You’re supposed to keep your eyes open when you’re on safari in a tiger reserve. But if you’re also gathering material for a book and every detail – however small or random – might potentially be useful, the act of looking intensifies to a point where you start to feel slightly demented.
I spent a week in the back of a jeep hardly daring to blink.
On the first day, I looked at things. On the second and third, I began to actually see them. By the fourth, I was seeing things that weren’t there. On the fifth, my eye was so attuned that I managed to catch sight of a tiger resting in a bamboo thicket a whole half-second before our guide did.
On the last day – perhaps because it was the last – I stopped scouring the landscape for extraordinary sights. Instead, everything seemed extraordinary. The way a group of trees grew together, shadows across the path, the feathery tips of grasses, a fallen log.
Look at that! Look at that! Look at that! I kept thinking.
The reflection in a pool, the slope of a hill, patterns in the dust…
“LOOK AT THAT!”
I hadn’t meant the words to come out so suddenly and so excitedly, as if I’d just spotted Bigfoot’s Indian cousin lurking in the undergrowth. I hadn’t meant them to come out at all. But it was too late. Our guide braked sharply and gazed in the direction of my pointing finger. There was a short, uncomfortable silence.
“It’s a rock,” he said at last.
Everyone in the jeep stared at me.
“I know it’s a rock,” I muttered. “But it’s so big and…so white.”
Someone cleared their throat, and there was another, even more uncomfortable silence. Then our guide started up the engine again, grinning to himself. I knew what he must be thinking, and he was right.
I’d finally lost my mind.