i walked as much as i could and, somehow, it wasn't enough.
maybe i should have been running.
tall austrian boy outside my hotel in pahar ganj: i told you the cookies the street vendor was selling were fine to eat. i was going home the next day, you'd just arrived. i should've bought you a beer and asked for your name.
ben, nick and nick: three drunk brits teaching english in oman. you called bullshit as i wrote on a notebook and waited for a beer and fries. it was a crowded bar on the Colaba Causeway. nick and nick did a conga line to all the wrong sorts of music. i gave ben my email on a slip of paper that fell out of his pocket as he walked out. one of the nicks attempted to flirt, failed miserably. the other spoke of sadness in portuguese, figuring it was close enough. i probably should have followed you all to Goa and made my way into the sea. i hope you found some girls to get drunk with.
sam, the jaipur cabdriver: you were nice and then you were a salesman and then you took my picture in front of the water palace, badly, so that my head covered half the palace. i didn't write in your tourist book and i decided you were ripping me off. you were, but i could've been much nicer about the whole thing.
i should have gone on an elephant ride up to the Amber Fort, but i didn't have enough money, so i just watched as the elephants walked by.
creepy guys on the train from jaipur to agra: i was on to you. i should've made that clear. instead, i locked my backpack to the sleeper cot and did not sleep a wink.
korean girl in agra who sat across from me and ate om rice at joonys: you seemed surprised when i offered my naan for you to try. it was good naan. i tried om rice the next day. it was just rice, vegetables and an omelette. there was a menu in korean and i think om rice was the only thing on it. i had malai kofta.
oprah: i missed you at the taj mahal by two hours. you came at noon, i left at ten. the fog had finally dissipated and as i walked out i saw a couple of film crews. i wondered what they were working on. i took a picture of the wardrobe guy, mainly because he looked like every other wardrobe person i know: fashionably strange.
by the time i found blue lassi in varanasi, i wasn't hungry anymore. by the ghats, the boys played cricket. they always batted while i was close by. they never hit me or the water buffalo. still, i ducked.
forty-three people told me "you have indian face". at some point i started to believe it. i would jump on the ladies-only car of the delhi metro and feel at home, almost. i desperately wanted to have a nose ring. i lacked kohl on my eyelids. i listened in to conversations in a language i could not comprehend.
i said namasté more times than i can count.
you... elsewhere, in another lifetime, i should've told you i loved you before it was urgent, before we were
scared. i should've made myself taller and called your bluff. i
should've walked away while i still had a little bit of myself left, but i never do what i'm supposed to. i stood still far too long.
looking down on jaipur at sundown from my perch at the tiger fort,
it was all smog and kites, the sound of blaring horns and evening
five women in burqas having their picture taken near Humayum's
tomb, your faces covered by niqabs: to me you all looked identical. from where i stood and through my amateur lens, i could not see more than this. i dream of you looking back at
the picture and recognizing each other in the shape of your eyes. i think i hear the man snapping the picture asking you to smile.