Remember the times when we have indulged in something bad, really bad and felt like a criminal. The time when you jumped over a fence to get to mangoes, or the blatant lie you said looking right into your mom’s eyes without flinching or how about the time you swiped a fancy scented eraser from that spiteful neighbor at school who refused to share it with you? Despite how much ever we thought that we’d get deep fried in steaming hot oil in hell or that we’d be born a dung beetle in our next life there was a smug satisfaction of being not-good. Flouting rules and the thrill of getting caught more than qualified for the sin we were committing. They were petty little acts of defiance, propelled by an inner desire to achieve something. Right from the sour tasting mangoes to the triumphant smile on seeing a bully cry.
Now how about the times when you actually committed a “crime” unknowingly and stood mortified and aghast at what you were capable of? Such experiences usually descend on us grown-ups. As kids, the world was our loot. As adults, there are boundaries, rules, public eye, the policying, the keeping up of appearances and at the end of the day our own damned conscience to answer to. When it mocks and calls you nothing more than a common thief, a petty criminal. A few weeks ago, yours truly was an active participant in a blatant crime. It’s a miracle am running scot-free and not been reprimanded at the local courts. Really.
Remember the rushed Saturday, and the 10.15 am meet with the Noble King?
So as luck would have it, it was a cold, gray day with a steady drizzle to boot. I bundled the girls up and drove into the King’s driveway on the dot at 10.17 am [yeayea, 2 minutes is still on the dot!]. Felt happy that I made it on time and especially more so thrilled on realizing that we could very well be the first one to arrive on the scene. I chase the daughter to run up ahead and ring the bell, while cursing the rain making ringlets of my finely smoothed hair, I try convincing the munchkin to get down. She makes a big to-do on “doing it all by myself” and refuses to jump out quick enough. Finally, scooped her and ran up the stairs to the door.
I ask the daughter “Did you ring a couple of times?”
So I push the buzzer once again, and put my ear to the door. Daughter’s giving me the wide-eyed look. Munchkin’s looking into the sky and feeling quite thrilled she’s in her thin stockings and huge big dots of darker spots were appearing fast on them. She’s even stuck a pink tongue out into the sky for fun.
I try the knob. It opens. I push the daughter in.
“Mom, shouldn’t we be waiting?”
“Oh, he’s expecting us. Just step in already, we are getting drenched.”
We enter, and I shut the door behind us. The living area of the house is one level up. So as soon as we stumble in, there is a short flight of stairs, a landing and then another few steps up into the living room. We stand huddled at the bottom, cramped amongst the couple’s shoes and our own. I put munchkin down, and start heading up. Daughter’s still shuffling her feet, and munchkin’s behind me.
The place is quiet. All of us are straining and looking up hoping to see a familiar face appear. Any face, as a matter of fact. By now, I’ve reached the top of the stairs. I pop my head in around the corner, and I see toys scattered, the lights on and I hear silence with the hum of the humidifier on the background. I am on the very top of the stairs, with the daughter almost with one foot out of the door, and the munchkin between us.
Whispers get loud, and I ask:
“I don’t see anyone. Do you think all are upstairs or something?”
“I donno! Why you asking me?”
“er, coz no one else is around!” Pause. “Are you sure this is the house though? I don’t remember the couches being blue. Maybe not, the toy chest is in the same place. Curtains seem familiar and …
Daughter interrupting “MOM! Of course it’s the house. Look at the picture there!” Pointing to a Ganesha picture on the wall at the landing.
“Yea right! That helps. Every second house is a desi in this place!”
She glares at me.
I start rambling again “So what do we do? Should I just call his name, coz ‘Hello’ isn’t helping?! Maybe you should shout the son’s name? You know him right? ”
“I know his name, but I am NOT going to go calling the kid. Maybe we should just step out and wait till someone shows up. Just where are you going? Mom! Oh Great! Look at munchkin!”
I turn around. Munchkin’s settled quite comfortably on the landing. Her shoes are removed and placed neatly next to the King’s shoes. She’s taken her jacket off and hung it on the stairs, is settled crosslegged in the middle of the landing, has her ziploc bag of cheerios open and is digging right in. Shocked at the comfortable scene she’s created, I now was beginning to get desperate.
Lightbulb moment and I decide to call him. Realize that I didn’t exactly have his number in my cell, and it was still somewhere in my inbox, and I didn’t know anyone else who knew it either. Flip the phone and see that I have a ‘missed call’ at 8.30 am and it’s a familiar number. There’s a voice message too, but then I have this thing about messages – I don’t listen to them. I call folks right back, why call voicemail only to hear “call me when you get this message” which is what it is for the most part. So I hit dial.
All three of us jump out of our skins.
Like programmed robots. The shrill phone in the King’s house went off. Frantically, I turn it off, worried that I’ve probably woken up the neighborhood [really, it was that loud!], and secretly hoping it’s woken the homeowners up at least. But no, not a single pip from anywhere, no hurried shuffling feet, no kid’s screams “Let me answer the phone!”; nothing.
I realize the prudent wise thing to do would be to listen to his voice mail and dial to hear the King’s voice start off apologetically asking if we could shift our meet 45 minutes later… I don’t wait to hear the end of it. I say aloud:
“Uh-UH! He isn’t home!”
Daughter’s quite mad at me by now “Mom! I told you! This is just perfect. Just perfect! I am going to wait for you in the car. Bye.” Off she takes off only to ping pong right back as I try to stuff munchkin back in her jacket with her hand full of cheerios. Dropped a few in place, and I wished I had a couple of more hands to pick up the shoes and everything else that I schlepped. Munchkin’s wondering what’s happening and she declares “But mommy, I don’t want to go home.”
Daughter in a controlled voice “Give me the keys.”
In the shuffle, I drop the keys making a loud clanking sound, and she says “It’s a good thing they aren’t dog-lovers!” before she stomps out.
I manage to hurry the munchkin out, and scoot back into the car. Buckle her and fall into our seats. Daughter in her normal stable mind tells me calmly : “I think you should go lock that door, not all petty criminals are going to be nice like us!”. So I step out yet again, rush up, turn the catch around and slam the door again before piling into the car. Again.
Taking in the last few minutes, daughter and I start giggling, of embarrassment, cold and the ridiculousness of it all. Munchkin’s wailing “I don’t want to go home”.
“Mom, that was just not funny! We practically broke into his house! Imagine if he had ADT!”
“I know! That would have been fun what with all the cop cars around us. Our moment of fame.”
“Yea sure! So where is he anyway?”
“oh right, the voice mail, let me listen.” Sitting in the driveway my eyes widen with every word he speaks. The man has taken his son to the doctor and so wanted to meet us later. He left a detailed message couple of hours ahead of time.
“Mom, you so totally broke into his house!”
“I did not! The door was open!”
“But how could they have left the door unlocked?!”
“oh, they’d have driven out through the garage right?”
“Right.” She parrots again “You so totally broke in! haha”
” hey, wait a second, if I broke in, so did you!”
“No way, you led the way, and am a child with a guardian, you are the one in trouble. In any case, where did the mom go?”
“To the doctor’s right?”
“But why would all the three go? They aren’t visiting the park right?”
….I explained the phenomenon of single kids and close-knit families as I drove off with a protesting munchkin kicking the seat with all fury, in search of gas, as it was running dangerously low and I sure didn’t want to be a criminal who broke into someone’s home and then got caught with no gas to hit.
There’s more such follies but that would be part 2.