it was the busiest time at one of very lively roads of the city.both lanes of the road were packed with cars creeping slowly like a snake. a woman carrying a baby on side of her hip was trying to the other side. two more children of hers, a boy with dirty hair and unwashed dark brown skin but glittering eyes and a girl with sad countenance bearing a scar which looked fresh, strolled behind their confused mother. A new bakery was inaugurated, giving free sweets to its potential customers. The mother rushed to get there in hope to fill the bellies of her children who had not tasted food since morning. Not getting a chance to make it across the road she walked in an unstable gait towards a man standing nearby waiting for the traffic to slowdown, her children moving like a balloon in hands of a child running happily. the old lady at the milk shop had told the mother about the bakery and the sweets. “will they give me four packs for all of us?”,she had inquired. “they will serve you whole bakery, dumb fool! go! hurry now”,the old lady had barked. A fast car honking fiercely whooshed away, leaving little boy alarmed. there was less time. with every passing car, the mother’s heartbeat increased and with every sight of the bakery her hopes heightened. “why didn’t the wrinkled face bitch tell me earlier?”the man moved a step to cross the road and waved hand. “At last, but there is another lane to journey through”. the man put his hand back into jeans pocket, when a shining tri-wheeler turned in his direction. an exchange of words, the man climbed in, tri-wheeler disappeared in flowing river of automobiles…
“I love you”, she whispered loudly. He didn’t respond, eyes fixed on the windscreen, one hand on steering wheel the other on the gear box. Suddenly he pushed the accelerator to the floor, not shifting gear until the engine roared noisily. Three small vertical lines originated on his forehead just between his thick eyebrows as he saw the road block ahead. Punching the horn strongly, he cried out,”and i live you!”. She closed her moist eyes and a drop of tears travelled from her eye through the smooth white cheek to her lip and fell on her beautiful hand. After fifty minutes of traffic noise, her silent weeps, the brakes, the clutch, the accelerator, they reached the highway. There had been an accident , the driver was seriously injured. reportedly, a woman trying to cross the road had come in the middle suddenly. the car had turn turtled but the driving was breathing. The road remained blocked for almost thirty minutes. the wrinkled face old lady at the milk shop picked up a flyer from the scene with bloodstains on it:“grand opening on 9 december—— Bon Appetite—– bakers from France”.
The night was amazingly cold. the weather had changed so drastically, just like their relationship. the cars on highway were few and far between. moon lit the road magnificently and the combined effect of the coolness , moisture on the glass, far away flickering lights, music, roar of the engine, sound of the tyres against the road, the horrifying flow of wind through his side of the slightly open window glass made the surroundings mysteriously beautiful. There had been no flow of words since his angry expression of deep love in the traffic jam. “I have to pee”, she said in low tone. He pointed to a road sign reading: Gas Station, 7 km ahead, without saying anything.
whenever they had fought, he was the one to reconcile first. he was the one who always made amends irrespective who had started first. he never liked the relationship strained for a long period. he missed her. she was there, sitting in their room. she was there, staring at the tv. she was there, cooking. she was there, sleeping. yet he missed her. the absence of presence, the distant nearness, the apparent disappearance killed his insides. he felt his apartment like an abandoned palace. he would go, stand behind her and whisper in her ear, “i live you”, she would turn around and with moist eyes say, “i know”. a little body language and the morning is as happy as a love story’s end. this had not worked this time. hopes were lost……………………………………. green and blue logo of gas station appeared after few kilometres. they stopped at the gas station. “make it quick”, he barked. she stepped out of the vehicle. cold wind made her shiver. she wrapped the black and brown shawl around her, one of the two gifts she liked the most that his mother had given to the beautiful bride. the huge platform of the gas station made her feel small and lonely. the toilet was at the corner beside the little shop.as she passed the shop she heard voices of men speaking an unrecognizable language. one man became attentive and peered out of the glass giving her a thorough look. a slim lone woman at midnight! a female! a female! she caught his eye.
unexpectedly, the toilet was well-lit and clean, except a wall. the wall was full of graffiti. graffiti of red coloured paan-spits. resembling blood………………………he stepped out of the vehicle. lit a cigarette while reading the no smoking sign. the fuel tank was already full. he tool a deep breath full of nicotine, exhaled and kicked a stone lying on the ground powerfully. it hit something few yards away; the thing moved away. it was an echidna, invisible in the darkness. he stood still for a minute and let out a relaxed breath. as a child he always loved long distance travels by road. he remembered jumping out of the intercity bus when it stopped for gas. especially at nights. he would hold his dad’s hand and walk towards the near by dry fruit monger and buy peanuts for mom, sis, bro ,him and dad. he would then walk over to the bus driver and ask what speed was he driving at and how long would it take to reach the next city. he would look closely with narrow eyes in the far-stretching darkness to find any signs of life, especially the red eyes ! the gas station used to be a safest place for him at those moments. an oasis in the gloominess of night….. footsteps, it must be her, turn around!
a man in black shalwar kameez and sleeveless jacket carrying a green coloured tea kettle and three infinitesimally small cups on a silver dish giving a broad grin said,’ “salamalaikum sahab chai piyey gaa?” (sir will you have some tea?). “nahin khan sahab, bohat shukria” (no, thank you). he loved tea. the man went back quickly. ten minutes had gone and she had not returned. he walked towards the toilet, passed by the shop, heard voices in unrecognizable language, caught eye of a man peering through the glass. she was there. white as a ghost. the lock was not working. it wont open. i pushed it hard and the door just broke. calm down, calm down. you are out now, i am here, i am here, let’s go. they walked, towards the car, passed by the shop, did not hear any voices in any language, did not catch the eye of any man peering through the glass………………wait! keys are not jingling…………………………………………. oh thank God the car is still there.
35 Kilometers later
No, please don’t! No! No!! Leave him alone, she cried.
he is dead. they shot him. his hands are tied together. the thick white ropes are now red! his wrist-watch shows 3 in the morning! he cannot hear her cries now. he is lying in middle of a clear land with the boundaries made of wild plants. two cars parked outside the make shift rendezvous place. a 4×4 Nissan Patrol. his Toyota Corolla. they touched her. he moved. they shot him.
engines ignited. headlights glared his half-open brown eye!
she killed the baby. they killed him.