Nguyen Van Lac, Vietnam (c. 1875)
They are no lords, no marquesses or dukes.
Yet they all brandish swords and sport long beards.
They splash in water, popping their red eyes,
quite unaware their heads are full of shit.
Nguyen Van Lac, Vietnam (c. 1875)
They are no lords, no marquesses or dukes.
Yet they all brandish swords and sport long beards.
They splash in water, popping their red eyes,
quite unaware their heads are full of shit.
“You are such a bitch!” I laughed.
“I know!” she squeaked. “It gives me warm happy feelings in my tummy!” Then really howled when I poked her in said tummy, then tickled it. She ended up even more out of breath, and it took her a while to retain enough oxygen to tell me she really didn’t think she was a bitch. . . while flashing a huge smile.
I yawned, and she found herself satisfied with that. Picking a safer subject, she tried, “How much more of the temples do you have to shoot?”
“Almost done with the outside. Still got the whole inside to go.”
“There’s an inside?” came the yelp I really should have expected. . . right in the ear. Again. Also as usual, rubbing the lobe did not seem to help. “What did I tell you about that?”
“Not to do it!” she replied promptly, but her grin mitigated any type of apology. “Please tell me about the insides. Are they as fun?”
Knowing I was going to get yelled in the ear again sometime no matter how I admoshined her, or how often, I relented with a sigh and set the scene, since I had been inside on previous trips. “More depictions of gorgeous women cavorting with deities as light pours from balconies. Shadows are cast seductively over the carved walls, which is good for an imagination like yours but bad for photos.”
“Take what you can get, bub. Tell me more.”
“The Kandariya Mahadev–fat chanced I pronounced that right–Temple is considered the finest, with almost nine hundred statues inside and out. Ganesh and the seven mother goddesses are the most prominent–”
“How do you know so much?” she whispered furiously.
“I read and remember.”
“Not all of the sculptures are about sex, of course, but there’s an exuberance to their daily activities: one lady is stretching so beautifully, another is playing with a ball–which I love–another is admiring her reflection in a mirror. . .” I grinned at her.
“Better,” she proclaimed with a smirk.
“But of course there’s also the kissing caressing couples, bodies entwined in blissful union. . .”
“Poet,” she whispered, nuzzling her head against my shoulder, like she was getting ready for a nap.
“There’s one very graceful lady who’s taking a bath, but is getting out of it to peek at something, I think a wedding procession.”
“I wouldn’t get out of the bath for that,” she yawned.
“You’re not a normal girl.”
“Thank you!” she purred dangerously, then looked chagrined when I chuckled.
“You’ll like this: the images of Parvati and Shiva in the throes of amorous passion are symbolic of the cosmic union that makes the world go round.”
“That is exactly what I’m talkin’ about!”
She lost that famous exuberance when I told her I had another meeting, and since she was in no mood to go back to her hotel, I told her I trusted her enough to let her stay until I got back. Not that one should ever fully trust a redhead, she smirked to herself, then really went crazy when I told her I had a surprise for her later. . .
This meeting worked out a hell of a lot better, but when I got back to the hotel room I found her fast asleep, no doubt having frittered away all her energy in her nervous quest to figure out the surprise. . . though she was right back to hopping around aimlessly like a demented or rabid redheaded bunny when she was woken up. It was the same at dinner, where I forced her not to order soup or curry, since she’d likely miss the target with the spoon. I made a mental note not to go this route again, if the relationship lasted long enough, figuring it would be better to lie than to have her go through this again. . . or have to watch it.
Eventually the smirking driver dropped us off at an elegantly understated mansion, which only deepened the mystery in her eyes. Handing her out of the car, noticing she was still vibrating, I soothed her with voice and hand along her luscious red hair. “Old friend lives here. . . well, not so much an old friend, more like someone who owes me a favor for something from a few years back. Never thought I’d have the chance to collect. . .”
“This is not helping my nerves at all, bub!”
“That’s just because you’re crazy, and you would be even if you weren’t a redhead.”
“Can’t you just go along with it?”
“I can try,” she tried, though she sounded dubious.
Having been in the mansion before, it was easy to find the way to the room in question, with Emily surprised that we’d simply waltzed into the place without anyone greeting us, or even seeing them in the hallways. Nah, he’s fixed it so that we’re alone in here. He’s got everything planned. . .
