When Ed finally arrived at The Himalaya Guesthouse and Café in Darjeeling he was given a key and directions to his room. The door was already unlocked, the television was on, he went in. “Hello?”
“You’re late. Eight fucking days late!” said a familiar voice. Tracy was sitting up in bed surrounded by half-written postcards and half-eaten bags of crisps and an open bottle of coke. He was wearing a balaclava.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I got the screaming hab-dabs and a fever.” Tracy snivelled.
Ed had a cut above his eye and a grazed chin but Tracy didn’t take his eyes off the women in swimsuits who were dancing on the TV.
Ed limped over to the second bed and was asleep before the song finished.
The next morning there was no hot water for a shower so Ed and Tracy went downstairs and ordered two breakfasts with tea. A minute later the tea arrived.
“Oh, excuse me, sorry,” said Ed. “sorry, excuse me, ahem, this is coffee.”
“I know, we’re out of tea.” said the waitress as she walked away.
“That’s pretty fuckin funny isn’t it?” said Tracy without a hint of humour.
“Ed, we’re in a café. In India. In Darjeeling. And they’ve got no tea!”
It was funny but smiling hurt Ed’s jaw.
“What happened to you anyway?” said Tracy.
“I fell off my bike.”
“I’m not your mother. You can tell me the truth.”
“It is true.”
There was a commotion on the street outside the café. A bearded man with a red face and dressed in a purple dressing gown was having an animated argument with a woman. Someone entered the café, sidestepping the disagreement and ducking in through the doorway, taking shelter from the emotional downpour on the street.
While the door was open Ed could hear the argument. The red-faced beard-man said “I just want to know why!”
“There is no why. You can’t analyse it. It’s just how it is.” the woman retorted just before the door swung shut again. Her accent was American. The man’s gesturing was getting wilder, he was English and his face looked familiar.
“We may as well hang out here until after New Year then.” said Tracy without a hint of enthusiasm.
“May as well. Are you going to take the balaclava off while we eat?”
Tracy hesitated before removing the balaclava. He placed it on top of the half-written postcards and shivered. Ed looked out the window at Kangchenjunga, “Five Treasures of Snow”, the third highest mountain in the world. He had some postcards to send too, it was just difficult to know what to write.
tea for two is an extract from Transpose – a self-styled revolution