Marjorie couldn’t help what happened next. Shivers ran down her back and propelled her away from the snake and out into the crowd. She couldn’t control her revulsion to the reptile or the terror at what might happen next. She pushed out of the knot of people and walked.
She didn’t know she had been walking until a rush of saris startled her. She stopped and let people stream around her. One direction all she could see was colors and people and more people. In the other direction the same. The group that hid the snake charmer had disappeared. She did not recognize the curled top of one pandal from the one further away. How long had she been wandering. Where was Renee.
She took two steps in one direction. She stopped. The sounds overcame her and the people passing on the street began to stare. Or were they simply staring at her staring desperately at them. She turned as if on a pedestal. Not one thing looked familiar. She stepped again, praying she’d see something ordinary and familiar. Renee or Ash or a miracle.
Panic, deep and hot rose from her feet. Not panic at seeing a snake, not at kind that could come and go in an instant, but searing and infinite. She was lost.
“Marjorie, Marjorie.” Renee’s cry broke through her fear. “Marjorie.” She moved toward the sound of her name. She pushed into a group of women who were laughing and carrying one. Right through the middle of them. “Marjorie.” Her name drew her along. “Marjorie.” But her name began drawing away, gaining an unbearable distance. “Marjorie.” She pushed her way through the crowd following the diminuendo of her name. She screamed. “Reneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” She stopped where she was and screamed. Everyone around her backed away; they stopped and looked with embarrassment at the white woman screaming in their midst, in the midst of their celebration, in the midst of a happy time when people did not scream in fear.