Not far from Matara the lady next to me pressed her breasts firmly against the side of my head. It wasn’t her fault, as the bus was so overcrowded there was barely space to sweat. Despite the uncomfortable awkwardness the damp mass of bodies created, the situation in the bus was calm and oddly quiet. We simply swayed and bounced along.
That is until a drunken fisherman from Tangalle decided to pick on me, the sole sudhu, himself having been shunned my way by a group of angry women who viciously attacked him with their eyes.
Over the next hour he proceeded to belch out such grotesque filth and sexual drivel that I’m loath to recount the experience here. And worst of all, the gentleman to my left escaped, enabling this man of the sea and the bottle to clamber into the seat next to me. I was well and truly trapped. Breasts to my right and the Devil’s own personal chauvinist to my left.
After my futile attempts to ignore him failed, I tried a different tack: to engage the man in conversation, albeit rather broken due to my lack of ability in the Sinhala tongue and his utter inebriation. But at first there was some element of coherence to it. He liked to catch tuna. His wife, an Italian, was coming to see him in three months’ time. We also established that I was not a tourist, that I was living in Goyambokka, and that I, too, have a wife.
But then it started to turn bad. His arm went around my shoulders, his face pressed right to mine (imagine an open sewer both for smell and as a metaphor for dialogue) and he started to spout foulness that I haven’t come into contact with since the dark days at university where I indulged myself, for a short while, in the works of De Sade.
The worst part was a particularly uncouth action directed at the lady in front of me, that I can only imagine symbolised the act of cunnilingus.
I still had no means to escape, apart from getting off the bus in the dark rural bad lands of the Deep South jungle (many Sri Lankans have told stories of Tangalle’s debauchery, thuggary, and drunkedness). I started silently crying out to my travel companions: why wasn’t anyone trying to help me? To assist the poor sudhu and scold this barking mad scoundrel?
But to no avail. He started gesturing that I should go with him, my friend, and together we could fill our bodies and minds with smut and intoxicants. It was too much. In the end I removed myself, with great effort, from the fleshy mass that filled the bus and alighted into the night.