I was a money lender in my last life. I took gold, jewels and sometimes even food from poor people when they were down and out. I once even refused a dying man money because the two candlesticks he came into my shop with were old and worthless. He begged me to think about it and said he’d come back the next day. In the evening I scraped the green paint from the candlestands to find they were solid gold underneath. I hurriedly stuck the green paint back and decided to give the old man a few rupees for them when he came the next day. He didn’t show up. Neither did he come the next day. Or the day after that. I melted down one candlestand and used the money to build myself a huge mansion. When I died, I was sent back as this parking meter because God thought taking money was what I was best at. Incidentally, the old man did return. He demanded his candlestands back. When I told him I just had one left, he used that to kill me.
I am about a hundred years old. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in a small iron casting workshop run by a very old man. From there I was sent to the local park where I spent many summers under an old oak tree surrounded by squirrels, woodpeckers, mountain quail and grouse. I have seen murderers, lovers, beggars, old men, soldiers, priests, prostitutes and even one presidential candidate discussing his election strategy. Many years later the park made way for a large shopping mall and I was sent to Bangalore, India by the Rotary Club as a gift. Here too I’ve seen my share of murderers, thieves, ladies of ill repute, beggars, lovers, honest men, wise men, oafs, dolts, fools, atheletes and ofcourse the politician who discusses his evil intentions in great detail. One thing I can tell you for sure – people are the same wherever in the world you are. Another thing, always check for wet paint before you sit on a park bench.
When I think back and reflect on the amount of wine I’ve drunk I shudder with guilt. I’m sure I’ve imbibed enough to have made a thousand enemies, broken at least two hundred laws, rubbed up thousands of people the wrong way, hurt at least a hundred waiters, defaced ten kilometers of public property, pissed on thousands of walls, made many dozens of women blanch at the thought of me, dropped and broken thousands of glasses and driven scores of people off the road. But when I look at the crimson wine again I think of all the workers who earn their livelihood toiling hard in the fields just so the grape gets to a factory. I think of all the dreams that would be shattered, homes broken and educations ruined should I stop putting my lips around the rim of glass holding this juice of the earth. So I feel it’s better to let their lives bloom than me be selfish and worry about my bloated liver.