I snap back into time again—it feels like my body’s an elastic that was stretched until almost to the snapping point—and then look around in confusion. This place doesn’t…
Then I breathe, and the smell… when I was in Delhi, someone said to me, “There’s something about India. Something about that scent in the air that you always recognize.” It’s true: I know I’m in India again. Not just India. I recognize the smell of Agra.
My bag is in this little hotel room, but I’m not. I must have gone to try find some drinking water. Unless…
I rifle through my too-huge backpack, searching for—yes, there it is, I think, and pull out the little pocket Moleskine of manuscript paper, flipping past pieces of music I would never develop further than the scribblings in these pages, and past that page with the bank PIN numbers and phone numbers scrawled on it, and contact numbers and addresses. Finally, when I find a blank page, I dig a pen out of the front pocket of the backpack.
It’s night. And I’m out. I didn’t go out at night after the first night. Which means I’m probably not too sick yet. I groan. Tomorrow’s going to be a bad day. It’s when… oh, damn, it’s that day. I begin to write.
You’ll panic. It’s dark, people look at you funny, and that guy in the van…
Just… stay calm. You’re an odd sight, there, at night. Nobody’s out to get you. It’s the food poisoning messing with your head.
I’m already food poisoned, right? I’m not… telling myself something I don’t yet know, am I? Yeah, it was the first night in Agra. That’s right. So I add:
Drink water: lots. Take the high road, go slowly. You’ll be fine.
Then I dig into the top pocket of the backpack, where I know the Lonely Planet book will be, and open it to the map of central Agra. I tuck the back cover of the notebook into that, like a bookmark, and then fold the corner of the map page. Then I set it all carefully down, so that the pages I’ve chosen—the map, and my own little inscription—aren’t lost.
It strikes me, suddenly, that I actually used that map. Couldn’t I just write something on it, about how the road I need to get to is elevated, and I need to go left instead of straight or I’ll end up walking down the wrong road. I remember it vividly, the van pulling me, me dripping sweat, dizzy, shocked at what the passenger in that van shouted at me as it pulled up right in front of me.
I reach for the Lonely Planet book again, but only manage to touch it before just hard enough to flip it open to the map page, the notebook falling out, before I’m snapped back out of time. Hm. Well, damn, I think. But then, I think of what I learned that night, the lesson I took from my own nonsensical fear of a young man lost and ill in a foreign land, and think perhaps it’s better I didn’t warn myself too clearly.
And I don’t even remember seeing that note in the manuscript notebook ever. Wasn’t it after this trip that I tossed it in with my passport and never used it for writing down bits of music again?
I sigh, puzzled. The fixity of the past is making me wonder why in the world the universe is even tossing me around from moment to moment within my life. I turn my eyes toward the worldline of my life, when I glimpse something beyond it. A figure, looking at it. A child.
He looks like how I looked as a kid, I think. Wait, what?
I try call out through the extratemporal void, but I’m hurled through time again, and I barely have time to glance back when suddenly I feel the rubber band tension that signals about I’m to drop back into some moment in time.