It started raining as we got back to the highway. The drops that fell on the windshield were big, heavy. Thunder echoed in the distance.
“We’re going home.” She declared.
“You know, you speak too little.” She said with a sideways glance.
“That’s not true. I usually jabber non-stop.” I spoke up. She didn’t say anything. I could feel that she wanted me to elaborate. I thought for a moment, and spoke again.
“When you are around, I feel like whatever I have to say can wait. Like there will be plenty of time for all that later. For now, I’d rather hear what you have to say.”
“That’s your longest speech so far, somebody, and honestly, it’s impressive.”
“I thought you knew my name.”
“Oh, I do, but this is fun. Don’t you agree, somebody?”
“I’m not sure.”
“So tell me, what did you think you are getting into when I said I wanted you?”
“I don’t know. You didn’t tell.’
“Do you think we will get married?”
“So you will call me every night?”
“If that’s ok with you.”
“I see. And I shouldn’t go out with other guys? Or stay out too late at night? I should have sex with you? Go on a trip somewhere? What exactly do you think you are entitled to? ”
” Look, ” I said, exasperated, “I don’t know, and I don’t care. I like being with you because you are lovely, and because you are funny and naughty, because you are one of the few truly unpredictable women that I have ever come across, I want more and more of you because I can’t read you, I can’t see what you are going to do or say or love or hate. You are also damn sharp, and damn smart, much smarter than I am.”
“And you like that?” She was incredulous.
“Yes, I do. And as for my ‘entitlement’, as you call it, I would be happy to stay precisely as close or as far away as you want me to, for exactly as long as you want. Does that make sense?”
“Not really. Men are not that good. What are you? A vampire or something?”
“Listen, any time you want to get rid of me, start asking stupid questions like that. It’ll work, I promise.” I finally snapped.
She merely laughed.
“So you do have a temper, but you control it well. Good, somebody. I would have considered you a wimp otherwise, either way.”
I gave up and turned my eyes back to the now soaked road. I looked at the yellow vapor lamps lining the street, the rain creating a haze around them as it fell. The wipers fought a near useless battle with the drops falling on the windshield. The windows had no such pretension. The water on the glass offered me a beautiful, blurred view of everything outside. She wasn’t driving with that mad abandon now. She was still going fast, but it seemed she had slowed down so that she can occupy part of her mind to something else.
I caught a movement and looked down. Mistake. Her knee length dress had slid up a little, and her legs were working the clutch and the gas. They were lovely, just like the rest of her. Shapely and long yet firm and a little muscular. Maybe she goes to the gym, I thought. I was still contemplating her legs and their secret when she spoke again.
“You know, I feel like getting wet right now.”
“What??” My head snapped up. This was too fast and forward, even for her, I thought.
She looked at me calmly, with a deadpan expression, but I could see she was bursting with laughter.
“In the rain.” She explained with a straight face.
“Oh. I thought…”
“Yes?” She invited eagerly.
“Nothing.” I retreated.
She fairly screamed with laughter, and it was a beautiful sight and sound. She actually pulled over so that she could laugh it out. She laughed so hard that her whole body shook with it and there were tears in her eyes. She gripped the steering-wheel tightly with one hand, as if she was going to fall off. I kept staring at her, embarrassed at my gaffe, but delighted with what it had brought about.
Finally, after maybe five minutes or so, she stopped laughing and wiped the tears from her cheeks.
“Why don’t you smoke when I’m around?” She asked. “Taking no chances about offending me?”
“Pity, that zippo of yours is cool. I would love to see it in action. Besides, I actually like the sight of a guy smoking, it looks kind of normal, I guess.”
She thought for a moment, and brightened up. “Tell you what, somebody, I’ll buy you a pack right now, from that shop over there, and you will light it with that, okay?”
“Sure, but two things before that, please?”
“Shoot.” She invited.
“OK. One, please don’t get something mild for me to smoke. I hate those.”
“Relax, I know that much about cigarettes and boys. What else?”
“Well, you haven’t pronounced my name even once so far. Could you? please?”
“What’s the hurry?” She smiled her naughty smile again . “Don’t we have plenty of time?”
“I know, but please, before you do anything else tonight, I’d like you to say it.”
“No way buddy. This is the first thing I’m seeing you getting worked up about, and I’m gonna enjoy every moment of tormenting you.” With that and an evil smile, she undid her seat-belt and made to get out of the car.
“Please.” I begged, suddenly wanting it more than anything else.
“Nope. I’m sure you’ll survive the night. Hang on, I’ll be back with your smoke in a sec.” Another smile, but oddly happy and contented this time, and she got out of the door and ran lightly across the road, to the small shop on the other side.
Maybe it was because of the rain, maybe it was because she was distracted or, God forgive me, maybe because of me, she wasn’t paying attention to the traffic. She never saw the Tata Sumo that streaked down the road, and hit her.
What happened next was a blur. I vaguely remember running into the middle of the road, picking her up in my arms, a car stopping next to me, concerned, shocked faces of strangers, the drive to the hospital, it all happened apparently in fast forward, funny, I don’t remember what her face looked like then…..
When my mind seemed to resume working at a normal speed, I found myself sitting on a chair in a corner of a white hospital room. I assumed she was on the bed a dozen people in white surrounded. They all seemed to be working furiously. The conversation was muted. There were a lot of monitors and instruments at the head of the bed. They all seemed to display different graphs and emit strange sounds. I don’t know how long I sat there. After what seemed an eternity, a short, kind looking man from the group around her bed turned back to face me. I saw his face. I didn’t have to ask.
I rose and walked out, past the doctors, down the long white corridor, down the stairs, and out on to the street.
The rain didn’t stop……