I ask, still gasping for air and swallowing most of it. “He is a very greedy person, he wished for the ability to locate Djinn, 3 wishes were never going to be enough for him.” Hmmm, well that’s an interesting wish, I guess, I sure as hell would never have thought of it. “As your new Master, couldn’t I just wish for you to take his ability away?” I am so smart, really. “No, wishes cannot be used to undo others wishes. It creates some kind of a paradox.” that’s a mighty big word for the surfer dude who called his bottle a ‘teleportation thingy’ earlier, I try to think of some sort of solution, we couldn’t just keep running forever, “How can we hide you from him?” I ask. “There is a Professor at the University who knows a lot about Djinn, I think she may know a way to cloak me from detection, it is where the bottle was heading when you stole it.” I frown, “The crate had no label, I did you a favor.” “It doesn’t matter now, if we find her, she may be able to help us.” “Great! Do you know how to find her?” I ask. “She’s in Montreal at McGill University.” Not so great. I check my watch, 6:00pm, “My roommate Stacey should be getting home soon, I can borrow her car and we can be there by midnight.” I hail us a taxi and spend the cab ride home thinking about how I would pose this situation to her, “Hey Stace, can I borrow the car, I gotta drive my new Djinn to Montreal? Oh, and by the way, I got fired today.” Yeah, she’s gonna understand, who wouldn’t?
I contemplate leaving Bodhi in the hall while I get the car keys but it doesn’t feel like a good idea to separate while there is a gun toting lunatic after him. Besides, Stacey is a sucker for a pretty face and having him with me might just make this go a lot smoother. “Stace, you home?” I call out as I enter the apartment. “In here!” She answers back from third bedroom, a converted art/yoga/whatever new agey hobby she is currently into on any given day.
Bodhi follows me down the hall and Stacey’s eyes immediately skip past me to land on him. I can already see the spark of interest in them. “Hi there, I’m Stacey, who might you be?” She never was shy. She puts down her paint brush and quickly moves around the easel to offer her hand to him. He looks at me shyly and I nod that he should take it. As they shake hands, a little longer than need be, I notice that his tanned features seem to warm even more. I roll my eyes, amused, Stacey always seems to have that effect on men. “I’m Bodhi.” He says simply. “Well Bodhi, it is very nice to meet you. Do you work with Sydney?” I can see she is trying to figure out if he’s just a friend — and still has yet to let go of his hand, “Yes,” I step between them, “he works at the Post Office with me, can I borrow the car? We need to take a quick run to Ottawa, a friend of Bodhi’s is very ill, terminal, and it’s important he go see him. I will have it back before morning.” eh, lying isn’t exactly new to me, don’t judge. Besides, this may very well be a matter of life or death if that dude finds us again, as he surely will. Stacey, head craned to look around me at Bodhi, nods, “Yeah, sure, whatever you need. Bodhi, I am so sorry about your friend – ” Enough of this, “Okay, great, thanks. Bodhi let’s get moving.” She hands me the keys from out of her paint smock, and as we turn to head back into the hall she gives me a wink. I roll my eyes again but smile back, gotta love the girl, even if her mind is always in the gutter, I mouth “I’ll explain later” to her knowing she will be full of questions, “Ok.” she mouths back. “Bye Bodhi!” She calls out as we head out the door. Yup, she’s smitten, and who can blame her? He’d be a stunning human being, if he was human.
I have spent most of the incredibly long car ride to Montreal answering questions about Stacey. It is clear that she isn’t the only one who is smitten. But how does one go about setting up her best friend with her new Djinn? Sure you can have him, Stace, just mind his bottle, it’s fragile. As we near Ottawa, I attempt to change the subject, “Bodhi, tell me more about your life in Venice Beach.” “It’s awesome. I love the people, the smells, the waves. I get up every morning that I am not with my Master and seek out a good swell. Then, I get to work and create these gnarly combos that make people happy.” he grins. “Combos?” I ask, “Yeah, a burger has so much potential.” I don’t think I have ever seen anyone so excited about fast food. “You really enjoy it, huh?” “I do. My folks ran a diner in San Diego when I was a kid. I have such great memories of it, and them, rest in peace. I guess I kinda want to relive it, I’d love to have my own retro diner, people need that kind of old school good vibe.” “Why don’t you?” I ask, I mean, he is a goddamn Djinn after all. “I can’t even hold a job, I never know when I am going to be summoned and most employers don’t take so kindly to my sudden disappearances, that last Master kept me with him for months.” I guess he has a point. “Do you think there is another way to be freed besides someone making that fourth wish?” Bodhi is quiet for a moment, staring out at the passing trees and the approaching twilight. “I dream of it every day but I try not to get my hopes up.” He answers honestly and I am sure he is thinking of the Professor we are on our way to meet. “So, if you got your freedom, you’d stay in Venice Beach and open a burger joint?” Eh, everyone has goals. “That and more; I never had kids, a wife… it’d be nice to have a real life, you know?” I did. “Bah, being married is overrated.” I shift my eyes away for a moment. I’ve been married once. It didn’t stick. “Here’s Ottawa, let’s stop and grab some grub, I’m starving.” Aversion is another skill I am apt at.
