"I am so sorry. The smell... I'm just sorry. I'm... uh... having stomach problems," he said, as serious as global warming.
Her response: "Wear a sweater. Stay warm."
Twenty-five minutes after my toilet tumble, the Aussie and I still reposed in the State Bank of India's ATM line. The only other ATM in Leh was broken, and the inside of the solitary bank resembled Tienanmen Square. She stood while I sat, slouched on the concrete sidewalk at her feet like a disparaged dog. Every five minutes, when she advanced a step and I rolly-pollied forward, my body rebelled against me. I had already dry heaved into my lap three times. Women clad in red and gold plastic bracelets and bright orange and pink saris behind me mother-hen clucked. Western-dressed Indian men stared at me like I was a prostitute because my shoulders weren't covered. I was well aware my utterances echoed those of a dying bovine.
After slumping and shuffling on the searing sidewalk for an hour and a half feeling like a leper, the Aussie and I reached the bottom step as rapturous as if we had met a mermaid. I envisioned a plate of fillet mignon, garlic mashed potatoes, and grilled butter-smeared asparagus beckoning to me from the ATM kiosk. We progressed to the front of the line. I drooled. The Indian Army man at the machine exited as we entered and looked at us with liquid laughing eyes.
"The ATM machine is broken," he informed us.
"Noooooo," I replied and rushed inside to discover the screen's static state with the words, "ATM temporarily out of order. We apologize for the inconvenience," mocking me. There was no fillet mignon.
Indian Army Man announced on the steps to the thirty-four Indians and Westerners in line that the machine was broken. Everyone lifted and leaped forward, eyes hungry and hands open. Impatient thrusts from the crowd behind impelled me and Aussie forward. A lime-armed salwar kameez compressed my dwarf breasts, a sequined jootie trod on my heel, and I inhaled a sweet-scented black braid of hair. My gag of a ruminating retch was the only thing that triggered retreat.
Aussie and I jammed our bodies in and through the crowd. If someone stepped too close, I disconcertingly dry heaved towards the offending person. We had waited almost two hours in the sweltering, humid heat. The sun had settled on our bodies and baked into my head. My body's loath towards me paralleled the time I fell in a prodigious pile of elephant excrement at the circus.