By Eli Toast
When I left Ralph at the bus station his mien was one of resigned disappointment with the way things had panned out. He was going back to a different part of Asia and I was boarding a train heading south the same evening. I took a rickshaw to the train station and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with the driver about our families and life trajectories. At the train station I sat and waited like everyone else, all of us looking nauseously green beneath the platform’s droning sodium bulbs.
Standing there on the platform as the train arrived I looked down at the tracks and noticed a cinnamon colored splat of diarrhea on top of a used maxi-pad. It was demonically gross. I watched as the skeletal mongrel pups that lived off the meager scrapings of a South-Indian-train-station-diet tried to focus their muzzles in on the invisible skein of effluvia that was no-doubt coiling upward from that sickening stack of waste.
I boarded the train rattled and lonely, longing for the familiar stupidity of home.
Inside the train was stale and close. My bed for the night was the middle berth, easily the worst one. Another fresh bruise on my abused morale. No sheet, blanket, or pillow, merely a vinyl cushion en-slickened with involuntary night-sweat and be-smirched with the type of compacted grime that collects under one’s fingernails. I slept poorly and awoke to the unnecessary banter of a set of superfluous Australians; my feet ravaged by bed bugs. By 9am nearly everyone on the train had disembarked at Bangalore. I sat alone in my cabin reading a Harper’s magazine Ralph had given me, occasionally staring out the window only to see old men taking shits and dead horses covered in carrion fowl.
At some point a weird, gay, Indian kid slinked into my cabin and started talking to me about some stupid shit; I don’t know, some gay-code thing, clearly trying to get fresh with me.
“I don’t mean to be rude man, but I just wanna read this,” lifting the magazine, “here, by myself.”
He left, which was good, because I despised him.
When I arrived in Mysore I allowed a rickshaw driver to take me to a hotel of his choosing (major rookie mistake, but I was a bit out of sorts) that paid him a commission. I accepted a lousy room, for double what it was worth, that stank of reluctantly agreed upon sodomy.
It was hot when I stepped out for lunch. On my way a small Indian man wearing a belt that wrapped around him one and a half times approached me offering some friendly advice. I tried to ignore him by walking faster and making graceless walking choices: one foot on the curb, the other in the gutter, weirdly passing a group of women by skipping sideways… Finally, the nice man barked: “Why are you running from me? We are not dogs! Indian people are not dogs! You don’t need to treat me like that!”
“Look man, I got shit to do. My job is to take care of that. Your job is to not help me do it!”
And I left him in my dust (I feel ashamed about how I treated this guy. I didn’t get the sense he was trying to scam me, and even if he was, it’s hard to begrudge a man for trying to make a few ducats).
I sat down at some shitty Cafe mentioned in the Lonely Planet called the Parkland (or whatever) and ordered–get this–the “Chicken Macaroni” off the “Continental” section of the menu. It actually wasn’t that bad, but the heat of the first spoonful triggered a gnarly toothache in a problematic molar. No fucking way am I getting dental work done here. I ordered a large Extra-Strong Kingfisher beer and when it was finished I had splitting headache.
I went back to my hotel room to take a nap but the racket from the overhead fan in concert with the bedlam from the street below didn’t allow it. So I ended up just staring at the ceiling and scratching my feet until they bled.