There is a reason why our marriage vows include the pessimistic comparison of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Because every relationships has its points where you feel worse, poor, sick, and dead. At the moment, travel and mine’s relationship is at one of those points. I can tell because I am currently uncomfortable and it smells bad. I’m lying on a dirty mattress in between a huge snoring male and a couple that is making out so loudly I can hear them through my headphones. And I still have seven more hours before my bus rambles through the Indian state of Karnataka and arrives in the city of Hampi. I’ve been trying to sleep for the last two. The bus is rocking violently back and forth and expanding the concept of “seasick” onto dry land.
The mattress that I’m sleeping on is divided into individual beds by a flimsy curtain, and shared by two male companions, the couple, and me: a total of five people on a mattress that is smaller than a king size. To make conditions as unpleasant as possible, my “bed” is the sliver of mattress in the aisle way, so whenever the man in the berth above me has the inclination to descend (which is often) I get a nice pinch in the calf that sends adrenaline to my brain and makes sleeping an even further unattainable goal.
The bus is slowing down now. Must mean we are coming to a speed bump. Ka-thumb!! Yep, I was right. The snoring man rolls over and our noses touch. I can feel hot air each time he exhales. Ugh, I roll on my back and pull the strings on my hooded sweatshirt until only my mouth is visible for breathing purposes. I check the clock. Six hours and forty-five minutes to go. I’ve already taken more Benadryl and sleeping pills than my last ten years combined. The girl from Montana suggested Valium. I think anesthesia would be more appropriate.
The bus continues to lurch and surge. My back hurts and I think my shoulder is dislocated. It really should be illegal to have sleeper buses in a country that doesn’t pave its roads. I roll over to the right and get a mouthful of male hair. India has also gone to great lengths to try and convince me that the small raised portion of the mattress is a pillow, even covering it with a thousand-count white vinyl that sticks to my face. The prison-like slat windows are open on both sides, and when we come to the outskirts of a city, the whole bus fills with a harsh black smoke caused by the villagers burning their trash. Over the last three hours we’ve past through several levels of Dante’s inferno.
I feel a tickle on the small of my back and pray that its sweat and not the cockroach I saw on the wall earlier (that statement, in and of itself, marks a new all-time low). Not much can be done about the sweating; lying on my back with my arms ironically criss-crossed over my chest is the only sleeping position that can avoid the possibility of an immaculate-bus conception from any one of my three male bunkmates. Not to mention the thousands of people who have occupied this bed before me. I’ll be lucky to get of this bus with a curable STD (again, another statement of an all-time low). I was not expecting pregnancy out of my relationship with travel. I guess it was only a matter of time, being that we’ve been together so long.
By the time the bus arrives in Hampi, I’m angry, beaten, and humiliated. I’m fed up. I’m filing for divorce. Or I will let death part us.
I step off the bus at 7 AM and am greeted by the sun rising over the massive boulders and palm trees of Hampi’s landscape. Scattered among the tan stone skyline are thousand-year-old temple ruins dripping black with age. Crumbling coliseums and carved pillars rise up out of the dusty ground. The rice patty fields layer on top of one another and give color to the monochromatic terrain.
And once again my abusive life-partner has sent me a dozen roses in apology for his mistreatment, and I take him back once more and I find myself in love all over again.