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by DeAnna Knippling
Imperfections only exist after you finish a project; until then, they’re opportunities. After Randi finishes her latest project, she runs like hell and winds up at a ten-day Buddhist retreat in India. Instead of providing her with a distraction, it exposes her to the terrors of her unplanned, wasted life: middle-aged, loveless, and translating pulp fiction into Tibetan at bargain-basement rates.
Monsoon season is over.
One day, you’re hoping that the ledge in front of your door that’s meant to keep out ghosts is also high enough to keep the rain on the steps from blowing under your door; the next, you’re thinking, I think I saw a monkey on top of the next roof down the mountain; the day after that, you’re thinking, I have to get out of this place.
The water…the earth gives birth to water, screaming and thrashing and threatening her husband. The instinct to hole up in a safe place until it’s over, but of course you can’t. The storm lasts for months, and the lack of refrigerator in my apartment is a kind of hell. Real Indians act like it’s nothing big. I drink a lot of coffee and eat a lot of dal. Sometimes I scuttle from overhang to overhang, watching the tiny cars slewing through the streets. Water running down the street shoves them into the opposite lane, but they don’t slow down. The drivers who slow down too much have their engines stall and have to have their cars dragged out of the way by small groups of men cheered on by the old women from the laundry at the bottom of the hill. Two days ago I jumped over the runoff on the way to the market but was almost knocked off my feet on the way back, because the rain was coming down even harder than before, if that’s possible.
I pushed through the first draft of translating the trilogy on the advice of my neighbor downstairs, who is from Nepal but has been living here for nine years and promised me the monsoon would be over soon. I sent the “final” version off. Cult Sci-Fi surrealist novel in three parts, now safely ensconced in the Tibetan tongue. It was complete and utter crap. Aliens come to earth to worship (and destroy) HHDL based on a mistranslation of a radio transmission made in 1959 by Allen Ginsberg. Commando monks. The Deadly Lotus. Murder by sutra. Apparently HHDL thought the little bits that the author read to him via translator were funny. I hope he likes it, but I think if he does that it’ll kill my respect for him a little.
I hate finishing things. Until you sign off on something, a project never has flaws, only development opportunities. So, as usual after “finishing” a big project, I panicked and ran.
If you enjoy reading about a) India, b) spiritual seeking, or c) funny things that happen with monkeys, check out Fighting the Good Fight (by JC Andrijeski). She recently went on a, ahem, very similar trip…this is the imaginary diary of another one of the women at the retreat. I’m not really intending to portray anyone, just fascinated by her experiences.