ed note: this will be a serialized feature, describing my travels in Nepal during Feb and March 2016. I will be posting either two or three entries a week, varying in length from 250-1000 words. This is essentially a book-length travel memoir which I’ll be feeding out over the course of the next few months. Working title is “In Praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness” but I’m not wedded to that. Everything in here is true. A few minor details may be changed in order to accommodate the fallibility of memory, protect identities, or improve narrative flow, but that’s all. It’s a pretty good story with a solid emotional core. I hope you get something out of it.
In Praise of Character in the Bleak Inhuman Loneliness
journeys in Nepal
This is one of those stories with no clear beginning, and no clean end. But it begins, best I can tell it, in a hotel room in Hong Kong. 3:30 A.M.
Two young Americans sit atop a hotel bed. One is male, 23, the other female, 25. They sit close together, but they do not touch. The sheets are still tucked in. The TV is on, but silent. BBC World News shows context-less images of strife in far-flung places. A plane crash in Nepal. A trash strike in Lebanon. The two figures are not paying their surroundings much mind.
The woman crochets, furiously. A near-finished hat lies in her hands. It is maroon, warm and fluffy. The man stares into space, occasionally glancing at his phone, which is laid in plain view, on the nightstand. There is a thick tension between the pair: it reverberates off the walls and is absorbed into the silence between them.
The woman turns to the man, gives him a plaintive look, and asks: “What do you want?”
His posture slumps, he looks to the phone, then back to the woman, and says: “I want to go home.”
Hope sparks between them. She lights up. “Do it!” she says, excitedly. “There are still tickets!” The man reaches for the phone, stares blankly, taps a few times, then says: “It’s out of data.”
“What?” she asks, not comprehending. He hands the phone over without making eye contact or speaking a word.
The elation becomes anxiety.
“Your SIM is out too, right?” He asks. She nods. “And there’s no Internet here.” She nods again.
He looks left, then right, as if searching for some hitherto unseen answer. After a few seconds, he turns and looks at her, pleading.
“My taxi’s going to be here any minute, we need to go,” she says. “Come on, you can buy a ticket at the counter!” And with that, they’re out into the abandoned pre-dawn streets of Hong Kong.
The taxi zips through the abandoned highways, fast, faster, but not fast enough.
When they get to the airport, the flight is closed. Tickets can’t be purchased, online or at the counter. The woman returns from the check-in counter and stands in front of the man. They don’t say much. He is slumped under the weight of a heavy load, and her eyes are sunken and sad.
“I need to go,” she says. He nods, silently. They hug, and whisper the words that lovers should. She hands him a hat. Warm, hand-made, and in his favorite color. A memento. They separate, and she walks away towards passport control. He watches her every step, until she disappears from view. Then he walks over to a nearby chair, looks at the hat, and collapses.
This is where I found myself, before I found myself in Nepal.
Part 2 will come Weds, Part 3 on Fri. If I’ve caught your interest, and you’d like to subscribe to email reminders for new updates, you may do so here: http://eepurl.com/b_1XWH