Alive

 

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Some women are tender and hold your head while you fall asleep. Other women won’t kiss you much and cover their nipples after you’re done, as if now’s the time for modesty.

The younger ones, from across the generational divide, are straight-up slayers. They pick up their phones right afterward and lie on their bellies pecking away. Messaging other dudes. Every girl who texts you is doing so from another man’s bed. His jizz still in her navel. Intimacy is dead and it’s not coming back. This is the world now. If love’s the sort of thing you’re into, just know that your one shot at it was the last one you blew.

***

I do miss my girlfriend my ex-girlfriend. The one who’s a model and is seven years younger than me. She was great. But I lied too much and caused too much damage.

I had five days off work for the holiday. Too much unstructured time, so I was forced to think about her. And it’s really sad. It feels like we both died.

I spent three of those days in the mountains. Motorbiked 100 miles south on the Ho Chi Minh Highway to stay with a family in a hut underneath a waterfall. Woke up with the chickens. Detoxed from modernity. It was boring. I privately expected a cinematic experience whereupon some of my crippling character defects would be healed by the tranquility. Instead I just sweated, read Murakami, and counted the seconds until it was over. Fuck the cinema and its tropes. I couldn’t wait to ride back to the city and go to Starbucks or something.

***

The ride back to Hanoi was unbelievable. Never done anything like that in my life. My buddy drives fast and I had to stick with him because I didn’t know the way. 50 mph the whole time, which in Vietnam might as well be 1,000 mph. It’s the jungle. You go hammering down cliff roads with pits deep as asteroid craters, every one of them trying to throw you over the handlebars. No cops or rules. People constantly shoot out of blind drives. Other people kamikaze straight at you on the wrong side of the road. There’s no reaction time.

My buddy would lean low and slide between trucks and I had to follow. I only know how to drive like that from movies. Purely terrifying. But also the most awesome scene I’ve ever been in the middle of. The clear hot sun, the blindingly green mountains, the smoke pillars on the riverbanks, the flooded cemeteries, the crazy whipping dust and the pebbles flying up and spraying you hard as paintballs. Chopping through it all for two hours on a hot engine. This is the sort of thing I’m into now. It’ll make you feel something.

A tour bus jumped a red light and I was going to hit it. I tried to react. Squeezed the handlebars and my front brake bit the wheel so hard it tore off. I skidded out and somehow caught a sand patch and slid past the nose of the bus. That was death right there. All luck that I made it through.

I was surprised that nothing profound came to me as my survival registered. What did come to me was the acidic throb of adrenaline, about a minute later. That’s something you should feel, if you can.

***

Back in the Hanoi Starbucks I read a missed email from two days before. An offer for a podcast appearance, listenership of a half-million per episode. Would have been a huge boost for your boy Freddy C. over here. My readership would have grown into… double digits maybe. But I didn’t respond in time, and so that ship has sailed. All because I was up in the mountains with chickens.

It’s OK. I actually don’t care. I had convinced myself that missing this email was another sign that my life is nothing but a tragedy, but that’s just the Murakami I’m reading. He makes me think it’s OK to slump through life bearing a cross of emotional agony.

But feeling like that is not OK, because it’s not true. Not so much anymore. What’s true is that I’m all right. I’m glad I didn’t die. I’m glad I’m still here to have my tiny pile of money and also my coffee and some good songs that I can pull over me like a woozy blanket. That’s my life, that’s me. That’s what I’ve got. I’ve transcended a few things and escaped a few others. So I’m all right, no matter if she holds me or turns away. Or if she lights up her phone. She thinks she’s hot shit. And she is. But then there’s me.

 

 

 

 

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