I realized how we are awake when our friends and family go to sleep, and we're still awake in the same stretch of our day when they wake up again. We talk in our morning and then it's time for their bedtime. And I think: Okay, I'll talk to you again when you wake up. Our connection has been the constant on our trip. Maybe it's the thing that keeps me feeling like I still have a proper "home" even though our physical home is providing a roof over someone else.
I'm sitting in a treehouse in the center of our beach-side hostel. The season brings in mercurial storms that last for long enough, and with such slight intensity, that no one changes positions at their tables or on their beach towels. They almost ignore it. Or maybe they receive it. It's not a disruption.
I've been thinking a lot about how we carry people with us. In our hearts, our conversations, our actions. We notice the cats around Thailand, maybe in part because they are so ubiquitous, but also because they bring thoughts of our friends. Of Claire, and Andy, Rebecca and Shasta. These quick flashes of memory bring me a sense of calm. I ignite at the sight of these kitties not because they inspire me, but because I know they'd elate my closest friends.
Tyler and I are close enough within reach, but are both so fully immersed in our books, that we're transported even further away than Thailand from home. Tyler is involved in his science-fiction world of Hyperion, a book suggested to him by our friend Johnny. And so, in reading it, he's there in this alternate world, but Johnny and his wife Zoe are somewhere with us as well. I'm reading a book given to me by my best friend Rebecca, and in reading it I am following the protagonist's journey through college. I can only experience this story in relation to my understanding of college. I think of Rebecca. Somehow, all our friends are around us.
We're situated in a space 100 yards outside of the center of the beach party. I can hear the deep base pulsing in the thin wood flooring of the treehouse. It's resonating somewhat stronger than the immediate sounds of people lightly chattering nearby, of feet scuffling against the sand-dusted brick pathway below. Nearby sounds that should be in the foreground, but are somewhere else, almost defying logic. Tinny sounds echo through small phone speakers, music that counters the thumping bass outside, but still sounds island-in nature. They're harmonious while being disparate. My mind remembers summer days in Dolores Park in San Francisco. Of competing music advertising who you are as a group, telling others your ideology and momentary mood. My mind is on our friends and how our music was always my favorite music playing in the park. It united us, it was the home we created on a network of blankets in the grass.
Quick clicks of lighters signal to my brain that people are smoking. And then the waft of meters-away smoke, already stale in the humidity, confirms my suspicion. Memories of college, when we always had cigarettes in our mouth, to prove we were different, radical, alternate. Cigarettes that proved we were too young to acknowledge our mortality. We were untouchable. I think of Gabrielle, Katie, and Saba - only a sparse sample of friends from college I still hold dear, but how they are the dearest. We stayed together through all the changes in our personality. This 'end' result of where we are now, even though it's completely lacking in permanence, still remains symbiotic. We must have been made to be friends all along.
I like knowing that I can talk to people at home about the cultural differences I'm experiencing and people will understand. Just based on the fact that we've honed ourselves off similar environments. Even though all our upbringings are different, our hometowns separated by time zones and accents, we're still similar under a large umbrella. We have a common denominator. I can remark how stairs here are too short and narrow, likely crafted for people with a shorter average inseam. We need to take two at a time, but even then it's a stretch. Keys open doors rotating right to left instead of the way we're used to. I forget every time which way is correct. You'd think I'd learn by now. Even as I write this I can't remember how to open locks here, or open locks at home. The memory has been washed away by confusion. I only know I'm never right.
I wake up every morning and the first thing I want to do is talk to my parents and text my friends. It's still the same thing I want to do when I wake up every morning in California, but now it has more significance.
I like that my feet or fingers start tapping to a beat before my brain realizes there's music because that's what my mother does. Being part of her, or becoming her, gives me a sense of accomplishment because she is the most beautiful woman I have ever known and I know she is part of me, here, right now.
I can hear my parents' voice in moments when new information is given to me, in times when I need to make a decision. I know they're concerned for my safety and, even though I naturally and instinctively am concerned for my safety as well, I hear them even more clearly while we're traveling. I double check all options just to make sure they'd also make my parents comfortable. The outcome of my choice would likely be the same if their voice weren't audible in my thought-stream, but I like knowing we're a community and that their care for me shines through, even across multiple thousands of miles. And, as an extension of this, I can hear my mother-in-law's questions, concerns, and curiosities in my mind throughout the day. It shows a closeness to my husband that I don't think a person knows they'll one day experience when they begin coupling. These are beautiful patterns of relationships, of caring, that start to become apparent when you're away.
I think I've always been forthcoming with my emotions with the ones I love most. I always want them to know exactly what they mean to me. Saying "just in case" feels so morbid, and terrifying, but :"just in case". Any moment, no matter if it's on home soil or abroad, is not exactly yours to own. You govern your own decisions, but time has its own power to shift your reality.
Right now I'm reflecting on how much love I have in my life. It's resounding off of Tyler's body as he quietly reads next to me. It's in his body language as he reaches out to touch me gently mid-sentence, as he nods his face away from the narrative to tell me, "it's getting good!", as we steal a kiss because it's been 'so long' since the last. It's in the autonomic response to cats, or words, or experiences that we know our friends would enjoy.
Stepping away has truly allowed me to see how incredible human connection is. We're so complicated and confused at times, but we latch on to those around us and we love fiercely. I want to hear everything that's going on with everyone we love because it gives me comfort thinking about you doing even the most mundane things like making coffee or being bored at work. It lets me visualize you and I feel all the ways I love you. It hurts so much to be apart from you all, but you're also with us in every little thing we do. You are flashing through our days like a lilting staccato sonata, weaving into all the memories we're forging.