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The Lonlinesss of the Long Distance Traveller


When do you know you’re going insane?
Ken Lori

When do you know you’re going insane?
When the cracks in travel have begun to show and the view from the bus has blurred the cause and all seems lost but the need to regain it, and in your desperation you defiantly declare that the thrill is not in what you see but in how you see it, and that all will be saved if you walk to your next destination?
When the walk is charged with angry dogs and the more you shout the harder they chase you, backpack and all, further away from your reason and the place you had convinced yourself you ought to be? When you’re years from home and don’t know how many more?
When the locals glare at you at the end of the day and wish you weren’t there, sweating in white skin and a bright orange hat asking them questions they can’t understand?

When the table at the shabby restaurant wobbles and you have to lean on it because you’re beat tired and need to rest your shoulders, and you can’t even pick up the fork, and you leave the food half-finished because the altitude has made you ill and you’ve wandered an hour without finding a hosteria and all the directions you recieved were unclear and none of the streets were properly tagged and you felt the weight of your pack every step and nobody in the market cared about you, and all the while you tried not to feel sorry for yourself because you’re the rich one? When you pass busted sidewalks, littered streets, basketball rims without nets, graffiti on public walls, faded faces of corruption on telephone poles, dusty blocks of broken cement, and laziness everywhere? It’s all a shitty mess, really, and you have dreams, big dreams of fixing it all but you can’t, and you recall the girl of the week who told of her volunteer work in the state legislature back home, of the corruption to which she bore witness - and another frustrated heart is destroyed in the land of the indigenous tied down like their pigs eating rubbhish, of angry dogs and a boy with his mother and their bible on the garbaged trail that took you ten kilomters past yourself. Yes, the deserted railroad led you past your destination, onto a bus of teenagers coming home from school and now you lay in an empty hotel longing for the girl you kissed this morning. It is the first in ten days without her and ‘what are you now?’ you wonder. That was this morning she kissed you good-bye.

Your feelings for her are weak but there’s a sadness when she says good-bye. There’s a movement inside, like furniture that settles on the long ride.
You feel it move. You know its going to be okay; it’s not going to slip out and smash on the highway but she makes it heavier than driving an empty truck and you feel it when you turn corners. You must slow down and take greater care on speedbumps. You can’t live life as carelessly or as carefree as you can without emotional ties. Though you may not want to admit it, there are still emotional ties, and still you wonder how much you ought to further whatever it is, by inviting her to the coast. You move slower because in your idle moments on the ferry listening to the blind man play sing spanish songs to his guitar whilst towing across the bay you think of the one with whom you were intimate and you feel sad that you do not have her now, her conversation, her eyes to you.
When do you know you’re going insane? When you hear the rooster crow out the window and remember the final episode of MASH in which Hawkeye lost his mind on the bus in enemy territory?

When you blow your nose because your allergies have yet to disappear and the dander of the blankets is killing you, and the dogs bark in fury, cry out for love into the night on the equator as your body aches and the shower pours nothing but agua frio?
When your mind is wretched? When, even with ear plugs, you can’t block out the noise of the tv of the room next to you?
When the door down the hall opens and echoes and the hollow click of the knob assures that all is safely locked, and a man ventures into the evening?
When you wonder about tomorrow? When all you want now is a familiarity?
Is that when you know you’re going insane?

© Ken Lori May 2003


The Sad Foreigner
Ken Lori in Ecuador


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