Diane Payne


Sitting atop the bus with other travellers soaring down a frigid
Himalayan highway, we approach a low, narrow tunnel and realize the
driver isn't going to let us off. Those on the edge jump into the
snowbank, while those of us in the center burrow beneath the luggage,
wondering if the darkness will ever end. After we survive, the driver
stops the bus and seems disappointed to see no fatalities. Now that the
road is safe, he insists we remain inside the crowded bus.

"Last week an Australian lost his head going through a tunnel
like this," a tourist reports. "I thought he'd stop. Our driver must be
into Nirvana, thinking he's doing a good deed by rushing others into
another life."

All the seats are taken, people are piled on top of each other,
so we stand. Being a woman, I"m offered a seat on a man's lap. I'd
decline and remain crouched in the aisle. I miss the panoramic view
experienced on top of the bus. The locals don't seem to travel much and
are heaving out the broken windows. Jagged edges cut them while
vomiting. Parents lean young children out the window so they can
relieve themselves. I sing "Proud Mary." English speaking people sing
along. The locals clap their hands. Some howl. Could Nirvana be
better than this?

Diane Payne lives in a dry town and teaches writing at the University of Arkansas-Monticello. Her nine-year old daughter derives great pleasure knowing there's not a beer for miles.


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