I woke to the sound of a striking match. He could never get them lit first try. Strike two. Strike three. Finally, the phsst of flame and the sulfur smell. Before the sun, before the birds, before he’d even sat up in his bed, Robert lit his first cigarette of the day.
I forced one eye open. Robert’s face, monstrously contorted and glowing orange from his efforts was inches from mine. I rolled toward the wall and tried to will myself back to sleep.
Robert and I met a few weeks earlier at an ashram along the Ganges. He was in his mid-twenties from Sydney. This was his third trip to India. I’d hitchhiked with a boyfriend through Europe to Istanbul where a woman picked us up with the warning that we were risking our lives thumbing rides. After that, we hopped rickety local buses overland to India where my partner, by then sick, miserable and mean as hell, phoned his parents for flight money home. Within hours he was back in England. And I was on my own in India at eighteen years old.
I didn’t know Robert well when I asked if he wanted to share a ten-cents-a-night room with me. It was a financial decision. Neither one of us had any plans other than to stay in India as long as we could afford.
(I'm working way too sporadically on a memoir about this Overland trip. Image by @194Angellstreet, a woman I've never met but am pretty sure I love in an ello-way.)