On my first trip to Kerala, I stayed awake all night. I stood at the door of the bus, clutching to the frame and watching the dark sky lighten.
It was three years ago, on a school trip. But the memories still linger, as if just yesterday I stood at the footstep, nibbling chocolate chip cookies at 4 am.
We started out at around 10 pm the previous day, and just like any trip with friends, we talked, and sang, and danced well into the night. But as darkness fell, most of my classmates started to doze off. I sat down next to a friend who fell asleep in an instant, making me howl with jealousy. I plugged in my earphones, instead, and sat up straight wondering what to do in a bus full of sleeping classmates with only the driver to talk to.
And then I got bored. The wind blew harder with every mile we passed. The cold October breeze stung through the open windows. Pulling my cap over my ears, I walked over to the entrance of the bus. Unlike the usual full-length, the door was about my height so I could look out without reaching out.
I put my head through the door, and a warning call came from behind. The driver’s companion (who’d take the wheel when the other driver needed a break) yelled at me to stop being a fool. I flashed a sheepish grin and assured him I wouldn’t hang out the door or rest too hard on it. It was a secure door, I knew but you can never be too careful.
And so I stood there, gazing at trees passing us at 45 miles per hour. From swaying green monsters, I saw them transition to black ghosts. As the night moved onto early morning, a blueish hue appeared over the horizon, and lights popped up at every corner I turned to.
My stomach growled. I pulled out a packet of cookies and went back to my lair. A friend on a seat nearby jerked awake and joined me. We stared out at the tents that lined the highway, lights within them illuminating creepy silhouettes with butcher knives. We passed a few more tents and noticed large bodies hanging on the entrance of the tents.
It took us more than one chilling moment to recognize what it was. Kerala is famous for dark meat, and with the rest of the country dabbling in holy cow controversies, it wasn’t so obvious to us that the beef dealers started their day early. Once we understood that, we smiled at ourselves and began pointing out gory silhouettes.
It was the closest we could ever get to being in a thriller a movie. We basked in the sensation, and a while later, the sun peeked from pink clouds, cast them away, and walked out in full glory. More of my classmates began to stir, ready to explore the wonderful land of Kerala.
While they chattered away, I traced my way back to my seat. My adventure had come to an end, and staying up all night had given me a headache.