The strangest thing about being back is how normal, how completely ordinary and routine it is to be back. The first time you leave home for an extended period of time, being back seems somewhat static. Driving a car feels like you’re learning for the first time again. You marvel at not living out of travel shampoo bottles anymore. Everything feels familiar but foreign because for the last couple of months, foreign was familiar. But after a couple of trips here and there, returning loses a bit of its edge. Because now, assimilating to your normal life is, well, normal.
Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page
Everyone leaned half-asleep against the windows except the driver, who guided the sedan over the rolls and curves of the road, his heart beating slow, slow as tree-cloaked ridges became silhouetted against the moonlit sky.
Every so often a car would pass, dousing their collective reverie with electric light, rousing them, until the rocking motion of the car, the Beatles wailing quietly on the radio, and the blanket of the night settled them back again.
The road might have stretched out beyond miles, deep gray terrain curling past as the car stayed poised, a humming lapse into somnolence and hallucinations.
I’m in a country far far away, where a rich American becomes a dirty rich local. Labor’s cheap here, so we have a driver. Wherever we want to go, any hour of the day, there’s a man whose job it is to take us there.
If you imagine it to be like taking a cab everywhere, it stops being weird. You call a number, talk to a guy, and 10 minutes later a car’s there, ready to take you wherever. A respectable man with a respectable occupation, so who am I to judge? Still, it’s a job I don’t envy.
I always figured I’d figure out the whole living forever thing. My whole life, I put off death as one of those tough problems, like finding a wife, that I’d get to when the time came. And here I am, 29 with terminal cancer. End of the road.
I always figured that by some point I’d have made enough money, or technology would have progressed, and there’d be a way for me to live forever. That never seemed far beyond reason until sometime yesterday, or the day before, when the truth grasped me during a daydream like it often does.
I sit in church and think. I go sometimes because my mother goes and she likes the idea of me being religious, even if it’s just an idea.
This place is so stiff and formal, it makes me wonder whether the people here just hate themselves for being horny every once in a while. I wonder what’s wrong with vulgarity.
Does church pull them towards living a more purified existence? Does it help answer the tough questions? Because that’s not what I see when I see a jealous, selfish man bow his head each week to accept the lord’s forgiveness.
Corporate logos and American cultural influence make the place feel more familiar than it should,
given that oversized billboards in Tagalog line the streets, where lane lines are only a suggestion for the bikes, scooters, and public buses, buses which are individually decorated conversions of former US Army vehicles from closed-down bases.
and given that on the table are chicken adobo, cow tongue, pork face and the best mangos, coconuts, and pineapples on the planet.
and given that wherever I go I get wide-eyed stares, from ladies, men, and lady-men alike for blue brown and white eyes hair and skin.
“Tooterson,” a little boy said, laughing. “Hey Tooterson.”
“Be quiet,” said his mom, sounding like she wished she were walking through the city alone.
The boy squirmed out of her clenching hand and ventured a little closer to the man who had just farted or burped tremendously. The man crouched against a building, a sweltering pile of black clothing and dry, rashy skin.
“Tooterson,” said the boy, a little too loud, and when the man turned, he ran back to his mother, giggling fearfully.
The whole heap of clothes began to shake. “Tooterson?” the man bellowed, then erupted into laughter.
The cowboy winked up at his lady admirers. He sat atop a dastardly bull, left hand thrust under a rope that wrapped all the way around the animal and pressed against its testicles, right hand ready to wave gaily as he was tossed about. It was his first time in competition.
The gate released, his backbone promptly dislocated, and like Raggedy Andy he flopped. The announcers laughed uproariously, unable to maintain their banter of redneck wit.
When the poor cowboy was finally hurled to the arena dirt, he lay still. Then popping up again, he winked up at his ladies.
In the center of Union Square sat an older man with a stretched-out tie-dye shirt and eyebrows like drowning caterpillars. When a passerby walked near him, he’d smile and wave until that person noticed, then abruptly scowl, spinning his hand around and raising his crooked middle finger.
Unbeknownst to the man, a young girl watched him. Eventually, she neared and asked, “Excuse me mister, what are you doing?”
Startled, he looked at her vaguely. “Flipping birds,” he said, his voice strangely high.
“See those ugly pigeons? I’m warning people about them. Someday you’ll understand how dangerous they are.”