Three years ago to the day, I almost died.
As strange as it may sound, I tend to forget about this event until the Super Bowl rolls around. For those of you who haven’t almost died, it probably seems like the sort of experience which would dominate your life.
When I got out of the hospital though, I just wanted to move on as quickly as possible.
The stairs to Ulleri were never-ending.
We were off the dirt trail now, and climbing steep stone steps up, up, up. I had no idea who had made these stairs, or when; but whoever it was, they were clearly a sadist. Our guide remained silent on the topic, breathing steadily as we ascended slowly, slowly, towards our goal: the trekking lodges in the settlement of Ulleri.
I took a few more games from the Malaysian. Either he had gotten too stoned, or I was starting to understand his playing style.
“Tomorrow, we will play again?” he asked me as I stepped back from the board.
“Nah, I have to go trekking tomorrow,” I said. “Need to redeem your reputation, losing against this youngster?” I say, half-joking. He had handily taken the majority of games from me. I knew he was the better player.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” the Malaysian said, looking down. “You are not that young.”
“I’m only 23!” I protested.
“Exactly,” he said. “That is not that young.”
I stepped back, slightly offended. He was probably right. He seemed like the sort of man who was usually right about things.
When I finally reached the coffee shop where I had played chess with the Malaysian, I ran up the stairs with a spring in my step.
I had my interview. I had time to arrange a trek. I would trek, I would leave Nepal, return home, and show up on Holly’s doorstep with a dream in hand, ready for our next great adventure.
That was one option, anyways.
Regardless, as the Malaysian I was coming to see had said; it was time to rearrange my life.
Howl by Alan Ginsberg begins with one of the most iconic lines in American poetry:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness