25th July 2012, 10.45 PM. KL Central
I sat sipping on a carton of chocolate milk while munching on a loaf of bread which I had bought from the 7 Eleven nearby at KL Central, quietly minding my own business in my 21 year old Proton Saga which is the source of my livelihood when a weird looking kid emerges out of nowhere, knocks on the window and beckons me to wind down the window.
Hastily I placed the loaf of bread in a corner and gulped down my carton of chocolate milk and threw the carton away in a wastebin nearby my feet and I quickly wound down the window.
He was a curious looking kid, about the age of 18 or 19, spiky hair, two piercings on his left ear with a tight blue body hugging t-shirt, black jeans and sneakers and he carried with him a backpack. Surely doesn’t look like a backpacker to me.
The moment I wound down my window he asks me, “Boss, one ride to Penang. Okay?”
I thought for a while and named my price, “RM 400.”
“RM 400??” He had an accent. And judging from it he sounded Iranian.
“Yes RM 400, Penang’s far my friend.”
“You no cheat me?”
“If I cheat you I’ll tell.” That was the dumbest reply I’ve ever given. But this dude seems rich, and he’s going to a far place. And he’s Iranian. So they’re dumb. It might be worth the drive.
“Owh come on. RM 350. Please.”
“I’m sorry, only RM 400.”
“Okay, RM 360. How? Can?”
I thought for a moment. “Alright, RM 390.”
“RM 390…” he calculated with his fingers and then beamed at me, “Okay good. RM 390. Deal!”
What a moron.
I helped him place his bag into the back bonnet but it was too huge so we decided to leave it at the backseat. He got into the car and I started the engine. I sighed as I changed the gear from Neutral to Gear One. It’s going to be a long night.
We were silent on the road and as I made a turning onto the highway, that’s when he broke his silence.
“Hi my name is Amir.” He tried shaking hands with me, but my two hands were on the wheel, and since I’m a paranoid person, I’m extremely careful with my driving, I did not shake hands with him. Instead I nod my head and said, “I’m Sam.”
“Nice to meet you Sam. Is it okay if I smoke?”
I turned and looked at him, thought for a bit and then realised, what the hell, it’s going to be a 4 hour journey. Might as well let him smoke. So I wound down the window and as the breeze from the outside gushed in, he lighted a cigarette.
“Naise beathre.” he said. I couldn’t hear him because the air that was rushing in drowned his voice.
“What??” I asked him.
“Naise beathree.” I still couldn’t hear him. So I wound up the window and then I asked, “I’m sorry, you were saying?”
“I said nice weather” and he let out a puff of smoke.
“Jesus!” I wound the window back down.
We were quiet for most of the time he smoke. He finished smoking and then wound the window back up and then asked me, “Do you smoke Sam?”
“No I quit a long time ago.”
“Why? How come?” There was something strangely funny and annoying about his accent.
“It’s bad for the health. You know, the lungs.”
“Lungs. But if you need to die, then you have to die.”
“That’s correct. But I don’t want to die with a bunch of wires stuck up my ass and peehole for something as trivial as lung cancer.”
He thought for a bit and then said, “They don’t stick wires up your arse and your pee pee if you have lung cancer.”
“Yes they do.” I was starting to get annoyed. It had been a long night. I was thinking of going home when he came along. I agree sometimes waiting for a bait is good. Especially if the fish is big. But if you’re the only one who’s going to carry this big heavy prize fish home, I should have just let it back into the sea. Ah well, lesson learnt.
“No they don’t.”
“Look. You have lung cancer right? You can’t move much. How are you going to shit and pee with all those mechanical stuff stuck to you?”
“I’ll remove them and go take a shit.”
“You can’t do that!”
I was getting tired. “Okay fine. I quit because it’s a personal choice. You’re happy smoking. I’m not.”
I turned on the beam lights. The road was getting darker.
“You seem like a very unhappy man Sam.”
I thought for a bit and then replied, “What makes you think that?”
“From the way you speak. I can sense it. I’m a spiritual person.”
“You’re unhappy with life. Come on man, tell me what are you unhappy about? We’ve got how long more to go before we reach Penang?”
“4 hours plus.” I replied.
“Yes 4 hours. So tell me. Let your words wash over me.” As he said that, he made a motion with his hands, as though he was imagining that he was pouring a bucket of water on himself.
“Ahh come on friend. Tell me. I’m not going to meet you anyway next time. We’re strangers. So feel free to talk.”
“The world’s a small place. I don’t talk to strangers.”
“The world’s a small place. I don’t talk to strangers.” he mimicked me, half mockingly. “We’ve got 4 hours of awesome pure quality time to get to know each other. You don’t need to be afraid of me. I’m just talking to you so that you don’t fall asleep.”
“I’m used to this. I can never fall asleep.”
“Really? How come?”
“I have my ways.” with that, I shoved my hands into my shirt pocket, pulled out a mint bottle and took two mint gums from the bottle and popped them into my mouth. I motioned him to take some, but he rejected it.
“I hate mint. However, I got something that might keep me awake as well.” He turned to the backseat and took a good 5 minutes finding for the “thing” that he was looking for. Each time he kept muttering to himself, “Fuck, fuck, fuck where is it?”
“Ahh found it!” and he brought out a box of Marlboro Black Menthol.
“Cigarettes…” I shook my head.
“Owh no. Not your normal cigarettes.”
“What do you mean?”
He takes out a cigarette, which didn’t really look like a cigarette at all. Infact it looked like it was rolled by someone and not the factory. It didn’t look proper and that’s when it struck me.
“Mother fucker you’re not gonna smoke weed in my car!”
“Who said this is weed? This is Marlboro Menthol!”
“Marlboro my ass and menthol my foot! Put that shit back in or I’m kicking you of my car!”
“Owh come on man! It’s just a 4 hour journey. Plus the highway’s dark and yes we can share.”
“I don’t do weed!”
“You should try it.” As he said that, with a quick succession he lighted a joint for himself. I tried stopping the car but there were cars behind me and we were going on 100 K/MPH.
“Fuck you man! If I get caught, I’m pulling you into jail with me.”
“Chill out man. Life’s…” he takes a puff and then blows the smoke out. “…transient.”
There was an awkward moment of silence as I smelt the stench of weed in my car.
“It smells like shit.” I said.
“Ofcourse it does! This here is good shit.”
I kept the speed at 80 K/MPH because I started feeling relaxed.
“I’m sorry for being mean, Amir. Just been having a tough week” I said.
“Nahh chill out brah.” And that’s when I realised his accent changed. It was back to a Malaysian accent.
“Did you… aren’t you Iranian?”
He changed his accent back to Iranian. “Yes I am!”
“But I heard you saying something in a Malaysian accent.”
“You didn’t.” he said. “You’re high man.” He added.
“You think so?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’m positive.”
“Life’s transient eh?”
“I said, life’s trans….. what’s that word… I forgot. Ahh screw it. Where we going again?”
“Penang man.” He said it again in the Malaysian accent.