For a moment or two, I could not breathe. No matter how hard I tried to, my lungs stiffened and they could not endorse any air to freely make its way in or out. It was impossible to go about. While I sat still in my seat, frozen and iced up like actual ice itself, I processed everything that had happened as quickly and orderly as it had come to take place.
What had I just done? What was I thinking, inattentive and careless enough to smash into another car that was moving backwards toward mine? Was I prepared and able to meet the consequences of this accident, costly and high-priced they were? Was I really prepared to meet and fulfill them?
In no time, the door of the car that I had just slammed into swung open and a tall and potent-looking boy came out, seeming every way infuriated and nettled. His brow was creased and rumpled up, just like the skin beneath his eyes right above his nose. Shit! I was doomed to death! I sure was. The young man would without doubt kill me. He sure would.
Having made it to my car, he threateningly slapped a furious hand on the window of my vehicle. I blenched in my seat as I looked on at him. As my car had dark-tinted windows, he could not see me. But I myself on the other hand, I could discern and make him out very well. Very well indeed.
“Get the hell out of this car right now!” The man bellowed out, shaking and vibrating continually from excessive fury.
I quickly wound my window down and peeked out at him. He glared down at me instantly and our gazes locked, instantly and never-endingly. I was the one who first stirred—blinking my eyes and shifting about while declaring, “I am really sorry; I was just about to come out.”
Without hesitation, I slung the door open and stepped out, restless and anxious. What was going to happen to me? What would precisely come off me? What? What exactly?
Once I had took my stand in the faint glimmering sunlight—it had shortly just ceased to shower—I faced the man and uttered in a trembling voice, “Sir, I am really sorry for what happened. I truly am.”
Something had changed. No, not the weather; not the slight and yet existent sunlight; not the surrounding or environment about us. The glare in the man’s eyes—recently fervid and murderous—had been replaced by a gentle and short -lived ogling. In a matter of minutes, the man shook off his head to regain back his senses. He looked startled and bewildered at the same time. And for a time I stayed quiet, expecting harsh and ill-natured words from him, which, fortunately, he did not come to voice out.
To my shock, his foremost words were, “Is this your first time driving? I mean are you new at this? Steering a vehicle?”
What a great difference and contrariety to what I was expecting! Instead of receiving cruel and inhuman words, I got sweetly and caring words. My heart was so melted and stirred by that. It was as though my very own ears had deceived me. Had they?
“This is not my first time driving,” I answered nevertheless.
The man narrowed his eyes at me as if intending to glower. He didn’t do that in any case. It was shock and dubiety on his part which had triggered that behavior, I later on found out. That was what it seemed to be. Sure.
“I am really sorry.”
“There is no need to say that. We all do make mistakes you know. Big mistakings like this one.”
I uplifted my eyebrows. “You mean you are not offended by me—”
He cut me short straight away. “I am not. It was just the tail-lights that got ruined. I can fix them easily and cheaply.”
“Are you a mechanic?”
“Sort of. Alex Ramirez is my name, and I am in my third year of studying Engineering at this university. May I know your name and where you come from?”
“I am Sophia Solochi; I am new in this town and the university itself.”
“You are quite a charming lady, I must acknowledge, Sophia.”
I smiled weakly and shyly, dreading where our conversation was heading to. Would he not estrange and alienate all of a sudden without a sound reason? To be upright with you, I was the one at fault here, and for that reason, I had to accept whatever it was that was going to come my way. Anything at all. “Thank you, Alex.” My response was weakly and unsound and shaky, just like I had meant it to be.
Following that, Alex looked at my bonnet. It was so…damaged. But not overly wrecked. Each time that I would drive from now on, it had to go on yawning and gaping wide open. Like a slit and mangled shoe which you have put on while walking. People would obviously stare and deride my car, which I was averse to see happen about.
“I may fix that as well,” Alex added on.
What? No way! I would not let him. I was fortunate enough that he was not going to let me handle responsibilities for the damage of his car. That was enough, wasn’t it? And now I let him furthermore be accountable for the repairing and mending of my car? It was so unfair and insincere. Yes, it was.
“Yes.” His eyes immediately veered to me.
“I can’t let you…I mean I cannot let you bear the accountability of the piecing of my car. It would be too much and unjust and one-sided and insulting of me, don’t you think so?”
“Yes, I don’t.”
I was cut off before I had ventured any further. “I am a mechanic, Sophia. Not a professional and schooled one to be truthful. My father is the schooled and familiarized mechanic, and I learnt everything from him. If I ask him out, I am positive that he will give me a helping hand in the fixing of your car. I am not asking you to pay anything for it.”
