Monday, March 19, 2012
Escaping, sort of.
As a kid, I made a habit of filling swampy summer days by spinning my parents' desk globe, clapping one hand over my eyes, and stopping the globe at a random spot with one finger. Then, I'd reveal my new "home" to myself and (unless it was in the middle of the ocean, which, re-spin!) find Burma or Zanzibar or East Timor in the Encyclopedia Britannica and become a hasty expert on my adopted homeland. (We were late to cable television.) I liked when the spine made a satisfying crack as I found the page number. I chose to believe this meant I was opening the book to a page never read by a member of my family. The consummate youngest child - in pursuit of a secret morsel of information not yet known to all the bigger, smarter, older people in my house.
Later I paced my neighborhood streets and became a master of stealing quick vignettes from houses and apartments - pausing long enough to drink in the trappings of another life, moving on quickly so as not to peep. It's not that I don't like my life, it's that I am intrigued at how it would feel to be someone else. When I travel, I feel supersonically myself. There I am, free of context, yet perfectly intact. At the same time, I feel like I'm borrowing a life. If only for a little while I can slip into the kinds of worlds previously only accessible by desktop globe. I've been searching for lodging in Portugal and coming across these sleepy country cottages that the owners rent out during the summer months, offering patio breakfasts and bicycles on loan and bedroom views of neverending olive groves. I scroll through the photos and want to put the scenery on like clothes.
When there's a trip on the books, the imagining of it lights up the intervening days (months). I'll visit the airline confirmation in my inbox, literally rolling the cursor over it like I'm stroking a pet. The anticipation nearly outweighs the trip itself, which I used to think was not a good use of my mental energy. "Don't wish your life away" a high school teacher used to say. But I'll hold on to the eager anticipation for now - it's sustaining and it's free and also I don't know how to stop doing it.
I guess it's escapism but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Today I improvised a quick salad dressing despite not having some ingredients I would have preferred on hand, and it turned out perfectly. I felt like a superhero. As I shook up the little mason jar and popped it into the fridge, I felt my whole lousy workday slide right off my shoulders. I'll always need to travel to feel like myself, but escaping an often undignified world is becoming easier in my old age (only 25, but in my defense, the oldest I've ever been!). Surprising salad dressing. Dog with a dopey face on the bike path. Triumphs of my loved ones. It all washes over me, a cozy tunnel of automatic carwash foam when there's very briefly no noise at all anywhere.