She was a smiley English girl, with a handsome, surfer-blond French boyfriend. We boarded the train together at Colombo, and they hauled their surf boards onto the luggage rack, where they threatened to fall off and concuss someone all the way to Hikkaduwa. We were packed in as tightly as jigsaw pieces. Only sweatier.
We chatted excitedly about reaching Sri Lanka's south coast. But an hour or so later – hot, hungry, thirsty and facing backwards in my seat – I started to feel nauseous. So she lifted up my hair and blew on the back of my neck. It was such an unexpected, kind and intimate gesture from a stranger, and it worked: my queasiness disappeared a moment later. But I felt warm inside the rest of the way to Galle.