Not to be continued. . . use your imagination
Anonymous, from 1050 AD.
Flowering with grace and charm is she;
Her loveliness draws many eyes.
Whose full heart throbs with a true love:
God! It is dawn! How soon it’s come!
Strolling hand in hand now, not allowing me to go back to shooting, she recounted her previous stops on this trip, starting in London and making it almost all the way over here when she suddenly pondered if I would ask where she got the money to pay for all this. Instead I wondered where she’d gotten her love of travel, and she was so grateful she quickly gushed, “We had a station wagon when I was growing up, me and my sister and mommy and daddy riding all over the country every summer, seeking out every historical marker, national park and ‘World’s Largest.’”
Then, blushing at where she’d left that last part for my evil brain, she looked over at my face and was surprised to see me with myeyes closed, looking dreamy.
“Mmmmm, quiet while I try to imagine what your sister would look li–OW!”
She was still laughing about it when we came across yet another tour group, and since she’d had so much success with it the last time, she pretended to linger in order to overhear what the guide was saying. This allowed me to return to my photographic endeavor, so with only a psychic harumph! she let me go and concentrated on the words, trying not to smile at the combination Indian/Oxbridge accent.
“While the sexual nature of these carvings have caused the site to be referred to as the Kamasutra temple, they do not illustrate the meticulously described positions of this famous tome. The strategically placed sculptures are designed to appease malevolent spirits. Sexual images also imply a virile, thus powerful, ruler.”
Yeah, I can see that. . .
“A sculptor was brought in for a television interview to forensically examine the tool marks and construction techniques involved in creating the stunning stonework at the sites. He also recreated a stone sculpture under four feet that took about sixty days to carve, in an attempt to develop a rough idea how much work must have been involved.”
Two months? No way! Hope the models didn’t have to pose for that long. . .
“There were also experiments conducted to see how long it would take to quarry the limestone. It took twelve quarrymen twenty days to quarry about four hundred tons of stone.”
Holy cannoli, these guys musta been highly motivated!
“The temples are now set in a parkland landscape. When India gained independence from Britain in 1947, the landscape setting was semi-desert and scrub. The archaeological park now is compared to an English public park, with mown grass, rose beds and ornamental trees. This is popular with visitors but has no relationship with the historic landscape at the time the temples were built.
“Some people complain that the landscape should reflect its appearance in those times, however there are no records of what that original environment might have been. What he do know is that Indian gardens in the tenth century were predominantly tree gardens, without lawns or flowering plants.”
Dammit, way too early to be bored!
“You’re already in love with me, ain’t ya?” she beamed as she joined me again, not able to come up with a better opening line. . . plus she liked to keep up her image as a redhead, therefore overdoing it all the time.
“I think you’re a couple of folders short of a file. . .”
“Well said, sir. It’s almost like you invented sarcasm.”
I smiled paternally. “Of course I didn’t invent sarcasm.” Beat. “I merely perfected it.”
“Close enough.” Smirk. “Did you get far enough today with your photos that we can leave now? I think the sun’s getting to me.”
“If that’s what you need to tell yourself. . .”
“Hey, you’ve proven you’re the sarcasm king already! Don’t overdo it!”
“Let’s grab something cool to drink, or else I won’t make it back to the hotel.”
Not that it was that easy, of course. The first place we tried we were greeted by a nodding smiling man who had no idea what we were asking, but kept on nodding and smiling throughout. Even a redhead with a temper like Emily had been here long enough to sigh and bear it with those supposed smiles of acknowledgement; most claimed it was simple politeness, but I was sure it had to do with ego, not able to admit they had no idea what you just said. Worse than even New York!
But finally we made it back to my hotel, where she tossed herself on the couch with her six-pack of sodas and tried not to yawn as she watched me work on the laptop. I don’t know how long that lasted, but it felt like suddenly she was behind me, playing with my hair. “You look depressed, sweetie. Anything I can do?”
“Not even Carrie can get me out of this depression.”
My pretend yawn was a lot more convincing than I’d expected, even to myself. “This redhead I know in the Seychelles. Nurse, one of those girls who’ll do anything for her patient. And simply a monumental body. . .”
A strangled sound came from her throat, no matter how hard she tried to tamp it down.
This time I sighed. “I was thinking of visiting her when I was done here, figuring it wouldn’t be hard to get there from here. But when I called they told me the flight made a stop. . .”
