I wasn’t trying to be perturbed by his hairy, wide pot belly, or the dirt in his nails. The image only made me feel that way. I took shelter in his cramped shop from the rain. I thought then…
I should have stayed in the rain.
The grey skies wept and wept that morning, and I had woken too late to catch the report on the radio. I had to rush. The interview wouldn’t wait for the rain. Until the text came in while I fidgeted on the bus.
Aisha, will have to meet you at 10am, the rain is holding me up
I exhaled relief as the congested bus jerked to a stop. I had time to dry off from running to the first bus stand, and maybe find a coffee stall, if anything was functioning on such a hazardous morning, that is. But the wolves in heaven growled, then huffed, then puffed. My dupatta wasn’t pinned to the kameez material on my shoulders. Nevermind the dupatta, I felt lighter than air, ready to be blown away. So I stepped into the shop, because it looked open for business.
Why did he have to look so menacing, hungry? Why was he sweating on such a windy, wet day? He watched me step in, I know he did. He smiled too, which made the acid in my empty stomach intensify.
“Ridiculous, isn’t it, this rain? “
I nodded fast and turned to face the road so he wouldn’t think I wanted to continue with small talk, or any kind of talk, or acknowledgment.
This probably isn’t a good idea.
If I have my back turned to him, I wouldn’t see an attack coming. I wasn’t so not street savvy. I studied most of the time, inside my two bedroom house. Turning to the side, resting my left elbow on the glass counter, I decided, was the angle at which I would not be ferociously attacked by this shirtless, fat, bald man in his dusty blue sarong. They never wear anything underneath. I shudder. From the cold and other fears.
“You are drenched, daughter. Should I get you a cloth or a towel or something? “
The cheeriness in voice escaped me, so did the concern. I only heard a rasp. I am not his daughter. Why do middle aged people want to own you by titling you as family?
He let me by myself, quietly for some time, and retreated to the back room.
Where he could storing some kind of weapon, or some kind of chemical…
He came back out with something long and red in his hand. No, orange.
“I noticed you don’t have an umbrella or a rain coat. This is my wife’s umbrella. Use it. “
I took it.
Say thank you Aisha.
“Don’t mention it, daughter. I woke up late today, opened up shop late too and I forgot to turn on the radio to listen to the weather report. These days come and go. Strange, uneven days. Don’t they.”
I nod, smiling. That’s when I get a look at what he has in the glass case of his shop. He’s a baker. His fingers are covered in a sticky film of dough, that’s what he smells like too. I wish he had a shirt on though. A wife beater, at least.
“I better get back to the kitchen. The rain will stop soon and customers will come in around lunch time. People get hungry for bread during the colder seasons. You take care now. “
“I will bring the umbrella back. “
“You can if you want. I don’t think the wife will mind if you don’t though. “
I stayed a while, until the shower ceased. He wasn’t in the front to wish him a good day. I regret not smiling a little more, not doing a little something more to show my gratitude, because I never returned the umbrella. I hope his wife isn’t upset. She must have liked the hibiscus pattern on the rim. I do too.