I didn’t hear back from you last time so I am taking the reins and writing to you again. I am in Laos right now. In Luang Prabang. Tomorrow I am going up north to do some serious hiking. I’m talking serious. I’m talking…
You think I’m smiling but I’m not. These mountains are for serious people and I am one of them. Except my god damn throat can’t make up its mind if it’s sick or not. It keeps doing that prickle/furry thing where it’s like, hey. Oh yeah. Oh, it’s coming. But then it doesn’t come. I told this Canadian about it and he was like, “bummer aye”, but then this American heard and he was like, “I FUCKING HATE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS FUCK.” The American had been on some extreme kayaking adventure and then was talking about getting “crazy fucked” at the bowling alley later.
Which brings me to the bowling alley. So everything shuts down here at like eleven p.m. And then everyone heads to the bowling alley. And by everyone I mean all the backpackers. Not the locals. They go somewhere else where the backpackers can’t find them.
So yeah. All the backpackers go to the bowling alley and find each other. Everyone bowls and gets drunk and German people meet Swedish people and people grope each other with their dumb groping hands. This English guy said to me, “AWIGHT LYKE SERIUSLY HOW FU-KEN SICK IS BOWLIN, MAN,” while this Russian kept trying to bowl even though his game was over and he kept telling everyone he was Russian and in Russia he does what he wants. It was pretty wild. I never want to go back.
I went on a tour the other day. It was regrettable. I rode a sad elephant. I felt so sad for the elephant ‘cause they whipped it and it was chained up until they let people ride it. You could buy the elephants banana bunches at the end so I bought my elephant five bunches. I let it suction my hand too. It felt good. I giggled. Then felt sad again.
After the elephant ride we went to a waterfall. The waterfall was beautiful like a waterfall can be. The water was nice. There was this maybe sixty-five-year-old Australian who kept asking where them two Asians were. We had to leave and he kept saying, “Anyone seen them two Asians?” Then he made head movements like he was looking for them and said, “I hope they’re all right. I hope they’re not lost. They’re usually good with time… the Asians.”
He was really concerned about them. No one else really cared that much. We walked back to the bus and they were waiting by the bus and he gave them a hug and told them he was worried they were lost. It was beautiful and confusing.
Where are you in the world? Are you on a flight yet? I want to hug you pretty bad. Travelling by yourself you miss out on hugs. If I had it my way everyone would be hugged like five times a day. I’ll hug you soon. Hug you till you go, “hehehehehe”.
What you first need to know is that I just explained to a man from Florida how the lira hasn’t been the currency in Italy for over a decade. We got talking because we were seated next to each other and I didn’t have much choice in the matter. Said he was going to Cartagena and maybe also to Venice afterwards to buy some women’s clothing. Some linens and some pieces of swimwear. Do not ask me why.
When I broke the news he seemed a bit pissed off, but his cheeks were flushed so maybe he was a little drunk. Anyway, I guess I’m telling you this because sometimes I get down on myself for not knowing enough about the way the world works, but at least I’m trying. Also, sometimes when I talk to people I don’t care a whole lot for it makes me feel lonelier than I do when I’m on my own. I think you’re the same.
I guess you also need to know that I am lying on the tiles outside immigration at the Bogotá airport. I will be lying on the tiles for the next twelve hours and then for another ten tomorrow in the Buenos Aires airport. I am not much of a hugging person, but if you were here right now I would let you hug me. Also, I need to piss pretty bad but there are only like three electrical sockets in the whole terminal and I am plugged into one and I am not giving it up. It feels like my last chance. Like I am plugged in and holding on. Like if I leave to piss I will expel everything from my body until I am dry and wasted.
Also, I’m sorry I didn’t write back sooner. The truth is I was too busy falling in love with a boy whose path crossed mine en route to an art gallery in Medellín. This is embarrassing for me, talking about feelings (and admitting I have them in the first place), but it seems crazy to me that the universe can put someone in your path for just a minute or so, and that person may become a pretty significant part of your life, if I dare use the word ‘significant’ yet. The precise and total chance timing of it blows my mind a little. There’s no romance to it. It’s simply the result of a series of plans working and also not working out. Makes me feel like every single thing leading up to that moment had been perfectly timed. That every mistake, every misdirection was executed perfectly in order for my path to cross his for just two minutes, until I called out to him in my stunted Spanish. We came so close to never knowing each other at all.
…sometimes when I talk to people I don’t care a whole lot for it makes me feel lonelier than I do when I’m on my own. I think you’re the same.
But then we spent two months together in Medellín, his home city, which looks like it was fashioned entirely from a single type of orangey-brown brick, and now I’m waiting for a plane to fly me three countries away from him. But if I’m being honest, it’s almost a relief to leave. Not for any lack of depth in feelings, and in fact quite the opposite, but because it’s scary when you feel like you exist only to one person. I guess part of me wants to keep moving so I can exist to the rest of the world again.
On the drive to the airport in Medellín, we passed a viewpoint on the hill that crests the city and stopped to watch young couples making out. Behind them, like two unanchored little ships bumping against each other on a mild ocean, we watched the flickering city stretched out before us. We’re terrible metaphors, etc., and that’s enough of that.
In other news, I’m growing increasingly worried about my father. Rumour has it he stuck a Scientology flyer offering “free intelligence and personality tests” to my family’s fridge because “it’s worth considering”. I’m not sure what to make of this. Mum says there have been mass layoffs at his workplace and that we should just monitor him closely.
Everybody feels so far away and I don’t know why I always make the choice to leave. In less than forty-eight hours I will be as far south as I will ever be from you. I’ve been away from home for over three months now, and in that time I’ve seen the sun set over the Caribbean, I’ve seen lakes like emeralds, but if you asked me now I’d say my favourite view of the world is when I close my eyes on a dance floor and everything is made up entirely of flutters of colour and the feeling of his hand in mine.
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.