This is the first time I’ve ever expressed this lifelong affiliation. The colors aren’t exact, but it’s so weird finally seeing them on the page. It’s always just been like this, same for some numbers and months of the year. I don’t know why.
Monday is a maroon day. It seems sudden and jerky, like taking a deep breath. It’s decisive.
Tuesday has always been light blue and has a joyful personality.
Wednesday is dark blue and easy-going, forgiving.
Thursday is dark green, also quite headstrong and a leader.
Friday is yellow, careless yet upbeat, a friendly charmer.
White Saturday (cannot write in white here) has a spiritual, ethereal and mystical personality.
Yellow like Friday, Sunday oozes freedom but never shies away from a necessary task.
The brute truth about how I really feel coming down off a period of two and a half years working and travelling in Korea and South East Asia. Here are the situations I fear most about returning to Cape Town in four weeks.
So that’s it. I hereby give these fears license to be gone. These words are their catharsis. I understand that none of the scenarios are likely to play out as heavily as they often do in my mind. I am looking forward to going home, but first I need to drop these bags somewhere en route. Thanks for reading. More travel stuff.
Travelers take great pride in their bangles, anklets, necklaces, armbands and trinkets to remind them of the cool places they’ve been. I once made a wooden beaded neck chain which lasted me through my first big trip and for years afterwards.
Every so often, the delicately threaded neck chain would catch a collar button as I was whipping off my shirt, or I’d remove it from a shower hook carelessly, and the leather cord would yank from the clasp, breaking the chain and scattering the little beads in all directions.
I’d always take care to collect every bead I could find, but inevitably I’d lose one or two every time. Then I’d begin re-threading them and complete the time-consuming repair job by re-fastening the cord with a pair of pliers.
I’d always find replacement beads at bead shops, or consolidate other broken bracelets to mend my prize neck chain. Over time, it contained more replacement beads than original ones. Eventually, all the beads from the original chain were completely replaced.
The day came that the weather-beaten cord was yanked for the last time, broke, and had to be replaced by a new one. By this time, the tiny little screw clasp was glued and clamped to the original cord, so that was also replaced.
Eventually not a single piece of the original neck chain remained. But the chain that hung around my neck was unmistakably the same one as the one I’d made years earlier.
I sometimes wonder where those atoms are now.
Everyone told me to go to the West coast of Malaysia, because the East is shut for monsoon.
So, East it was.
Google “Kuantan Backpackers” and you’ll find a place called Kuantan Backpackers. It’s a backpacker spot in Kuantan.
Actually, it’s the backpacker spot in Kuantan, and it’s only 6 weeks old.
The dynamic local owner Jessin runs a spotless, secure dorm hostel on the second floor with her mom.
I was the only guest. Heaven is a private dorm.
To my surprise, at around 7pm, they checked out, reminding me to just switch stuff off if I went anywhere, leaving me completely alone in an empty place. Often in hostels, it’s just you and the night manager but this was the first time ever that I’d had free run of a place without being employed there.
I began by painting some of the large, inviting swaths of blank white wall, as I was encouraged to by the artistic Jessin. By 8pm, I’d found the box of red wine on the fridge. Next thing, I’d gone shopping at the late night supermarket across the street and cooked up a chili & lime dinner in the well-equipped communal kitchen; cooking for the first time in months! Then I practiced violin for an hour, as loud as I wanted to, followed by Family Guy on the flatscreen. Not a soul, not a phonecall, not a message. The. Whole. Night. That kinda thing goes without a price.
In a nothing town somewhere rainy, who knew?
Today I’m going surfing 30kms up the coast, and after that a highland nature park which charges $3 a night.
I have no guidebook. Jessin helped me plan this.
This stay has been one of the unforgettable highlights of my trip.
(A new short story. Here’s other stuff.)
“Whatcha reading?” he ventures.
“Nothing,” I reply, too quickly. I don’t look up.
I feel the conspicuous glare tighten. Just sockets. And teeth. And silence. I concentrate on the story before me, but his glare is heavy. I can feel his skull boring into mine.
“Is it good?” he continues, carefully and slowly, intoning the question deliberately, painfully. I take another deep breath and exhale forcefully, turning it into an audibly frustrated sigh. It whistles out my nostrils like a pinched plastic bag at first, and ends with a little jiggle, betraying my subtle anxiety. He’s still there. My brow dampens and tightens. Death grins on for another small eternity.
“Who’s it by?” he almost chuckles.
“Nobody.” I turn my chair away from the table, merely shifting the angle of his mirthful stare by 45 degrees. Somehow it feels less like I’ve moved my chair and more like my whole world has rotated around the persistent mystery across the table.
Now I feel the next question building. The pause becomes infinite. The page before me blurs and my knuckles whiten around the corner of the hard cover.
“Can I see…?”
A loud squawk erupts as I launch out of the chair, interrupting the question. I spin and turn my back on him in one motion, facing the wall. My lower eyelids glisten and drops form on my temples. I stand, frozen, facing the wall, preparing myself for the next onslaught. Rage builds inside me. He’s teasing me. Holding my hands back, pinning me down, pretending to dribble spit on my face. Why won’t he stop? Why won’t he go away?
Confused and angry, I glance up at the wall momentarily and look in the mirror. I’m there, but the reflection is clear behind me. Two hardback chairs stand empty. I gasp. He’s gone! I spin around, slack-jawed and eyes wide to see if it’s really true.
He is calmly sitting in the same chair and this time, our eyes meet. He grins.
I exhale deeply, this time in resignation, ending with the quietest of whimpers.
“OK,” I confess, looking directly into his sockets. I pull up my chair and sit down sadly. “It’s a love story set in the 50s…”