My Kind of India

I’m headed to Gokarna, a hill station full of Russian tourists, the same Russians who got tired of tripping on acid in Goa and decided instead to trip on acid in Gokarna. I’m with my roommates, Frida and Alyssa, and it’s our last weekend studying abroad in India.
I’m sitting on a government bus, leaving the city of Bangalore, heading North, I’m watching roads be paved, which is a joke because the roads are always (and maybe always will be) full of holes. My face slams into the seat in front of me. I feel a bruise coming.
Frida took a handful of melatonin. Alyssa is talking to a woman who’s repeating the same question, “why are you in India?” over and over again. I’m focusing on the guy in front of me. He’s writing. When I look closer, I notice he’s writing about me, me and the friends I’m with. He thinks I can’t see. I’m sitting behind him, basically on top of him, this is how the bus seats in India go, and he’s calling us “the goddesses” and “the angels”. The bus slides down a windy road, this all feels like an eternity. I want to reach out. I want to tell him his writing isn’t bad. That it has a rhythm. I want to tell him to keep going.
He has a guitar case. He looks unwashed. I call him poet boy. I imagine a telepathic conversation going on between us. But there’s a language barrier thing. I imagine he gives up. Poet boy returns to his iPhone. Clicks on notes. Reclines his seat all the way into my lap. His head is my seatbelt. These government buses are 1000 rupees. A guy gets to sit in your lap, his body and his smell are included.
I have to pee.
We’ve been on this bus for almost 15 hours without stopping. I feel myself getting a UTI. There’s a lot of pain. I’m trying to focus on all the trees going by. I’m trying to focus on not peeing my pants. Craters sometimes appear between the trees showing me all the large things falling below the mountains. All the things I’m missing. But this bus is horrible. It twists and twists and turns, goes up and down the mountain. I’m sitting in the last row, every bump hits me hard against the head, bruises my elbow, my knees. I’m sore from sitting. I feel like peeing my pants. My phone clocks 80,000 steps on that tracker app thing. I know that damn thing is a lie.
Poet boy stops writing, then he starts up again. He hears us mumble or shift or drop a bag. He writes faster. The bus is shaking. Our stuff, we, keep falling off the seats. He writes a new note “the angels are falling down.” Somewhere deep inside me I feel gross and uncomfortable. I’m about to pee. I’m covered in dirt. I haven’t showered properly or put on any makeup. I haven’t seen a mirror in days.
A weird thrill comes over me every time I catch him typing a new line. I lean in closer. I think he’ll write something bad about me, like maybe that I’m fat or ugly, or worse, he won’t write anything about me at all. He’s writing about my tall, blond roommate from Norway. I think I’m the ugly sister.
I start speaking loudly about how long I’ve been in India. I watch him. He’s typing. He starts with “hippie.” Is that me? Maybe he’s realized I’m sloppy and gross. “Goddess,” that’s probably my Norwegian roommate. Hah! My legs can’t grow like that.
He’s scrolls back and edits something he wrote earlier. It says, he and his friends “picked our bags.” Is that a grammatical error? Should I be worried?
We reach Gokarna. All this bus business is about to end. We pull into the depot. Poet boy heads off. I wait for Frida and Alyssa to collect their bags. They jump off hopping yippee! To the washroom. I hear a motorcycle come up fast on my right. I stop, turn and look. The next thing I know my left breast is being tugged and pulled from my dress, grabbed like a watermelon. There is a horrible pain. I’m watching the man on the motorcycle speed away, his right hand extended in a peace sign.
These faces around me watching, mouths gaping. My breast spitting out like a floppy disk. School kids are watching. Nothing to be done. I could be asking for it. I’m only woman.
This man disappearing without fear. His hand throbs around my nipple. His hand like the hand of the poet boy writing and writing, pressuring itself into me. My body crushed with the weight of his. My body, written goddess no more.

Photo Cred.

Bettina Mangiaracina
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