I never belonged. I hear her in your voice, feel her in your pulse. She sings inside your soul. The pound, the pound. Your pressure on her neck, your breath. your sweat. She is yours. I watch you ride. You roll. Your mistress. Me. The mistress to your music, the mistress to your song. I never belonged.
Squinting into the sun, taking a deep breath of dust and indigo, I try to clear my mind. The days are still hot. My thighs and my back are stilled speckled with heat rash, but I can definitely feel the cooler, less humid season approaching. Or maybe I am just acclimatizing.
I turn to look at Lynnly. She beats her cotton indigo between a bamboo rod and a stone. May sits beside her, squeezing and dipping her scarf over ceramic dye pots. Baby chicks run in the mud around our feet. The village men laugh and chatter behind us.
Navone comes to pull me away to ask me some questions about a sample we have ordered. Offering me an umbrella for sun protection, our weaver simply smiles and nods her head. I don’t have much conversational Lao yet, so we walk in silence to the other side of the village. As we approach, I see a woman sitting, flipping pink threads around tense warps. Her daughter pulls yarn off of a spinning wheel, wrapping them around bamboo bobbins and placing them next her mother. I am offered a seat and a plate of fruit. “Pet” she says as she motions to dip the strange fruit in a bowl of unknown spices. I confuse “pet” (spicy) with “sep” (delicious). The women laugh and yell! “No! Pet, pet pet!”. I quickly realize my mistake. My social anxiety spins in my head. I crave to be able to speak with them.
Sitting with the weavers as the sun goes down over the mountains, listening to them chat and laugh, I try to make out words while I admire their lifestyle.
On the way back to the group I see the village from a new angle. I see it nestled in the jungle beneath the mountains, knowing that in the shade of the many wooden houses, there are weavers and spinners and dyers and families approaching life with a much better understanding than I can know. Will I ever know? Every day I see how the Lao live, really live, both while they work and while they play. The boundaries between are blurry and inconsistent.
It feels like I have just seen the rice being planted.
It has grown so tall since I arrived.
How tall have I grown?
My breath is shallow, taken by the view and the heat. The rice is green. It is this deep, saturated yellow green, almost neon. It glows, illuminated in the late afternoon sun. It feels like I have just seen the rice being planted. It has grown so tall since I arrived at the beginning of the season. I think of Betsy, the puppy at the shop, and how tall she has grown as well. Betsy long legs, we call her, she is a puppy no more. Hmm. How tall have I grown?
I remember setting out on the PCT. Everyone said it would change my life. It didn’t. That experience didn’t have the big, positive impact on me that I see it had on others. And I spent a long time feeling a little broken because of that. What was wrong with me? How could the trail make some people feel so full and complete and leave me feeling like there was a bigger hole inside of me than ever?
Now, all of a sudden nowhere seems too far.
Nothing seems too big.
There is nothing I cannot do.
I realize now that the decision to hike the trail was an important part of my life that brought me to where I am now, but it wasn’t my answer to the things I wanted. After being here in Laos for two months, I already feel forever changed. I feel like Laos will always be a part of me in the way I imagine other people feel about the PCT. That one thousand and seventeen miles will never feel like an accomplishment to me, but it was certainly a part of me that I explored, a thing that I tried and got out of my system. I learned, I moved on and I continue to discover what it is I actually want from this world.
But now, all of a sudden, after moving here to Laos, nowhere seems too far. Nothing seems too big. There is nothing I cannot do. I’ve managed to let go of all the feelings and emotions, all of the guilt, holding me back.
There is only one thing I am having trouble getting rid of. A red thread you tied around my wrist. Some mornings I see it and I wish it would just fall off. Sometimes I wish it would show some sign of weakness, some wear, some thinning, some fray, something so that I will not have to cut it off… I wish that it would just fall away because it has reached its end. Because it was not meant to be.
At the end of the day I sit and I think, threading my needle, bringing two pieces of cloth together. Netflix plays on my computer and fills the room with a less lonely air.
I will become the person I feel growing inside of me.
She will emerge when she is ready.
I will slowly keep feeding her and following her.
I acknowledge the person becoming inside me. I don’t know if it is the laid back lifestyle of LP or the overwhelming stress I’ve felt trying to succeed in such a different and new in environment… but there is a person becoming inside of me that is tired of being shy and timid, tired of wondering if something is good or bad or if I should like it or not like it. I’m tired of being insecure and I just want to do what I want and make what I want. I’m tired of looking for guidance, I want to guide myself and inspire myself. I know I will become the person I feel growing inside of me. She will emerge when she is ready. I will slowly keep feeding her and following her.
Sometimes I just want to put my head down
and fall asleep on your shoulder.
2am in bed and I can’t sleep.
My heart is sore and my mind can’t decide if
it wants to speak Lao, parle Anglais
or passa Falang.
Sitting around the table of five people from different parts of the world, he says “Isn’t this great?! This is why I love travel. This is why I love Luang Prabang.” I do think it’s great, but I sit there with a small, sore hole in my chest, with a soul and a mind that want to see the world, but a heart that wants a home. Why can’t I have both? I need someone who will invite me to wander somewhere with them… and someone who can’t wait to visit me across the globe. Someone who always makes me feel like home, separate or apart, trekking in Borneo or skipping stones on the creek in the backyard.
I wander off in my mind for a good minute. He pulls me back as he continues to talk, “I think the issue is, every time you go home, you see how much you’ve changed… but everything there is basically the same. So you just have to leave again.”
I worry a little bit. Will this be me? Will anything ever be enough?
Walking down the muddy street, in the rain, with a blown out flipflop and a broken bicycle… anywhere else in the world, or at any other previous time in my life I probably would have been annoyed. Upon realizing I “should be” bothered by the situation, I felt surprised. Is the LP lifestyle beginning to wear off on me? What pieces of my mind am I shedding? Who am I becoming?
Last night I had a dream in which my heart broke. I found you and I had you but you slipped right through my fingers. When I woke up my hands were hot and numb and swollen. My eyes were wet and my mouth was dry.
Today is a Buddhist Day. I began my day laying in bed, slowly waking to pounding drums and dancing oms. I hear the rustle on the street as I suspect the daily alms giving passes by beneath my window. The whole morning vibrates. As I run my early errands, a cloud nestles itself over the city. It begins to rain.