I had a nightmare, sleeping on a cot in a room infested with rats. Homesick, stomach swirling. Beat down from the children, the dead eyes, the grabbing. A boy from Minnesota curled up beside me whom I had known for three days.
I was in my own bed at home. Clean sheets, awake, alone. Silence pounded on my eardrums. Lack of heat anesthetized my skin. I smelled no rotting bodies. I heard no screeching Hindi pop. I felt no trickle of sweat running down my side.
The windows all latched. House sealed up like a coffin. Where had the moon gone? Where were the voices? My neighbor showed up–had she come to India, too?
Panicking, my mind clawed around. We made a plan to follow the water buffalo! We walk the ghats tomorrow! What will he think, waking to a crumpled spot? That I left in the night, crept through alleyways in soupy darkness to escape his sweet hair and shy voice? I have not yet found new batteries for my flashlight. I need to trade The Fellowship of the Ring for The Two Towers. I have a train ticket! I am going to Agra! My heart pounded in my chest–I was not done!
I awoke to the sound of dhobis slapping their saris on rocks, the smell of rancid smoke and incense, the scurrying of a rat across our legs.