When I was first able to take an Uber on my own- I felt a thrill. A no-new-stories teen like me, booking, taking and paying for a cab on my own! (it wasn’t technically my money but whatever). I know boys my age are supposed to be cooler than that. But hey, I’d never say it out loud. Now I’m an old hand at these. Take today for example- I went to this party and of course I’d had a few drinks, now we have an Uber which can take us home. So simple.
It’s chilly at first, then I feel like I’m feeling hot – a sure sign that I’m high as a kite. I’ve just come here to drop off my friend Preeta. Man, she lives in this crazy ass place. I didn’t want her to go home alone because then she’d whine all day tomorrow about how scared she’d been, and what crazy sightings she had. There’s a cemetery near her place and she’s an attention seeking witch. I’d much rather just get done with it.
We’re both zoning out in the car- she’s so much more bombed than I am. She’s now talking about stars. Seriously. I am in danger of becoming sober. I’m also hoping that she doesn’t feel nauseous, because this one time we were at a party and after like one shot, she was all swaying and then- she puked on my shoes. Not an experience I want to repeat, because this time, I might actually join her. So I’m game if she wants to talk about stars or robots. Hell, I’d even throw in prompts like “circus” and “animals” if it gets her to not focus on heaving.
Looking at her now, I don’t know why I was bonkers about her. When I was seventeen, she seemed like an answer to my prayers. But now when I look at her- she’s so lame. She talks about getting new clothes all the damn time and yet I see her wearing the same jeans everyday. Like what does she do, buy it and store it somewhere? And like directly donate them to some charity? I loathe everything- her stupid geek glasses, her pseudo smartness, her torn jeans. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. She’s going to go home. I’ll turn around and go my way.
Shoot. Turns out, I’ve to book a cab again after I dropped her. All I get is an Uberpool. Not so bad, but it’s 3am. I’m a little miffed that I can’t go alone. What if this fellow rider is super talkative, and asks me about my future plans or gives me a lecture about staying out late? I’m so not in the mood to talk. Ah well, whatever gets me to my bed. This cabbie is not chatty, at all. I mean I don’t want someone to bore me to death talking about the state of the country or anything, but at least he could answer me when I talk. Tool.
Taking a cab from my friends place is not without its problems. There’s no internet signal in that area or any kind of network connection for that matter. I’ve to literally just look out the window. The music system in this cab doesn’t work, and I’m on the last 6 percent of my battery. Looking at the window is pretty much my only option.
I’m not always sentimental- but maybe because of the time or maybe because I’m high, the moonlight feels so new, so different. As if I’m seeing it for the first time. The cab stops to pick up my fellow rider. Whoever it is, is taking their own sweet time. I mean where is this person coming from? There’s no buildings that I could see nearby, only a cemetery. I’m just thinking if saving my battery is really worth it, when the door opens. In comes in a woman wearing a white sari.
Hah! What did they think, they’d fool me? That I’d scream? This is rich. Like come on! A woman wearing a white sari- near a cemetery- what do they take me for! No one except kids below ten years of age would fall for this. They really should have tried harder. She’s pretty though. If you like that tall, full figured, long hair, big eyes kind of thing. So yeah, she’s pretty hot. I smile at her. Duh. She kind of smiles back.
I decide to whatsapp my friends that the show’s over. They can just end it. But they’re all sleeping I guess. Anyway, meanwhile I try to talk to her. “It’s really cold, isn’t it?”
“Yeah…its that time of the night” okay…
“Where are you going to get dropped?” An ordinary question should work
“Oh” How does she know where I’m getting dropped?
“Are you working?” Something normal, simple
“You can say that” What? I didn’t mean like now. Is she a prostitute?
I need to check my phone. There’s one message in the group. It’s from Karan, and it reads: what? What prank? Dude you’re high. 4% battery. So they don’t know anything, is it? Maybe I should ask the driver to talk. The driver is here, he may not exactly be Steve Martin, but he’s at least here. I look up to notice this woman staring at my face. “Um, where are you from?” Keep it light, keep her engaged.
“From where I took the cab” okay, that was a nowhere. It really is chilly. I give a tiny, unmanly, shiver.
“Bhaiya, AC off karr do” even though I ask the driver to switch off the air conditioner, it looks like he’s not even heard me.
“So it’s pretty late huh?” I ask, keeping up this getting-weirder-by-minute noir drama.
“Is it?” One normal answer God, please.
I’m not quite near my house, there’s almost no one around. Shops are closed. There’s occasionally a truck passing by in high speed in the flyover. We get off the flyover and are nearing one of the lanes, and the car stops abruptly. My cabbie turns and looks at her. It’s quite something, you see, he looks at her like he’s angry. After a second she just gets out of the cab and leaves! I try to follow where she’s going but the moment I turn for a second to look at my driver, and turn back, poof. She’s gone. The relief is so palpable I exhale for the longest time. And about time, because my phone is now dead. The car starts again.
By now I’m sure she was a prostitute and she would have gotten money out of me. People are into weird shit. Whatever floats their boat, I suppose. I’m just relieved that my driver took care of this. Man, this is good. He didn’t even say a word. I’m totally giving him 5 stars. Saved my life. I mean, not that I thought there was any real danger, but I was creeped out. Now I just really want to go home. I’m pretty much sober now, though I’m sweaty like I’ve run a mile.
“Thank you bhaiya! Why did she get out like that?”
“She’s not needed”
“But she told me she will get out last…”
“She in the wrong car, you know”
“Oh, so she was supposed to be in another cab?” I highly doubt that.
“She was here to take you, kid. You know what she was”
As in? A prostitute?
“She’s often seen in that area, getting out of the cemetery at around the same time. In the past year four cars have gone missing.”
I think I go a little pale. A ghost then. Preeta was right! She talked about seeing things. How close I’d come. Seriously. I can only imagine everyone’s reaction tomorrow. Everyone would have been searching for me- only I would be missing. God knows where.
Showing the last bit of my bravado, I say “But nothing happened…how far are we from home?”
At this the car stops. My driver stops, turns and stares at me. “Do you know why she wasn’t needed?”
No…no I didn’t…
“Because I’m already here.” He smiles for perhaps the first time in the whole one hour. His eyes are slightly bloodshot. The smell from his open mouth facing me, is like rotting carcass. “Don’t you think two ghosts in one car is overkill, kid?”
Image from favim.com
(Psst… Uber is awesome, though.)