There is a peculiar joy to being nowhere, where nobody expects you to be someone you may not be. We all wear our masks, different ones for different occasions, and after years of wearing masks it’s difficult to know who one really is anymore.
My first day in the new place was what some would call, ‘wasted’ – I slept the entire day and the following night, waking only for food that, as luck would have it in this quiet nook of the world, is superb. There was some pressure here and there to go and do things afterward, to go see this, to go see that, to run amok like… a tourist.
I’m not a tourist. This is my planet. I’m not quite sure what the rest of you are doing here, and right now I’m fairly sure I don’t care what you’re doing here as long as it doesn’t interfere with me.
I explore. A man walks up to me, speaking in his own language, his own dialect, slowly – the uncertain manner in which different cultures and languages greet each other. I am offered an array of products, quietly, and am told that he can get anything I want. I listen keenly, staring downward as if in deep concentration. He is shocked when I raise my head, look him in the eye and respond in the same language and dialect, quickly, that I thank him for the offer and that I already have everything I need.
Shocked, he walks off quickly. He doesn’t know where I’ve been, what I’ve done, but he’s certain at this point that I’ve been here before.
Slowly, over the course of the next few days, having been spoken to – politely, if not insistently – about what products and services are available, they fade into the background. Each one gets a slightly different story from me of who I am, where I’m from, what I do… It doesn’t matter. I’m not here to impress anyone. I’d likely fail anyway.
Now and then a new face shows up and does the same, only to find the same response… Slowly, I expect by the time I leave, they will find that all I really wanted was to be left alone and that I was simply being polite instead of perhaps how I might feel in the moment, if only because I understand that they are making a living here in this quiet place, and that I am staying in a place where tourists frequent.
A person looks at my camera – almost ancient in terms of Moore’s Law – and the lense I’m using. He’s quick to point out that he does photography, that he has a better lense, that he knows how to buy photography equipment. Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t. I listen to him and politely tell him I know what I’m doing.
This, of course, is not true – but it’s as true as him knowing what he’s doing. The photography gear challenge is a money-pit. Learn to use what you have better.
I’m not a tourist anywhere on this planet. If we were to have a gift shop for the planet, I would like to be the curator because I’ve been offered so many things over the years from all over the world. Perhaps the authentic Egyptian hookah will be to my liking, boxed with a better image of the hookah on the box than what lays within? Perhaps something put together with coconuts, somewhat imaginatively? Or how about a drink that is mixed within a fruit? The infatigable t-shirts that allow you to prove that you have been to wherever you are, maybe a small replica of a building – the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building? My personal favorite: the shot glass.
And yet, tourists travel the planet and pick up these items to put them on shelves.
The experience is why I go to places – not the frantic schedule of the tourist who simply must do everything so that they can tell their friends that they did it, but absorbing what a place actually is, absorbing the environment, watching how people do things and learning – and when asked, maybe giving them some ideas from somewhere else.
Being nowhere can be difficult. And yet, ultimately, it’s rewarding.
Thanks to those who sent me missives, received here in Nowhere, regarding the anniversary of my escape from my mother.