Not quite thinking yet, she nonetheless managed to squeak, “So?”
A little shaken by this information–not about the scheduled stop, about the rival redhead’s monumental body–she nevertheless rallied. “Well, I’m better than Carrie!”
I looked at her interestingly. “Really? You realize I can’t just take your word for that. You’ll have to prove it.”
“Maybe I will,” she teased, not having planned anything but quickly becoming challenged. Seeing I wasn’t going to answer, she sighed, “Men! Can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em!”
“Women–can’t live with ‘em, can’t have heterosexual sex without ‘em!–OW!”
And that was just what was needed to get her out of her funk, if her redheaded chipmunk giggles meant anything.
to be continued one more time
By William Blake
The look of love alarms
Because ’tis fill’d with fire
But the look of soft deceit
Shall win the lover’s hire.
The next morning found her, indeed later than most people, back at the temples, though watching the dancing rather than the sculptures this time. To her delight, one of the choreographers, whom she’d befriended the first day, was there, so she was able to sidle up to him and whisper a “Hi!” without interrupting the music. As expected, he greeted her in return but said nothing else until this dance was done, at which point they were able to talk until the next group of girls took the metaphorical stage.
Grinning hugely, he led her over to the side, where they could still watch the dancers but be more alone. For a second she wondered if he was going to try something, like he’d assumed Americans or redheads, and mostly likely American redheads, were total sluts who would go off with any man, but her mind was quickly assuaged as he told her to keep watching the dancers and try to mimic their moves, while he would give her pointers.
This is fun! she shouted to herself as she quickly put her left hand behind her head, the right on her hip, arms bent with elbows out. She‘d just gotten satisfied with the position when she noticed the dancers had their left legs bent similarly behind, bottom of the foot facing up, and she almost fell over in her haste to copy it.
It shouldn’t be, but it’s a lovely position, well worth a photo. . . if only you-know-who was here. On the other hand, this will be great practice, and once I get it down, he can shoot me all he wants. . .
“First thing, do not hurry. Even if you make a mistake, you must be graceful as you return to position.”
She nodded seriously as she squinted, because the dancers were now doing smaller movements with their hands. Determined to get it right, she moved her right hand in front of her face, palm facing toward her, then split the middle and forefinger above and below her eyeline. As she moved it to the right, her eyes followed it, then did the same thing with the left, even copying the slight seductive smirk of the dancer she’d chosen to emulate.
I wish I had that girl’s eyes. . . I wish I could have a braid like that!
This music is really cloying, though. Don’t see how it helps the dance.
Next she moved her head from side to side in classic Indian—or Egyptian—style, the head not leaning to either side, rather staying straight up. Again her eyes followed in the direction the head was moving, only this time the smirk was more than just a hint. . .
“Too much,” came the voice in her ear, causing her to become instantly serious. . . only to have his next lesson be, “not enough. Seductive, not cold or slutty.”
This is tougher than I thought. . .
The next few moves she classified as “cheerleader,” albeit quite a bit slower and a lot more sensual. Finally the dancers reached the meat of their routine, and Emily had to fight to keep the huge grin inside. Moving her body to left oblique, her hands grasped together at the fingers, she seemingly covered her eyes. . . only to lift the hands up and look right into the soul of whatever person happened to be in the right place. . .
“My dear, you are a natural.”
After that she stopped cataloging and simply enjoyed the flow, no longer worried about learning it. . . at least not right now. She was still grinning about it a few minutes later, sitting in a small café with her laptop open in front of her, enjoying some tea while writing an e-mail.
Beside me is a group of women wearing floor-length black robes and black head coverings, and nearby are several men in equally long white robes. Isn’t that the kind of info you’re yearning to know?
It didn’t take me long to find Emily, as she came out of a café or similar-like building right in front of me. I couldn’t help but smile at the view, which was probably visible from miles away: bright orange hair made even more fiery by the sun, that white skin. . .
“A human creamsicle,” I sighed, wondering how she’d react to that if I was ever dumb enough to tell her; hopefully she’d ask me to lick her all over. At least I felt really good when she spotted me and instantly smiled as she waved and came toward me. She might even be said to be running, though I immediately noticed she wasn’t anywhere as graceful like that, like she’d never learned to do it right.
Then I saw she was wearing thigh-high black leather boots. . .
