She had the most wonderful grin in the world, she had given up on shoes
She was happy, most of the time, that or all absent in a thoughtful way that was fine. The one time I saw her lose it she shrieked a little and tried to beat up a palm tree.
We lived together for a month in a hut made of palm fonds that blended with the yellow grass and the south Indian mud. During the mornings we dug our hands into the earth and pulled weeds from around pineapple plants and banana trees and little green shoots that they said would one day be a forest.
At night, before bed, there was there was only one light. It was in the big hut, a fat roof of palm tree thatch with stilts and no walls and only just enough room for all fifteen of us. There was no power for CDs. The food was mostly beans and rice, they didn`t believe in spices or tea or sugar, the dark was right there- real and warm and kind. There would be the sound of insects, someone cranking the water pump, a clatter from the last of the dishes being done.
She always had her head buried in unlikely literature then, sometimes she`d look over at me and grin. Eventually we came together, me with my notebook her with her novels. She sat with her bony knees bunched and her unshaven ankles crossed.
It was twenty minutes walk from the farm to the road, where there was all the Indian madness and cups of chai, but one time after work we went out the other way and found orchard of trees with hard green leaves that made everything underneath dark and cool and secret.
The scorpions should have got us as we sat in the mulch and talked for hours, but they didn't. I idly played with her big toe. When we kissed she smelt like grass and soil. There was mud in her hair from the warm monsoon pond that we used for washing.
At night the moon seemed out very often, there was no other light.
She taught me functional lovemaking words in her own language.
In the evenings, in the big hut, she would put her hand on my knee.
Sometimes she would tell me she had enough of the place. Like me she was no good with groups. We`d jump onto a scooter that was disintegrating with rust from the beach and dodge through the cows and pot holes and spluttering traffic to go and sit on the French sea wall in Pondycherry.
I had to sneak off for a croissant and a milkshake. The injustice of milk was more than she could deal with. Occasionally we`d get to close too someone eating a bowl of chicken curry and she`d grimace and mutter. Later she`d explain to me how it was exactly the same thing as murder.
I loved that she was 26 and still cared.
We laughed a lot, but we didn't have to. It was enough to be together.
`It's all good`, I said towards the end when we talked about it ending. I was going back to Australia to live the dreams of other people. It annoyed her that I kept on saying that, it obviously wasn't true.
I loved that she cared enough to be annoyed.
It was just, somehow, I couldn't help myself from saying it.
'It's all good'.
Neither of us cried much, except in the final minutes, and then I was getting into one of those Indian taxis and bumping down the track towards the chaos of the Chennai road and the airport.
I looked back of course.
She had this look on her face as she stood there alone underneath a palm tree that I can only describe as small, she didn't wave goodbye so much as slightly raise her hand.
I'll never see her again. After, we didn't email for a month or two, then she wrote me and said it. She had a directness about her. She`d said earlier that there are good times and bad times, then she shrugged her bony shoulders in a way that was completely her.