I worried about propriety while writing about Haritha and the others. I didn’t want them to become characters in a narrative, although I didn’t see any way to avoid this in part. I worried that this fictionalization would happen even in my own mind. The only way to repay them in any equality was to keep their memory pure. I know I have done a poor job representing them and am frustrated to lack the exact words when I have been able to write about every other trivial thing. Yet, excluding the day which was undoubtedly the most memorable part of my trip seemed like a gross twisting of the record.

Then, today as I was preparing to post all these skeletal observations, Anna and I couldn’t find the paper on which we had written their names. We scrambled through our belongings. We flipped open pages of our notebook, shook out novels, and turned over old train stubs. I thought we had used a substantive book of some kind, but maybe not? With all these loose papers, it could be anywhere. What had we brought with us that day?

I have lost my share of earrings and class notes and borrowed clothing, but this one would be the worst to forfeit. Taking them in words without names would be the most dishonest representation I could imagine.

Suddenly Anna found me with a radiant face. On a tiny patchwork folder they were scribbled in our guessed spellings – Harith, Prianca, Patush, Richie, Potina. We had intersected their lives but it was more than that. The gestalt of their kindness exceeded the afternoon. It didn’t matter if anyone else understood those moments, singular or cumulative. I copied the names into my own notebook. In the writing I remembered each face and cried in relief where no one could see me.

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