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A 21st century love story

Part V: India Strikes Back



DATE: FRI, 24 SEP 2004 13:03:42 (PDT)


my dear ella,

it's 1:00pm, and in just four hours, i'll be on a plane to calcutta ... and to YOU! jesus, why have i waited so long?? i don't know. but it doesn't matter now, because i'm on my way at last. and i'm sure i'll survive india. for one thing, i have jacob's ladder on my side; and besides that, i've got you, even if you seem to have momentarily forgotten that fact. my plane arrives at 5:15pm tomorrow evening, indian time (i think). will you meet me at the airport?

see you soon ...




DATE: SAT, 25 SEP 2004 00:22:04 (EDT)


I'm sorry to spring this on you Evan but I won't be at the airport. I'm leaving Calcutta this morning. I don't expect you to understand really. Everything has just been getting worse and worse here, and I'm freaking out. I literally don't know why I'm doing what I'm doing anymore and to put it bluntly, I've been miserable for months. A couple days ago I heard about a meditation teacher named Percy Musgrove--he runs these retreats in Bodhgaya every year, that small town in Northern India I was telling you about where the Buddha was enlightened 2,500 years ago. The retreat is ten days long--in silence except for group and private meetings with Musgrove and supposedly they, or so the brochure I got claims, “include teachings on awakening and comprehensive instructions on vipassana meditation.” (You probably know this stuff already but it's the kind of meditation the Buddha supposedly practiced.) If this isn't what the doctor ordered then it's hopeless. Maybe it's already hopeless. It's hard to believe that some aging hippie meditation teacher could help me now, but I don't know what else to do really. Take care of yourself Evan, I really hope India treats you well. Ella

p.s. I'm sorry for being such a bitch in my last email. Four people died on me that day at Mother Teresa's and it was just getting to be too much.

p.p.s. Some survival advice:

- Watch out for hustlers who have a million ways to rip you off.

- Don't eat the lettuce.

- Brush your teeth with bottled water.

- No surfing in the Bay of Bengal.



DATE: WED, 29 SEP 2004 10:31:09 (PDT)


hello ella,

i'm writing to you from the american consulate in calcutta, waiting to see if i can get some money from my parents. my wallet was stolen last night--and my packet of handy wipes, too--which completely sucks. at least they've got a box of kleenex here.

i arrived in calcutta four days ago. when i didn't see you anywhere at the airport, i made my way to the missionaries of charity to find you. but, of course, you weren't there. i was so exhausted they let me stay the night on an empty cot, but i couldn't sleep because i knew there'd probably been a dying person on it before me. the next morning one of the nuns helped me find a cheap hotel around the corner, and that's where i've been ever since. mostly.

i woke up before dawn this morning with a killer hangover on the riverbank beneath the howrah bridge, about half a mile from my hotel room. i didn't know who i was, where i was, or why i had no shirt on. i felt like puking and did so, right into the holy ganges ... then i heard a noise and turned to see this old indian guy squatting down a few feet away, taking a dump on the beach while smoking one of those fruity little indian cigarettes you like. he just stared at me with this totally blank look on his face. i staggered backward a few steps and tripped over a rock. i couldn't figure out how i got there, but after a few minutes i suddenly remembered some of what had happened last night ...

at about 10pm i'd been sitting in the hotel lobby, reading “the stranger” by camus, when a grungy italian dude with jet-black hair in a ponytail came up and asked if i'd like to go have some fun. i'd seen him in the hotel before and he seemed alright, so i said “sure.” well, we got into this rickshaw cart outside, and the old driver dude pulled us along for over a mile, huffing and coughing and spitting the whole time as his bare feet smacked against the wet pavement in the dark. i felt really uncomfortable and didn't know what to say when we finally stopped, but the italian dude gave him a pile of rupees and then led me inside this cheap hotel, where loud reggae music was blaring from the basement. we walked down some stairs and entered this big, noisy, dimly lit room packed with dancing westerners. we sat down at a table in the corner and, after he ordered us beers, he began telling me this whole story about how he ended up in calcutta after receiving some divine inspiration to do missionary work or something. i asked him how it was going, and he said that he'd recently met the girl of his dreams. then i said that i came here to meet up with my dream girl, but that she'd disappeared on me. he said the same thing happened to him, and then he just started crying. really loudly. it was weird, but i knew this was a moment of catharsis and said, “let it all out, bro. i'm here to listen.” (the whole time this bizarre-looking little indian boy with a torn yankees t-shirt and no front teeth kept refilling our glasses.) so he took a deep breath and proceeded to tell me that he'd been with this girl for a few months and was madly in love with her, but recently he started suspecting that she was seeing another guy, some dude from switzerland. but she denied it, saying how could he think such a thing of her? after all, she insisted, she worked with mother teresa's nuns! he said that when he woke up the next morning, she was gone. i finally asked him what her name was. wiping away tears, he said, over and over again, “ella ... ella ...ella.”

i hope you have a nice “meditation retreat.” meeting your “friend” donatello was devastating enough--if i didn't feel so sorry for the poor guy, i would punch his face in--and now it sounds like there might even be another guy? how many more victims are you going to leave in your wake, ella paris??



DATE: SUN, 03 OCT 2004 23:34:09 (EDT)


Dear Evan,

“Victims in my wake”? Please don't be so dramatic. I won't deny what happened between Donatello and I, and you couldn't possibly understand how guilty I feel about it. But I didn't leave him and Calcutta for some other guy--I left him because he was becoming so emotional and jealous that he wouldn't have understood why things were over between us. It didn't have anything to do with Mikael, the Swedish aid worker visiting from Doctors Without Borders, it was me--I was so depressed. The best thing for me to do was to get out of there before I simply ruined everybody's life. Including yours, Evan McAllister. I knew I couldn't involve you in the mess I had created, even if it meant leaving you to fend for yourself in Calcutta. But it hardly seems to matter what I did--my worst nightmare came true and you met Donatello anyway. I'm so sorry that you are upset. Believe me though, it would have been even worse had I stayed. I only just arrived in Bodhgaya and got your email--the retreat starts in a little while so I have to go. Wish me luck! Ella



DATE: WED, 06 OCT 2004 10:55:17 (PDT)


hi ella,

i'm sorry to hear how depressed you were, but i'm still upset that you ditched me in calcutta (and your seeing all those other guys hasn't helped make me feel any better). i've been discussing it on the phone with jacob, though, and he's helping me see things clearer. anyway, it's good to hear that after all your months in india, you're finally turning your attention to higher matters.


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