Another story from 2011. How far would you go for even a remote possibility of a dream coming true?
He was 87. He had told me many times the night before. He told me how he had travelled with the cattle trains across the delta straights, ridden the post barge up river to the city, how fever had taken him at the Tiger Foot Inn during the monsoon. His convalescence caused a great commotion amongst the missionaries, happy to have a new soul the save. He stayed through the winter and worked…
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The other night I was taken by a romance. I pictured a lonesome traveller, wandering from one place to another. intrigued, I wandered onto You Tube to find images of lonesome travellers. I found this.
There was something about the idea of the traveller, wandering between point to point. I switched to Spotify and as I searched songs with words like traveller and lonesome, I started to find a story emerging. A traveller spied from a distance, and followed becoming elusive. Songs started to fill my computer, relaying emotions to my headphones and the story started to unwind…
I first heard rumours of the traveller in the coastal towns, a small boat was found abandoned tentatively washing itself along the shoreline, sometimes holding for a while on the steep sands, others surrendering to the waves.
Then a chance sighting. Seen one winters evening along the bare ridges of the hills inland, skirting around the towns and villages, a silhouette against the stormy skies full of angry and furious clouds. I chose to follow, walking at a distance and picking my way slowly behind. Sometimes he moved with the speed of the howling wind sometimes he hesitated in the valleys out of reach of the icy rain. I hardened my resolve and promised myself that one day I would meet him face to face. No longer would he travel alone. If he knew I followed him, he showed no sign or gave no ground.
After time we came to a market. The journey had taken us south at a frightening pace. I lost him at times amongst crowds; a shadow moving amongst the shadows. He was darkness in the alleyways moving along the edges of street corners gliding effortlessly through the bustle unnoticed by those around, focused upon their daily lives. As we left the town I found myself beginning to feel his awareness of my quest. His path zig-zagged up and down the side of hills. I would find a stream he had quenched his thirst in, a tree underneath he had slept. Without sight of him I doubted myself.
There were rumours of him as I passed through strange places I had never known before, friendly people pointed me on in the right direction. My shape had changed now. I was much more agile; flowing along the landscape like a stream among the rocks on the hillside. I chased him along the lines of the breadfruit growing in the fields and beyond dashing under the fronds of the palms kicking the fallen almonds at my feet. There were marks in the dust; footprints made in haste but I was catching up. I could feel it, he was loosing and I was gaining so much every day. In every place the stories of him became more vivid and less vague. He was fresher in the minds of those he touched and I would finally see his face soon.
We returned to more familiar lands one hot and dry day. I noticed in the midday sun that I recognised where we were. The warm winds blew across the tracks and threw mirrored dust into my eyes making them spring salty into tears and redness. Through the haze I saw his figure walking slowly now along the straight and flat landscape not a half a mile in front of me. At times he would lurch to the left or right and I would think that he would fall but no. He would keep his balance and continue.
Soon I would meet him. Soon we would look into each others eyes. I began to wonder what we would see. I had changed so much. Then one day, I was wading through the Everglades, tracing the long deep marks his simple boots made in the edges of the swamps. I turned around the corner of a clump of trees and there leant against the roots of the willow I met his eyes. They were wide and filled with terror, his heart was racing and his skin was old. There was something pale and ephemeral about it. I felt that he would float away. He looked into my eyes now shrouded in thick lines and folds of skin. The wind and sun and rain had been unkind to both of us adding layer upon layer of care on our brows.
As I looked into his soul and he into mine, I saw the places we had travelled together, I smiled slowly, not wanting to alarm him any more than he already was. Slowly and gently his chest rose and fell winding down towards the end of its motion until with nothing left to see, he closed his eyes. I stood for a while and looked out across the glades. Insects buzzed around our heads. He was gone and we had never spoken but in that moment I had felt the stars whirl around us.
His universe was now mine. All that we had seen together was mine to see again with fresh eyes and a longer mind. I stayed as long as I could, but I could not stay for long. I had to move on; keep going, never pause again. There were sights to see that couldn’t wait another moment, smells that were already fading on the breeze. Goodbye Lonesome Traveller…
Videos linked by kind permission of You Tube.
Songs can be found on Spotify.