B.A. Varghese | Lakshmy Mathur
It got dark within a minute and it started pouring and I just hate it when it rains in the Fall. Droplets after droplets hit the grocery store’s window like muffled banging of hands against glass. I was dry inside waiting for Felix. I had seen him before in my neighborhood, but here in this store, I got a chance to talk and see him up close. He offered me a ride home in his ‘75 Dodge Duster; a shelter from this weather. He was nice and I felt lucky.
There was something about him. Something like an unearthly pull to his appearance. His pepper gray hair hung over his wrinkled forehead and above his round and boyish cheeks. A finely trimmed goatee covered his mouth and scratched the collars of his dark blue suede jacket. No other guy I knew wore so many necklaces with trinkets that clung like grapes on a vine around his neck: a silver acorn, a gold beetle, the number seven. His deep voice was calming.
We could have waited for the rain to let up, but Felix thought we should just make a run for it. We stopped right outside the front doors and stood under the store’s awning. I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in this rain. Felix placed his index finger in the air to feel the wind then plucked a single hair from his chin. He stared at this one hair intensely before he curled his lip to blow over it. With one whip of his hand, he threw the hair over his right shoulder and walked out into the rain.
I felt a sense of uneasiness creep into my stomach, but he was nice and I couldn’t say no to his kindness. People are just strange in their own way, I guess. I ran out toward his car. My heart started pounding, probably from darting to his car in this rain. The Duster’s paint was faded and red-brown patches ran across the side door as if the car had splashed in a puddle of rust. Felix jumped in and started his car. The engine roared and a billow of yellow smoke bellowed out of the exhaust. A horseshoe hung above the license plate. I opened the door and sat inside.
There were four-leaf clover air fresheners hanging everywhere inside his car. They hung on the dash, the seats, the sides, and on top. And in the back seat, a turtle sat surrounded by moist droppings and munched on young green bamboo shoots. I averted my eyes but heard the soft snaps and crunches. It smelled of urine and honeysuckle. His voice pierced through the pounding in my ears and he asked if I was going to close the door. Without thinking, I reached out and slammed the door, jarring the side view mirror loose. I watched the mirror hit the sidewalk and crack into a million pieces.
I turned to apologize and saw Felix’s face.
It was as if I had thwarted all his many efforts to avoid this moment.
As if I brought upon myself what was to come.
As if I was his misery for the next seven years.