I’m writing you from a national park 4,200 metres above sea level, which makes this the highest I’ve ever been in my life.
We only saw two other people all day – horse men, farmers I guess, though what the fuck they’re harvesting up here I have no idea. They each had missing teeth.
I’m with an American couple seeing out a doomed romance and a Frenchman my dad’s age who owns a souvenir shop on the French Riviera. He has these blazing blue eyes I can see in the dark. The life in his face is all in the mouth and cheeks (that’s not my line; I stole it. From Alice Munro I think) and he seems incapable of shutting up. He’s a broken record, a pin in my bubble of mountain Zen. He’s one of those fucking annoying guys who says he’s going to write a book because he’s been all over the world and has lots of stories, and because, you know, writing a book that’s worth anything is probably easy.
“Here’s something,” he said to me just before, when he saw me writing this letter. “I was one of the very first customers of Hotmail. Was one of the first people to make an address. And now look what’s happened.” I looked up briefly from my letter and nodded but I had no idea what he was talking about. I wonder what I will try and claim to a foreigner half my age when I am in my fifties.
“I was one of the first recipients of a Snapchat, perhaps. My best friend Oliver got over 100 likes on a Facebook status, like, three times.” Yeh, that sounds pretty impressive. I am going to ride on your shoulders into my fifties.
He’s one of those fucking annoying guys who says he’s going to write a book because he’s been all over the world and has lots of stories, and because, you know, writing a book that’s worth anything is probably easy.
At 4,200 metres above sea level, surrounded by mountains populated by a few men with missing teeth, I can’t help but feel that my writing and publishing efforts are extraneous. You know, when the first mountain man rode across our path, I thought: I wonder if he’s ever heard of Justin Bieber. What kind of fucking barometer even is that?? I don’t know. The world is big, and there is much to learn, and I’m greedy for it. That’s all I’m saying.
It’s 7:30 p.m. and will be absolutely dark come 8:00 p.m. The Frenchman is somewhere by the lagoon now, sucking down on his electronic cigarette, and I can hear him talking, talking to someone or to no one.
Last week I wiped all the music from my phone and all I want is to listen to Kanye West.
Next time we meet let’s make it somewhere new.
Sometimes I think it’s pretty easy to look and nod at someone and pretend like you’re listening to them. Seems like a pretty important life skill sometimes. I dunno. When I was younger and running cross country a lot of guys would be talking about “fucking bitches”. I wasn’t really capable of “fucking bitches” because of not going through puberty. And, anyway, I didn’t really like those people so I’d sing songs in my head. I’d sing, “Red, red wineeeeeeeeeeee. Stay close to meeeeeeeeee.” I’d jog along the pavement with my feet doing a drum thing singing in my head: stay/close/to/me/stay/close/to/me.
I guess one good thing about being alive in 2014 is that we can stay close to the people we want no matter where they are in the world because of Skype and the internet. One bad thing might be that we can’t time travel with our thoughts. Like, you can’t think about Iceland while the Frenchman talks to you and then be in Iceland. I dunno. Maybe you can. I daydream a lot. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
I went snowboarding in Honshu up north for a week. It was amazing. There was lots of snow. Snow up to your nipples. Imagine snow up to your nipples! Ouch! Mmm! So wild! I would tell you the place but the people at the mountain were like, “Hey, what do you do?” and I was like, “I write a lot”, and they were like, “Hey, don’t, like, write to anyone about this mountain ‘cause it’s already getting popular and we don’t want it getting more popular,” and I was like, “Haha, I’m gonna write a whole book about it,” and they were like, “Seriously, fucking don’t.”
So that week was a very good week. This would be a typical day in that week: wake up, onsen (natural hot spring), eat tomato soup, snowboard, sushi, onsen, pub, beer, beer, beer, beer, whisky, whisky, either beer or whisky, water, onsen, bed. Except one day I used a foot onsen. That was pretty out of the ordinary. Pretty ‘wack-o’. This American guy I met at the pub kept saying “that’s wack” when speaking about various things so one time I said “wack-o!”, ‘cause my grandma used to say “wack-o!” when she agreed strongly with something or wasn’t really paying attention to something. He started telling me this story:
“Dude, one of my, like, fucking buddies like, fucking, like, punched this wack guy cause like, fucking, like, haha you know, you gonna say stuff like that, like, I mean, you gonna step into the kitchen you better be prepping to get burned.”
He sort of paused after he said the word “prepping” and I leaned forward and said, “Wack-o!”
He said, “Yeah, I dunno, I haven’t, like, seen him in four years. I miss him, you know.” And I nodded like I knew. Like I knew everything even though I didn’t. It felt really important at the time. To sit there pretending to know everything. To just be a face with ears listening to someone because they needed someone to talk to for a while.
I guess one good thing about being alive in 2014 is that we can stay close to the people we want no matter where they are in the world because of Skype and the internet. One bad thing might be that we can’t time travel with our thoughts.
I feel like we are in remarkably different places right now. I am in Tokyo surrounded by lots of people. You are probably not surrounded by lots of people but maybe you are. I hope you are surrounded by good people. I’ve felt recently that the only important thing is to be surrounded by people you think are good.
I’m going to Osaka tomorrow. I’ll be in Laos on Thursday. I’m gonna write my next book in Laos. I’ve got a bunch of ideas. I’m pretty excited. I’m excited about things that make me feel good. Maybe that’s selfish. I think it’s okay, though. Well, I hope so.
I can’t wait to speak soon. Let’s speak in Spanish. Let’s pretend to be people we’re not. Someone said that to me. They said, “Becoming someone you’re not is called change. It’s normal. Motherfucker.”
Oliver Mol is a Sydney-based writer. He has lived in Houston, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. He was the co-winner of the 2013 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers and was the recipient of a 2012 Hot Desk Fellowship. His début book Lion Attack! is out through Scribe Publications.
Katia Pase is the co-founding editor of Stilts journal and literary collective, and editor of Going Down Swinging. She has presented at the Wheeler Centre’s Debut Mondays, the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, the National Young Writers’ Festival, and at Avid Reader salons. In 2013 she co-programmed the Emerging Writers’ Festival Hobart Roadshow.