I checked my watch for the zillionth time that evening and eyed the bustling road in exasperation, in hopes to spot a bus that could fetch us home. The arrival of a lot more people to the bus stop, blaring horns and irksome noises of the vehicles, the irrational teen boys pulling off prosaic bike stunts to lure attention, the elderly sweeper lady signaling us every couple of minutes to switch locations, the malodorous garbage aroma and the knocked-up dog tailing us definitely didn’t help my frustration. The sole thing that kept me sane that day was listening to Sandhya and Karen exchanging corny yet, captivating technicalities about their day. Smiling, we watched the arrival and departure of a number of buses loading and unloading passengers, but the bus that would take us home.
“Perhaps we should start walking,” Karen blurted out. It had been an hour since the school closed. Despite the bustling traffic, the climate was pleasant and tranquil, and a walk didn’t seem like an abysmal choice. The clock ticking six, the squeaky skies swiftly darkening and my thin patience running thinner were the few available cues to commence walking. We couldn’t scoot all the way home. The plan devised was to make it to a junction where the probability of finding the required bus was relatively fair.
As we commenced our 15-minute walk, the exquisite climate brushed us with a cool breeze which subsequently sent soothing shivers sliding down our spines. Our languid walk spiced up as we verbally exchanged odd amusing events from our lives, commented on every living being we encountered, and countlessly ranted about our hopefulness for the betterment of the situation, as we strolled across the pavement.
It was around 6.30 PM when our ecstatic chitchats and enthusiastic strides were intruded by a glistening black SUV that pulled up right in front of us, detaining us from stepping any further. After expressing a brief idea about the idiocy of the driver, we opted to walk past the parked car. Moments after we eluded the block of the SUV, the car caught up with us real quick and blocked our path once again. This time the move appeared deliberate. Bemused and immobile, we stood as the front window of the car sluggishly rolled down revealing a male tricenarian. Before we could even question his eerie action, the man offered to give us a ride home.
I’m unsure if it was the flawless rectitude instilled in us to avoid burdening someone or the spooky stranger abduction tales that were narrated to us in childhood that made us humbly deny his offer. However, the driver was perseverant and his mundane utterances transformed into more demanding ones now. Before we could even sort out if it was him being indefinitely convincing or us being absolutely gullible, Sandhya stepped inside the SUV. I shot one tentative look at Karen and did the most insane thing. I meekly followed Sandhya into the creepy stranger’s four-wheeler and witnessed the stranger’s lips curled into a triumphant smirk.
While he asked for our address, we insisted that he drop us off a couple of blocks before the junction. The car ride was hushed, mostly because we were petrified and consented to random horrific fables of human trafficking, forceful abductions, and merciless murders pervade our thoughts. Memories of my parents who were out of town, friends who promised to treat me with burgers, neighbours who wouldn’t cease being nosy, teachers who threatened to ensure that I didn’t pass the ninth grade, and the anonymous handsome commoner with whom I made eye contact in public transport came gushing as the car suddenly veered to left and went astray from the road which showed us to the junction.
When we confronted him about it with blatant panic, the car came to a firm halt. Another moment of sheer stillness, the driver slowly turned around, removed his black shades, and nervously exhaled as he faced us. It was only then he introduced himself to be the manager of a reputed shoe sales company and requested that we advertise his finest products at our school and assist his company flourish. As elated and relieved as we were to finally descend the SUV unharmed it was equally challenging to suppress the erupting laughter right after we realized that the serial killer guy as we assumed him to be was a salesperson seeking advertising assistance. After bidding farewell to the driver and properly expressing our gratitude, we made it to the junction at 6.40 PM.
A familiar horn sound intervened our giggles and sniggers which were a consequence of whatever just happened and our heads snapped to meet a packed bus that was actually capable of taking us home. The crowd was the least of our fret then and we attempted hard and squeezed our way into the bus. Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for the bus conductor to perceive the asphyxiation we suffered, incessant bumps the bus encountered, and the clumsy clasps we had on the rod which threatened to throw us out of the bus, and gently kick us out of the bus and instructed us to board a less packed bus.
I glanced at my watch once again and it was 7 PM then. Desperately desiring to go home, we impulsively ascended the next less packed bus we could spot. We were instantly greeted by the queer and perplexed glances, more like you-don’t-belong-here glances the passengers threw. Oh, we forgot to check the bus number when we got in. Is it okay to blame it on the darkness that obfuscated our vision if it makes us feel any better?
Before we could reach out to the driver or conductor and request them to stop the public transport the bus took another sharp left turn into a narrow street directing to the underdeveloped part of the city, the part where we never have been to, the part which we hadn’t the faintest notion existed. It was arduous to keep track of the turns the bus took within the street. For a fact, I know that it definitely wouldn’t near the number of turns our day took. When the bus finally stopped, we hastily got down along with 20 other passengers who eagerly inquired about our whereabouts, and Sandhya patiently attending to every one of them.
There we were, three ordinary teenagers, lost and famished. We stood in the middle of something resembling a labyrinth, ignoring the incessant barks of the street dogs and anxiously plotting our next move. One of the passengers from the bus was considerate enough to find us an auto. Thanking her, we quickly got into the auto and instructed the directions to the driver.
Nervously, yet contently laughing we silently watched as the auto retraced the ample turns inside the narrow street which the bus initially entered and joined the main road around 7.15 PM. A surge of overwhelming satisfaction took us over as we watched eerie blocks transforming into well-known edifices as we motioned away from the peculiar part of the city.
The scent of familiarity hit us as we entered our acreage. Joy flooded as we eventually entered our neighbourhood and when the auto pulled up at the driveway. That wasn’t the first time I was getting down at Sandhya’s but can’t really assure if I’ve ever been that happy. We split the sum, paid the auto driver, and flexed into the couch still in wonderment unable to process whatever transpired. We then ringed up our worried parents and announced our arrival shortly. This mayhem had almost made us forget that our final exams commenced the next day. Well, at least we were home.