“Let us do this. We will swap cars right this moment. I will go home in your car to repair and make adjustments as they are needed. I will come with it tomorrow, fixed and new-looking. You yourself on the other hand will take my car and bring it back tomorrow. I will fix the shattered lights lastly and finally. And to prove to you that I am no cheat or trickster, I will have you seize my identity cards just so you will be confident that I can be easily traced and followed should I make a go at fleeing away. You car looks a bit modern and quite expensive than mine, don’t you agree?”
“I have no arguments or queries with that.”
“Which is a ‘yes’ as I take it, isn’t it?”
Alex smiled at me warmly. His perfect smile…it dazzled my senses and swirl of emotions altogether. If I had not confessed it before, then now is the precise and rightful time. Alex was one such nice-looking and gorgeous guy. The kind of guy who, with his handsome face and energetic and well-molded body, would drive just about any woman insane and out of her mind. He had dark hair and dark eyes and olive skin and shady-like brown lips. At the moment, he was dressed in blue jeans and an immaculate white shirt and brown canvas shoes. He was ravishing in this in-complex and yet ingenuous attire. Like some bold and athletic model posing for a garb advertisement!
That night before I slept in my bed, lying down wide- eyed and wide-awake, I thought back to the moment when I had run into him. It was strange. But already I was starting to become attracted to him. Oh my! What nonsense and bull-sh*t this was! Was it normal to go bananas and irrational over some boy that I had just met hours ago? Was this actually some undeniable piece of bull-sh*t?
My interview had been awesome and hilarious and brilliant, all thanks to this boy called ‘Alex Ramirez’ whom I had just happened on. As I had took my seat down, glowing- looking and vivacious, I had by that moment been flown off into very high spirits, where I tarried and remained until after the interview was through. As I spoke with the interviewee, a tall and neatly-dressed-in-black woman named Vivian Sutherland, I had been this continually confident and smiling. Laughing and serious-behaved even. After the interview was through, Vivian had shook hands with me and eventually bid me farewell.
I walked away from the interview still in my glowing and luminous mood, which made those who were sitted and lined outside marvel and wonder at what was going on in there. Some group of three blond-haired girls asked me straight, to which I replied that nothing scary or intimidating was going in behind that closed door.
Alex’s car, a Jeep Cougar, was great fun and amusement to drive and ride. Although one of the oldest cars still around, it was the fastest thing that I had ever driven. Fifty minutes I had driven to the university in my car—a Ferrari Cordon. Thirty minutes I had driven from the university back home in Alex’s red-painted vehicle. The load of traffic was still much the same, free and unfilled.
Kris had gone out to shop vegetables and onions and tomatoes and the like when I arrived home. I picked up on it in the note that she laid on the wool carpet, straight after opening up the door. She would return in an hour or so, she surmised. That dinner, before I had packed off for bed that is, our conversation, in between boiled eggs and fried sausage and fried rice and carrots and boiled potatoes and glasses of juice, had been:
Kris, sipping steadily her glass of orange juice. “I noticed that you came back in a different car. One with the tail-lights broken and shattered. What happened to your legitimate car?”
I looked up at her suspiciously. “It got damaged. In a trivial accident that is and I sent it off for repairing.”
“A trivial accident? Why didn’t you tell me about it, Sophia?”
“I didn’t want to annoy or worry you. You were so pre-occupied with the cooking and cleaning up and rearranging of things. I didn’t want to disturb and bog down your high-flown spirits with my stupid account.”
“Suppose you had got hurt?”
“I didn’t, mom. That is the fortunate part of it all, isn’t it?”
She shook her head. “I don’t want you involved in anything like it again, Sophia, do you hear me?”
“So whose car is that anyway?”
“Alice’s. She is my newest friend. I met her today and we became great friends instantly. She was kind enough to lend me her car to drive myself here home. It is a long drive from school, remember, and she wouldn’t have me walk or board a bus all the way here.”
Kris merely frowned and scowled. “You are lucky to have such type of a friend. Be good to her always and make your friendship last as long enough as it possibly can. Anyway, how did your interview go?”
“Perfect. With Alice around, it was just amazing and heavenly. It all went smoothly and appropriately.”
“I trust that they will take you to be one of their first year students this semester.”
“They probably will, mom.”
“Tell me one question they asked you?”
“Why I want to study Fashion and Design.”
“And your response? How was it?”
“I showed the interviewee some pieces of clothing that I designed personally. She fell for them helplessly and even remarked that I have great talent. This is something I have wanted to do all my life. A dream I have worked hard for all these long and painful years just to accomplish and fulfill. I want to designate and style clothes that are health-giving and hygienic and which people of diverse and unlike cultures can embrace and accede to. I want to dress humanity well and efficiently.”
