I met her in the bare concrete of the road but it was like a garden bloomed around her nonstop. Had a smile like carnations and eyes like hummingbirds, full of force and shine. She was whistling for an autorickshaw when I spotted her, so I ran quick before my chance slipped off. “Hey,” I said. “We’re both wearing orange. Want to share a cab?”
She smiled, a little hesitant. “Where are you going?”
“Anywhere,” I said. “Anywhere at all.”
At that moment she did what I’ll never forget. This woman, whose name I had let to learn, put her arm around my shoulder and squeezed me tight. “Alright, handsome,” she said. “Let’s go.”
An auto pulled up then, and I remember it perfectly because a female driver was unusual — some nervous grandma with a funny shawl tied over her hair. Maybe that’s where she kept her driver’s licence and insurance papers, who knows. She leaned over and gave us that look they always do without speaking, those expectant eyes awaiting your destination. “Vishwavidyalaya,” said my orange companion. “Metro station ke pas.”
“Tik hai ji,” the driver murmured. She spat an ochre jet of betel-tinged saliva in the road and glanced in the rearview before opening the throttle and launching into the traffic’s raging current. Those nervous eyes again.
I spun round to see what had her worried, and just as we pulled out I saw a strange man in the road behind us. I’m not sure what it was about him — I mean he wasn’t even looking at us, his eyes were off the other way. But he had a funny vibe, something frightening. Like he knew things you didn’t.
Then like that we were gone and all I could see was a crush of bikes and lorries. Anyway I didn’t have time to think about oddballs in the street. I was with a girl, and I was in love.