Stickman Readers' Submissions March 17th, 2009

Three Sides of the Same Coin

You hear your co-workers discuss buying land and building homes, purchasing latest model sports cars, en-vogue stonewashed designer jeans, and obscenely expensive high-grade espresso machines, and you feel you don’t need any of it.

They want to make you the head of your sixty people strong division, but you say no. “Why did you invest all that time into getting your advanced degree while also working an average of at least fifty hours per week if you were not aiming for a jump in your career?”, your co-workers ask incredulously. They eye you suspiciously, believing you are devising some intransparent and evil scheme you are not willing to disclose, while all you can think of is how that promotion would restrict you in your freedom.

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You listen to your friends’ daydreams of marrying their college sweethearts, raising kids, getting a few puppies, and spending weekends busying themselves with gardening and backyard BBQs, and the thought sends shivers down your spine.

You politely small talk with some of your old buddies at your ten year high school class reunion, learning how life has been treating them, and wonder if you should envy or pity them for the predictably boring lives they are leading with their average jobs, average interests, and average ambitions.

You inquisitively talk your way through a two hour long speed dating event in some spiffy downtown bar you have agreed to come along to in order to do a lonely friend a favor, and end up walking away feeling more disconnected than ever from the greatest share of your local dating pool.

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You join internet-based social networks and through them occasionally invite travellers from all around the world into your home for a night or two who happen to pass through your area. They are people you have never met before in your life yet you enjoy hosting them because they bring with them the flavor of the distance, and have many of your friends and family curiously raise their eyebrows at you in return.

You observe your buddies lust after some blonde, heavy-boned, and supremely surly flight attendants on a business trip to Amsterdam and can’t help wondering what attraction they can possibly find in their appearance.

“If you took me with you on your journeys I’d happily go, but I won’t go alone!”, your best friend tells you again with a hopeful look on his face, even though he already knows that your answer is going to be no.

Your elderly dad drives you to the airport, giving the usual and ever repetitive sermon about how the world is evil and you need to watch your back.

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“I am always glad to know you're safe in your home, even if I get to see much less of you than I’d like”, he says with a worried undertone.”

“I’m always glad to leave the daily grind behind me and get away”, you’d like to say in return, but bite your tongue as you feel that the memories of his own intrepid travelling days already seem nothing more than a blur to him.

You fly your rusty dirtbike over pothole cratered roads at breakneck speeds along the former Ho Chi Minh trail with the rhythm of ZZ Top and Metallica beating in your ears, wearing no safety gear whatsoever other than a badly fitting excuse of a plastic helmet and feel on top of the world, while at home you don’t even move your bike around the block without first cocooning yourself in pad-cushioned Goretex and your fiberglass helmet.

You sit in a simple jungle lodge in remote Indochina devouring Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American”, not least since you feel it suits the setting, and feel like a fool for it.

You play a magic trick for a little girl hawking chewing gums and useless souvenir items at Hanoi’s Hua Hien Lake. She laughs and smiles at you and then insists you buy stuff from her. You say no sorry, you won’t. She tells you to fuck yourself.

You observe the silly looking, cone hat wearing, sunburnt flip-flop warriors ambling around downtown Pakse in search of their next happy milkshake and ask yourself why you are being judgmental to a degree that their presence bothers you.

You are annoyed by the busloads of elderly French package tourists that have just arrived to the serene pagoda in the Plain of Bagan that you had all to yourself until just a moment ago, even though you realize that if it wasn’t also for them probably no infrastructure would exist for you to easily arrive here in the first place.

You sit at the entrance of Nana Plaza watching the hustle and bustle of punters, hookers, preachers, vendors, and tourists all thrown together in a wild mix and sense a touch of profound loneliness like you do in few other environments.

You wade through a marsh on a far-flung South Pacific island because you foolishly took the wrong turn somewhere along the way, watching with disgust the leeches that are now feasting on your lower legs, cursing the moment and thinking how much nicer it would be to sit on your comfy sofa back home watching all this crap on TV.

You traverse a 4400 meter high mountain pass on bumpy roads during a hailstorm in the Peruvian Andes with a painfully full bladder, sitting in a clattering chicken bus amidst coca leaf chewing and spitting Indios and constantly ask yourself what the hell you are doing here anyway.

You lie in bed holding a gorgeous, exotic, and warm woman in your arms, feeling at peace with the world, yet the one thought you can never entirely shake is where to you are going to buy a bus ticket away from her the following morning, or the one after.

“How long will you be gone?”, she inquires while you patiently teach her to slowfox in your candle-lit hotel room, already sensing that you won’t give an answer before you are leaving.

You call her number standing at the riverfront looking at the sun setting over the mighty Mekong as you promised you would do. “Do you miss me already?”, she asks as she always does when you call her. And you do, even though you wouldn’t say it.

Stickman's thoughts:

Absolutely brilliant.

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