In Long Island City, Krishna was crushed to find out that the skyscraper she had been marching toward wasn’t the city’s focal point. A larger, impossibly larger city opened up behind it, across the river—with dozens, hundreds of skyscrapers filling the western horizon. Exhausted, she made her way to the river and began studying the waterfront. Later, Krishna couldn’t even explain why she thought going over to Manhattan was a good idea that afternoon. She was grasping for anything even remotely familiar; Shyam and Anu had taken her to Manhattan over the Queensboro Bridge, so she had a vague notion that they would look for her along the same route.
She soon found a grime-covered bridge and crossed it, but the city on the other side was a bit weird. It was small, for one thing, and seemed to have only one street. One of the most notable structures was a huge parking garage. Krishna dutifully walked around the garage and, having wasted an hour or so, decided to return to Queens. She made her way back over the bridge, leaving behind what she had initially taken for Manhattan but what was, in fact, Roosevelt Island. The darkening sky portended another wet night on the streets. Exhausted, she began looking for a place to sleep.
This is when the hallucinations came. Krishna began to hear the voices of her daughters, Anu and Babita. They were speaking from two different directions, Anu into Krishna’s left ear and Anu’s sister, Babita, into the right one—they were talking over each other. Mostly, they just repeated the word mom: “Ama.”
With the daughterly din in her head, Krishna moved ahead. She found a fountain in a small waterfront park and drank. She found a public restroom in another park and cleaned herself up (accidentally walking into the men’s room first). She came upon Astoria Park, where Anu had taken her before, and once again felt a trace of hope that she could regain her compass. The voices kept going. Ama. Ama. Later, she’d say she heard Shyam’s voice too, paired with that of Anu’s, but she would just say that to be nice to her son-in-law.
In the gathering darkness, Krishna left the waterfront and turned east, toward Ditmars-Steinway. Had the sun not set, she might have seen the flag of Nepal hung in the front yard of one house she passed: another missed shortcut home. Instead, she wound up at a power plant that sits on the northernmost tip of Astoria. It looked like the end of the world, a vast landscape of asphalt and silent machinery. Krishna settled on a concrete bench just outside the fence. She pulled a piece of cardboard she’d found under her and fell asleep sitting up, legs crossed, head bowed, her daughters’ calls growing quieter in her ears until they wafted away.
Forty-eight hours had passed since Krishna had disappeared. At midnight on Sunday, Anu was on her 40th sleepless hour. Shyam was beginning to worry for his wife’s health. He didn’t know it was possible to cry nonstop for almost two days, that a human body had such a pool of tears to dispense. On Sunday morning in Pokhara, Maita went to a different astrologer for a second session, taking along Krishna’s picture for a more accurate reading. The astrologer studied the photo, concurred that Krishna was “in the park,” and added that she was closer than the Gurungs thought. The search party continued combing Queens.
The birds awakened her. A flock had perched on a small tree next to the concrete bench, chirping like mad. It was 5:30 on Sunday morning, and the rain had passed. The cardboard under Krishna was wet and spongy. Her feet were swollen, and her sneakers cut into her feet.
She got up and continued walking for six more hours. She saw a man hose down a car in his front yard and asked him for some water from the hose. She saw a guard’s booth at the entrance to a parking lot that said notice in blue and white, an inscription that looked to her like police; she accosted the man inside, mistaking him for an officer. When he didn’t respond, it only fortified Krishna’s newfound belief in the callousness of New Yorkers.
She was now on the verge of losing consciousness. Even the hallucinations had taken leave of her. She just walked, putting all her concentration into the very process of moving forward while staying upright. The direction no longer mattered—it was all the same everywhere. She would never find home, never see Anu or Babita. She walked some more.
“Are you okay?”