Posts Tagged ‘goodbyes’

Day 365 and Epilogue (One Long Interminable Day)

In Hash Runs, Taipei, Traveling on August 23, 2011 at 2:20 am

What you can do is wake up in the morning and go to work without stopping at home, the hope that your boss will not say anything about your facial hair flashing in and out between pages on the train and steps outside it. You can teach. You can begin to understand that there will be very few minutes in which you be able to pack your things before you leave on your very long trip. You can eat teppanyaki with Inma and she can stay over and you can listen to Mano Negra while you organize items.

In the morning you can teach again.

After which you can hurry to the far west of the city and enjoy fresh tomatoes and basil in sauce on spaghetti and wine, and then beer, in the company of friends whose friendship you only now are getting at the depth of, another reason to regret you are leaving that you have to push out of your mind, positive feelings coming out as gratitude and giving and wine mix at the door at the end of the night.

In the morning you can teach again. For the last time.

Following which you can hurry to the train station and buy a ticket to the beach, and your train can get canceled, and you can sit reading The Savage Detectives fussily until it comes, and read fussily until you walk out into the night and down the boardwalk in the wrong direction, only to make a U-turn back to where the drinking is, and a plate of fried rice, and bottles of Taiwan beer. You can eat the rice and you can drink the beer and listen to the hash legends and when they turn off the air conditioning you can make your way into the night and sit under a useless awning on the north end of the boardwalk down from some kids barbecuing and look out on a moon that is yellow and half, tilted as if hung from a nail, huge above the ocean that is huge, too, and you can keep drinking in the shadow of the crash of the waves against the rocks until the beer runs out.

You can wake up in the morning in the white bed in your hotel to a sort of half-awareness that you should be helping Joe sort out the trail, which is probably what he is doing at this hour, and you can fall back asleep.

You can wake up again two hours later and Joe can tell you that he has done it and you can feel bad and he can tell you you don’t have to and you can all order Chinese breakfast, the four of you, with eggs and bacon and cheese and a square of peanut-buttered toast that you don’t know how it ended up there. You can go to the beach.

In the water you can play until the stern lifeguard tells you no swimming and to keep your area of body-surfing below the thigh, which you can heed only to a nominal extent, catching the waves with your momentum for nanoseconds that hardly seem authentic but yet exist, too, in some corner of your perception with which you are not well-acquainted. You can leave the water only when you and the rest of the swimmers seem to have arrived at the last reasonable moment and you can begin to sort out things for the run. You can buy hot dogs. You can get the flour ready and take a cab to the run start, flouring all the way, and put on your gear to run for the first time in a week.

You can do the run, with Joe, without Joe, conscious that possibly this is not the path you were supposed to take and then relieved and exhilarated when Joe tears around the corner behind you from his section and you are back on and taking care of business. It can occur to you that this is your last China Hash run for a long time. That you are here. That, ok.

You can slow as you get back to the run start and keep dropping flour, compulsively, until the run becomes beers and the beers become crackers and the crackers become sand and a frisbee and the sand becomes a line of people who were lost and more beer and your sunburn aches under the first intimations of dusk and you end up walking back from the rocks splashed by the ocean waves to Arthur’s truck, eating dinner in Toucheng, drinking beer, saying goodbye, trying to give Arthur’s shirt back to him and him giving it to you once again, saying goodbye again, and getting in Arthur’s truck again for the long ride home, during which you have to pee, you have to sleep, you have to push off the urge to want to vomit, twelve kilometers in the longest tunnel in the world, and he drops you off in Nangang and you get back home on the MRT which somehow, at this point in your life, operates, business as usual.