Of course he’d pick out a burger joint. “It will only be another two hours or so until we reach Montreal, do you know where we are going?” I ask, giving myself a stretch before getting behind the wheel. “We will find Professor Collins at the anthropology department at McGill University, east of Mont-Royal.” “Is she expecting you?” I ask, he pauses and then responds, “She’s not not expecting me.” Fair enough. Hey lady, I’m Sydney and I’d like you to meet my Genie, oh sorry I mean Djinn, Bodhi. Happens every day, I’m sure. “How’d you find the Professor?” I ask Bodhi, he replies, “Russell, my former master, had a file on her, he was looking for people who could potentially lead him to find more Djinn.” I can’t imagine the thoughts that must be going through Bodhi’s head as we inch closer to our destination. I mean, this woman could change his life if she knows how to free him, and if she doesn’t she also has the potential to destroy any hope he has. He is silent for the rest of the drive, and I don’t push.
I park the car along a side street and we make our way towards the building that houses the anthropology department. “Do you think she will still be here this late?” looking at my watch. He nods, “Yes, I can feel her.” I look at Bodhi sideways, “Oh. I didn’t realize you could do that.” it dawns on me that he is a Djinn, a supernatural creature I know absolutely nothing about, and can probably do many things outside my realm of thinking. He smiles at me, “Yeah, I can do some neat things.” I smile back, “You can start by opening the door for a lady.” I smirk, as we approach the building. I start to search the lobby for a direction as to where to go and Bodhi nods to a hall off to the side of the elevators, “This way.” Bodhi leads us to an office door halfway down the hall, we exchange looks and I can see the anxiety on his face. If there is a God and you are listening, please let this woman help him. I knock for him, sensing he is paralyzed with anxiety. Suddenly we hear a loud crash from inside the office and a woman’s voice cry out, “Let go of me!”
I throw open the door and all the blood drains from my face as I see Russell, with his gun to the Professors head. “Stop right there, or I kill her!” He yells at us, eyes bulging. He must have figured out where we were heading as soon as he sensed us moving towards Montreal. How stupid of me to have underestimated him. I steal a look at Bodhi and my heart breaks as I see all hope empty from his eyes. Fuck. “Listen, Russell is it? There is no need to hurt anyone. We can work this out.” I hold my arms up to show him we won’t be trouble. “I can’t…” I hear Bodhi say from beside me. “It’s okay, we will figure this out, I just need a minute to think” I whisper-hiss at him. “There is nothing to figure out, he gives me what I want or I kill her.” He presses the gun harder against her head to show us he means it, and Professor Collins cries out again, tears running down her face.
Think, woman, think! Before I can come up with a solution, or a scheme, I hear Bodhi quietly say, “Alright. I’ll do it. Please, just don’t hurt anyone.” He steps forward, head down, looking resigned. “No, Bodhi, there has to be another way –” But even as I am saying it I feel hopeless. I lower my arms, feeling completely dejected. His former Master lowers his weapon, throwing the Professor aside like a sack of potatoes. She lay’s whimpering in the corner beside a floor to ceiling filing cabinet. I make my way over to her, and kneel beside her, taking her into my arms and assuring her everything will be fine. I nod to Bodhi, accepting that there is little more I can do. Bodhi will have his freedom, at least some good will come of this, and that greedy bastard will get what he deserves. I feel a pang of pain deep in my heart, knowing Bodhi will always carry the guilt of another being enslaved as he was. “You have what you want, what is your fourth wish?” Bodhi says as he bows his head subserviently.
“Save him. Save my son.” his former Master says. “Wait, what?” I reply, trying to process what I hear. “My son, he has lymphoma. No amount of money, no amount of time can save him. Please, he’s my only child. Save him.” For fuck sakes. All the greedy gun toting loony wants is to save his kid?! I look at Bodhi and see that he has the same look of surprise on his face as I feel on my own. I see Bodhi’s own story being played back for him. And I see that he will do it, he will grant the wish now more than ever, how could he not? But I see something else now as well, a solution; one that I wouldn’t have considered before, when Russell was a greedy bastard.
