Issue 226, Fall 2018
1. A Travel Diary
I had left my passport at an inn we stayed at for a night or so whose name I couldn’t remember. This is how it began. The next hotel would not receive me. A beautiful hotel, in an orange grove, with a view of the sea. How casually you accepted the room that would have been ours, and, later, how merrily you stood on the balcony, pelting me with foil-wrapped chocolates. The next day you resumed the journey we would have taken together.
The concierge procured an old blanket for me. By day, I sat outside the kitchen. By night, I spread my blanket among the orange trees. Every day was the same, except for the weather.
After a time, the staff took pity on me. A busboy would bring me food from the evening meal, the odd potato or bit of lamb. Sometimes a postcard arrived. On the front, glossy landmarks and works of art. Once, a mountain covered in snow. After a month or so there was a postscript: X sends regards.
I say a month, but really I had no idea of time. The busboy disappeared. There was a new busboy, then one more, I believe. From time to time, one would join me on my blanket.
I loved those days! Each one exactly like its predecessor. There were the stone steps we climbed together and the little town where we breakfasted. Very far away, I could see the cove where we used to swim, but not hear anymore the children calling out to one another, nor hear you anymore, asking me if I would like a cold drink, which I always would.
When the postcards stopped, I read the old ones again. I saw myself standing under the balcony in that rain of foil-covered kisses, unable to believe you would abandon me, begging you, of course, though not in words—
The concierge, I realized, had been standing beside me. Do not be sad, he said. You have begun your own journey, not into the world, like your friend, but into yourself and your memories. As they fall away, perhaps you will attain that enviable emptiness into which all things flow, like the empty cup in the Daodejing—