Once the cockroaches start to affect our mental wellbeing, Amy and I move out of our hotel into what promises to be a dream of an apartment. The very fact it’s called ‘an apartment’ and is in a ‘complex’ is music to my ears. This could be Lauren and Heidi’s condo in The Hills! Pulling up in the taxi, the buildings from the outside don’t disappoint – it’s so modern and chic! It’ll be cockroach free..! And mouse free…! …Turns out, it’s also furniture free.
We are shown to a room off a kitchen which has literally nothing in it. Mr Landlord asks if ‘this is ok’ just as I’m wondering where we’re meant to sleep… He then pulls out some folded up futons/cockroach nests from the wardrobe. Ah, our beds. Sure. Lesson learnt: don’t judge a book by its cover; don’t judge an apartment by the fact that from the outside it looks like an LA condo from your favourite reality TV show.
In this condo Amy and I are not alone. This is a flat share: two other bedrooms are occupied by an Indian and American guy respectively, and Amy’s Russian friend Tatiana, and a friend of hers will be sleeping on more mattresses in the hallway. The American comes out of his room to greet us, and by greet I mean he is not-so-subtly trying to establish how long we’re going to be staying and whether we will be disturbing his meditations. He is about 55, thin and pallid and is wearing an off white t-shirt and long-johns both of which possess several yellowing stains. He talks at Amy and I – without taking a breath – about the ashram and surrounding area, making the assumption that we are first-timers (this is Amy’s 3rd extended visit). As he talks he repeatedly touches, and hovers his hand above his head in a tick-like fashion. Occasionally he asks us the odd question, but talks over our answers and then repeats the same question minutes later.
After establishing that this guy is somewhat unusual and after 15 minutes trapped in this strange interaction I start to wonder how we go about exiting it. I delicately glance over at Amy who is viewing him with a quizzical but irritated expression and I know she is thinking what I’m thinking. Eventually I free us from the conversational clutches of this mad man with something along the lines of ‘HEYYYYYYY… so we should make a move’ and we head out, debating possible, imagined life stories for him.
Later that evening, Amy and I sit on mattresses in the hallway waiting up for Tatiana. We can hear the American chatting to someone in his room. When he emerges and passes us to go to the kitchen, we realise he does not have a guest, nor has he been on the phone; he’s been chatting to himself. His audible, feverish stream of consciousness continues in the kitchen and is a mumbled and mostly incoherent soliloquy but we catch the odd word like ‘ashram’ and ‘meditate’. Amy and I sit around the corner feeling uncomfortable, terrified and amused in equal measures. We also conclude that the reason Tatiana hasn’t yet returned is because she is definitely dead and lying in several pieces next door in American guy’s bedroom.
After about 45 minutes the murmuring, (accompanied by the sound of rhythmic chopping [we can smell onions, but no cooking ever takes place]) American guy peels around the corner to find Amy and I sitting and staring at him dumbly. We hurriedly explain that we’re waiting for our friend and that we were definitely not listening in. He launches into a diatribe about the history and safety of the housing block and insists we watch his demonstration on how to use the door lock. This is clearly an audacious ploy to distract us from the fact he has already has our friend’s dismembered body in his bedroom.
A large sheet of paper falls from the bottom of his t-shirt but he continues his lecture regardless and he doesn’t so much as blink or falter in his speech as he bends down to pick it up. I’m almost of the brink of exploding in hysterics when he casually attempts, several times, to put the paper back down the front of his shirt but I manage to keep it together. I daren’t look at Amy. Eventually he leaves, and Tatiana returns – her body intact – which is a relief.