when i travel, i write love stories, and this story is about you.
it's when i travel that i want a partner most, and it's when i travel that i miss you most. to say "i miss you" is an odd idea in and of itself because you're still an idea — i'm afraid you'll always be an idea — but "i miss you" is the only accurate way to describe these feelings, this ache. i miss you, i miss you, i miss you — i miss you though we never were.
i come to iceland blind, and by that i mean that i come to iceland without a story in mind. when i backpacked through japan in 2012, i had a story i was working on, one i'd started writing as i was planning the trip, doing more research than i would ever do for any other trip, imagining the country and wondering how i would experience it in real life.
japan aligned surprisingly well with the japan i saw in my brain, and that story grew, expanded, as i made my way around that country. i kept a regular travel journal that time, filling the silent spaces with words i'd jot down in a notebook, notes on characters i'd see and situate in the country around me. as i spent time in hostels, i wondered about the interactions between strangers, something i've discovered is an obsession of mine — i'm still curious about how we meet people, how we interact with each other, how strangers become acquaintances become friends and lovers and family and more.
and, so, i think about you, a stranger i've brought to life in my head, and i compose stories about you, about us. for some reason, traveling brings out the sentimental in me.
THE COLOR OF VEGETATION
a few years ago, i wrote a story with the same title as this blog, a story about two people who meet when one is traveling and arrives in the other's city. they're not total strangers; they share a mutual friend who's spoken of them to each other; but they meet by coincidence and kiss and start getting to know each other.
it's a story in epistolary form, one writing to the other as they continue their friendship with an ocean between them, a friendship that becomes something more, though they're both afraid to confront what that means, what it might look like when they're long-distance and one of them travels a lot for work — and i don't quite know why i'm launching into a summary of that story here, except maybe that it's a story that i love (and am currently unsure what to do with; it's in that weird limbo of being complete but still maybe needing some work before being submitted again).
that story wasn't about you, which maybe makes mention of it even stranger. let's try this again.
in iceland, i'm constantly taken away by the colors, and i stop to take as detailed photos of flora as my iphone allows. i don't know anything about photography, really; i don't even own a "proper" camera or understand light or exposure or know any technical terms; but none of that clearly stops me from taking photos of everything and sharing them on the internet.
(maybe i believe that it's like something one of my few favorite bloggers/designers tweeted once: no one asks a chef what kind of oven she uses.)
given my penchant for oversharing, i wonder how much of us i might share with the internet. how public would i get? how much would i want to say? i’m not so good at hiding, so how much of how i’m feeling at any given time would leak out?
what are the benefits to being so public, anyway? about whatever it is — what i’m reading, what i’m thinking, how i’m dealing with depression and/or anxiety and/or type 2? why do i do this, and would i continue this with you?
how might you react to it?
how might you react to me stopping to take photos of everything, losing my breath over the sheer beauty of the world around me? would it amuse you, or would it irritate you? would you find it foolish, or would you find it charming? would you laugh and wait patiently as i pause for half-a-minute to get my photo, as i reach for you and proclaim my wonder at some stupidly beautiful nature that opens itself before us? would you share in that wonder?
how much of fiction originates in what we imagine for our own lives?
THE COLOR OF STONES
when i’m driving around iceland, i imagine us together, you in the passenger seat, blasting a playlist of cheesy pop and snacking on everything sweet and salty. when i’m hiking or scrambling up rocks, i imagine you reaching for my hand, lacing your fingers through mine. when i’m sleeping, lined up like a sardine in a tin can in our camper van, i imagine you beside me, your body pressed against mine for extra warmth.
sometimes, i think this is a peculiar loneliness of mine, or maybe just a peculiar antidote to loneliness, to imagine a person into being. sometimes, i think it’s kind of crazy, crazy in that i’ve-lost-my-mind sort of way, but, other times, i think the need for a fellow human being is a need so fundamental to all humans that i’m inclined just to shrug it off and run with it. i get good stories out of it, anyway, stories rooted in place, influenced by place, stories that examine this human want and need and desire.
that’s one of the fun parts of writing, i think, discovering our obsessions, and human relations will always be one of mine. Othering, binaries, fear of differences are others. depression and suicide — or, maybe, put more broadly, that complex human compulsion for self-annihilation runs under everything.
we’re talking about place here, though, how i’m writing this story about you in iceland, so here’s this: i’ve never written a story set in los angeles; i’ve never felt that kind of pull, that need to remember this place. my father comments on my sieve of a memory, my subconscious impulse to forget, and it’s true — it’s not intentional, this forgetting, but i have gaps in my memory of my childhood and youth, many things i don’t remember or maybe have chosen to forget.
sometimes, that scares me because i don’t want to be the forgetting kind. i mean, i’d want to remember everything about you.
THE COLOR OF WATER
i think about the unknowability of you, how much we can ever know about another. i think about the things i will never know about you, no matter how close we were to become. i think about the depths we contain, the shadows that pull at us unknown to others, and i think about what it means to know someone, anyway — how do we know we know enough to make that claim?
i think a lot about this in the context of parents because i think one of the weird things about growing up is realizing that our parents are fully-formed people with pasts and histories and wants of their own. they’re not just our parents, there to love us and provide for us and guide us; they have personalities of their own, flaws, desires. they have ambitions they gave up for us, and they have sacrifices they made and continue to make, and they exist as human beings outside the context of our parent-child relationships.
in similar ways, i think how parenting must sometimes be a constant process of letting go. when a child is born, i imagine her/his/their parents might have so many expectations and wants for her/him/them. the child grows, though, demonstrates an individual, unique personality and will all her/his/their own, maybe deviates from the life they might have wanted for the child, and i think about that struggle of coming to terms with a child’s individuality, with her/his/their exertion of her/his/their own self, maybe seemingly sometimes at the expense of a parent’s happiness and peace of mind.
and, so, i think about you and everything about you i will never know. you’re essentially a character in my mind, but i will still never know everything about you. that’s the way of fiction, though, because fiction is, at heart, about life, and life is complicated and nuanced and unknowable.
we try, though. we make the effort to know, and we make the effort to be known. i suppose it’s what makes me be so stupidly public about everything, even this you i’ve made up in my head.