The International Writers Magazine: Bucket List Girl
Abby, of course, had her plans carefully laid out. She’d been working out her itinerary long, long before she was old enough, or had the required maturity (required by her parents and of society) to be traveling on her own.
She’d created a blog. The blog was her idea: a digital umbilical chord of sorts, that would feed her the necessary emotional energy, ( a means of being absent and present at the same time: here and also there, in the safety of her known universe) while at the same time, receiving the satisfying comfort of knowing that her family would follow her blog, offering her a psychological safety net of sorts.
Blogging, in the form of a daily journal, where she would pontificate about what she felt was right or wrong, and give updates of where and how she was getting along, would give her confidence, and provide her with the glorification from web fans: web surfers, kindred spirits, (and some trolls who she’s delete or ignore) that might chance upon her blog and give her encouragement and kudos for her bravery, vitality, and wisdom, while announcing to her their approval ( their envy) in the form of posted comments on her blog; which, of course, she’d triage ( the comments on her blog) before posting them, in order to include only comments that were favorable, cheerful, and encouraging.
Abby had decided to write down her own “a bucket list” ( a Hollywood inspired notion she had adopted after watching a funky film of that same name starring two cranky old actors: Jack Nicholson, and Morgan Freeman, who play the role of two terminally ill patients who escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip, with a to-do list, they call the “bucket list” a check-list of things do accomplish before the die.)
So, Abby had felt the need to fulfill her destiny by creating a list which included stereotypical things one should do before one “kicks the bucket” such as parachuting, bungee jumping, or touching the snow from mount Kilimanjaro with her tongue, and other inconsequential, and in many respects artificially created folderol. Her “Bucket list” was long, challenging, and potentially expensive, very expensive, as expensive as a gold bar is heavy:
Found a community garden
Learn how to fly a plane
See the Northern Lights
Wear a big sunhat at the Kentucky Derby
Ride a camel
Live in a commune
Kayak in the ocean
Float on the dead sea
Run a marathon
Spend a month in a monastery
Attend a formal ball
Listen to the teachings of the Dalai Lama in India
Go on a six month backpacking trip
Visit the Louvre
Spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square
Start a family
Go horseback riding on the beach
Drive on the autobahn
Visit all of the continents
Take my parents on vacation
Learn how to surf
Attend the Wanderlust Festival
Visit Islas Marietas
Attend the Lightening In A Bottle festival in California
Attend a Burning Man!
Visit Xilitla San Luis Potosi in Mexico
Attend The Yacht Week
Go down the Canal Water slide in Bali
Sing in a band
Cross country motorcycle trip
Give 1,000 USD tip to a deserving waiter
Camp on a beach
See a Broadway show
Attend Mardi Gras
Ride in a gondola in Italy
Bathe in the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa
Visit Egypt’s pyramids
Ride an elephant
She was ready!
She had been ready. She knew she was ready because everyone objected to what she was about to embark on, particularly her parents. “It’s not safe, you’re a girl, on your own in the world” ( emphasis on ‘world’ and the deep and dark forest of the Dante’s Inferno) “Oh, dad, that’s just what fathers say to their kids, I’m sure you were the recipient of similar advice from your mom or dad,” she’d reply each and every time, with a mocking twitch in her eye that made her parents, and particularly her mother, very, very anxious. “ Are you sure you want to do this” her mother would ask, while pushing her husband’s back toward their daughter as if urging him with the push to be more assertive. “if I weren’t sure, I would not have spent all the money in travel vouchers, and clothing and a brand new camera” Abby replied back completely skirting the issue her parents were trying to address: her safety.
“I understand trying to find yourself, but going around the world on your own, in this world where everyone has become a target, there’s just no reason for someone with your potential to just...just... waste time doing nothing!” Her father’s words trickled out of his dry mouth, urged by the nudge on his back from the bony hand of his spouse. Both parents took turns speaking their minds, trying to reach Abby, trying to make her see that the immediacy of her desire to leave, to travel, to find herself was rather foolish. To no avail.
Abby had everything going for her: she was prominently and even outrageously, a girl. Her face had striking features: Brussels sprout eyes, bubble gum mouth, nose like cotton candy; lashes, long and thick as those on the lids of a Maja; teeth, bristling like gemstones on a tiara; cheek bones that stung the viewer with their angular elegance, particularly when she pulled her blond hair tightly back into a pony-tail. Abby had all the features only a person from the “First World” could afford.
She had been blessed with a comfortable and malleable education, designed for most well-to-do individuals to toss aside and travel the world to “find their truest self.” Something that a ‘Third World Abby” would not have the luxury, freedom, choice to do: scrap it all and travel the unknown world in search of a better self, or a shadow of a self in some foreign land, as if the light from the sun projecting the swarthy shadow-self there, would shine brighter, or differently, from the sun that shone through the large skylight, cascading into the suburban single-family-home of her parents.
Abby would blog, Tweet, Facebook, and YouTube all her experiences. She would address her readers, viewers, with a perky and perfectly androgynous “HI GUYS!” at the start of her video blogs, assuming that they ( the people following her blogs, and anyone that might chance upon her entries while surfing online in the middle of the day or night, or whenever it was that people found themselves aimlessly looking for a place to chat or mingle, or feel that strange new affinity online, which lonely souls were able to often find in bars, discos or the odd hotel lounge) were there and that they cared about her “fortune cookie” wisdom; hoping, or dreaming, that her ‘trip of a lifetime’ was sending serious messages to help to those “GUYS” out there in the blogosphere who, because of lack of funds, or lack of education, or lack of time, were living vicariously through her postings.
