I was planning to write a typically review like blog about South East Asian busses and the culture of their passengers but I felt sad so I wrote about love and boogie-man spirits instead.
Saying goodbye to Alice was hard. The day before she left Alice asked me;
“When will you come home?”
I had no response for her. I have no idea. There were so many things tied into that moment.
Alice and I have been going out for three years. We love each other. I wanted her to come with me on this trip but she couldn’t so I decided to leave Australia without her. I was leaving everything behind, everything I own, my room and, most important to me, my relationship.
Distance changes things. It’s a mysterious and powerful catalyst. No amount or thought, discussion or reassurance can prepare a relationship for its effects. I love Alice and I have no intention of leaving her but I’m still scared.
Alice and I said goodbye at the airport terminal, the last possible place. Sticky and hot we embraced. I cried. Alice smiled. We hugged again, and again until the line in front dissolved into a bleak empty space. We let go and I watched her sail up the escalator, hoping every second she would turn to look at me again. Her final smile and wave will probably be etched into my memory forever.
Then I was alone. Left to face the exact same trip we had faced only two days earlier but this time it would just be me.
A few days ago I thought Alice’s departure would be bittersweet. Of course I would miss her – not just emotionally, but practically – I would miss her company, her conversation, her appetite, her touch. But also her departure meant my adventure could continue. My loneliness would bring my freedom – back on the road to hitchhike, ride and eat. But none of these thoughts returned to me after her departure. I only felt vulnerable, guilty and stupid. I’m alone and anything that happens now is my fault.
I have never seen two people get sick on the same journey. On busses, on trains, on flights – there is always just one. One person wrenching, one person vomiting, one person self-pitying, pale and gaunt. I imagine travel sickness as a fickle spirit – a grey, emancipated ghost, wafting around like a directionless fart. He wears a poorly fitting tweed suit and has a thin pointy head and a weak moustache. He hopes to witlessly attach to a clouding breath so he can squirm in and suckle at some life like a poor-man’s dementor. But, like his patchy age-defying moustache, he’s too weak to hang on and the host bodies, feeling dirty and exposed, expel him in the most unedifying way possible – a hurricane of vomit and liquid shit.
I’ve now been on more busses than I can care to describe. Each of them with its own tale of the pointy-headed spirit. Yesterday it was the woman next to me. It as if she had contracted the boogie man straight from my breath. She didn’t have a lover or a friend to support her – only me, a young traveller who felt too awkward to place a hand on her back. There was no soft ring tones or even a toilet to relieve her. Her only peace was sleep, which she was quite proficient at. Mirroring the slush bag hanging in front, her body swung to the dips and turns of the highway, a most unhappy couple of pendulums. Occasionally, after a earthquakey pot-hole or near accident, her head would swing with such abandon it would crash into the seat in front or my shoulder*. I wanted to say ‘don’t worry you can lean on my shoulder’ but the crashes never woke her up – her slumber was only interrupted to fill the slush bag.
I’ve been on too many long bus rides.
I am in Bangkok. I came back to pick up my bike. I’m at the train station waiting for a ride to Penang, Malaysia. I’m going to ride from there to Kuala Lumpur. I have a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Korea on the 9th.
On my way back to Bangkok I stopped to meet some friends. Thank you Andrew, Mona and Daisy for your friendship, support and hospitably.
I can’t wait to get back on my bike.
*I have the pointiest shoulders I have ever seen. At the height of each shoulder I have two hilly bumps. Everyone’s got those same bones but no one’s seem to stick out like mine.