Pizza in the Rain

The occasional glade broke the blurry vision of beech trees while the brown from the barks threw dark hues on either side. The dense foliage, however, provided some respite from what would have otherwise been a dull display of monochrome. Even from afar, one could hear the distinctive sound of his V-Twin engine.

He had been riding for hours. His legs and arms were numb from the cold. The incessant rain was mercilessly pounding his back and his helmet visor was foggy with his breath. The seasoned rider in him knew he should have stopped a long time ago. He couldn’t. He had to go on. He didn’t have a lot of time.

The images kept dancing in his head. If it was not for the never-ending tree line which looked like a perimeter fence built to contain them, they would all jump right out, or so it seemed. Sunlight was fading faster than the 100 mph he was doing. Time to stop, his mind said. Instead, he turned on his headlight. As the powerful beam cut through the rain, he started humming. Riders on the Storm — it had to be that song.

Hunger pangs distracted him momentarily. He thought about breakfast, his first and only meal of the day, just before he set off on his journey. Scrambled eggs, bacon, toasted bagel, and coffee, to wash it all down. He could almost smell the brew now.

Without warning, the rain suddenly stopped, breaking his train of thought. He shrugged. He wasn’t tempted at all, for this was not what he wanted. He kept riding, deftly overtaking cars, thinking about how much he loved to drive as well, and how it would be, to ride shotgun in the rain. He smiled, when he thought of the impending discussion of automatics and manuals, and who could drive better. He could hear it all.

His thoughts went back again and the images started flashing by. He always rode solo, but he thought of the time when he had company. One after the other, a series of thoughts, many of them memories from way back, came alive and he found warmth in them. He had chosen the scenic route to his destination, but the scenery and the effect of nature was lost on him. It was not that he was oblivious to his surroundings — he took it all in, and the more he did, the more he thought. A quick glance at his water resistant watch indicated that it was almost midnight.

He shook his head, taken aback at how quickly time could fly. He was almost there, but nevertheless, he started searching frantically. His eyes darted in all directions. He couldn’t let the clock strike 12, before finding the place.

Suddenly, as he turned a corner, his headlight reflected off a signboard. He found what he was looking for. He rode directly in, came to a halt at the parking lot, and turned off the ignition for the first time that day. The silence hit him as he looked up at the starry sky, hoping they’d open up. It didn’t matter to him that he was already drenched from head to toe. When he got off the motorcycle, he nearly collapsed, out of hunger, exhaustion, and cold, not to mention the fact that he couldn’t feel his legs touch the ground. They had been numb far too long.

For a while he held on to a black car that was parked next to his motorcycle. It was a familiar model and a welcome sight. He waited to catch his breath and to steady himself. When he felt blood run through his veins, he gingerly let go of the car. He quivered, as he took the first few steps and when he gained balance, he made a dash for the entrance. He went right in and placed his order, hurriedly glancing at his watch every few seconds. He was impatient and his mannerism indicated it. He didn’t realise that it was quiet and that he was drumming his fingers loudly. Besides, they closed at 2400 hours, and just when they were going to shut shop, he had barged in.

After what seemed like an eternity, his order was finally ready. Overcome with dizziness, he grabbed his takeaway and stepped out. Just as he did, a homeless woman came up to him, looking at the steaming box in his hands. He could tell she had been hungry for a long time. In the background, the sound of the shutters grew louder. They were closing. The woman didn’t say a word, but just stood there. Without hesitating, he extended his arms and gave her the box. She was startled and her eyes welled up instantly. She accepted it gratefully and looked at him. She somehow knew he had not eaten either. After all, if there was one thing she knew best, it was hunger. She had known it all her life.

She trembled, as she pried open the box and extended it to him. He reached out and took the smallest slice. That was all he was going to take. As if on cue, it started raining again. It became heavier with every passing second. This was what he had hoped for. The woman scurried away, box in hand, and took shelter under a red awning with big lettering, while he stood his ground, arms outstretched. She looked at him, puzzled.

Somewhere in the distance, a clock tower rang out at the stroke of midnight. The day he had been waiting for had just arrived. The images returned and he relived that moment — when SHE said something, and those words somehow stuck to him. The slice he held became wet and soggy. The toppings slid off. He didn’t care.

Instead, he held on tightly, and along with her voice in his head, he said, “Pizza in the rain.”