Perhaps her postings were reaching “those guys” ogling Abby, and possibly, or very likely, imagining her between the sheets, and pleasuring themselves with nothing but her words or her pixelated image looking back at them from a recorded message in the form of a weird digital Abby, who could be awakened and played over and over, to give them pleasure anytime of the day or night; even if the real Abby, the person, not the digital Avatar, had already moved on to other places, adventures, or was in bed with the flu, or a stomach ache after having ingested some bad fish or fowl in some quaint little restaurant in the Amazon, or in Burma, or atop of the Himalayas mountains, and was not fit to move, or talk, or blog in front of a camera.
The very day Abby packed her bags she began her relentless blogging. He sentences flowed on her bright shiny screen, gathering like ants on a sandy beach front. Typos and all, sounding eloquent, with honey-dipped sighs like those of a poet from the Romantic period:
“I’m filled with such a mix of emotions! Obviously, excitement and anticipation are coursing through me, but there’s also a twinge of sadness when I remember what I’m leaving behind. In the moments when the realization that I’m finally leaving “hits me,” I find myself giggling, teary-eyed, and wanting to jump up and down all at the same time.”
Abby’s fingers twitched and turned and tap-danced on her computer keyboard, like a clock-work mimeograph fueled by the electricity generated by her excitement, while her mind remained plagued by the incessant beating of pesky “what ifs?”
“Despite my excitement, the fear-based part of my mind is coming up with “what if?” scenarios. “What if this wasn’t the right decision? What if I should’ve just gone straight to grad school? What if I should’ve bought a return ticket instead of a one-way? What if certain members of my family become ill or pass away while I’m gone? What if something “bad” happens? What if my friends back in America become angry with me for missing all the weddings, birthdays, births, and graduations? Worse, what if they forget about me?”
Abby felt a “twinge of sadness” as if her trip was a voyage into the unknown world, of some earlier century, where the prospects of travel to the undiscovered country had the potential that she might never return:
“We can either struggle against it by kicking up stream, or we can go with the flow. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s not to live by the “what if” scenarios. I constantly encourage friends to just leap and remind them that the Universe is there to catch them, post inspirational Instagram photos telling others that things are being orchestrated on their behalf, and share Facebook statuses telling people to follow their dreams. Now, it’s my turn. It’s my turn to trust. It’s my turn to embrace the unknown. It’s my turn to leap into life!”
“When my mind starts going down this rabbit hole, I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and look inward. When I still my mind and really settle into myself, I realize it’s none of the things I listed above that actually scare me.What really scares me is loss of control…the elusive unknown. While I would guess that most of my friends would describe me as spontaneous, there’s still a part of me that grasps so tightly to this false sense of control.”
“This was lovely!! This made me feel like a kid again.”
“Such beautiful reminders! It’s as if I’m seeing things for the first time again. “
“Good luck on your journey and enjoy the unknown!”
“I know exactly how you are feeling. Honestly it was the best decision I have made.”
“You’ll have a wonderful time—and tell us all about it! Good luck and happy traveling!”
“That’s exactly how I felt before taking off for Barcelona a couple years ago. I’ve definitely had to learn a lot about being flexible rather than rigid.”
“I think pre-trip nerves are inevitable but the important thing is not to let your fears hold you back, which is what so many people do: “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”
“Abby, your posts are so inspirational they ALWAYS brighten up my day. Rock on Abby!”
“What an inspirational post! They will always be left out with your story, not what you’ve been through.”
“Abby, You have an interesting bucket list. Keep having fun no matter the age.”
“What a great bucket list! Love the variety!”
“I need to make a bucket list!”
“Great list … but how is it that you’ve got “Lightning in a Bottle” No disrespect to LIB. It’s great, but you generally get the idea after about 24-36 hours. Just saying.”
“Wow you’re beautiful!
“The best time to let go and start being present is Now.”
Adventurous Abby felt that this trip, this adventure, would define her. “This is the adventure that will thrust me into adulthood,” she’d thought. “This trip will bring me closer to the real, the unmatched, the dreamed, the unobtainable: that which they call happiness.” She’d convinced herself, and her reluctant parents ( who were, in fact, financing the whole enterprise, which, to be honest, Abby had acknowledged and had promised them, that she would pay them back, every penny, after she got her dream job, which would involve not commuting, not sitting in a dreadful office, not drinking copious amounts of Starbucks coffee, and not using her muscles but her intellect for the benefit of others, particularly women, and the poor, especially orphan children from third world countries.) everything will be alright, “it’ll be a breeze” she’d said.
Abby would embark on her trip and suffer the little annoyances of travel. Abby would put up with the lack of this, the lack of that; those little things that would be a nuisance for Abby, but were the permanent state of affairs for those she called the “locals” in her many blog postings. Unlike Abby, the locals were not on a redemptive trip, a trip of a life time, a journey of self discovery. For them, for the locals, there was no going back to the home land with the abundance of everything necessary for a comfortable life. The sand bar, the waterfall, the crowded market where Abby would blog from, videotape sunsets, photograph quaint individuals in colorful traditional costumes, eager to pose and entertain her, was their home. The places from where Abby’s footprints would eventually be erased by the tide, or the hurricane, or the civil war, where places that the locals had to endure; not temporarily, like her, but for the rest of their lives.
© Oswaldo jimenez November 2013
The Undiscovered Country
The scene stays with you when the after-image of a bright pair of headlights, heading straight for you, make you to blink. Blink once, twice, three four times, more times than you could easily keep count