It was years ago, when we were all sitting in that half-lit backroom, listening to Led Zeppelin. Some were getting stoned. Some were getting drunk. Some just smoked cigarettes and watched, only interjecting small bits of language to keep the conversations going. We were all between about fifteen and seventeen. Children. Wide-eyed whelps just starting to taste the outside world, beyond the reach of our parents, sitting in a half-lit backroom that smelled of Asian spices, incense, and opium. Once upon a time, it was one of my favorite places in the world.
We listened to Led Zeppelin and talked. Some would sing, or try to. A couple made out in a dark corner, eventually scuttling off somewhere to copulate. My friend from China said something snarky to them in one of seventeen languages he knew fluently about fucking in the backroom of family's restaurant without having the courtesy to ask first. The fucking indian told him not be so high strung. I was listening to the southern spring rain tap rhythmically against the windows as one my favorite Led Zeppelin songs came on.
"We're on the road to Kashmir!" One of our lot proclaimed. He was quite the hop-head, quite stoned at the time, and Led Zeppelin was more of a theology then a band to him. Their songs was where he found his omens and cosmic truths.
"This should be good," the fucking indian said to me with a wink and a bit of chuckle, before focusing on the hop-head in question. "Okay, Cap'in Toke, why don't you tell us about being on the road to Kashmir."
And he indulged us. In his cosmology, Kashmir was not so much geography as a state of mind. He believed it was one's place in the world. Home. He also believed that Kashmir was different for everyone. At between fifteen and seventeen, wide-eyed whelps just starting to taste the outside world, beyond the reach of our parents, we were just starting on that road. None of us had found Kashmir yet, but we'd know it once we got there.
Somehow, this made perfect sense. Even to those of us who were not drunk or stoned. So many years and lifetimes later, I can still see the logic in it.
A couple of years later, the very last time I visited that small southern town with fuck all to do, my friend from China and sat at the table in his family's restaurant where the fucking indian had carved "reserved" with my butterfly knife. I had since moved a mile high and was merely back for a few days. Everything I hated about the south had returned in clear resolve, and seeing my friends I had down there had not helped.
"I don't belong here," I said.
"You might not belong anywhere," he said to me. "But you haven't found Kashmir yet."
I think of Kashmir at odd times. Most notably when one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs comes on, but that's because of the shared name. When I was seventeen years old, and preparing to move away from the Confederacy, I thought Kashmir was that stretch of geography where I was born; a place of mountains and plains and mesas and deserts, which was called the Spanish word for colorful . I have since discovered that whilst, on a larger scale, this spot of geography, which uses the Spanish word for colorful , might be Kashmir, my Kashmir is nestled within the mountains, in the shadows of great peaks, but ten miles from the Roof of the World. Here, within a pocket of nowhere, I have found peace. I have found home.