When these things happen, these sudden blips on the heart monitor of life, these moments you write home about and get interviewed about by local reporters (and if the event is really shocking, national reporters), everyone always says the same thing: “It all happened so fast.”
And so it was for the American woman, the Canadian cyclist, the Ecuadorian couple, the British guy from India, the brunette writer, and the New York Asshole that night in the Turkish restaurant, the one on the right.
The smattering of locals that had slipped inside the restaurant earlier in the evening had slumped into the back left corner, and were having a ball of a time getting drunk on raksi, the equivalent of Nepalese bathtub gin.
At one point during the evening, one of the Nepali men has joined their table, slurring his words and asking them all where they were from. Upon seeing Chris’ disapproving look and making sure none of the women at the table were likely to sleep with him that night, he gave up and returned to his den of debauchery in the corner.
Later, just as the brunette was set to murder the New York Asshole, there was a flash of white light to her left.
A man had entered the restaurant from the back door. He swept in swiftly and was immediately restrained by the young hostess and two male waiters who noticed him first.
The brunette looked to her left and saw, not two feet from her face, the cold steel of a fat butcher’s knife catching a glint of the tasseled lamplight.
The man broke free from the staff, raised his arm above his head, and with a wild war cry rushed toward the back table, toward the drunken locals and their empty bottle of raksi.
It could never be said that a roar went up from the crowd so much as a gasp, an immediate silence, a rush of out, out, out, out!
Chris had never had his animal instincts completely take over before. In that moment he had no thought for the brunette or the cyclist or the American or even the Ecuadorians. His only thought was to get as far away from that butcher knife as he possibly could as fast as he possibly could.
In the ensuing chaos, with the crowd of diners bottlenecking the front door, the women grabbing their purses and shrieking, there was pivotal moment when Chris decided that no, he wasn’t overreacting and yes, this was indeed an emergency.
In that moment Chris made to turn from the scene of the crime toward to the door. And it was in that split second turn that he saw her hips, those same hips backing away from danger, leading the brunette away from death.
And as they sprinted full speed into the night, away from the restaurant and the butcher-wielding murderer, he couldn’t help thinking “this is the dance she does when she is afraid. She is afraid of me.”
It was also not lost on Chris that in a moment of mortal danger everyone, himself included, panicked as politely as possible, not wanting to make too big a scene in case this whole butcher knife-thing was just some sort of terrible practical joke.
When the smoke cleared there were four of them left, and what a quadruplet they were: Orion, constant and belted against the black winter sky, the New York Asshole, terrified and giddy, her tough exterior melted away in the face of real fear, Chris and the brunette, panting and out of breath as they’d been on their hike up to the stupa.
The rest of the crowd had dispersed, they’d lost their friends, everyone had run all the way home in terror and the excitement of something real and tangible actually happening, and happening to them.
They stood in the street, which was silent and dark, having stopped some 100 yards away from the Turkish restaurant, the one on the right.
Chris and the two women stared in each other’s faces for a few moments, looking for signs of just how frightened they should or shouldn’t be, looking to see if what just happened had, in fact, just happened.
“Should we go back?”
“We didn’t pay for our meals.”
“That poor restaurant owner, he just lost his entire night’s earnings.”
The New York Asshole had already paid her bill, as everyone in the restaurant was well aware, so she bid them farewell and they departed warmly, bonded in the way only tragedy can bond, connected on a level that’s only realized when the ego is silenced and for one sweet moment all that’s left is sheer, unadulterated humanity – that nameless innocence and sweetness common to all who walk the earth, even the jerk from New York.
Chris and the brunette decided to return and pay their bill. Perhaps they wanted another rush of excitement, another shot of danger. They weren’t alone.
A small crowd remained outside the restaurant. The police had come, they’d be questioned, they’d pay their bill, and they’d assure the devastated restaurant owner that no, this incident was not going to ruin his business forever. After all, people could always go eat at the other Turkish restaurant, the one on the left.
The butcher had been sent home with a warning, escorted by the police. Apparently one of the drunken locals had said something rude to him, something disrespectful, something that warranted a stabbing. But in the end no one was hurt except the restaurateur.
The man who was the intended victim, the one who’d almost been butchered to death, was wild-eyed and talking a mile a minute. He grabbed the brunette, shook her by the shoulders and said “You saw. You were closest. What did I do? I just needed to use the bathroom, he was in there, I told him to hurry up. It’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything wrong. Did I do something wrong? It’s not my fault.”
Chris gently lifted his fingers from the brunette’s shoulders, speaking in soothing tones, agreeing with him.
“Of course it’s not your fault.”
They extracted themselves from the shaken victim and walked home together, both quiet, both ruminating on the fact that they themselves could have been butchered tonight.
And yet not even that, not even being faced with their own deaths, was enough to convince either of them to speak up about their feelings for the other.
And so Orion’s belt was gazed upon, the hips tilted backward to prevent the kiss that didn’t happen, and they made plans to see each other again the following day.
For Part 1 of this post, click here.
This post is an excerpt from My Week With Deepak: A memoir of Nepal, available February 2015 from THP Publishing. To pre-order your copy, click here!
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