A Wednesday in Dhaka
The driver tells me the air conditioning has been acting up. Fuck. I sit back against the leather seat, praying that my makeup remains intact. I can already feel a rivulet of sweat mixed with foundation running down the side of my face. We haven’t moved in fifteen minutes. That’s five o’clock on a Wednesday in Dhaka for you. I push the buds of my headphones deeper into my ears, but the noise canceling function is futile against the relentless cacophony of honking that surrounds us.
There’s a tap on my window. It’s a girl – can’t be more than ten or twelve – selling flowers. I grimace, averting my eyes from the pane of glass. I don’t have anything less than a five hundred taka note on me. If I had a ten or twenty on me, I would’ve bought a flower. At least that’s what I tell myself. She puts her nose against the glass, her stare boring into my soul. It’s as if she knows what I’m thinking and judges me for it. Me, the one sitting in a car complaining about air conditioning, who routinely buys mediocre coffee that I promptly forget to finish for five hundred taka. But for her? That same note would mean she could go home. The cracked skin on her feet would get some rest. If she ran fast enough, she could sneak into the back bench at school and still satisfy her parents with her earnings for the day.
My cheeks feel hot. I can’t tell if it’s from me thinking about what she’s thinking about me or if it’s just because the air conditioning isn’t working. Fuck it. I dig into my purse and pull out the green bill. Her face breaks out into a wide smile as I roll down the window and hand it to her. She tries to give me all her flowers but I shake my head and just pick one. Bhalo thaken, I say to her. Stay well. She laughs at my accent and bows, before scampering off across six lanes of traffic.
Pooja Joshi is an Indian-American writer from North Carolina. She has a background in management consulting and health tech. Her work is published or forthcoming in The Bombay Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Hive Avenue, and Five Minutes.