It feels like the most vivid dream that never really happened. All of the feelings feeling fabricated and nestled somewhere I can hardly reach in the past. My fingertips can just graze those moments through an arms-width crack in an obstructed doorway. A brown eye peers through to guide a groping arm, and every now and then, something sticks and I’ll pull it out to remember a face, a feeling, a taste.
Most vividly, in vibrant color and emotion, I remember a girl that I met at the monastery, Karen. She had two small tattoos, one on the underside of her left wrist of a rudimentary home and the other an arrow drawn on the back of her left arm just above her elbow. I can only guess at what they might mean, but when she spoke of feeling displaced this past year due to all the travel (three months living in New York and working at a shady bakery infested with roaches, six months in India, and I was catching her at the tale end of her four-week stay at a Zen Buddhist monastery in Oregon), my best guess is that the home permanently inked into her wrist gives her a feeling of stability while the arrow represents the sense of adventure tugging at her heartstrings. It’s an interesting combination, the two, and deep down, or perhaps not so deep down, we all desire both at the same time, to see the world and continually reinvigorate ourselves with new experiences while forever clinging to the familiar roots that keep us grounded and feeling connected to something or someone.
She was subtly beautiful from the quiet way in which she spoke and moved down to the hardly noticeable details of her curly brown hair that was partially bleached in back and shaved on the right side near her temple. One doesn’t notice these things unless talking to her, nor the deep brown of her eyes and the paradoxical way she could wield them to leave you wanting to inquire more about her and shut up at the same time.
And when she told me about her depression and anxiety and feeling displaced this past year, it really hit me that we’re all just human. It was not a coming down of sorts to learn that she was dealing with these issues. Rather, I felt more connected to her in the heave and ho of this big world, and it was a simple, yet poignant reminder of our shared experience as human beings. We’re motivated and moved by many of the same things, and our desires are the same.
The collapsible poop shovel unused in my closet tucked away beneath a National Geographic Adventure Atlas curling at the corner. A chipped and slightly bug-splattered helmet. A lent sweatshirt from a friend’s days at Indianola High School. The Elliot Bay Book Company.
Scoop up the armfuls of maps long poured over, scribbled on, and annotated in our names. There’s a Cliff bar in every pocket of our naked packs waiting to be patched up by emblems of our favorite places and times, slept against in the wee hours of the night, and tossed around in the dirt, sand, and sweat of the world. Travel pants house our young legs as we begin to sidle on down the asphalt in slow motion.
Are you ready? you ask me.
Sure, I say. Why not?