It’s the middle of the night, and I have no idea where we are.
The sleeper bus from Mumbai to Goa was fairly terrifying from the moment we set foot inside it; it lacks both safety belts and emergency exits and smells like it’s never been cleaned. In few other countries can private “luxury buses” get away with blatant violations of common sense and traffic laws, but this is India. The four hours we spent meandering out of the city after dark were my first opportunity to get a look at India while not having to dodge traffic, beggars, and the occasional sadhu…at one point I turned to my boyfriend and whispered, “It’s Gotham city” when we went under a particularly dark and twisted black metal bridge.
But now we are somewhere in the dark, hours I lost track of later on the road. “Toilet! Toilet! Toilet!” yells the man I can only assume is the conductor of our bus, even though he looks like a lost teenager. Thank god. I’ve been dying for a pee.
Now, I’m no stranger to squat toilets. I lived in the toilet capital of the world, Suwon in South Korea, for a year. Despite having a mayor named Mr. Toilet, Turkish-style squatters without paper were pretty much the norm. I’ve used the inexplicably common squatters in France. I have pooped in the woods in the mountains. I even squatted outside a bus in South America once. Squatters are fine. I lace up my trusty boots and prepare to alight.
In India, women wear scarves to obscure their breasts. They are standard issue for travelers in country, wrapped around the neck and shoulders to flatten and mystify the boobs. I am wearing my favorite, a yellow pashmina I bought second hand for five dollars in my hometown. It’s light and cotton and comfy.
I enter the stall and sleepily undo my trousers. Ready to go, I lean forward slightly to gain better purchase on the slippery ground. Paper being expensive and difficult to come by in India, most people use the left hand and water method. They fill a small bucket with water and wash their butts post-poo. Unfortunately, this method splashes water everywhere and leaves the floor soaked. Not a problem if you have waterproof boots on.
Unless your scarf touches the floor. As mine does. Startled, I abort the squat and jerk backward, too quickly. The scarf makes a beautiful circular arch and LAUNCHES POOP WATER DIRECTLY INTO MY FACE.
“Fuck!” is an understatement.