Disclaimer: This post is based on a true story, however few instances have been exaggerated to make it an interesting read. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental Also, the title is shamelessly plagiarized from that British movie even though it is not verbatim. Expect lawsuits to ensue
Four Characters and My Funeral
“Okay, I know you’ve driven before and perhaps you are a skillful driver. But let me tell you this – there was this guy from India who claimed like you did, but when he went to get his driver’s license, he seemed to look for a steering wheel on the passenger side”
“Uh..why?” I asked, a little confused.
“It seems that the vehicles in your part of the world has a steering wheel on the right side of the car”
He was correct; I had almost sat behind the steering wheel of the car that had come to receive me in the airport a week ago. Jeremy Hutchinson, the blue eyed boy who worked at the international student’s office was my peer coach. He helped me move into this brand new apartment, drove me to Big K Mart for grocery shopping, helped me open my bank account, register my classes, and drive a car.
“…..so you see, a STOP means a complete stop” He added as we were driving along in a narrow road not too far away from the University.
“Last time that same Indian dude sped past a stop sign at 40 miles an hour, lucky for us there wasn’t a car coming."
I religiously followed all his advice. I stopped at the stop sign for six good seconds and did not budge until he told me ‘okay that was enough’. Not that I didn’t know about stop signs, I had been outside Nepal few times prior to coming to America, but I didn’t want to come across like a smartass to him. Over next few hours I realized driving in America was as easy as riding a motorbike during Nepal bandh, if I weren’t stopped by those hoodlums that is.
My first week in America and I was already a pro driver. Not only driving, I had also learnt how to brew coffee, deposit money through ATM, knew what to order at the local Hardee’s and operate the laundry machine. In next two weeks I felt like I had lived in America for last 20 years. But there was a caveat, I wasn’t still a consummate American; I still had to buy a car. I had twenty-five hundred dollars left in my bank account after all initial expenses and I could use that money to buy a car. My stipend of modicum 800 dollars, which meant a lot of money then, would hit my bank account in a week and I could easily use a little from that to put in the car as well. My budget was therefore three thousand dollars.
“Three Grands!!!” Jeremy’s eyes had widened. “ Dude you are loaded, I never met a guy from South Asia who could put so much of money on a car as a student – ever!!”.
“You know? That dude from India……”
“Okay…..” I interrupted; I had started to get a little aggravated listening about that Indian dude. I had heard so much of his stories; he just felt like some distant cousin I was yet to meet. “…..can you please get me a used car?”
“I can, but here is a friendly advice” his hands moved parallel in this forward motion so as to underscore what he was telling me next. “You do not want to spend that kind of money in a used car, being a foreigner, you might want to save some for a rainy day, and I can get you cheaper. In fact, that Fabio guy is going back to Brazil in a week, he just graduated, he has an 80s Chevy Lumina with 160K miles on it, I am sure I can cut you a deal”
160K miles didn’t sit well with me, but that was not a bad idea. I could use the extra money to buy some sneakers, or maybe I could take one of those Thai girls out, I could also buy a laptop, but it was a little out of my reach.
“F&*k off” was what we both heard when we knocked at Fabio’s door next Saturday morning. But Jeremy kept knocking despite Fabio’s incessant tirades until the six foot four Brazilian finally opened the door. His eyes were sullen and red, and he was visibly upset. He smiled at Jeremy and looked down at me, almost ready to throw a punch.
I swallowed hard and made a bleak attempt to smile.
“He is our new International student” Jeremy introduced him to me without even bothering to mention my name, he knew my tongue twisting name would perhaps irritate the already irate Brazilian.
“He wants to buy your car”. He added.
Suddenly Fabio’s eyes sparkled and he shook hands with me with eagerness. He then took us to the other side of his apartment where he had parked his car. It was a Maroon Chevy Lumina with the paint chipped off at few places, the interior wasn’t so bad, there were coffee stains on the seat and empty soda cans, bag of chips, dirty sneakers, a soccer ball, few hangers and tennis balls were lying berserk all over. It was filthy but still manageable.
“300 dollars and she is all yours” Fabio grinned.
“Seriously???” I raised my brows. It was one tenth of the price I was supposed to spend. I quickly did the math, I was instantly saving 27 hundred dollars.
“Yes, but it doesn’t have air-conditioning, and…..” he paused for a moment, “…….the reverse gear doesn’t work”
“What?” I gulped. “It doesn’t go reverse? How could you even drive it?”
“The catch is - you’d have to park it at a place which is sloped, with its face facing uphill. So when you put the car in neutral, it slides back down and then you can start and put it in forward gear”
“How much would it take to fix it?” I asked.
“A thousand dollar maybe, maybe more” Fabio smirked.
I was still blinking in confusion when Jeremy snapped.
“250, and he’s going to buy it right now”
Next thing I knew, I was driving the car to my apartment with Jeremy following me in his.
“Remember, never park with its face pointing downhill if you cannot go straight” were the last few words from Fabio.
“You need a girlfriend now” Jeremy said without looking at me, he was picking on his enchilada at the local Mexican restaurant. I had bought him a Nike sneaker, took him to see a movie, and now was feeding him in a Mexican restaurant. It had all cost less than 100 dollars when I had saved twenty seven times more, I wasn’t complaining.
