I saw her one day while returning from office on my bike. She was the prettiest thing I had seen for a long time and she stood there beside the main road waiting for an auto, a bus, to go home, to her boyfriend, to her husband… well I would have not given it so much thought were it not the way she looked at me. She stared at me pointedly and in the brief moment when I was close to her, I racked my brain for some memory but no I didn’t know her. That happened the next day and the next. I began leaving the office at the exact same time to get another glimpse of her and she didn’t disappoint me. The same look on her face. On the 8th day I drew up enough courage to stop in front of her. I asked her if she wanted a ride and she said ‘yes’ and jumped on. She sat astride and I liked her for that. The lady’s style of riding is necessary sometimes but it scares me and I have to drive extra careful. I always imagine leaning too far to the wrong side and the person falling head first onto the road. The thing about pillion riders is that they affect the way you drive drastically. I know someone who gives me the feeling that it’s not a person but a huge big green frog which is sitting hunched up behind me on the bike. It’s okay when you are mobile but once you slow down its like riding in 4 feet of water. And God help you if you have to lean because you will never recover as the frog never puts its foot down. Then there is the other type. I call them the lolling dog in window type. Like a happy dog with its tongue lolling out, saliva dribbling, barking once in a while in sheer pleasure in a car’s side window. Well this type of pillion rider thinks he shouldn’t miss a thing happening front and so his head has to come approximately beside mine and this requires his body to be almost off the bike at an odd angle like an abnormal outgrowth. Some of them, because it causes obvious strain, switch their head from side to side like a snake following a charmers’ flute and this takes the most in a guy to maintain a straight course with his bike. But I am digressing. She sat straight and proper and I had to in fact check her in the rear view mirror which was quite alright with me. I drove steady. Didn’t weave in the traffic like I usually do because I didn’t know how she would take it. She didn’t talk much and I didn’t try with the great conversational skills I have. We had gone halfway to my place when she tapped me on my shoulder. I obediently pulled out of the road and she murmured ‘thanks’ and walked away. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t wait till the next day. That happened for a week or so with us exchanging 6 words or so. Once I had to stay back late and I haven’t known a greater frustration. She didn’t mind I suppose because she was there the next day. I wondered what she did and where she worked if that’s what she did. But I didn’t ask. 2 weeks of that and she asked me to take her to a movie. I took her to an English one. She sat close, closer than she needed to but then she did ride with me on the bike. In the intermission, she said she was tired and put her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes. I took her hand in mine, and felt like I have never felt before. Her face at close range was even prettier. I froze. Reminded me of a movie I had seen, Mad Dog and Glory. Robert de Niro and Uma Thurman. About a spineless cop falling for a gangster’s girl. I didn’t want her to move away. She sat straight after a while but left her hand in mine. We walked hand in hand after the movie. Then she said the strangest of things. She wanted to go to a botanical garden nearby. I said it would be closed and she replied it doesn’t matter. So I took her. When we reached the place, it was closed. The ticket counter was empty and there was a solitary sentry on duty under a solitary lamp abuzz with insects. He didn’t like us roaming around that place at that time and looked at us with suspicion. She took my hand and started walking. She knew the place. We went around the garden which had a wired fence in some places. I didn’t ask where she was going, she led me to a banyan tree which looked like it wanted to fly and it had been tied down with ropes. She went behind it and beckoned me. The tree went over the fence into the garden and it had some low hanging branches that we used to get in. I had come here with a friend a long time back but it looked better at night. There was no moon but still we could see enough. She led me to a tree and sat with her back against it. I followed suit and turned watching her. I had an immense urge to gather her in my arms and crush her to myself. She seemed to know and she looked back with the same look she had given me on the roadside. I started to speak but she clapped her hand on my mouth. The suspicious sentry was coming investigating. We got up and hid in some bushes nearby. I could hear her breathing softly, could see her eyes shine with intensity. Then she yelled ‘RUN’ and jumped up and went like the wind. I got over my initial shock and followed her. The guard saw us and started shouting in the local language. She laughed. I hadn’t run in quite a long time, my breath came in ragged gasps. We reached the fence but she kept going along it till she reached a solid wall. It wasn’t too high and I could reach the top with my palm. She scrambled up and I tried to follow but all my hours before a screen had made me soft. I slipped and heard the pounding steps of the guard and saw his flashlight making rapid patterns against the grass as he came running. She yelled at me to try again and I did. I got one leg across and pulled myself across, scraping my forearm. But we were out. We ran to the bike and I kicked it alive and she jumped on and I drove fast. She had both her arms around me and was hugging me from behind. I looked at her in the mirror and she was laughing. She could do whatever she wanted. We reached the place where she usually got off. Her hair was in disarray and she had dirt over her jeans and mud on her hands. I wasn’t very different. She stood by the bike, looking at me and then she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and walked away. I went home covered with mud, a bleeding forearm, and a state of mind that made me touch 90 on my 100cc bike. Tomorrow was another day.