This is my car, madam, wherever you wish to go. Backpack, passport, journal, hiking boots, antibiotics, and dollars: to you, I was these, from Delhi to Agra. After the Taj, you took me to a nearby restaurant for tourists like me. Rich girl, Westerner. You sat across from me, watching me order food with your chin on your hands. You refused to order, so I shared my meal, which you didn’t refuse. The manipulation wasn’t subtle, but I admired the technique.
I was nearly engaged to an American. You were betrothed to an Indian girl since her family promised her years ago. We passed aromatic dishes in silver bowls between us, hardly talking, but for a nod, a glance, head gestures I’d learned from tuk tuk drivers and the hostel’s proprietor. When I paid the bill, you flitted your eyelids and smiled, palms together. Thank you! Wifey! and you opened the back door for me, closed it after I sidled into the car, feet last.
On the day we got to Pushkar, it was my birthday, an already dripping hot morning. You dropped me off at the temple, and, having explored the dozens of its ancient rooms, found a path that wound up to the fortress on the hill. A young man in a tunic and jeans asked me if I wanted a ride up on his motorcycle. He offered no helmet, and I didn’t care. Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me. He gave me his card, in case I needed anything in Delhi when I returned from the north. When I told you this on the ride back toward my hostel, you were furious. I was only to trust you, only to ride with you.
For more, visit The Forge Literary Magazine.