Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Part 6


I’m drunk and I haven’t slept for over sixteen hours, but I’m ecstatic and tingling with anticipation and dread. It’s an odd combination. I’ve a strange and terrifying duty tonight: to prove to my new compadre, this fellow night voyager, Alan, I met the previous day, that what I’ve just eaten won’t kill me. It’s a deeply unsettling prospect, but one that is eased by the whiskey I washed down my throat moments ago before being kicked out of the local dive I was killing time in. Closing time is a bitch.
I light a cigarette, and take stock of the situation. It doesn’t look good. I sway heavily with cheap drink and the weight of it all: some four hours crammed into a tiny space filled to the brim with perhaps a hundred Indians, all jeering and tittering with excitement, leering at me with curious and accusatory eyes, and no chance of sleep. We are set to arrive at 4am, have no place to stay, and no real way to find one but to follow a guide from the station through dark and narrow streets at this terrifying hour. I can already picture him. His beady eyes will dart and glint boldly, scanning the light of the terminal for a victim. He will be shrouded in darkness at first, and will see us well before we exit the bus, by which time he will have already crept to our sides as we unload our baggage. He will introduce himself, baring his teeth in a wide grin; rotten and stained with chewing tobacco, framed by deep-set wrinkles caked in grime. He will wring his hands together hungrily, dollars in his eyes, and offer us his services: to take us to a filthy and overpriced bed at this ungodly hour, for extortionate prices. These are the least of my worries.
I exhale deeply, and a plume of blue smoke rises into the air gracefully as I lean against the bus behind me. I study it for a second. It twists away from me, dancing in the warm air, a rising, playful thing, beautiful in its fragility. A small breath of wind blows it back in my face. I close my eyes in defeat, become interested with the blackness behind the weighty lids for a fraction too long, and almost lose my balance, clanging against the metal monster behind me. I open them again.
The bus is in front of me now, swelling smoothly to fill my vision. It is a weird contraption that was once a royal green but is now soiled and unfit for life, specked with rust and disease, with great empty spaces where windows and doors should be; vast and black and engulfing, they seem to swallow everything within their dreadful frames. At least two dozen people are already curled up inside on rickety iron and tarpaulin, desperate for sleep before the great metal monster gallops off, twisting and curling its way up the mountain, shuddering in the pitch black as the air grows colder and colder around us.
Behind the bus, the street lights flicker manically, illuminating the stained concrete that is beginning to swim around my feet. It casts bizarre and outlandish shadows of both the bus and the occupants, which dance in the darkness of the parking lot in front of me. It’s all quickly becoming too much for me. I glance sideways at the absurdly comical bins lining the parking lot; cracked blue and yellow concrete penguins, sporting ridiculous moustaches, holding signs pleading for people to unburden their garbage into receptacles held in their flippers and not onto the street.
It’s a really respectable city, Coimbatore.
I’m wracked with distain. The mushrooms are coming on strong, and I need a distraction.