Photo: Air Images/Shutterstock

I Don't Want to Be a Traveler Forever

by Alicia Bones Feb 13, 2012
I only have a few pairs of matching socks.

I only have soy sauce and milk in my refrigerator. My white walls are a lackluster collage of haphazardly collected posters, the trappings of constant relocation. I wake up late, hoping for structure and stability. Should I writeabookmeetafriendlearntocook? Infinite possibilities always lead to coffee first.

I’ve long had this dream of permanent impermanence. You’re supposed to want the up-all-night boozing and conversations when you’re twenty-four; you’re supposed to couchsurf and be broke and wear the same pair of jeans until they’re rubbed through between your thighs. Henry Miller’s rancid butter and revolving door women, bumming on never-been-cleaned couches.

You’re supposed to trip from city to city, from apartment to apartment, each person alike and different, each city more remarkable than the last. You’re supposed to live! But I’m mostly miserable with my books on the windowsill, and my holey jeans are getting cold.

I’m glad to have my articles to write and my class to take and my emails to answer. It feels so conventional to long for the structure that I lack, but I envy the Christians and the painters with studios, the compulsive eaters and compulsive cleaners, the students in the high school outside my window, smokers, the teachers with weekends off. The people who have a morning, an afternoon, an evening.

I think I’ll never retire. Freelancing, I’m not cut out for it. I don’t want to watch Project Runway in the middle of the day and forget that today is Friday.

They tell you that you’re supposed to want to pack your bags, live from a suitcase, pull in your room’s mismatched furniture from the street outside. And I could, I do, and I have. But they don’t tell you that in a new city, you don’t know a good Indian delivery place. You can’t petition the city council to put in a stop sign where you almost got into a wreck with that Jeep because there is no fender bender and no Jeep either.

You can’t run into your ex at the video store, but you can’t run into your friends either. Each young face is shiny with dew and an open mind, possibilities that are the same and different from where you’ve been before.

I leave for China in a few weeks. I don’t know the place, and it seems that I probably won’t when I arrive or afterwards or ever, either. It seems like a land of zi’s, tsi’s, and zuh’s, of mutability, of impermanence layered on top of histories upon histories that I’ll never understand. I don’t know what to expect because I never have expectations.

There will probably be structure there, ceremony that I will appreciate with its newness, days of whipping wind and nights of English language movies with Chinese subtitles, markets with plastic off-brands and Saifun noodles and big bundles of green vegetables, office hours and classroom time, time on and time off.

The trains may not be on time, but I’ll still be there, waiting. For now.

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