The day of heroic effort and eventual comfort.
So, we woke up at about 8am and left the hotel almost three hours after we were supposed to be out. The proprietor pointed that out to us smugly, so satisfied by our lateness that I wanted to shake him. Far be it from me to deny him the pleasure of detesting us for whatever it is he detests us for.
We had almost five hours until our driver was to pick us up for the train, so we went back to Govinda’s – the restaurant with the great waiter. I put down my computer bag. I unsnapped the straps of my backpack, and with the expansion of my belly came a horrible feeling. I put down my pack and said to James, “I have to go to the bathroom – RIGHT NOW!” He thought I had the runs.
I started to throw up in the hotel lobby, about halfway to the bathroom. Swallowing chunks, I dashed past the impassive front desk clerk and around the corner to the “toilet.” They don’t call them bathrooms in India, which makes sense I guess, since you’re not meant to bathe there. And they’re mostly not the toilets I grew up with either. They’re inset in the floor rather than on a pedestal like a chair, so you put your feet on the corrugated bits and squat. I hear they’re nicer than the ones in France.
Just inside the room, without even locking the door behind me, I let go. I got most of it in the toilet, but moaned at the rest before losing focus again for another wave. Time after time, my stomach cramped, shooting its contents back out of my system, while my mind wandered. I stood, crouching, thinking, should I kneel? Would I dirty my clothing even more than it already was?
Finally, I felt safe in standing back and looking in the mirror over the sink. I was more red-faced than I’ve ever seen myself, and my eyes were so blue as to be unreal. I rinsed my mouth and spit, rinsed and spit. I rinsed the toilet and the foot placement parts, flushed it all down.
With an internal groan, I began to strip my pants off, then my underwear. I had realized that it was going to be both ends. And my only real thought was – what a drag. Another cramping hell, another cleanup, another red face in the mirror.
I rinsed my handkerchief in the cold sink water and gave myself a miniature sponge-bath. Within five minutes of the end of the hell, I felt marvelous. I was high in that less-sick kind of way, and I made my way back to the table easily. I told James the story of my time away from him, almost flippant, self-satisfied with it being safely past. He was more concerned than I was, but allowed the subject and focus to change, drift and shift as in all our best conversations.
After a couple of hours, we went to a different internet place and spent more time online. While James was writing, I asked after a toilet and was shown to a room with a toilet. I didn’t want to think about the origins of the stains on the walls. Hot and a little woozy, I made my way back to the shop to wait for James. We were overcharged again, and I kicked up a bit of a fuss, but paid. Ugh. We walked back to the hotel to meet the driver, and he was out front waiting. I was glad – it seemed like a good sign.
After the short trip to the station, James and I just looked around. Neither of us knew how to get to the platforms and it wasn’t marked. I saw a sign that said toilet/clockroom. I figured they meant cloakroom, and that maybe we could go through there, but when we got up to the door, it was a lot of men with their flies open, staring to see me in the doorway. I stepped back quickly, turned around, and stepped off the edge.
Bad, bad, bad. I don’t know what I did, exactly, but it seems that I pulled or tore tendons or muscles or tissue in my foot. Mostly numb, but in that scary way that means damage. I landed on my hands and knees in a puddle the constituent liquids of which I choose not to acknowledge. My backpack had tried to fly over my head but was held by the straps and only shifted a bit. My computer bag, though, had swung forward and was trapping me. I got the strap off my neck and shoulder and handed the bag to James, then sat back heavily.
Panting with fear, exertion, and pain, I looked at my foot. James was talking to me and moving around me, trying to see the damage, but I was not able to concentrate on him. He got me up and moved me to a clearer spot. I was heartened that I could hold any weight on it at all.
The numbness grew from my foot, quickly overtaking me. I put my head down and then…
I rarely remember my dreams. I’m sure I have them, because I can sometimes remember that they existed, though plots and characters don’t make it into the conscious world. I love it when I can remember something truly byzantine, complex, magical, strange, portentious. Something that came from inside of me.
When I came to, it was a bit like awaking from a dream. I was sure that there was a story going on. Part of the story was an insistent voice demanding that I talk to it. Saying my name over and over and demanding a response. As I tried to respond, I gained consciousness and answered, “I’m fine.”
A lie, but I didn’t know that. I hadn’t had to experience the 45 seconds or so when I went catatonic, unresponsive, drooped in a sitting position, eyes rolled back in my head. Poor James did. He knew that I wasn’t fine.
James, my hero. Really, he is marvelously heroic in times of need. He buckles down, gets it done, makes it happen. Once, he lifted a six foot dingy filled with water from a raging ocean in order to save our boat from being swamped because of its drag. That was maybe 30 gallons of water, plus the wooden boat itself.
This time, he figured out how to get to the platform, then loaded our 70 pounds of gear up – backpack on back, backpack on front, computer bags left and right sides – and walked with agonizing slowness to the train platform. His pace was constrained by my limp, and he urged me to go slower when I tried to speed up. He deflected the curious, guided me, and carried all of our worldly possessions. When we finally achieved the platform, I collapsed but he went and bought me more water, then arranged bags behind my back and under my leg. He found the instant ice pack (best when used between 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit, yeah right) and wrapped my foot with the ice pack and a bandage. He made me comfortable, and he got me on that train.
My hero. My love.
I scared the shit out of him, but he didn’t show any signs of it until after we were safe and sound, on the train heading to Varanasi.