Monkeys dance from one tree top to another. Wild peacocks shuffle through tall grasses, barely noticed from the road. Chickens peck at the ground, narrowly dodging the heavy hooves of the cows that move with a slow assurance, as slowly and surely as the sun moves across the sky. It’s hot and I wipe the beads of sweat pooling on my forehead with the back of my hand, the part of me that’s the least dirty.
What am I doing here?
A few scooters beep as they speed past me. A woman calls to me from her shop, a child waves and a street dog barks as I step over a pile of poo. “Trying not to step in shit.” I mentally answer myself in the most literal way possible. Because the truth is less of a sensible concept, a sticky and messy thing much like the poo I’m trying so hard to avoid. And the messy truth is that I don’t know.
I don’t know what I’m doing here and it’s the not knowing that can both tear down and rebuild a person.
I shake a rock loose from between the bottom of my right sandy foot and its matching flip-flop. I had stood by the ocean just minutes ago. Looking past a cow, I had watched the waves as they rolled in and took note of the exact moment they became nothing but a bit of water over a bit of sand. I had thought then, as I think now, how small and insignificant my life. Had I once been a part of something bigger? Was I only now realizing I was just a bit of water over a bit of sand?
The ocean was vast and the sun far, but my purpose and direction felt even farther.
I looked down at the sand between my toes and thought of the places my feet had taken me and all the different sands they had seen. I thought about my life. And even as I felt such small insignificance in this beautiful world, I also felt the heaviness of my years ahead.
The bigness of it.
The weight of it.
I thought of the decisions that needed to be made in order for me to move forward. I had closed the last chapter of my life and I secretly wished to move forward with the same ease Time has as it pushes ahead, despite the greatest of odds, consistently and without falter.
But I stop, I falter.
I see a monkey’s tail flash in the green canopy above and follow it up his body. I see his face and then his eyes. They seem to pierce through mine, and I think about his life. How much easier it seemed to me, to be a monkey hanging from a tree. Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by the endless possibilities. All of the what-ifs, the acute awareness of how one choice can lead me down a completely different path than another.
I don’t make a move.
I just am and continue to be.
I know I can’t make progress solely by being alive. I cannot simply breathe my way to where I need to be, but to stay stagnate is comparable to death. The death of a soul. I thought about mine, not in a religious manner, but in the very real core-of-my-being type of way. I wondered if the monkey could sense it – my soul. I wondered if he was looking straight into the depth of it.
But he turns away and continues on with his business and the moment passes.
Where am I going from here? I thought of moving through the cities, the days, the crowds and the heat. Moving through the motions and all of the uncertainties my future seemed to be holding above my head. The emotion of it overcame me as I walked, one sandy foot after another. A tear burned my eye as it materialized its way from mere thought into something quickly wiped away.
I’ve been here.
A day before this one.
A different country, another road, a bluer ocean.
But here, I’ve been here.
This place in my heart, this same spot in my head. This familiar space filled with doubts about myself and the person I thought I was, or at least the person I had aimed to be.
And it’s a violent shakening, this event taking place ever so quietly within me.
A movement with uncanny precision and measured resolve, intended to twist and break and mold me. I’m unsure if I’m still the person I’ve been. If I’m the same me I was at the start of this walk, before the sand, before the ocean, before the monkey with the eyes.
Where am I? I ask myself as I walk. “I’m in India.” I almost answer aloud, as if that was even an answer, as if that had been what I meant.
Read part-two here!