For a second, Kris looked at me wordlessly and taken aback, as if wanting to say something but then lacking the efficient strength and zeal to do so.
“What do you think?” I asked her.
She blinked instantaneously. “That was sublime. I wasn’t expecting to hear that from you to be clear-cut.”
“Yes, I wasn’t.”
It was strangely cold and unwelcoming in my bed. Maybe because it was raining outside. Hard and never- endingly. The roof above rattled and reverberated, the windows beneath it spattering and splashing up. Not that the roof on its own was rattling and reverberating and the windows themselves spattering and splashing. The rain was the agent and force behind these sounds. Without it, the sounds themselves would be non-existent.
I don’t know how I fell asleep; I just did; and when I woke up, morning had already dawned and broke forth. Flashes and streaks of sunlight filtered through the cream white curtains into my enormous room, newly-looking and a bit dazzling at first sight. The feelings themselves about me, they were sickly-like and shallow and sleazy-like.
I had no schooling to go about that precise day. No tutorial or teaching at all. Still, I managed to convince Kris that I would be out to meet Ashley and return her car to her. In fact, it was Alex Ramirez I was meeting and no un-existing Alice. Kris didn’t interrogate me much about it. She kindly asked me to express her deep- felt and sincere gratitude to this goodly Alice that had helped her one and only daughter. Who was me without doubt.
The traffic was severe and strong that morning when I left. I arrived thirty minutes late at Brownton, the ground and lawn of the institution being this highly drenched and wet, to the point that each time that I made my way on the non-paved walkway, I had to be meticulously careful and attentive of where I stepped and how I made that particular step. I put on a blue sundress and blue flat shoes and fastened and secured my hair behind me with a lovely-looking blue ribbon. Simply put, I was graceful and neat and flawless in consummate blue.
Wherever I went to, the boys had a ‘you-look-so-magnetic’ expression in their eyes. Not a loudly voiced one. But a silenced-uttered one. That was also equally true with the girls.
I found Alex waiting for me on a wooden bench sited under a giant tree, where he was sitted and relaxing. Like boys are fond of doing, he was busy checking out the strolling by girls and ladies. It seemed he hadn’t been intent on going about that. But with nothing more to do and occupy his mind and senses, he had no alternative but to go on sizing the walking by chicks. Did I say ‘chicks’? Boops! It should be damsels!
The moment he noticed me, while I was still half-way away from him, he gave me that overwhelmed and overpowered look that the other boys had given me moments back. His mouth opened slightly, his eyebrows widening, his expression softening and tenderizing. What? Did my mere presence had that power and ability to quell and make people become overwhelmed that way?
I sat down on the bench just next to him, and having looked up at him, smiled slightly. “Alex Ramirez, how are you doing?”
His eyes tarried and lingered on my face. “Fine, Sophia. And you?”
“I am equally fine as well. Sorry I am late. The traffic was this heavy and cumbersome and annoyingly very slow. I should have called you, but then I don’t have your number.”
“Do you need it right now?”
“Uhmnnn…no, I guess. I am already here and that is what is important, isn’t it?”
The air gusted past me, pushing off loose threads of light brown hair into my face, ones which I had not tied and made fast. I tossed them away in that girly and delicate way that men cannot help but lift eyebrows at and wonder in silence, inwardly enraptured and delighted and transported off into alien and yet entrancing thoughts.
“Are you not having classes today?” I checked the time on my phone. It was spot-on ten thirty.
Alex sighed in relief. “I am free and readily available. All day that is.”
“What do you connote by that?”
“Nothing really. I was wondering if you would join me for…a snack. What do you say?”
I thought about it for a while. “No problem.” To be upright with you, all I wanted right now was to catch a glimpse of my car. Had Alex really fixed it, with the help of his mechanic father? Or had he failed to? Maybe not done anything at all?
He led me straight to my car. There it was parked, new-looking and repaired and faultless. The bonnet looked ideal and whole. No damage on it, no any slight flaw or defect or fracture. My goodness! Alex had done such a good job indeed! While I surveyed the car, I became this breathless and entranced and so overjoyed. Words are not adequate to explain the surge of emotions that I was undergoing that very moment. No, they are not sufficient enough.
“Alex.” My eyes drifted to him, startled and thankful at the same time. “Thank you so much for repairing my car. I wasn’t expecting it to be this wholesome and perfect. You did everything right and beyond what I was foreseeing done. Thank you so much.”
He smiled steadily at me, a winning and well-performed smile. “It is my pleasure, Sophia, to hear that; it assuredly is.”
I breathed out quietly at my own desired pace. “So tell me, did your father give you a helping hand in the fixing of my car?”