“They’re really comfortable!” she insisted when she caught my glance. “I can dance in these!” Seeing I wasn’t convinced, she tried to quickly change the subject. “Hey, you’re wearing local clothes like I did yesterday. Cool!”
I didn’t see any sense in telling her this would make me stand out less. “There are some places in the world where I bring as little luggage as possible, because I can buy cheap here. I don’t worry about losing them, being destroyed by laundry people, or anything. I just get another one. But they don’t work as well in drier El Lay, so I just give them away before I leave.”
She beamed proudly and scrunched in closer, grabbing my arm and generally making it harder to walk, especially since she had to make sure not to plant the stiletto on my toes. “Hey, look what I got today!” Quickly she plucked a bill out of her purse, shoving it about an inch under my nose. “It’s a one-rupee note!”
“Wow, those are rare! Keep it as a souvenir.”
“I will!” Giving it a quick kiss, she stuffed it back into her purse, though rather haphazardly, for something she intended to keep, I thought.
“You’re a little wacky, but in a nice way.”
She decided she liked that, according to her grin, then beamed some more as I claimed I needed lunch before we set off back to where we’d rather be. At this time of the day, with the usual lunch crowd gone, it was easy to find an empty table, though it didn’t help when a local gentleman next to us wanted to talk religion, which was enough to put a damper on anyone’s good day.
Wisely I let the redhead do most of the talking, and in actually she amused me by being her usual perky self even when getting metaphysical. Every time the man tried to draw me into the conversation, she easily brought it back around to her, making me smile as I realized this was the first time I’d liked a woman I was with being an attention whore.
Finally I saw an opening, standing up and gathering my things while telling the man, “No one gets to their heaven without a fight.”
He looked surprised. “That is very well said, thank you.”
Yet another reason to be grateful for being a Rush fan. . .
Heading back to the hotel, I told her my driver would take us to the temples, if the guy could be pried away from his laptop. Emily agreed to this plan–as I knew she would, considering her stiletto boots–and walked beside me as calmly as she could, though that didn’t last. Finally she gave in to her feelings, begging for my attention with her anxiousness–needing-the-restroom level bounciness–until I finally had to ask what was on her mind.
“Where did that quote come from, you atheist, you?”
“No one gets to their heaven without a fight!”
“Oh, that.” Grin. “Rush.”
“Rush?” she gaped. “The rock band?”
She stared at me while she thought about it, but finally deemed it “Awesome.”
Fifteen minutes later, rather than photographing more temple carvings, she took me to a place she’d spotted before, where a couple of men were in the process of forming new statues, standing life-sized ones. Grinning, the men nodded their permission for her to dance among the unfinished products while I shot her, though I grumbled that this would have been so much better with her sari.
It was more fun when she danced around them rather than with them, and again it looked rather strange with her in jeans and boots, but often enough I moved the telephoto in close to not worry about the statues, considering how absolutely gorgeous she was. At certain times the sun was behind her, casting an amazing sheen on her bright red hair, gorgeous enough so that it didn’t matter that the rest of her was in silhouette.
“You enjoying yourself, bub?”
“I’m not the only one.”
She thought this meant she had an audience, but looking around she found no one other than the sculptors; I caught a great shot of her chagrin. Finally she realized I meant the sculptors, or at least one of them, who was either slack-jawed at her beauty or actually drooling. For the rest of the session she pretended to ignore the man, looking straight ahead at the camera, but her eyes followed him suspiciously, giving the photographer a good laugh.
Finally she proclaimed herself tired of dancing in thin heels, so I took her to a shady spot I’d found on a previous day, where as soon as she sat yoga-style next to my lying figure she begged to see the photos I’d taken of the temple carvings. Figuring that would keep her quiet–well, not quiet, but less bouncy–for a while, I did so, wondering what she would come up with. . .
Humming happily to herself, she examined each photo carefully, not for their artistic quality but rather as close-ups to the sculptures themselves, knowing she’d missed plenty of detail on the really high ones. Every single shot begged the word extraordinary from her brain, and again it wasn’t so much how perfectly they were sculpted as the sexual nature, filled with men and women in every conceivable posture of intercourse. She was particularly entranced by a shot of a standing man holding a woman’s legs over his shoulders, which wouldn’t have been particularly unusual were it not for the fact that the woman’s back was against his chest with her head twisted to suck his penis.
