That’s where the road ends…
I squinted. Tony was busy giving me a review of the new ride we had just picked up from the dealer earlier and he stood right in the glare of the street lamp behind him. The doors clicked at the press of the button and we turned towards the bar, beaming. I was proud of the gleaming thing I had just parked right across the road. It was the fruit of my very hard labour.
“I cannot help looking at her breasts.” I was telling Tony about the girl I go running with. Well she did not know I go running with her, yet. She just knew I was always at the bench nodding at her whenever she smiled at me as she runs past. She always wore that black thing that clung to her and I would try not to stare but the effort often make me break into a sweat. But, I end up staring anyway, while droplets of sweat broke free from the skin on the top of my bald head, and dripped down the side of my face.
Tony’s eyes began darting around and it glazed over as a hot-thing in a short tight red dress leaned over to get her drink from the bar.
“Let me get that,” I pushed a fifty across to the bar tender. The hot body flashed her smile at me, and then at Tony who began talking to her. I phased out, my thoughts returning to the slender nimble body who sprung past me every morning.
She must have been accustomed to my presence on that bench every morning because of late she began to slow down to chirp a cheerful, “hello” as she bounces by . I even saw her stop this morning, when I looked up at her face. She had an expectant look, waiting for me to speak but I never smiled back. Neither did I speak. Her smile was warm, and bright. It made me feel uneasy, a little small.
She would stop at the bench a little way down from mine to stretch out her limbs. Her slim body had a strong silhouette. Firm. My eyes would run down her chest to her flat stomach, and back to her chest.
When she bends over, everything would go silent for me. And when she folded her top half downwards to touch the floor with her fingers I would watch her rounded joint, hearing nothing but my heartbeat. My eyes would scroll slowly and when they reach her thighs I would feel a little large, my clothes tightening around me. She would resume running and something inside me would want to run after her.
Or stand in front of her and then catch her in my arms, like net.
But I never had courage enough. I tried speaking to her once, but my voice shrank beyond reach and so the words that had formed in my head remained unspoken. My confidence wavered when it came to her, when she passes by I see it taking off its top hat turn to look away, shoulders shrugging. Nonchalant, and unhelpful.
My sister raised her eyebrows. “What do you mean you could not speak, shyness is not really your thing,” she said when I told her over our morning coffee. She was right, it was not. She was used to girls trailing behind me, her friends asking of me, and she was even bored, she said, of rolling her eyes at me when different girls emerge from my bedroom in the mornings.
“Grow up!” she would tell me, “you and Tony both.”
Well we should, we are half a decade short of forty.
But those words make Tony curl up like a hurt puppy. When I think of growing up I just visualise my glorious lifestyle flitting out the window, but Tony physically curls up swearing he hears the shutters roll down to shut him on the inside of a small dark space. I sucked on the end of my cigar, watching Tony chat up the hot young thing through a dim smoky screen.
That night, after dropping Tony off, I decided to veer off onto the open road for a long drive. Stepping on the accelerator I felt a certain courage well up. I sat tight on the leather seats and felt myself as an extension of the black metal steed that was mine. Its sleek lines were strong, its hood fierce and proud. Its eyes had a sharp determined glare as it pierced through the frail insufficient light of the streetlamps. I steered it proudly and felt courage welling up within me. Being inside that black metal machine made me feel strong, mighty. I could do anything. In the middle of the long winding road on that dark night I felt I could do anything. So I decided I would talk to her. I smiled as I promised myself to do just so the next day. I allowed the car to float effortlessly down the long stretch of road and thought of the things I would say to her.
Music and the speed insulated me in its bubble and I felt safe.
The sun shone down and I woke feeling like I had hardly slept, I could not seem to remember how or when I had gotten home. I shook off the tiredness and got out of bed, aching. Age does these things to you, I thought. I remembered the promise I made to myself and laughed at the conversations I had carefully mapped out in my head. I pulled my clothes on, still in a daze.
It was a serene morning and despite the tiredness, I glided effortlessly to the park and did my usual morning run. I arrived at my usual bench, impressed at myself, for I, had beat my own time. Must have been the anticipation I thought. I patted myself on the shoulders anyway.
I froze when I saw her. She was approaching the bench in her usual trot and I started sweating. I wiped it off and took a big gulp of water and with all my might put a smile on my face. She stared blankly through me and ran past without a smile. I frowned, discouraged. This talking thing was not going to be as easy as I thought.
I started running beside her and coughed up the words good morning, but her music must have been too loud. She did not hear me. So I just continued running by her side, at her pace.
A cyclist rode past and she waved. He waved back. I was slightly annoyed at the attention he got.
I told her my name, and asked her for hers.
I coughed loudly to get her attention.
She remained oblivious to my presence.I stopped running and sighed. I decided to head off home, and try again tomorrow. Or maybe I should take up cycling instead.
I ran up to the traffic light and a motorcyclist screeched to a stop.
Its brakes screamed.
The screaming brakes echoed in my head. I heard the sound of the ambulance, and the ringing telephone. I remembered the pain that shot through my arm when I tried to reach for it. I remembered not being able to move.
I remembered feeling safe, the black metal wrapped tightly around my body. I was shivering and I cowered lower into my seat to hide from the cold outside. I saw the men outside, shouting, knocking, as if trying to retrieve me.
I closed my eyes protected from the outside by the fading music.
Shadows, loomed before I saw black.
I looked by up at the red light.
And then I smiled. No wonder she could not see me.
I had left my body behind.