I should’ve realized how the day would get when I broke the shoelace of my left
shoe in the morning.
Or when I forgot the car keys inside the car.
Or, when the judge, on grounds of two counts for adultery, one for mental
harassment and one for domestic abuse, granted my ex-wife the bungalow and the
Those should have been the signs that this day would end as anything but
Even my ever-faithful Jack was proving to be highly inefficient. With half the bottle
empty (or half full; at this point, I was way beyond bother), the dull throbbing in my
head matched the rhythm of this hell of a thunderstorm. This constantly twisting
and turning road wasn’t helping either. It was like a giant ink-black snake trying to
slither its way to the top of the mountain.
Earlier that day, my attorney had given me the filthiest look one could manage
while being on the subject’s payroll. With a 3-day stubble, and not one of those
sexier ones you find outside a modelling agency office, I certainly looked less than
presentable. Add to that a once-expensive black suit that looked like it had been
slept in and leather shoes (with a missing shoelace) that had successfully avoided a
clean cloth for some time now, and it was no wonder the jury did not reconcile me
with the ‘hard-working, honest family man’ that my attorney had been spouting
about for the past six months.
The thunderstorm was threatening to reach its howling best. The pouring rain had
reduced visibility on the road to almost nothing. There were just two narrow,
bouncing headlights moving blindly over the unending snake.
Just as one of my windshield wipers stopped working, I spotted him for the first
What I saw in my rear-view were two highly distorted pricks of light piercing the
darkness I was leaving behind. Judging by the bouncing quality of light, John Doe
seemed to be in even more hurry than I was. Though I should have felt better
having another person to share the menacing night and my death-wish with my
brain (whatever part was still functioning. Jack was making its presence felt now.)
had already classified him as the intruder on my territory of the night.
The mountain was mine; the snake was mine.
The intruder had already reached me by the time I got my windshield wiper to work
again. I could see his car more clearly now. It was similar, if not exactly same, to
my car. The color was perhaps black to my ‘more sophisticated’ midnight blue. The
car looked in need of a visit to a workshop. Both the windshield wipers were
completely inert. It was a wonder this idiot had managed to drive so far at this
speed. I was almost marvelling at his driving skills when he started honking.
At first, it was just a single short honk. Harmless enough. But soon, he switched to
the type of horn you hear when the driver drops dead in the seat. The incessant
honk, coupled with the near-deafening thunderclaps and rain that seeps to the
bones, was driving me to the edge. It was like all the day had to offer, night had
stuffed in a bag, shaken vigorously, and thrown at my face. That’s when I decided:
This idiot is not getting past tonight. You had the day; the night is mine. I steered a
little to the left and then as soon as he sped up to overtake, slid right in front of
him. As expected, his horn became even more expressive, if that was possible. A
squelch of a laugh erupted from my mouth, even though I would have had trouble
pointing out the joke.
His tailgating got even more aggressive. He began to come up right close to my car
and then back off, even lightly scraping my car once. It felt like somebody was
poking me from a deep slumber. I think I heard something snap inside me.
The gloves were off. Apparently, adrenalin and alcohol are not so good for your
He was extremely competitive, that I can tell you about him. Neither of us yielded
an inch. The sound of screeching added to the night of thunder. We both knew we
were at the end of our patience and luck. The question was- Who would run out of
it first. Every time he decided on a direction, I would anticipate. It was as if we were
getting our orders from the same master. A passer-by would have thought we were
a part of the president’s convoy. Given the condition of his car, it was remarkable
how he kept perfect pace with me.
And just when the battle was moving towards a certain stalemate, the events o the
night took an unexpected turn, much like this road that was our battleground.
We were heading towards a rather precarious bend to the left in the road ahead.
This was especially tricky as it was just tempting enough to seduce my tailgater to
attempt an overtaking manoeuvre. Determined not to let him pass, I had my eye
firmly on the rear-view mirror when suddenly my unreliable windshield wipers gave
way. They just dropped dead, as if a sniper had shot them. That distraction of a
second was all that my tailgater needed to take his chance. He swiftly swerved to
my right and accelerated. Even before I heard the screeching of his tires and the
protest of the engine against the acceleration, I knew the battle was over. As his car
drew abreast, the weight of the day finally proved too unbearable. With a ferocious
cry not unlike a wounded predator, I jerked my wheel with all my strength to my
As he passed me, I hit his car’s swiftly receding boot. The car swerved a little and
my adversary countered the steering wheel to negate the impact. For a second, it
looked as if he would get it under control and my mistakes of the day would end
there. But with a sudden twitch, the car swerved wildly to one side and flipped. The
whole event looked like a fascinatingly macabre performance. With three flips, the
car came to a screeching halt, resting on its hood. To me, it suddenly felt like
someone had turned the volume down to absolute zero. I was uncomfortably very
aware of my breathing. My first reaction was to gun my engine and speed away. It
was hard to imagine a human body surviving the impact of this magnitude. But as
relatively saner thoughts returned, a morbid curiosity of taking one last look at this
intruder took hold of me. I did not turn off my engine. Leaving my jacket on the
seat, I stepped out in the rain, as if spellbound by the dance of death I had just
witnessed. As soon as I stepped out, the volume was turned up.
The rain had been worse than I thought. By the time I took the fifth step, every
inch of my body had been breached. My shoes squelched in the rain. Tire marks,
after a few twists, disappeared in the darkness. Tar had been chipped off from the
road where the car had hit it. There was an acrid smell of burning rubber. The road
was still recovering from what it had witnessed; the conspicuous steam rose from
the assault of the tires. What had started as just another bleak day in a
progressively bleaker looking life was inching towards the end with this journey.
The strangest thing about this strange journey is that it began with a word. I had
woken up with a start today when someone had whispered ‘guilty’ in my ear. As I
struggled to gather my bearings to meet the challenges that only a morning of
hangover can device, I had almost convinced myself that it was part of some weird
dream I was having given my impending divorce trial. But they don’t pronounce
you ‘guilty’ at a divorce hearing, do they? I mean there were a couple of bruises
over the years and this one time I had to take her to the emergency, but surely my
conscience wasn’t suddenly uncomfortable with my certain dark moments. I
thought we had made peace years ago.
I slowly made my way to the car. Up close, the car looked more midnight blue than
black. Given the wreckage all around me, it was impossible to be sure either way. I
could not spot my tailgater. I reached the car and peeled off the door. Door
stubbornly stuck for a moment, but then gave way. Eager flames snapped at the
rear end of the car. Veiled by the smoke, I pulled the bastard out of the car. I
looked into the face that must have mirrored my own incredulity.
Looking back at me with open disbelief was my face.
(c) Vaibhav Sharma