“Dad?” I can hear the click of the connection that’s been made, a throat being cleared on the other side of the line. “Dad, I wish you could see this right now. I am standing on top of the Acropolis.” I listen to my father while he ruffles some papers and all of a sudden home doesn’t feel that far away any more. “Imagine those who stood there before you,” he answered, skipping the ‘hi kid, how are you’ bit of the conversation. “I just did dad, that’s why I rang you. Remember the stories you used to tell me about Socrates and Plato?” “You were very little.” “Yeah, but still. Listen, I got to go dad. I love you.” I hang up the phone and get my arse kicked by sadness. For a minute I see my father very clearly, behind his cluttered desk, his red reading glasses on the tip of his nose. I do what I always do when I feel sad, I take a picture. If my father can’t come to the mountain, the mountain will come to my father.
“Yes, but you were lucky,” she said, putting her cup down on the saucer. It was a beautiful day in May, the birds were happy and the sun was out. I thought about the road I traveled so far and how hard I worked to stay on it. “Lucky?” I asked, “what do you mean lucky?”
She looked at me. “You’re lucky to do the things that you love.” I stared out of the window and listened to the clock strike twelve. It was noon, we were in London, my favourite city in the world and the place I now called home; a train passed by over our heads and none of it had anything to do with luck.
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” ― Confucius
The sports hall is plastered with posters of western sports events, the faces of heroes that accomplished fame through physical activity, bucket loads of sweat and perseverance. The floor is covered in mats and Nepalese youngsters; a toddler staggers around in between stretching adults, in between cones that fly through the air; a young woman slides down the silks that are attached to the framework that holds the roof up. We marvel at the contagiously playful optimism, the graceful girls hanging upside down, the boys standing on their hands with traces of their past only visible through the physical scars that sometimes show when a shirt lifts up or some hair slides out of place. We marvel at the former band of outsiders that is now the family of ‘Circus Kathmandu.’
“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.” ― Tom Hiddleston
We went deep into Sherpa territory when we visited Nepal last time. “People are so focussed on Everest that they overlook the other beautiful peaks in the area,” Suman sighs. He points down at the pass that would take adventurers to the start of the trail to Everest base camp before they build an airfield high up in the mountains, one of the most challenging landing zones in the world. “Everyone just gets on a plane to Lukla nowadays, the pass forgotten.” I look at the trail, a small stripe of grey in a muddy landscape, far down the mountain we are ascending on our way to Pique. Typical. We’re all so focused on reaching our destination that the journey there hardly matters anymore. A plane flies by in the distance, it is way below us; we watch it until the sound of the engine dies out.
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ― Mark Twain
The Nepalese Hindus burn their death alongside the holy Bagmati river. The mighty river is reduced to a mere stream when we visit her. I’ve never seen something this polluted and worshipped at the same time. “This man has not been dead for more than six hours.” We give way too much money to the boy that followed us ever since we set foot in Pashupatinath, the holy temple complex, just to be alone. It is hard to be alone in Kathmandu nowadays; the people are desperate.
“If I didn’t know you, I would say you have hit rock bottom.” My brother in law sits on the piano stool while I lean against the sofa. I am on my way out after living with my sister for the past month. “You gave away your furniture, you are living like a gypsy hopping from one underpaid job to the other, you don’t have a roof over your head and you fucked up your relationship.” I played with the keys in my hand, taking off my sisters key as my brother in law summed up the fruit of my labour. “But,” he continued, “because I do know you, I know this is the only way you will find your happiness and I am proud of you for breaking free. I would be shitting my pants if I were you.” I moved my gaze from the keys to his eyes. The expression he held in them made me realize he was being nothing other than serious. This man who I had always considered to be the opposite of what I was, kept surprising me. “Thanks,” I said and picked up my bag. I handed him the key and made my way to the door. With the door handle in my hand I turned around. “You really don’t think I am a screw up?” He shook his head. “I think you are a complete fruitcake,” he smirked, “but I also think you are about to find your way.”
I kept my promise. I went back to the trail, this time heading out alone. I walked on a pair of 10£ shoes as I left my hiking boots behind in Wales where I had worked with a lady with dementia for a while. My backpack was left behind in London, where I was trying to make my new home, so I had to make my way to Santiago with a daypack that I bought in a charity shop and some shitty shoes. None of it seemed important at the time though, the most important thing was that I was going. And I was alone.
It was dark, people were getting ready to leave their homes and pour into the city in order to drink and dance and hit on other people, or hit them, depending on the mood. V and me were on the roof, watching our neighbours joining the crowd, listening to their drunk conversations, empty bottles rolling down the street.
There was a chill in the air that night and I was wearing V’s fake fur coat over my whimsical summer dress. We had a fire going on the roof, despite complaints from our downstairs neighbours that the protective layer was getting too hot and the lamps were coming down.
This was our revenge for them keeping us up at night. This, and opening their parcels when we were drunk.
“Nice one babe, real nice.” He didn’t sound angry and there no longer was sadness in his voice either. G was a smart man, he had expected things to end this way; in a drunken haze and utterly humiliating. The boy opposite of me in the toilet didn’t look at me while he zipped up his trousers. He passed G by with is head bend down, mumbling an half arsed apology before wandering off into the night.
There was no point in telling G that despite what it looked like, no one had sex with anyone that night. There was no point at all, because this wasn’t the first time I had fucked him over, it was just the worst time, the worst possible way, if there was such a thing. I don’t believe in regret, but if I could take back the pain I caused G, I would do it, without blinking an eye. The split was inevitable though. It had all lead up to this, seven years of doubt, frustration and self loathing.
“People walk the camino for many reasons; seeking forgiveness for the pain I had caused to other people, turned out to be mine.”
I had never been very good at living my life. Even though I come from a loving family and was surrounded by beautiful friends, I always felt the need to be elsewhere, doing different things in different ways. Every single aspect of my life was going in the exact opposite direction of where I wanted it to go.
We spend our last days in Miami, in a tiny art nouveau hotel with no airconditioning, which I loved because it meant we had to go to the ocean to cool off. I got stung by the octupi that were thrown against the sand the first day we were there. We knew they were there, people were avoiding the water, but the sea was so blue that I could not help myself and I found myself surrounded by water and stingy sea creatures, salt on my lips, my friends safe on the shore, his eyes on my face. Read More