Friday, 18 February 2011
**Note to non-existent readers. This is a mix of fiction and non-fiction. What’s real? Take your pick.
5.07 pm on a Saturday evening. I am on my way to work, stuck in a godawful traffic pile-up on the 18 km drive to office. The sun shines on my eyes and number 30 on the radio’s top 30 list is a godawful country pop number. Not even the genuine, heartfelt, tugging on emotional strings sort.
I look at my phone and sigh. No messages or calls. Not that I’m saying the sight of a blank phone is not familiar. But that meant my best friend was still mad at me. And it had been so long since we last fought that I was heartbroken and could possibly write a godawful, emotional song or poem about it.
The usual children were wandering around at the signal, tapping on car windows and begging for a little change. They were selling dusters and miniature Indian flags. One day, I won’t be surprised if commercialisation hits them too and one can find them selling fluorescent highlighters and knock off Samsonite suitcases.
The light turned green. People started honking. I checked my rearview mirror to see where my colleague’s Hyundai was. He had been trying to over take me for almost 5 kms now. I smirked to myself. Not a chance in hell, honey.
My eyes drifted to another car with a double digit number that the owner probably forked out 20 grand for. Why does one buy a run-of-the-mill Maruti but spend big bucks on a stupid license plate, I found myself wondering?
Ouch. The lady was supremely pissed off and upset. But strangely enough, she hadn’t bashed the daylights out of the Maruti driver. I think something else was bothering her. She’d been in a lousy mood for a few days now. More “ey, saala!”, less singing along to the radio’s shitty songs. But the point when I got really worried was when she just let her colleague overtake her. She didn’t usually let stuff like that happen. That meant she was *really* bloody tired and fed up.
And then in my moment of distraction, some drunk idiot smashed into my right, front door. Luckily not too close to where the lady sits.
She would have normally got down right there and screamed the Christmas lights out of the poor sod. But she yelled through the window a little bit and then we vroomed off.
Luckily the dimwit chose to sidle up at a traffic signal, so she got down and yelled and got his card then.
I sighed. The life of a small car in the hands of a big city. Even if the driver is halfway decent, you know you’re in for it someday. Usually some big ass car springs out of nowhere, overtakes you from the left at 90 kmph, when you’re not looking, and bam.
And I’d been on the roads longer than most ambitious cars, even. About 5 and a half years. My time was running out.
Work was terrible. My cramps were terrible. My life was terrible. And I couldn’t even call her and talk to her about it. I could feel a lump forming in my throat and mentally chastised myself.
And then I remembered that I had to write a disgusting lifestyle piece on somebody’s dirty office and I got upset all over again. I wanted my environment page back. I wanted our “dead body” stories back, even if I wasn’t the one writing them. I wanted the little boss in his bright Hawaiian shirt back. Not the new managing editors and their “lifestyle”, “happy story” ideas.
The sad part was I felt guilty at being angry with my boss. She was in the same boat. A reporter who usually did stories on mental health, sex offenders and whatnot, she now had to find idiots to write interior and wine columns.
I sighed. Maybe I needed to get laid. Oh, wait, but the last two men I had even remotely been interested in had the emotional intelligence of a teaspoon. Ok, well one did. And the other one… well, he confounded me. Very high emotional and mental intelligence, but apparently would only lay a finger on me if we were having something “steady and cool”. Which would never happen since we weren’t in the same city. And I don’t even know if that was a good thing or bad.
So my only solace was probably alcohol. Warning bells went off in my head at the thought. ‘Your father died of liver failure, dumbass’. ‘But I drink only occasionally. Maybe if he had too, he would be alive.. with bad breath and long greasy, curly hair, and a couple of fancy cars and slutty mistresses.’ ‘Dumbass.’
Fine, then. No drinking alone, said my conscience. Which was alright. I just wanted to cry to my Labrador, take a painkiller and sleep. My cramps were still killing me. And so were the lifestyle stories, the dent on my poor car, the absence of the friend, the absence of the confounding boy…
I sighed. For the first time in my professional life (ok, maybe not the first since I was so anti-social) I was glad I had to work on Saturday nights and avoid most of the socialising. I could just go home, eat my strawberries and watch the telly till I fell asleep.
And then then I saw the caramel icing on my cake. Right there, by the median on one of the busiest roads in the city, was a white puppy. Probably about four or five months old. It just lay there, shivering. I have no idea how I knew it was shivering, or even alive, but I knew it was. Given that I was driving at almost 60 kmph, overtaking another car from the left, and in a super hurry to get home to my Labrador, it was gone in a split second.
I wanted to stop, I wanted to turn around, I wanted to call those lovely college students who were all over Facebook, trying to help stray animals.
But I didn’t. And I’ll never know why.
I knew the minute I passed it that it would be one of those things that I would regret forever. But I still didn’t stop. And I still haven’t forgiven myself, a week later.
I couldn’t sleep that night, between all the things swirling in my head at violently crazy speeds. And I cried plenty. Which normally would have helped me sleep. Crying tires me out, especially since I don’t do it very often.
Three hours after I crawled into bed, I crawled out.
I headed for my computer. I needed to write. I started what was a whiney diary piece, and deleted it.
Then I opened my Gmail and hit compose. Subject: meh.
I started writing to the only person, aside from my best friend and Labrador, who could always make me feel better. The confounding boy with the emotional intelligence of either a teaspoon or a wise old man who had been married 47 years to the girl of his dreams. I sighed.
She laughed in the car while listening to the radio. I think it was that crazy friend of hers, with the accent, hosting the show. Hence. But something was better than nothing. She had also started crying while driving the night before. I still don’t know why. But I saw her heading for lunch in the big car with the crazy family. And then she hopped in and we went for her dance class. So I’m hoping she toughens up as usual and stops crying.
It’s worrisome when icebergs begin to crack. No wonder people are worried about global warming.