“Oh, an Asian girl.”
That probably constitutes the entirety of our initial thoughts of Cloudy when we arrived at the Golden Temple dormitory. And though we would not be incorrect in this ethnic assertion, to leave the story there would be insulting not only to our readers, but to Cloudy and the beauty of her absolutely batshit insane mind.
A 28 year old woman from Chinese city of Hunan, “Cloudy” (she didn’t want us screwing up her Chinese name, so she offered us her own, probably faulty, English translation) is traveling solo through Asia. A daunting journey to be sure, Cloudy has made things easier on herself by packing the barest of essentials, such as her extremely heavy djembe drum, a bulbous traditional Chinese flute, and a harmonica, all of which have their own carrying cases. She played all of these in the dorm for us, usually at times when there were several people trying to sleep, within five to ten feet of her.
Our adventures with Cloudy began our second day there, when we told her that we were going to find some “Amritsari”, the local fish dish that can’t be served in the vegetable-only area surrounding the Golden Temple. Cloudy calmly responded to our plans by barking, “FEESH?!? I LOOOOOOVE FEEEESH!” over and over again. As our group of flesh-seeking travelers slowly assembled, Cloudy showed off her English Learners’ book that she claimed to study every day, and which was full of useful phrases such as, “If you don’t lend me money, I’ll die”, and a litany of bizarre commands that appeared to reflect the dark familial problems of the book’s author.
Cloudy must have found the book a little weird too, as she responded to many of our questions with a widening of her eyes, a loud “Ahhhh!”, and then silence. Her sentences would often start off coherently, then suddenly sputter out, syllables backfiring loudly into a smog of nonsense, then transform into giggles, then a shout. This was actually one of the best parts of our relationship with Cloudy, for she exploited her inability to communicate by fulfilling the role of the wacky foreigner to an alarming level, and we were always ready to applaud her assaults on normal social interaction.
Whether it was warbling “Lovin’ You” (…Is Easy Car Yo Byoo-ifarr, in Cloudy’s case) at all hours of the day, or even warbling “Feeshy! FeeEEEeeshy! I miss Feeeshy!”, castigating a kissing couple (“WHATTAH YOU DOING? DEEZ IS PUB-ALIC, YOU KNOW!!!”), painlessly slugging a gobful of Royal Challenge in the middle of an extremely sacred temple complex, or giving us private, unsolicited consultations on cultural differences between East and West (“in East, women don’t wark around naked”), Cloudy always had a sort-of-self-consciously mindless trick up her sleeve.
The climax of our Cloudy time came at the tail end of our great Amritsar tour (LINK). Walking back to the Golden Temple, Steve was struggling to find something elementary to talk about with Cloudy, something aside from the fact that she was thirsty, which she kept shouting about, then smacking her lips.
“So Cloudy, uh… in uh, China, do you, like, put di-”
He shouldn’t have bothered, because upon seeing a 2 year old Sikh child Cloudy immediately lost, as one might impolitely put it, her fucking marbles. “OHHH you cute! Cute cute cute!” First she lumbered at the kid, which scared it and made it race to its mothers’ legs. No problem. She just picked it up and shook it around, chirping, “Cute cute cute!” as the father made attempts to stop her, approaching her gruffly then backing off, like an inexperienced lion tamer. Despite its violent floundering, she managed to flip the child over to cradle it, rocking it back and forth until it gave in, mostly out of sheer terror. Devon arrived on the scene and began snapping photos, which only prolonged the very public torment of this peaceful Sikh family. Steve couldn’t talk for a while after that.
Whether Cloudy was truly three chopsticks short of a brisket or simply knew how to play to the audience, we’ll never know. Another thing we’ll probably never know is if she’s alive. As of writing this article, Cloudy has, on her own, entered Pakistan – which, as of writing this article, is a horrible, violent, postdiluvian goddamn mess. But deep down we both know that somewhere, out in the fields of Islamabad, when the moon is full and the sounds of suicide bombers have ceased for the evening, if you listen just hard enough you can probably hear good ol’ Cloudy banging her preposterously sized drum and playing her flute, wailing intermittently about fish and other types of food that she likes to eat. And when you hear her song, you’ll know for sure… That she’s actually insane.