In Dharmasala, the world split itself into places where I could touch you and places I couldn’t. On the overnight bus, I could hold you to keep you from falling into the aisle as the bus rumbled over the Himalayan foothills. In the sudden downpour, I could hold you hand and run. Behind the red curtains in Room 306. Inside our tent on the summit of Triund, beneath the gray and opaque cover of the rain fly.
Not when we check into a hotel. Not when we’re alone on the path to the Lahesh Caves, where no one would hear us if we screamed. Never, to dissuade one of the many men who approach you in restaurants and bars, telling you your eyes are sexy, asking you why you cut your hair off.
I remind myself that I’m not safe here. I remind myself of the man on the street, who stumbled towards us, telling of a woman who was really a man. I remind myself of the woman whose eyes darted back from your shaved head, to my baseball cap, to your loose jeans, to mine. I tried to see how others saw us without starting to see ourselves that way.
After they stamped my passport with an exit visa, at the airport, I smoked one of your slim menthols in the designated lounge with all the men and then I went to the bathroom, where a woman pointed at me and said boy, boy, boy.
Girl, I said, and touched my breasts, but then I wondered. I wondered if I could pass, could be with you in that easy way. I wondered, too, if ease would loosen the tight screws of desire that held me to you.
Baby I’m forgiving you for getting so stoned in Bombay that I had to navigate the trains by myself while holding you up after you crumpled in the women’s car, your eyes rolled back like maybe you were just busy looking inside your brain. I’m forgiving you for renting a Royal Enfield that dwarfed your bird body and for crashing it twice. I’m forgiving myself for being so afraid all the time that something bad was going to happen. Please, forgive me for thinking so much; for writing this, for making a story of everything.