In the morning you can wake up early and start to pack your life into boxes and monetary transactions. You can feel not nearly as bad as you think you ought to feel. You can go to work, say goodbyes there as you pick up your paycheck. You can let the day’s sun disturb your sunburn. You can pack boxes, speak with bank personnel, ride the train, walk on sidewalks, go to Shida. As this series of events occurs you can feel physical withdraw from the alcohol you have been on the last three or however many days, your muscles inversely carbonated, energy sucked from them from the inside, and you can see the days drift together and present themselves as one long continuous one, and they can accordion for you, and you can see that all that is left for you before you leave the country is the continuation of this day, the steady stream of mental force into an investment in a clean cut with the universe you have created for yourself, or, what, the one you have walked into, and stood in for so long.


Day 363 (The Uselessness of a Suit of Armor)

In Taipei on August 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Goodbyes are never representative of what you are saying goodbye to. They are never fitting. They are always trolling through a military paraphernalia shop eying the camouflage clothes and ninja swords while whoever you are saying goodbye to tries to find pepper spray for her mom so she can repel unwanted visitors while her daughter is away. Or suggesting that her mom could sleep in the suit of armor the shop has for sale and then she wouldn’t have to worry about a thing. Or poring over Craig’s List in order to confirm that she is using it correctly despite the inattention landlords have paid to her emails so far. Or walking down the street casually, anticipating your own rest after a long day of work.

In other words, goodbyes are tests of what came before. You can’t concentrate all the good intentions you had into the final few moments. Goodbyes are grasping this and looking back and seeing if you contributed what you meant to contribute. They are judging if you created the relational piece of art you would have liked to created. They are understanding that there is no such thing as a representative moment because the representative moment would have to encompass all the moments you had with a person and thereby looking back and judging for yourself, each of you, whether those moments were sufficient on their own.

So were they? Huh? Were they?

Day 361 (The Goats Leave for the Trans-Siberian Railroad)

In Taipei on August 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm

We sit on the curb and hanging in the air above us, only four vertical feet from the pavement of the street, is the ritual of the immediate future: the handshakes or hugs, the wishes for good travel, the expressions of gladness that one party met the other and of sadness that all good things must come to an end. These elements are like swollen rainclouds, and we are like goats whose physical ability to glance upward allows at best an intuition of the coming violent, if short, storm.

Dry goats for a little while longer.

The whole horizontal line of us trades words back and forth, a late-night homage to the words that won’t be spoken so much more when the first of a succession of goats trot achingly away from the prickly grass of the farm.

Then we rise and our heads are in the humid clouds.

We say the goodbyes that we have to say and then the goats that are staying and the goats that are leaving stand and look at one another while goats on down the line proceed in the au revoir. Somehow this second part, the silent staring after the goodbyes have been said, is the real goodbye. It is a sort of test, a trial separation, the seconds when the boat has set off from the harbor and unexpectedly, amazingly, visual contact can still be made, and both sets of goats feel they must wave until they settle into their seats for the emotional repercussions they expected to encounter alone.

Day 234 (Goodbye Taipei)

In Traveling on April 12, 2011 at 10:28 am

The airport does the best they can, a cheap cardboard cut-out with a mountain and a 3-D palm tree, but the departure gate still seems to diminish what comes before it, is ended by it, culminates in it, if you see it that way. You do see it that way, when the time for Mom and Dad to enter it comes, as if this one particular moment has the potency to gesture to the entire next year that you won’t see them, as if the quality of hug and of farewell words have to account for 365 plus more days.

They don’t. You take pictures in front of the chintzy airport backdrop. It makes you understand that this second is insignificant, no matter how symbolic, because what counts is—are—all the things you did, the unstoppable trot about Taipei and its surrounding elements. There ought to be enough seconds in all that to sustain you for quite some time, and if not, there were lots of seconds in the first eighteen, the first twenty-two years. You don’t have to live in the past, either. Those seconds bind you and keep you along on whatever journey the other is having, events you know less about but are equally invested in. Sometimes imagination will substitute for your own eyes, your own ears. Sometimes there will be many days between communications. None of that is an absence. It’s only a different sort of information from a chunk of being you can’t help but be in tune to, wherever it is.