Cold air from the air conditioning vent blows back the tiny hairs around my forehead. We've been in the car for nearly two hours and it is only 7:30 in the morning. I have spent every moment of the ride thus far in the fetal position in my seat, head bent towards the black trash bag that Kate took from our hotel room trash can. We are going to the Taj Mahal.
The churning in my stomach occurs at the speed of the car wheels. The bile inside cyclones at forty kilometers per hour. I close my eyes and wish for expulsion, but it doesn't come. We continue down the mostly empty road, weaving in and out of colorful trucks carrying oil, chickens, and people. Some of them hang onto the sides of truck beds where ever they can find a hand-spot.
We enter a small town and sail through. Men groggy with sleep in their faces sit on plastic stools and stare at our car passing by. Stare at the women inside. Us. They smile. Point. Wave. I close my eyes and time my breaths with the clicking of the air conditioner. Click click click. Breathe In. Click click click. Breathe out.
The car slows as we approach a small traffic jam. The driver maneuvers around road bikes and auto-rickshaws. Our windows are up. The cold air blows. We stare at the people staring at us. We stare at the people staring at someone else.
On the ground, a motorbike is on its side. A crowd of men standing in a semi-circle. Staring. We stare.
A woman sits motionless in the street, legs straight, staring at the hazy air in front of her. Her salwar kameez is pushed up around her waist. One foot has a flip flop on it. The other foot is mangled, bloody. Slick and pink like raw chicken. A young girl stands behind her. She wears a red shirt with Tweety Bird on it. Her mouth is open so wide that I can see the back of her throat as she screams. Her hands are clenched, both arms stretched at forty-five degree angles from her stiff body.
Click, click, click. She breathes in. Click, click, click. Her breath out is shrill. Her brown saucer eyes stare at the shredded foot. She still has a tiny bit of baby chub in her cheeks and her black hair is held back by a headband. The sound of her scream cuts through the glass of our car windows and joins the churning bile in my stomach like creamer poured into just-stirred coffee.
Our axles keep spinning. All of the questions that will never be answered radiate through my limbs, the question marks popping out of my pores. I know that I will never see the shredded foot woman or the screaming child again. I put my head back into the black trash bag but nothing happens.
Hours later we are at the Taj Mahal. A palace built by an obsessed man. It is with this man-made world wonder in my periphery that I am sitting on a ledge, the roiling bile finally close to evacuation. People stare. Sweat rolls over my eyelids and down my nose onto the ground. I stare as each drop hits the same spot repeatedly.
I close my eyes.
And it is the not image of the slick, raw chicken foot that makes me finally vomit, but the terrified little girl standing. Tweety Bird. Saucer eyes and 22 teeth. I wretch over and over into a ziploc bag. Bright yellow bile and a scared child's howl.