india has a transformation in mind for each of us. our dear traveling companion, A, underwent such gastrointestinal tribulation that she's back in the states with an ongoing inability to excrete in a manner of her choosing (overcorrection means that she now shits like a rabbit, poor thing). joe has either bronchitis or pneumonia—we're not quite sure, as the x-ray machine was down at the doctor's office—and is home with antibiotics, trying to shake the infamous grey air (a combination of car emissions, industrial pollution, and seasonal stubble burning after crops were harvested) we breathed for a week and change with antibiotics and recorded soccer matches. by comparison i got off easy: i've lost my talent for sleeping and become a reluctant lark. in delhi i clocked an average of three or four hours of rest at a stretch, and while i made up for some of that when we headed south to goa, the sunrise and i became and are still awkward new pals. there i greeted the day with squabbling parakeets and tentative monkeys; here the cats are sure it's already time for me to feed them. probably it is always time for me to feed them.

i should have been the one negotiating with bathrooms in a sari with henna-covered hands, since i have a childish fascination with tap water. our guide books made casual drinking sound like eating pomegranate seeds in the underworld, but listen, fancy hotels and restaurants quite literally had more to lose than i did if i went down with delhi belly: apocalyptic diarrhea is bad, but trip advisor is forever. if someone swears up and down that their water is filtered, by god, i'll believe them. I LOVE ICE.*

i probably should be with joe on the couch as well, since pneumonia is one of my lungs' favorite tricks (i had it twice while i worked for the ladymag). after a few hours on our delhi hotel's rooftop i felt an old, familiar knife in my chest, the one that settled there when i'd play soccer games in southern california in the bad old days of los angeles smog in the '80s.

no, sleep's the thing. i've had a lot of time for reading: i just started n.k. jemisin's dreamblood series, a weird cycle to slip into when one's ability to conk out is compromised.** this weekend i styled frantically for a couple of DIY stories i'm turning in this week; i run a few miles as the sun rises. i wandered into the bird hospital on my second day home, early for the first time in four years, to tire myself out with grunt work. i imagine all three of us will return to ourselves sooner or later? india should linger, i think, both psychically—a post for another sleepless morning—and physically. i held my hands just so as joe photographed them for my DIY shoot so that their fading henna, still visible two weeks after our friends' wedding, was out of sight. i wanted it to sneak in, really, but i am trying to work on my timing. stories needn't tumble over each other all at once.

*a guy sitting next to me on the flight from delhi down to goa rejected a bottle of water from our flight attendant because it was "too cold." i should have taken it.

**In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.