Going from global to very much local has been a hard transition. Now it’s my inanimate travel souvenirs that are mocking me.
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It’s a hot August afternoon, my wife is in the garage wearing an I [heart] HK shirt, no doubt picked up from the Lady Markets in Mongkok for $2, and I am incensed. This deep black shirt has to be the only one left for which the colors haven’t faded and the shirt hasn’t shrunk to little more than a washcloth. My eyes sink into the blackness, an unfathomable depth of abandonment and betrayal.
On seemingly every shelf of my house some emblem of our excursions taunt me, call me back to places far away. A model A-320 I couldn’t pass up on an Air Asia flight, a bottle opener magnet from Paris greets me at the fridge, tiny stashed Tobasco bottles (they are adorable) swiped from a room service cart now rot in my pantry as I try to eat my pain away.
A United A320 is overhead. I used to relish the days of being on the flight path, but now, as the engines yawn overhead, it’s tempting me. No, it’s taunting me.
The very pen I write with is from a hotel. I feel it’s heavy weight in my hands, a pristine metal finish, it slides gracefully over the lines of my notebook and reminds me of places where quality and precision are important. Where the quality feel of the pen in your hand leads to a better product from your hand. And someone, on the other side of the world, is picking up an identical pen and admiring the weight as I have, as they begin scribbling thoughts from a bedside notepad in a place I want to be.
“Remember where we first met?” The pen mocks me as I use it. I want to throw it out the window, to scream that I haven’t forgotten, rather I can hardly escape it.
Leaving the pen behind in my office I flee up the stairs to distract myself with anything else. At the top of the stairs, black and white photos of our first trip to Hong Kong Disneyland are next to my wife holding our daughter as we paced through the Forbidden City in Beijing. Along the same wall, images of the quiet beaches of China’s Red Hawai’i at the pristine Park Hyatt Sanya briefly take me back to warm smiles and hearty laughs.
Everywhere I turn, my souvenirs mock me.
My Souvenirs, A Double-Edged Sword
Once purchased to remind me of the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen are now used to tear me apart. They were a double-edged sword for which I never accurately judged their danger. They cut me deep, they slice into me as I try to go about my daily life.
For a moment, they are effective.
And it’s not just the souvenirs that defeat me. It’s the faintest hint of coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup. How I long for an Arabic coffee with its rich flavor and gritty texture as I never quite mastered the art of avoiding injestion of the grounds that swirl at the bottom. It’s an image that pops up on my iPhone in the “two years ago” memory of the perfect breakfast – wonton noodle soup with bok choy and chili sauce. Or the chopsticks I swiped from a Cathay Pacific flight, don’t judge me.
There’s no replacing it, there’s no close substitute. When you’ve tasted a Mexican street taco with crisp onion and fresh cilatro, you can try to recreate it, you can find a close comparison, but there’s just not enough gristle in the tacos here. To that effect, warm tortillas, and the smell of an adobo house in the heat of the day are irreplaceable.
Will It Ever Get Better?
The most haunting thought of it all is that even when the latest crisis is defeated a new one will take its place. Many of us never stopped taking liquids out of our bags or emptying a backpack full of electronics at the airport. It’s for our safety, yes, but will we ever be safe enough again to travel with shampoo? Will I ever again be able to just buy a ticket and disregard my troubles on the way to the airport without first accepting an inoculation or delay my impulse 48 hours until I have a negative test result? Is the magic gone never to return with just the memories on my walls, my desk, in my pantry to remind me of a simpler time where people took risks and it was fine?
I really don’t know anymore. But the one thing I do know is that my wife is going to have a lot of trouble finding that taunting, mocking, deathly black shirt any time soon. That’s okay Carly, we bought them in a pack of ten, just wear the happy yellow one next time.
What do you think? Are your souvenirs mocking you?