The Lover Snake

The magazine photograph is of a Sikh. A male Sikh. Sikhs wear turbans. It’s a tradition that goes back many, many generations, so it is said. You can always tell a Sikh when you see one by the turban he wears. Men, as I recall, also wear beards like this one in the photograph does. Fine beards. A fine-boned people. This particular Sikh, the man in the photograph, has, pictured with him, the uppermost portion of a large snake slithering down over the front and centre of the bright orange turban he wears, the reptile’s diamond-shaped head, with its distended eyes, hovering just centimetres over the man’s forehead, its flickering tongue slicing air between his eyes. This is the photograph in the magazine.

Dahljeet has always worn a turban, as I remember. In fact, he has an entire closet full of them at his home in Vancouver. Dahljeet is a Sikh.

Now Dahljeet and I have been friends for many years. An unusual alliance, people would observe from time to time. And between us, Dahljeet and me, we would agree that the friendship was an unusual friendship. I mean, there he was, very much an Indian and here I was, also very much an Indian. Only, we were such totally different kinds of Indian. Worlds apart. So different, it was laughable. And we’d laugh. North Cree hunter ambles down the slope of Robson Street beside north Indian maharajah. An odd pair. To be sure.

And yet, we became close, Dahljeet and I. More than friends, more than brothers, more than lovers, even. It was almost as if, in the midst of certain totally unexpected moments in time we spent together, there would arrive from somewhere a certain buzzing half-sound, a certain inner ringing as perfect in pitch and purity as the tone from a tuning fork. It was beautiful.