“Yeah”, I said thoughtfully, “I was thinking about asking that Thai girl out”
There was this cute girl from Thailand who was fresh off the boat like me, I had helped her register the classes and bought her a tiny meal at the KFC the other day.
“Thai girl? Why Thai? Rachel, the girl who works next to my office is single. And she seems to be interested in you”
“Me?” I gasped. “Would she like me?”
“Yeah dude, she is anthropology major, she likes International students, and she is pretty, a lot prettier than that Thai girl.”
Of course she was. She was a tall blonde athletic bombshell, who always smiled at me when I went to meet Jeremy. Comparing her to that Thai girl was like comparing Marilyn Monroe to Gauri Malla. But then comparing her to me was also like comparing Marilyn Monroe to Om Puri. Okay maybe I am not as bad looking, but still, I struggled to acknowledge I had a chance. I wanted to ask Jeremy if she’d have sex with me, but for some reason I didn’t. Maybe I was a little coy.
So it only took me a week and two hundred dollars to sleep with Rachel. I bought her a philly cheesesteak the first day, I bought her a small Elizabeth Arden perfume few days after that, and I threw a party on Friday and invited few guys and girls in my class along with Jeremy, Rachel and her best friend where I paid for beer and chips and pizza. She stayed with me that night.
I had also paid for the condoms.
I had two thousand dollars in my bank account, a car that wasn’t too bad and a trophy girlfriend. I also had a tv without a remote control, a sofa that would creak every time it sat somebody, a twin bed and a rickety dining table (thanks to some Jesus fearing church members). Besides, my aunts sent me few hundred dollars and some clothes from California first few months. My life was complete; I felt I was on cloud nine. I found a way to go to this Red Cross place to get free condoms, so I saved on that as well.
Rachel’s apartment was few blocks away from mine, but she stayed with me most of the time. Each morning we’d go to our classes. And in the afternoon I worked for a professor on his research while she worked in the International student office. In the evening I worked out in the gym while she practiced Lacrosse. We made dinner together later in the evening and had sex before we slept.
I sprained my ankle the day Rachel bought her first cell phone. While my swollen ankle looked like a pumpkin, her new cell phone looked like a transistor - as if we had to compete each other in equal sizes. It was frigid 1998 January morning when I slipped off the icy parking lot and twisted my ankle mercilessly. After lying in the icy bed for approximately 15 seconds, I had somehow managed to haul myself to the car, put it in neutral, let it slide back down and then drive to the university clinic to see a doctor. Even when nothing was broken, the doctor told me to take extreme precaution while walking.
Rachel was home playing with her phone when I arrived later that evening. And after a quick ‘Omigosh are you okay?’ she refocused on her cell. She called few people quickly and asked me if I wanted to call someone. I declined politely.
“Hey babe, I know you are hurt, but do you want to go see ‘Good Will Hunting’ tonight?” She asked me as she prepared dinner.
“Umm..sure” I replied without much interest. During those days I still hadn’t gotten over my penchant for action movies so a fabulous movie like ‘Good Will…’ meant nothing to me. I knew they talked all the time in that movie and there wasn’t a single second of action.
We drove to the nearby movie theater slowly after meal. It had begun to snow again and I was driving gingerly, the last thing I wanted to do was to break another bone in my body. Rachel was on a phone with her mother who was waiting on her dad outside J C Penny. I parked at my favorite spot before going inside the theater. It was the parking space at the other side of the theater, which was slightly uphill.
“Trrring Trrring, Trring Trring” Rachel’s phone suddenly screamed in the pitch dark theater. The woman next to me looked at her and scoffed.
“Sorry, it’s my mom, I’ll be right back” Rachel whispered and hurried towards the exit.
Robin Williams had just arrived few minutes ago and his supposed awesome exchange with Matt Damon was making very little sense to me. I yawned and looked around. Everyone else was focused in the movie. I saw Rachel enter the theater and slowly climb up the stairs holding her cell phone which was still glowing in the dark.
“My dad is still occupied, so I need your car to go pick her up. Also, she wants me to stay with her for the weekend so I shall pick her up, drive her home, and get my brother’s truck so we can both drive here to return your car”. She whispered again.
I nodded. She had an extra key. I didn’t really hear what she said, but figured she was leaving the car behind.
I slept through the remainder of the movie after that, and when I woke up, the screen was running end credits. I looked at the woman next to me; she was staring at me in disbelief. She mumbled something inaudibly looking at me with disgust and left. I might have snored.
As I dragged my body on my semi broken leg out of the theater, the icy wind hit my face. The temperature had plummeted quite a bit and the thin jacket I wore wasn’t helping much. I then hobbled towards the other side of the theater where Rachel said she would park the car.
Rachel had parked the car much nearer than where I had parked before, and I was momentarily glad that I didn’t have walk that extra 20 yards. As I limped quickly towards the vehicle, I was thinking of making some gin and tonic for myself and watch that unfinished tape of ‘Girls Gone Wild’ before going to bed.
I smiled at the thought and flung open the door when I realized….
…..that the car was parked downhill....
....facing a wall.
Last edited: 13-Aug-12 07:29 AM