“I just don’t go. It’s not a thing here in India.”
This was the first thing Hostel Boy said when I asked about places to go at night in Jaipur.
I knew I was at the hippest place in all of Rajasthan when the receptionist told me about the Netflix and Chill room downstairs before telling me where my bed was.
On the second day, I woke up sick as a dog. Hostel Boy was lying on the human-swallowing hot pink fluffs of pillow, blanketing the parquet floor of the hostel basement. He saw me sneezing endlessly and came back with a green gingery masala drink that tasted like a pack of cumin stirred in sewage water. His faithful energy in the power of his home-stirred cure sank into my pores and warmed my lips into a thankful smile. I drank it to the last drop.
On the third day, I found his dozy morning face hooked to the big screen, his half-awake body lying in the Chill room watching Al Hayba.
I gave him the why-in-the-world-are-you-watching-a-Syrian-Lebanese-TV-show-with-English-Subtitles look, and he gave me the why-not look paired with a shy I-hope-you’re-impressed smile. I like cultures and watching things from new countries— Lebanon sounds interesting, he said.
On the third day, a few hours later, I came back downstairs, saw him lying on the pillows writing in a notebook. “I write poetry, but I don’t give it to anyone,” he said. “You can read it if you want.” He handed me his brown leather notebook, and I opened it to a poem written in cursive diagonally across the page: “The wind is so perfect it makes magic. I see birds but day sunlight, its day in Jaipur. Why I want to be high is the real not beautiful. Oh! I see a butterfly.”
On the third night, he decided to get off the pillows for a dinner out before I left the city of the boy who doesn’t know how to explain what else he does other than lie in the Chill room and drink chai.
We sat on plastic stools stained with green chutney, biting into the best Dosa I have ever had. From the pebbly alley, we stared at the buildings of Jaipur doze off to sleep, and the people shrink into their houses. I had enough dust in my lungs to blow out a desert when I exhaled but just enough to still feel the garam masala smell whirling in my nose, making every crevice of my body sweat.
“Do you wanna go try a bar?” he asked.“But I don’t know how to dance.”
Soon enough, we were in Fashion Bar by a rooftop pool drinking Kingfisher beers and wiggling our chutney-stained pants to Hindi songs.
“I think I like bars,” Vijay said in the rickshaw back to the hostel.
“I think I finally got your name,” I said.
We stood in front of the black gate of the pink hostel at three a.m. smiling for a few seconds.
The real beautiful was the high from the puffs of a stranger’s tipsy breath and the taste of newness in the air. Only broken cocoons birthed butterflies.
I rubbed my arm with my hand and grit my teeth at the wind, so perfect it made magic.