***NOTE: Read the previous chapter here.
25th July 2011, 11.30 PM. Somewhere on the North South Highway.
It started drizzling a little as I found my senses. I was still a little relaxed, and I could hear Amir going on about a monkey riding a horse (don’t ask me why he was telling me about it) and suddenly, that’s when it kicked in. Suddenly I started feeling paranoid.
“So you know, the monkey sits on the horse and… dude you okay?” Amir stops half way as he sees my face turning pale.
“No.. no.. I’m f..fine.” I said and I tightened my grip on my steering wheel.
“Owh shit..” he says as he observes me. “You’re feeling paranoid.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not man! Okay! I’m not paranoid. I.. I just wanna drive and get away from this place.”
He lights a ciggi and says, “See. Paranoia. But it’s totally normal. Just don’t fight it. Let it flow bro. Life’s transient man.” and he lets out a puff.
I started shuddering. I felt… fearful. Scared. I was afraid that the cops might stop us any time soon and brisk us for weed.
“What if they find out?”
“The cops. What if they find out?”
“They can’t man. The road’s dark and besides the smell’s gone.”
I sniffed the air. “You sure?”
“Hell yeah brah!”
“Here.” I motioned him to come closer. “Sniff my jacket.”
He comes closer and takes a sniff. “Jesus man! You need a bath bro!”
“Do I smell like weed??”
“No! But you need to take a shower! Some good scrubbing under the arm pits would do you good.” I was still feeling a little paranoid and Amir sensed it.
“Here, maybe this might help.” he said as he took a few puffs and filled the whole car with his cigarette smoke. I didn’t mind it this time. I realised what he was doing. He was trying to substitute the smell of weed with the smell of cigarettes.
I breathed a sigh of relief and I was back relaxed. The rain started to get heavier as I slowly drove on.
“Why Penang?” I asked him.
There was silence. I thought he fell asleep so I turned to him and he was wide awake, his eyes wide open and I knew he was pondering for an answer. From the shadows created by the street lights that zoomed past us like fireflies in the distant night, I knew this boy was not an ordinary boy. He has reasons and goals. It’s just that he chose to mask them so well that it takes a magician to slowly peel it bit by bit to reveal the secret hidden in the black top hat.
“I have to go there.” He finally said.
He turned to me and smiled, “Because it’s destiny.” And that’s when I realised he had changed his accent back to a Malaysian one.
I hit on the breaks and turned the car to the emergency lane and got out of my taxi.
“Okay man!” I said as I got out. I could hear cars zooming past us.
“Wow! What the fuck’s going on man??” He got out of the car as well.
“Now tell me” I walked and held him by the neck and pinned him to the car booth. “Where are you from and what’s your real name!” The rain pelted us.
“Wow man! Chill! Relax! Weed’s supposed to make you at peace man.. not shoving people like that man!”
“I don’t care!” I tightened my grip on his neck. “Tell me who the fuck are you! You’re not Iranian, that is for sure!”
“Okay! Okay! I’ll tell you! Loosen the grip bro! It’s hurting me.”
I loosened my grip on him.
“I’m a Malaysian. The name’s Shyam.”
“Yeah Shyam. Shyam Sunder. I’m 17. Now would you let me go?”
I let him go and he brushed himself. “Damn…” he muttered as he looked at me.
“But why lie about your name?”
“Because I ran away from home.”
There was silence between us as the rain slowly pelted onto our face and head.
“Get in.” I said. He hesitated. I looked at him and screamed, “Get IN!”
He got in and I followed suit.
“You’re not gonna drive me to a police station.” he said as he got in.
“Because I paid you.”
“I’ll give you back your money.”
He was getting desperate. “Look, there’s no police station here.”
“We’ll drive to one then.” I said slowly as I started the engine.
“Well you can’t.” and he grinned.
And it was my turn to ask. “Why not?”
“Because I’ll tell them you smoked weed” and with that, he gave me a wink.