He turned up the collar of his dowdy brown woolen coat and pulled it higher to save himself from the biting winter wind that was howling around the city. It covered his face almost up to his nose, no would be able to see his face the way he was all covered up
Well, not like anyone in this town knew him anyways. It’s a dreadful city, too big and everyone is a stranger. Unlike his little town where everyone was a friendly neighbor, nobody had said Hi to him in these past 2 weeks and from the fear of being getting mace-d at again, he had stopped trying to do that himself
Standing in the subway station waiting for his train to arrive, he flipped down his collar again, it was mercifully better down here. Shuffling from foot to foot while groaning inwardly about getting another cheap Chinese takeaway in a box, he looked up and found himself looking into pale grey eyes showing from between heavy chocolate bangs
It was her, that vibrant fuchsia jacket of hers had caught his eye in the cue earlier as well. Her eyes were still observing him sharply, making him nervous. Despite the cold his palms got clammy and the Adam’s apple bobbed up and down visibly as he gulped, wishing he wasn’t turning red around the ears…but he was.
“Hi!” she smiled, “bitter cold it is this time of the year innit”
He managed a small jerky nod
“Not from here, are you?” Again, he barely managed to shake his head in a response.
“It’s a big unfriendly city, self absorbed and unwelcoming for outsiders” she spoke again, unnerved by his lack of vocals, “anyways, I have a party plan tomorrow, come with me. I’ll pick you at 7 from the downtown square”
She walked away, and with each step she took away from him, his breath regularized. Wow..joy washed over him. He had a date, just like that. So much for this city being unfriendly…Ha!
He rushed home with his usual Chinese takeaway box, swallowed through the almost cold content and opened a small trunk at the base of his bed. It contained a very old denim shirt that he had kept safe and clean for some special occasion and this could be it.
As if a fragile butter paper, he unfolded it and steamed the creases out instead of ironing, lest he accidently snagged his only good shirt. Looking down at his mud and rain stained trousers, the hems almost threadbare, he cringed. A few dollars that he had kept aside to buy a bike to go to and from work, will have to be used for new denims…he sighed.
Not wanting to risk his only chance at a social debut, the next morning saw him at a local shopper’s avenue from where he purchased a good sturdy pair and promised himself to use it for the next few years.
A few hours to go till his luck changes, he thought and started to prepare himself for the big night. Nails cleaned, cuticles removed, scrubbed pink behind the ears and shaved till he thought he’d removed a thin layer of skin altogether.
Neat…that’s what he was, not cool nor flamboyant, but he preferred it that way as he sculpted his hair with a sharp side parting and settled it in place with watered down hair gel. He was ready an hour before time, partly because he felt if he waited anymore, the butterflies in his stomach would double up enough to take flight with him, and partly because he had to walk 3 miles to get to downtown square. No way would he risk getting late and have her leave without him. No way!
He picked up pace to warm himself and to get to his destination fast. The brown coat all but flapped around his lanky frame and the steam of breath emitting from his mouth started to freeze on the lower half of his dark round eye glasses
Hopping over the last of the multiple steaming potholes on the narrow foot path, he finally made it to the square and stood beneath a day glo sign to make sure she wouldn’t miss him. Minutes went by till he got bored of his own staccato teeth chattering and pacing around the sign
An hour and 10 minutes late, he spotted a red civic speed in and screeched to a stop right in front of him. The window glass throbbed with the beat of the loud music inside…she sat on the driving seat, looking straight ahead instead of looking at him. Her cherry red lips opening and closing as she chewed gum as if it was a rag doll being thrown around inside a cement mixer.
Without further ado he hopped in and tried to mouth a Hello but the music was too loud
“Don’t touch my music” She shouted over the blare as if reading his mind, making him withdraw the hand he was about to forward to lower the volume. Driving at neck break speed, she roared across the city into the suburbs
Hell, she could have picked me up, He thought as his neighborhood passed by. Finally their journey came to a halt in front of a dilapidated old and dark cottage.
“Umm..is this the place?” he finally got the toad out of his throat and spoke up. She turned around to face him after locking the car, her chocolate curls spilling out from under the woolen cap.
“What do you mean? Expecting a rave were you?” she smiled cheekily, just enough to warm his blood all over again. “I am a nurse, the party here mainly has a couple of nurses and doctors who like to party but while…you know…laying low. Privacy is very important” She winked
He followed her to the door and stepped into a gloomy purple foyer. Desperately needing lights, but perhaps it was thematic get-to, he thought glancing nervously at his clothes again…Did I overdo with these trousers? He thought gloomily
He looked up to see a large dark man with surly expressions come forward..Aah bouncers…so this is classy after all. A slow smile spread on his face at the prospect of what tonight could bring him.
He was feeling cold, very cold. It took a ton of efforts to open his eye. It took a few minutes to realize what he was looking at, a tub of ice.
A tub if ice and he was inside it…pink ice.
What happened? Did he drink so much that he fell into the punch bowl? His heart constricted at the thought of a social nightmare this could be. Looking around, there was no one there. How long had he been out?
A slice of pain shot through him, he was getting a frost bite, clearing his head some more. There was no one in the room except him, in a tub of pink ice in a centre of a room. There was just a mirror on the wall where some had written a number with a lipstick. What luck, there was a phone beside him.
He wanted to go to sleep again, his eyes closed against his will. But why was the punch reddening? As if on auto pilot, he dialed the number written on a mirror.
It was answered immediately by a heavy man’s voice
“Yes?” the voice said
“Who are you?” he asked in a hoarse whisper
“Omg, we have another one…”the voice apparently shouted to someone in on the other side, he barely registered a flurry of movements. “Sir…We need you to stay online with us please…we must track this call to be able to reach you”
But he wasn’t listening, he was smiling with eyes half closed at the now red ice in the punch bowl he lay in, thinking of those cherry lips and chocolate hair, the phone slipped from his grasp and clattered on the floor.
“Sir…wake up, can you listen to me”…voices…so many voices around him, trying to make him move…
he groaned, wanting to go to sleep again…
Somewhere, in his subconscious he heard those voices say “Paramedics on their way, we have another one…but thank god he still has one of his kidney’s…she must have liked him.”
© Marium Arif