Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mythological Creatures in Germany


You’re sitting in a bed, in a house, in the middle of a farm in northern Germany. There are two spiders you’ve been watching for days in two separate crevices of your bedroom. You’re afraid to kill them because of the sound they’ll make when you squash them, an ongoing problem, but also because you’re living on a farm and you don’t think you’re supposed to do such things. What if they eat some pest, contribute to the greater good? The last thing you want is to murder the Greater Good.

You have dirt stuck under your fingernails and that makes you feel tough. Yet when you go to bed each night you shut the lights and rush under the covers lest some creature gets you. After telling your host this, she gives you a key to lock the door at night, which is when you realize it’s mostly mythological creatures you’re afraid of and keys won’t keep them out anyway. You’d prefer a unicorn over the bogeyman, but in reality it’s probably just the mice having tea parties in the walls again.

There is a lot of time to think and you’re not sure if you’re running away from something or towards it. Maybe you’re just running, so may as well enjoy the running for its own sake, and you are. Make a note to live in the moment. Page through a found self-help book and stumble upon the fourth Secret to Life: “Live in the moment.” Go figure. Think about how it’s even possible to live in the moment, anyway. Your to-do list rings in your mind and you think you will write it down soon, a list of things to do and pay for when you have access to fast internet again. You should probably book a flight back to America eventually. Ponder whether you really want to go back to America. Think about the unknown abyss of the future. Of all the things everyone else is doing and how you can’t make yourself want them. Of being a vagabond indefinitely. Wonder how long that last paycheck and what’s left of that money you’ve saved since you were 17 for just such an occasion will last. Probably not the rest of your life. Or through the summer. Same difference.

There’s always this problem: When you leave America, you think of all these things you might want to do when you get back, all these people you don’t want to loose in the woodwork and this sense that you need more closure than America has already given you, that bastard. Closure from what, you don’t know. Just closure. You always want things to be completely beat to death before you leave them. You’re not sure how this fares for a country. You think of your friend who asked why you’d ever even consider leaving the Greatest Country in the World for more than an extended holiday? How could you ever fathom never coming back for good? You don’t dislike America, per se, but you want to become an expatriate indefinitely just to oppose that thought whole-heartedly. You do miss pumpkin ale though, quite terribly.

You’re not looking forward to the second bought of reverse culture shock, even if it’s months away. You realized when you went to England that being able to understand all of the language spoken around you is stressful. You want to listen to everything at once, trying to understand all of the people chatting on the bus up Elm Grove, and eventually turn your headphones back on in defeat, exhausted. Make a note not to compare everything to Prague when you get back, but know it’s a losing battle. Hate how obnoxious you’re going to sound. You’ll miss the public transportation, sitting on trains and the trams, the Czech language. All the languages, really. You’ll miss feeling useful on this farm, more useful than you ever felt during your 4 months teaching English. You’ll miss the Friendly Sheep, her especially, looking at you with big eyes when you come to refill the water bucket at night. Her mother forgot her so she likes humans and you like her.

You’ll even miss not knowing what the fuck is going on around you half the time, what with your 30 word approach to each respective language. You think you’re just starting to get a hang of the metric system. You know that minus 8 degrees Celsius is cold and you don’t even need to convert it to Fahrenheit. You know what you weigh in kilos.

You think of a passage you read in Into the Wild yesterday, “I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” You hate yourself for being such a hipster sometimes, but think that if you call yourself a hipster it negates your hipsterness so you’re probably safe. Whew.

You’re not sure if leaving is easy, but that passage resonated with you somewhere. Goodbyes were always hard for you. Hard to understand. What is an ending and what should it mean? What does it mean to everyone else? You always put them off until last minute, clutching your drink, sipping slowly until it’s warm and flat in the corner of the pub, and then somehow you make your feet move to the train, bus, plane taking you away from those you care about while you sit teary-eyed and confused at the whole debacle, doubting. You could just stay here, you think. You could. But you don’t. You’ve made a habit of crying on public transportation in the last few years, but maybe you’re just on public transportation a lot.

Everything feels so profound when you’re leaving. Goodbyes are hard, but leaving is easy, you decide. Leaving places is easy for you, but if there’s one thing you’ll ever regret from your life up ‘til now it’s your inability to leave people when you should have. Like America, everything always needs to be beat to death until nothing interesting enough is left to ask any more questions. You think of how much time you wasted being unnecessarily unhappy since you were 15 and hope you at least learned a lesson this year besides how to conceal your inner-thoughts and desires from yourself. You wonder if you like to travel just because you’re afraid of getting trapped in relationships you don’t know how to get yourself out of. Then again, you also like staring out windows. When you discovered you could stick your head out the train windows in the Czech Republic there was no turning back. You were a dog in a car. Tongue out, smile wide. There’s something about being in trains and buses that makes you feel content. The motion. No matter what you do, you’re being productive. You have a destination and you’re working on getting there. You can sleep the time away, you can twiddle your thumbs. No matter, still going.

You’re inwardly proud of yourself for breaking up with Prague and believe it’s a first step in the right direction. She was a beautiful lover, with castles for eyes, cherubs carved into her skin and a clock delivering both death and the twelve apostles to you on the hour, but you never really paid attention. Cobblestones flowed in every direction, creating a path between you, but you two had some fundamental differences you just couldn’t shake and you were tired of fighting. She was fun, but you wanted to be understood more completely. It was precisely the hardest decision of your life.

Mostly you hope you can transfer your new decision-making methods to the next person you’re with that gives you that familiar wordless anxiety at your core. You know, the one that splits the pros and cons list right in two, ruining any attempt to have things laid out for you in a logical fashion, clear as day. Prague split you right down the center: Sixteen and sixteen. But somehow your fingers typed the letters and your voice led the conversations you needed to move on to the next phase of your life. Maybe you’re really growing up.

You’re not sure about this growing up thing. Not the growing in itself, for you don’t really mind getting older. You noticed your first wrinkle forming and viewed it as a rite of passage more than anything. Since you don’t remember Coming of Age like all the books say you should, this will have to do, won’t it? You’re worried about when the line is drawn between when you can have fun and when you can’t. Not the Sex, Drugs and Rock-n- Roll, like everyone else, though you could always use a bit of all of them, you guess. You don’t want to have to put away your sense of adventure and the absurd, much less pass up a good playground. You don’t ever want to be one of those people who talks about things they can no longer wear, play or do because they are “too old”. You think you won’t really mind the whole being wiser thing, however. You’re sick and tired of losing sleep over these things you’ve yet to experience.

But there you go thinking outside of the moment again. You’re not sure any fully functioning human brain is capable of this. You damn anyone that never dropped you on your head when you were a child, but maybe thinking ahead is not so bad. You always did like making lists…

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