Sunday, March 16, 2014

Smatterings and Evolution

"Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I've taken for granted." - Sylvia Plath

I'm feeling more like this lately. It's far better than feeling trapped and cramped, as you might imagine.

I haven't been posting here, but I've been writing every day. Mostly in my head, but still, even that is definitely writing, not thinking, because there is an enormous difference between my thoughts and my thoughts marching across my brain in potential sentences as I test them out before I type them out. Most of the past month has been spent in wide eyed weepy grateful wonder at how beautifully easy my life here has become. I noticed it starting a fair while back, oh, end of November, really, when I first moved into this perfect apartment next to the gay club on a random side alley. There was a budge in the suffocating depression I was feeling, some more breathing room, a relief that was palpable but small, the tiniest of tilts. December built on that, and things opened up even more, not like a wide open field, but more like unfolding from a too small seat, on a journey that unexpectedly took twice as long, and testing out your cramped legs. Christmas break was everything I needed it to be and more graciously applied on top of that; I felt doors opening that had been closed a long time, or maybe even forgotten entirely. I didn't feel like a shadow me playing the part of Cortney. I was still me, I'd just been sad so long I didn't remember how to be not sad; I'd been still and small for so long I didn't know what to do with so much space in which to move. And then, suddenly, everything came together and January and February were just a rollicking string of days and weeks and good times and friends and a sudden realization that I had been enjoying, for quite awhile, a sweet easy feeling towards this place where I'm living. I joked that my relationship with Vientiane started off like a praying mantis courtship dance, where she tried to eat me alive; we're on much better terms now despite that rough start.

When I first started feeling better here, I just didn't trust it. I played it cool, glanced at it side-eyed and wary, and pretended I didn't notice. I didn't want to scare it off, I didn't want to depend on it, I just half held my breath and squinted a bit off to the left and tried to act like I wasn't terribly invested in the small flickering bit of being okay with being here. And then it just kept going. I was... comfortable... then content... and then, really, truly, happy.

I wrote the following in a notebook back in January, and I'm transcribing it here, at least the parts I can make out, since I can't actually read my own handwriting.


Sometime in mid-January, judging by the journals around this one:

I'm sitting outside in a mosquito filled night, sweating at my favorite Indian food restaurant. It's the social part of the evening, after the sun has set, before the streets clear (outrageously early) and all around my corner of the street table Vientiane is humming by. The tuk tuk drivers, exhausted from the heat and the humidity, swing in their hammocks, waiting for the crowd of lanky backpackers to get good and close before they half-heartedly inquire "Tuk-tuk?" It's a yes, it's far too expensive, they all agree, and they're off. Cats creep and meow-growl around the curbs, cautious and waiting for scraps. The kids across the street are playing badminton, their long brown limbs flailing and filled with laughter as they play terribly, and happily, under the disinterested eye of a grandmother who's also tending shop. The yellow lights cover everything in pools of butter reflections, and make the night scenes around me look slightly warped and waxy. A china cup half moon hangs above me between the space of the awning and the festering nest of power lines; I can't see stars and I think again how much I do miss them, and how beautiful they were in Colorado when I stepped outside my tent and looked up and gasped and sat down and blinked back tears. Colorado makes me feel something close to homesick but more like the familiar soft-worn edges of heartsick grief, a purple bruise I can run my fingers over instead of the open wound I used to scratch. I look back at the ever changing parade of tourists in front of me, endless in elephant pants and inexplicably popular fanny packs. The restaurant owner leans, easy, in a plastic chair in this butter light, laughing with the man swirling dough onto the hot stone to make another banana pancake. Street dogs skip lanky and sick across the road, scooters wind forever past, and the ever present coughing sputter of tuk tuks and their perpetually squealing brakes clatters under everything. It sounds cacophonous, but these sounds are somehow complementary, pleasing even. This is no bustling metropolis; the street sounds are local and familiar, not overwhelming, they hum consistently in the way that crickets and frogs do in the woods. As I sit here and contemplate the tourists I realize, finally, that this is really my home. Not just by default, not just because I signed that contract and I'm going to honor my word, dammit, not just because I will not quit no matter how hard it gets- it is, simply, my home. I feel I belong here, in this moment, on this corner, exactly in this plastic chair, feeling beads of sweat roll down my back as I lean over this notebook and scribble out these thoughts. I'll pay out, flag down a tuk tuk, know how much is a fair falang price and negotiate in Lao, and then climb in the back after the familiar walk away/it's too expensive/okay come back dance. I'll know that the driver will take one of two routes to my house, and along the way I'll lean against the metal rails catching the breeze and watching the road roll out behind me, a shifting scene of traffic and sidewalk life framed by the open end of the tuk tuk. The landmarks, the food stalls, the predictable snarls in movement and the near miss awful intersections- nothing is a surprise. I'll feel it before we turn, I won't fumble with money, I'll say my niceties in Lao without a stutter, and I'll hop out in front of my home. My true home, in this moment, where I can actually be satisfied until June. I don't have a countdown in my head anymore, I'm not gritting my teeth and railing against my life anymore. I don't feel so much exhausting spite and bitterness. I don't feel like I'm serving a sentence. I feel once more the reality that I chose this, and for whatever reason, what I chose was a terribly hard thing for me. I can do this. I am doing this. I'm on the other side of that horrible time. I am so grateful. I am so grateful. It was worth the ordeal to feel such rushing joy of relief and peace by comparison. I'm realizing that's probably the whole point.

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