“Wait! Bodhi don’t do it!” I call out, Bodhi shakes his head at me, “I have to.” he says. “No, you don’t! I have it! No one has been hurt and no one needs to be, there is a way for you to do this and not have him take your place.” Bodhi looks at me puzzled. Russell looks at me suspiciously. “I can make the wish. I have 3 wishes, right? I can use one of mine to save his son, no?” Bodhi processes what I am saying and then smiles, “You’d do that?” his voice hoarse with emotion. “Yes, of course, I mean, I’d love to see you have your freedom but you were right, not even his sorry ass deserves enslavement, he just wants to save his child.” I nod toward the old man. I see a relief pass Bodhi face, and also sadness. “We will find another way, Bodhi. You will be free yet, I will see to it one way or another.” I assure him. He nods and looks toward his former Master. “You have changed, for the better.” He tells him. “Yes. I have Bodhi. In the years since I was your Master much has changed. I found love, and through love I found hope. I am sorry I was horrible to you, the things I wished for… and I am sorry I have been so horrible now, Professor, I can’t even begin to apologize…” the man looks older suddenly, and I can tell his words are sincere as his eyes begin to water with regret. The sheer desperation he must have felt at trying to save the very thing that redeemed him.
“Do you wish to save his son, Sydney?” Bodhi asks me. “Yes, I wish to save his son.” I answer. Bodhi nods and I gasp as an electric blue light engulfs him for a moment, stunning my eyes and yet I am unable to look away, it is beyond beautiful. “It is done.” Bodhi says and bows his head once again to the old man. The tears begin to stream down the old man’s face, “Thank you, I… thank you, both.” He takes turns embracing Bodhi and I, the tears now tears of relief and joy. “Oh think nothing of it.” Always the humble one, I am. Him and Bodhi duck into the hall to say their goodbyes while I help the Professor up. She is quiet now, a look of awe on her face. “It’s okay Professor, you get used to it.” As if I had ever seen anything like that before. “He is Djinn?” She asks. “Yes, my friend is Djinn and he has been trying to reach you for some time. He was hoping you could help.” She nods. “I have studied them for decades, I know the lore inside and out but I have never been so fortunate to meet one!” Tell me about it. “What is it he hopes for?” She asks. “His freedom.” I say as Bodhi rejoins us.
Her face darkens and she frowns slightly, “I am sorry. In all my studies I have never heard of a way to free a Djinn.” I look to Bodhi, to gauge his reaction, and am surprised to see peace. “That’s okay Professor. I accept my fate.” And he meant it. “Do you know anyone who might be able to help? Maybe somewhere we can begin to search?” He may accept it, as much as I accept that I need to help him. She shakes her head, “I have some ideas, leave me your contact info and I will see what I can dig up.” Turning to look at Bodhi she takes him by the arms and says, “You’re amazing. As messed up as tonight has been, I am glad that we meet now.” Bodhi smiles and happily accepts a hug from the Professor. I grab a piece of paper and pen off her desk and jot down my number and email address. “If you come across anything that might be of use, let us know.” She accepts the paper and nods, still looking shocked and awed. “C’mon my surfing Djinn, it’s been a long night and we have a helluva drive ahead of us yet.”
Bodhi snores. It’s adorable really. Not long after we drive out of Montreal my Djinn passes out. I crack the car window slightly, letting the cool mid-autumn Canadian air keep me awake, and think back on the day. I have 2 wishes yet. But I can’t use them. If I do who knows where Bodhi ends up next? I don’t know how but I will help him get his freedom. In the meantime, he can continue surfing and flipping burgers, and I will start looking for a new job, maybe he can hire me once he gets his burger shack running. Oh fuck. I still have to tell Stacey I got fired. Maybe tomorrow after I get some sleep, it can wait.
I nudge Bodhi awake shortly before I pull into the underground car park of the condo. “Hey sleepyhead, how does this work?” He snorts awake, “Hmmmm?” I roll my eyes, Djinns, “How do I send you back to Cali?” He stretches in his seat, “You dismiss me.” He mumbles simply, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “That easy, huh? Look, I won’t use the other wishes. I will keep looking for a way out of this for you, while I do that you go back to Cali and surf your heart out, okay?” I can see his eyes water with gratitude. “Stop that.” I say, my heart warming. “Sydney, I am so glad you’re my Master. In all my years as Djinn I have seen not one Master has ever shown such kindness as you have.” He gives my hand a squeeze. “Yeah, yeah, you’re dismissed. I’ll see you soon.” I say as I pull into Stacey’s parking spot. There is a pft sound beside me and I look to see the seat empty. I knew it! Almost immediately I wonder if I dreamt it all. Maybe I really should call that therapist.
The sun is already up by the time I stumble into the apartment, and so is Stacey, I can smell the freshly brewed coffee as soon as I enter the apartment, she ducks her head into the room, “How was your night with the hunk? Is he single?” she asks slyly with a wink. I guess I didn’t imagine him after all. “Oh Stace, I wouldn’t even know where to begin…” I pass her on my way to the Mr. Coffee half stretching my aching muscles as I move, she wrinkles her nose at me, “You could start by telling me my car is in one piece and why you reek of gin…”
- © Carm Forster 2018