He wavered a little bit. “He did.”
“You haven’t yet told me his name, have you?”
“No; I probably will anyway. He is Alex Ramirez Senior.”
“Hmmnnn, so you are junior, right?”
“I sure am.”
“Pass him my best wishes and deep-most appreciation, will you?”
“As you wish.”
We drove to a cafeteria in my car. I was not the one who drove. Alex did. Unlike yesterday, his clothes were in some way mucky and soiled. I noticed it while stealing a glance at him from the comfort of my seat. He took notice almost immediately and resolved, “Sorry that I have to go out and eat with you looking this filthy and foul. I had to give Alex—I mean dad—a helping hand with some engine clean-up before I started off for Brownton. Are you offended by me being this dirty and unclean?”
“No. Why would you even say that? I understand the sanity of you being this way.”
He smiled solely.
I looked away from him that instant, fearing that should I stare at him longer than was necessary he would think that I was examining and checking out how dirty and despicable he was. Which was far off from the actual truth. I didn’t care that he was dirty and soiled up. I didn’t care that he was not clean and spotless like I was. I didn’t care that he was dressed in humble clothing while I was this richly and neatly garbed. I didn’t care about anything at all. Oh yes, I did not give a damn whatsoever!
That moment I stared away from him, Alex had his eyes on me. I first felt it and then discerned his watchful eyes from the corner of mine. What was it with me? Or anything about me that was worthwhile looking.
Having noticed how so quiet we both were, Alex put on some music, making my heart dance and my soul stir up to the rhythm and enticing slow beat itself. Yes, he put on some unending tracks of slow romantic music. One that I was keen on and would listen to with all my heart and soul and spirit altogether. Alex! How so sweet and charming he was!
The third song, which repeated twice, and which I happened to fall for the most, went like this—it was a man who was singing, by the name of Christopher Mooning, and to me, it felt like Alex himself was caroling out to me:
Baby, baby, my sweet angel
Baby, baby, my perfect angel
Baby, baby, my amazing angel
Baby, baby—the one who has stolen and seized my heart
There is something special about your lovely eyes
Something special about the curving and shapeliness of your lips
Something golden about the way you smile
Something brilliant about the way you talk
Baby, baby, I am falling so madly for you
Baby, baby, I can’t go on without thinking about you Baby, baby, you are my heart and my breath itself
Baby, baby—you are the one I live to see and eternally hold in my arms
Baby, baby, I like the way you look at me
Baby, baby, have I told you
That I fell for you that very second
I laid my eyes on you
Have I told you that
No matter how hard I tried
I could not forget that picture of you
Smiling and looking so quiet and so grave
Baby, baby, you are my sweet angel Baby, baby, you are my perfect angel Baby, baby, you are my amazing angel
Baby, baby—you are the one who has stolen and seized my heart and breath itself
That is not the entire song. Just a part of it I included here so you can get a taste and feel of how the spectacle was. While the song played on and on, Alex would glance at me every once in a while, enchanted and fascinated by what his eyes were seeing. I had no doubt or misgiving that the guy was so attracted to me. He definitely was. And I was drawn toward him as well on the other hand. Yes, I was. I sure was.
The cafeteria we had our snacks at was ‘Sam’s Lobelia.’ That was its simple and yet marvelous name. At the entrance, there was a sketch of blue and scarlet colored lobelias grouped and bundled together. Brilliant and delightful to look at flowers.
Inside, the tables and chairs were white- painted and plastic-manufactured. The floor was mahogany and polished and shining. The ceiling was mahogany-fashioned too and sited high and farther above with scarlet and blue colored lights illumining and shimmering up. It was a nice and wonderful place to be. How I wished I had dragged my camera with me so as to snag a photo or two of Alex and I munching and whooping it up!
We had ensconced down, waiting for the menu that we had just ordered to be delivered, when Alex, on the spur of the moment and unexpectedly, observed me looking about in fascination and enrapturement, and he remarked, “I have noticed that this cafeteria happens to bewitch and charm you, isn’t that it?”
I blinked at him rapidly—an unforeseen and unplanned movement. “You are right, Alex. I turn out to like and revel in this place, you know.”
“I can positively tell. Would you mind taking photos? Of us? I have my phone with me and its camera is this matchless and unrivalled. What’s your say on that?”
I breathed in and out, mystified and robbed of any words. How was this guy able to do it? It seemed that he was an expert at amusing and cheering me up and giving me what I really and deeply wanted. Yes, he was fantastic and ideal!
“Is there anything at fault with it, Sophia?”
I answered immediately. “No, no. I didn’t suggest that. It is an excellent and wowing idea. I mean it. Honestly.”