The redhead didn’t think there was a human alive who wouldn’t have found the sculptures stimulating, but she was desperately trying to tamp down her lust and keep digitally flipping through the photos. Such intricate detail and creativity! Some of the couples are just entwined and kissing, but so many are contorted into impossible positions!
Playing it safe, she murmured redheadishly, “Some of these postures aren’t even possible!”
I definitely wasn’t asleep, she saw, or else she’d woken me up, but that would do her no good as she dutifully closed the laptop and laid it next to me before standing up and brushing off her jeans, mentioning she possessed a great admiration for a country that was not only so unashamed of sexuality, but also highly valued it.
But before I could say anything about that, she remembered what her dancer friend had told her, about that attitude being in the past and the people now being very repressed–and felt sad at having been born too late. Then she got mad that the entire country and culture had made her sad, and determined to do something about it, get back at them for being the catalyst of her feelings.
To be continued one more time
By Huang O, 1498-1569.
The day will come when I will
Share once more the quilts
And pillows I am storing
Away. Once more I will shyly
Let you undress me and gently
Unlock my sealed jewel.
I can never describe the
Ten Thousand beautiful sensual
Ways we will make love.
As before, Emily sent me her parts to smush into my recollections, but did not read the finished product. . . (insert evil laugh)
After telling her I had to get to an appointment, and agreeing to meet for dinner, I left her to the tender mercies of the tourists and the sun to make my way back into town. Not one for trusting taxis in many places in the world, I’d asked for and been given a driver, assured the guy was a “good chap.” Now I spotted him sitting cross-legged under a tree next to the parking lot, hacking away at a laptop; on seeing me, he got up and headed toward the car to meet me there, as always smiling brightly when I greeted him with “Namaskar.” It had taken me a while to break the habit, having been taught wrongly to say “Namaste.” For just a moment I recalled the lady who’d first corrected me, during some pillow talk; she’d explained that the literal meaning was “I bow to you, I bow to the divine in you. . . a true recognition that we are all one.” Then I found himself smiling as I realized that girl had looked nothing like the redhead I’d just met. . . variety in a spicy part of life.
Giving time for the car to be air-conditioned properly, we finally got in, with me as always slipping into the passenger seat rather than the back. The drive to town was uneventful, with the driver asking how the photography had gone and me recounting my camera adventures, leaving out the redhead for now. Soon enough we were at the government building, with plenty of time to grab something edible for my very particular taste buds before my meeting began. . .
So it was with a sigh of despair–albeit a bit comical, the driver thought–that I exited the meeting a few hours later and got right back into the car, wanting to go back to the hotel to rest up from the oppressive weather before trying to find out just how much heat Emily brought to dinner. The thought of her brightened me quite a bit, though not enough to remove my mindset from its usual job, in this particular case scanning the surroundings.
A nap in air conditioned comfort cannot be underestimated. Don’t know how long I was out, but I found myself moving a little quicker than usual through the streets until I was sitting at the table the smiling owner led me to, bringing me the soft drink I’d requested as I wondered just how late an American redhead would want to show up. On the walk over I’d noticed the streets were about equally divided between women in Western clothing and those in the traditional garb, so it took me by surprise when Emily joined me wearing a green sari and a huge smile. . . and hopefully a gallon of sunblock.
“I didn’t think the orange one showed my skin off right,” she blushed prettily.
“Orange is my favorite color, but you’re probably right. Any redhead that can’t wear green doesn’t deserve the hair.”
Something about that statement bothered her, but since she couldn’t figure out what, she let it go, brightening when she saw I’d pulled out the chair for her. Being in the perfect position, knowing she was expecting me to look down at her cleavage, I instead ran a hand over the bare shoulder and murmured, “All day in the sun and still porcelain.”
She wondered if I’d notice her lack of freckles. “Sunblock 1000. Probably stop a nuclear accident.”
“They have nukes here, so let’s not find out.”
“Agreed,” she grinned as she watched me walk around and sit across from her. “Have you checked out the menu yet?”
“Waiting for you. Hope there’s something I can stand.”
“Picky eater or picky stomach?”
“Both. If I don’t find anything I can tolerate, or the chef is adamant about being spicy, I can always make do with a couple of jalebi. That’ll put him in his place.”
