I had only five hundred rupees in my pocket. And that too for the grocery which my mother had asked me to get on my way back. Five thousand was a big amount big then. Never had I even carried at once in my pocket, forget about spending. I didn’t know what to do.
“I don’t have this much aunty,” I heard myself saying, the sorrow palpable in my voice.
“Then I would need the keys of your car,” she said now sternly. And then it occurred to me, I didn’t have a license either. What if she did call the police!! Immediately the image of my father started looming over me. Slowly, I dragged myself towards the car, to get the keys and hand it to her.
I was about to give her the keys when she turned back. Someone was calling her. Apparently, she was shopping for grocery before I had hit her car. The shopkeeper didn’t know what was the issue and was shouting now to ask her to pay up and take the grocery.
Maybe she got confused (the man was shouting out loud) or she had a trusting nature, she turned back and started walking towards the shop. I kept on standing, my thoughts focused on what would I say to my father.
“What are you doing!”
I felt a hand on my shoulder. As I turned around I saw a familiar face looking at me. She was Mrs. Tiwari. Our old neighbor. I’d never felt so good looking at her before.
“I .. Aunty…” I stammered trying to explain before she cut me.
“Run,” she barked. “Why are you standing? She is trying to rip you off. It’s a minor dent. Any mechanic will repair it in minutes. And it won’t take more than fifty. Hundred max. She’s is just trying to get the most out of this situation. Run. Run now.”
The next few minutes are a blur in my mind. It was like the devil possessed me in those moments. Like a man with his ass on fire, I rushed into the car, keyed in the ignition, pressed the accelerator like never before, and within seconds, I was driving away, faster than I had ever in my life. From the corner of my eyes, I saw a figure jumping, hands high in the air. But I was beyond stopping now.
When I finally stopped I had driven into some street I didn’t know existed. Sitting in the car then, my shirt soaked in sweat, my heart beating wildly against my chest, I remember being scared like never in my life.
When I reached home I was still numb with fear. When my parents asked me why I returned empty-handed, without books or grocery, I told that I wasn’t feeling good. They could see it in my face. So I went into my room, closed the door behind me, and slipped into the bed, shit scared that house bell would ring any moment and the lady would appear, accompanied by the police, looking for me.
The bell did ring that day, and many times in the following days after that. But neither the woman appeared, nor the police looking for me. But I didn’t drive for many weeks after that. And when I did I started concentrating on the road as if it was my life depended on it. Something that I do even today!
My parents laughed when I told them about the reason a few days after that. My father had seen the dent on the bumper and had guessed what might have happened that day. But he said more than the accident he was sad that I didn’t come to him. And in the future, instead of pulling out a stunt like this, I should talk to them.
Rhea had seen me that day, bumping the parked car. She had found it cute. And had told one of her friends. Who told her to her friend and within days everyone knew about the car story. About the boy who was crashing cars on seeing girls on the road. I and Rhea ended up being friends. Though she never sat beside me in the car. And before I could gain her trust, her father got transferred and she left the school.
I still don’t know which helped me more to get over that habit – the fear that gripped me for a week after that incident. Or the shame of getting famous in school for the wrong reasons . But whatever it was, I ended up learning not to look around, especially at girls, while driving.