Mumbai New York Scranton
The plan was if I didn’t see him, don’t leave the airport. That was it. That was the whole plan. It’s 1 a.m. The arrivals area is outside under a giant carport. The air smells like burning garbage. I see Jason so fast. It’s almost funny.
There are 100 unlicensed cabdrivers waiting for Jason and me to finish kissing. The cabdrivers are sad now, Jason leads us to a little desk out of the way where he prepays for our taxi.
A few of the drivers follow us. They leave when we reach the prepaid parking area. There are rows of modern and vintage taxis. “I hope we get an old one!” I say.
Our cab is not old or new. The interior looks as if an airplane seat from 1980 has exploded. It is upholstered in a crazy patterned fabric everywhere, even the ceiling. I love it.
On the way out our driver stops at the airport gate. He gets out and goes into a little booth. Two boys come up to the car window one on each side. They put their hands out. Jason and I shake our heads no.
I’ve heard about Americans who go to India and flip out. They give away all they have with them, take out the max from the ATM, and return home changed forever.
The boys just stand there looking at us with wide eyes. They won’t leave. I whisper to Jason asking what we should do. “Roll up the window,” he says as he rolls his up quick. I follow his lead but my boy sticks his hand on the glass.
The window closes by a hand-turned crank. I can feel the skinny boy pushing down. I’m playing chicken in the saddest James Dean movie ever.
I continue to roll up the window and am about to squish his fingers when he yanks them out. Our driver returns.
The side of the road is lined with crowded shantytowns. Jason holds my hand and suggests I don’t look out the window. Jason has wanted to show me India since the first time we met. My sister didn’t say don’t go. If she had, I would never have come. But Minda made it clear she didn’t want me here. She’s afraid I’m too fragile for India, that I will end up shitting chocolate milk and come home weighing eighty-seven pounds.
There are no streetlights. I’m frightened. Jason asks the driver why he has turned off the main road. The driver says it is a shortcut. Jason tells him we would rather stay on big roads.
The Grand Hotel
The hotel elevator sings a song when the doors open. Our room is on the top floor. I open the desk’s drawer and paw the turquoise and purple stationery with 1960s typography.
Jason has bought me oranges. I eat them all right away.
I take a shower, careful to keep my mouth shut and puffed full of air. I brush my teeth using bottled water. Even wash the toothbrush off with it.
A travel doctor told us never to drink the tap water here. He also prescribed five hundred dollars’ worth of medicine to bring. I filled the prescription uptown near his office. The pharmacy gave me four complimentary tote bags. Really nice ones with a lining.
Jason turns off the lights. He tells me there are more oranges in the minifridge for when I wake up in the middle of the night hungry and jet-lagged.
In the middle of the night I wake up and eat all the oranges.