Wrinkling her nose at the thought of a chef being spicy, she asked just what jalebi was supposed to be, twirling a finger through her sherbet locks absently.
“Think of it as a pretzel-shaped churro.”
“Oh wow! Is it suitable for dunking in chocolate?”
“Only with a really wide mug.”
“True!” she giggled, not bothering to mention it could be broken into a smaller dunkable pieces. Instead she picked up the menu, happy to see it was in English, at least the one in front of her. But as she wondered what she would learn about me next, she glanced up from the menu to see me glaring to the side. She’d noticed it too, but apparently I was more susceptible to the cigarette smoke. She wrinkled her nose in support. “Yeah, I’ve noticed everyone smokes around here. Don’t you wonder how they can afford to eat?”
“Wonder what would happen if I told them secondhand smoke was killing their beloved cows. . .” I mused.
A man a few tables away turned to see what the giggling was about. Of course he was too late for the joke, but that didn’t stop him from looking at the beautiful white woman in the native dress. His family had been all for a vacation, though India had not been their choice. Anything was better than the gloomy weather of Scotland this time of year, but they’d been hoping more for the Caribbean. Instead Dad/hubby had explained that they would be visiting places where their ancestors became famous; he’d studied up to the point of knowing the name of every single battle involving the Highlanders, who no doubt would have rather fought in some place like Russia than this unbearably hot and humid place.
When he turned back, he saw that his son, with that permanent smirk/sneer, had taken the “When in Rome” thing to heart and lit up a cigarette. The Scot, without changing expression at all, slapped the offending carcinogen right out of the kid’s mouth, where it flew across the aisle to stick out of some very dense-looking curry at the next table.
The woman across the way, seeing this new addition to her meal, plucked the cancer stick from the dish and regarded it curiously; though she knew damn well what it was, she seemed to be at a loss at how it had suddenly appeared.
“Was that as surreal to you?” the redhead whispered harshly.
I nodded, rather furiously. “I hope they never saw Twin Peaks, because–”
“That’s what I was thinking of!” She banged herself–gently–on the forehead. Then, realizing she’d given up something she didn’t have to, chirped perkily as she pulled her hair back from her face, “So where are you from?” coincidentally thrusting her chest forward, as though trying to distract me from what we’d just witnessed.
But I was not to be defeated so easily. “Los Angeles, where we keep our foreheads without palm prints.”
“Nice.” Grinning, she saw the food arriving and beamed an extra-strength redhead-powered smile.
An hour later she was gawking around my hotel room. “Glad we came to your place! Much nicer than mine.”
I joined her at the sofa and handed her a water bottle, this time–unlike when I seated her in the restaurant–taking advantage of the view; her breasts filled the front of her sari when she leaned forward to take it. Knowing exactly what was going on, she looked up to make sure of the path of my eyes, then smiled. “You’ve got a one-track mind, honey.”
“Like you didn’t dress this way to get exactly that reaction.”
She tried to play it innocent, but not very hard, since she knew it wasn’t the easiest move in a redhead’s repertoire. Instead she went with, “Like me yet?”
“So far you’re okay.”
“Thanks loads,” she moaned.
“Drama queen makes me like you less.”
“Gotcha,” she sighed, thinking this would make things more difficult. Or not, grin. . .
Of course she looked up, saw my camera pointed at her, and couldn’t help smiling and posing.
“I told you not to move!”
She had the decency to look abashed, though it didn’t help much, considering my mood.
“You obviously have trust issues.”
She laughed at that, then decided to prove me wrong. “Of course I trust you. Do you know how awesome you are?” There, that always gets them. . .
“I know I’m awesome,” I sighed. “I just can’t seem to convince women of that.”
“You know,” she yawned some long minutes later, “I wanted to come to Khajuraho so much I didn’t do any research on the rest of India. Tell me about it.”
“You’ve got a weird form of date talk, but okay. India has three main regions: the Himalayas in the north, the flat hot plain south of that, and the Peninsular Shield in the south. Since you liked what I said about seasons, the cold months are January and February, with sweltering heat between March and May. The monsoon season is from June to September. South of the mountains it’s hot, dirty and humid throughout most of the year.”
“But the north has to be cool, right? Right?”
I gave her a poke in the ribs for the bad acting, though I would have enjoyed the squeal more had it not been in my ear. “India has some of the biggest cities in the world, but most of the almost billion people live in the country, and most of them are poor.”
