Porkpie Hat—Together and Apart

Excerpts from a Traveller's Notebook

Like all our fellow travelers, our journey is too long, our journey is too brief.  We are immortal and god-like, filling up the universe; we are tiny and fragile, our lives as flickering and insubstantial as sparks from a campfire.  We carry our burdens across barren lands beneath what must be a thousand years of waxing and waning moons.  And yet, we have barely taken a step or two across the dunes of time, and our footprints are erased by some capricious wind.  My friend, our journey is completely unique, exactly the same as everybody else’s.

On the west coast, we follow coastal nomads along the silk roads of the soul.  We collect seashells, tattoos, experiences, heartbreak, and addictions.  We drink warm beer, we play in punk bands, we engage in important rituals and unsafe practises.  On Haida Gwaii we watch an albino raven eating three black beetles, brilliant as opals.  On Saltspring Island we fill rusted buckets with blackberries and clams.  In Victoria’s Chinatown, we stand in a doorway, sharing a kiss and eating duck beneath a sky filled with paper lanterns and a lucky blue dragon.  There is the smell of rain and sulphur smoke, shreds of firecracker casings falling like bright red snow.  It seems so easy in that moment to swear we will never be apart.

In Vancouver, we collect degrees, paycheques, false friends, and laughable illusions about our own importance.  We travel so far, so fast, by car, motorcycle, train, jet, bus, bicycle, and palanquin, dutifully sending home postcards with pictures of temples and elephants, planetariums and cathedrals.  We undertake mortgages and affairs; we study finances and languages; we deepen our understanding of insincerity and betrayal.

As with all travelers, we lose many things along the way.  There is so much stuff to keep track of, and we are always so distracted.  The world of full of shiny things falling down upon, filling our pockets, blinding us like a blizzard of sequins.  Later on—much too late—we realize how little some of the things we manage to hold onto are really worth, and how valuable are many of the things we’ve lost.

In Yellowknife, on the night we part, the aurora borealis is filling the sky with wonder, and an Irish bar band is playing a drunken version of “Like a Virgin.” We eat our final meal in silence.  I understand how much you hate me in this moment; perhaps it’s the only thing we still have in common.  Back in our hotel room, you fall asleep to the hum of the air conditioner and mosquitos, with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ resting on your chest.

Many years later, and half a world away, you come to me once again, this time in a dream.  Your face has regained the gentleness that I had stolen from you so long ago.  You speak to me in yet another new language that you’ve learned, and even though I don’t understand a word of it, I know exactly what you mean.  You’re drunk with beauty.  You’re calm, but you’re excited.  You are telling me about some places you have been, and other places you have plans to go.  You’re going back to university, working on a master’s thesis related to navigating by the harmonic resonances of the moon.  You promise you will come back some day, and teach the skill to me.  That way, you say, we can both chart a course towards redemption, in opposite directions, together and apart.

%d bloggers like this: