Sunday, September 11, 2011

Miles and minutes

September 3

A hundred small boats slowly, cautiously set out together in their solitary confinement. Their lone passengers hold fishing rods and soon, they start casting their nets out.

“Where are you from?”

“Texas!”

“Oh me too!”

The fishing lines entangle and the two boats are pulled closer to one another.

Words like nametags are put up on shirts and chests, attempts to introduce, make friends or just conversation. Gaps close up for the most time but some widen, just like the physical distance from your home, this one stretches thousands of miles between cultures.

Grad school is like other starting points in your life. You set out alone in your fishing boat and although it can be comforting if you manage to look outside your little sphere and notice that all the other lonely boats are wafting alongside, at the end of a night, you just wish somebody already knew what your favorite movie was and what you did when you woke up late on a Saturday morning.

It’s mildly amusing that the loneliest I was here was in a circle of mostly sweet girls. The setting was perfect, straight out of my journal, a string of fairy lights and okay, the revolving moon wasn’t the classiest thing to be on the rooftop but we were high up. The breeze was intermittent but sweet and red, yellow lights stretched on both sides of the road, dipping down and up. Conversation was polite, sometimes funny and sometimes I would slip out because I was tired of smiling at things I didn’t relate to.

It’s nice when people are nice to you but that doesn’t help with your lack of knowledge about mooching cigarettes off people here. A longing for your country, where you know what you’re supposed to do in group of people and what the standard notions of sharing are.

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You know you’re more secure than you thought if you can still pronounce Pakistan ‘Paak-istan’ even when everyone around you always says Pack-istan.

There are the days when you meet someone sweet enough to hop off the normal chart of sweetness onto the smaller one of ‘things that actually made my day’. Instead of treading unchartered waters and blindly searching for things in common, you stumble upon them like a smattering of marbles on the floor. Mountains and foosball, why are you so brown-skinned? Alaska and photography, so many places I have to see and adjust the light so that the snow on the peaks can stand out sharply on the postcard picture I will print out and put on my wall. I promise I will never hold a slimy fish in my hands – unless my four-year-old daughter’s goldfish flips out of her bowl and is dying on the floor. Only then will I wrap my fingers around the scaly body of a non-blinker.

I hope you live up to your promise of rematches and the fake rock that I don’t have the arm-strength to climb.

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