“Not that I don’t care,” she whispered, “but don’t bring me down right now. Tell me about. . . languages!”
“The official language is Hindi, but English is second and is widely spoken. All official documents are in English.”
“Not for you. They won’t let you get away with anything. There are eighteen other languages, each with its own script.”
“That boggles my mind too much. Hey, how come there was meat on the menu for you to eat? Aren’t the cows sacred?”
“Hindus are the ones who don’t eat beef, but they do eat other meat. . . except the really strict ones, who don’t even have alcohol. Muslims won’t even touch pork. Sikhs don’t smoke.”
“I like them already!”
She quickly perked up even more when I told her there was a light and sound show in half an hour at the temples. Momentarily annoyed that I didn’t want to spend time alone with her, she nevertheless listened as I explained the show was about an hour long and covered the history, philosophy, and art of the sculpting of these temples.
“It’s held on the lawn at the temple complex, so bring a blanket, unless you want to lie on the grass.”
“Can we hang out there after?”
“Not unless you want to stay for the second show.”
“What?” Quickly she saw the effect her squeak had caused and toned it down, but still glared at me accusingly. “If there’s a second show–”
“It’s in Hindi.”
“Fine! Quick shower, at least?”
“No time, and in this weather, won’t do you much good. Don’t worry, I can assure you you’re not stinky. . . yet.”
She made a rueful face as she bounced off the bed, wrapping the green sari around herself before her feet hit the ground.
“Glad you know how to put that on yourself.”
We were early enough to get a good seat, or blanket placing, which made her glare at me, but only for a second, once she saw my grin. Instead she looked around, realizing that while she’d been here in the daytime, she didn’t recognize anything, as well as finding it spooky as hell. So what? Got a big strong man to defend me, if someone decides to mess with the redhead. . .
Wait! This is not the way for a redhead to act! Hell, I’ll probably end up having to protect him! Wouldn’t that be a hoot?
Luckily the show started and despite it being in English she found herself much more entranced by the sights than the commentary. Still, she didn’t miss it when the announcer, obviously reading from a script, inquired rhetorically, “What is the most important thing in life?”
Shocked by the redhead’s uncharacteristic response to the rhetorical question, I could only gape in her direction; she saw my astonishment and blushed, but also smiled.
Other than tickling her hand when she wasn’t looking, eliciting a yelp that garnered way too much attention for her tastes–she’d thought it was a tarantula–there weren’t any other memorable moments in what turned out to be a frankly boring presentation. Walking out, not at all in the mood for sticking around like she’d mentioned earlier, she noticed the hawkers were still there, doing their best to sell meaningless trinkets to the foreign tourists. She wondered if they expected more sales from the local-language show, then stated, “I can’t get into haggling. Feels like I’m taking money out of their kids’ mouths.”
“You have the heart of a brunette,” I laughed, the put an arm around her shoulder and brought her to me. . . so she wouldn’t be able to punch me as hard. “Don’t worry about them, they make out just fine. They start out way overpriced, probably double. If you’re dumb enough to pay that, they figure it’s your problem.”
“That makes me think more like a redhead again,” she assured me, though adding a nudge in the ribs.
“Counter with half of that, watch in amusement as he screams ‘That is less than it cost me to buy!’ then keep going until you’ve reached a price you can live with. Either you or him will be disappointed, but at least he’ll be entertained. . . and I don’t mean by looking at you. If you’re that worried about it, find something you like, ask around to see what it’s worth–”
“That’s too sensible!” she shrieked. “I wouldn’t want people to think I’m wearing a wig!”
From there I walked her back to her hotel, where to my surprise she acted like she didn’t want me to leave yet. Finally she meekly tried, “One o’clock at your hotel?” closing her eyes to curse herself without me seeing it.
“That sounds acceptable,” I informed her formally, making her giggle and move in for a kiss. Right before she turned away to hippity-hoppety up the stairs, she whispered, “Miss me, bub. . .”
“Already do,” I smiled, though making sure she couldn’t hear it. . . well enough to be sure.
Circa 960AD in Persia; there was no title so I used the poet’s name above.
There are four kinds of men who get no profit from me
Since I’ve seen not a scrap of profit from their arts
The doctors with their drugs, the pious with their prayers,
Magicians with their spells, stargazers with their charts.