I was afraid we would die on the rickshaw. The streets of Old Delhi were like water. We swam through
controlled chaos, saved by calloused hands of street vendors guiding traffic.
Vespas honked at a man poking a
monkey nestled atop his stall with a broom. The smell of masala strolled out of a door with a fat cheeked man. A lady with two wrinkles on her forehead eyed me behind round spectacles – she was clearly a clouted vendor of optics.
The ride ended and I tipped the driver. I looked at you and you smiled and said the ride was amazing. You’d seen a lot in Chicago but nothing like this. Delhi was filled with these moments. Sensory overload. Moments where my visual field was cinema. Memories that make snot painted black by Delhi pollution worth it.
Then there was the girl who sold pens.
We stood outside of Fabindia. You bought a scarf and I bought nothing because I told myself I would be frugal. Two little nose-ringed girls pounced on you selling necklaces. They bragged about how they learned English on the streets, and even some French. They smiled cute crooked smiles with tongue poking through gaps in their teeth, and they shifted weight from one knee to the other as they giggled. You bought some necklaces.
A third girl flowed toward us, her skin a tad darker than the other two. She was far thinner, her english wasn’t as advanced, and she wasn’t funny. She held up a pen.
My mind told me that I had seen this before. She was a particular kind of street actress – a master of tragedy. But in Chicago the masters of tragedy were usually older.
Then my heart tensed for having thought of her as an actress. She was just poor and in need of money – like so many of the other children we saw.
A Ponzi scheme is a Ponzi scheme, I thought. I didn’t need the damn pen.
“Please sir,” her eyes were little eclipses. “Please take the pen.”