Green lights all night. She invited me out, been making comments about the aphrodisiacal powers of peanuts, asking what part of town I live in. But I’m rusty. Momentum is massive in matters like this, and I’ve got little. (Which is a nice way of saying I’m being a pussy.) Then she plays Norah Jones and says it’s perfect music for love-making. My move.
It’s an epidemic of fake tits and questionable employment. At least eight implants dancing in the front room as my prize leads me down the hall. Later she’ll confuse further by showing a copy of Solitude by her bedside and dropping names like Dochevsky, Freud and Wilde. More than meets the eye, this girl, has me wanting more. I leave town in 24 hours.
The weirdest thing is that it doesn’t feel weird at all. Customs was a breeze and they come through the cabin spraying some anti-disease shit before takeoff, but aside from that it’s the same as it was three years and twenty-nine countries ago. The biggest change is inside myself. It was a different man who boarded that last flight out of Oregon.
Stretched out along the back row, I awake and check the time. Another hour and I’ll see my best friend again. I sit up and exchange stories with the young couple in the seats ahead. The sun has gone down leaving hills cut out of a red sky, looking at the old country with new eyes. And the girl asks if I can ever see myself living back here, back home.
We talk all day, through meals and jump shots and dance breaks with the cutest kid in the world. Not a topic left uncovered, yet we could talk forever more. Sixteen years ago we’d have these conversations on the roof of Granny’s barn while drinking in the stars. We’ve both changed immensely in the time since, but we get each other buzzing just the same.
They’re home already, so we park up the road a bit, walk to the gate and hop the wall. I cut through the lawn to the front door. They’ll wonder who’s ringing the bell. Nobody rings the bell. Especially not me. I’m not supposed to be back here for another year. I push the button and wait for the birthday boy, the best man I’ve ever known.
Down grass-middled lanes to the quay and we walk a bit along the railway track. Nearby we pass construction of a mega-factory alongside a castle ruin. Across the port road he takes me to a view I’ve never seen before: six family homes from the far side of the valley. “The hill doesn’t look so steep from here,” he says. “Different perspective altogether.”
In a Ross coffee shop over bacon, brie and cappuccinos, I tell her a bit more about NVC. “Two responsibilities you need to give up in order to ease other people’s pain. One is feeling responsible for causing the pain. The other is feeling responsible for fixing it. If you go into any interaction with the intention of fixing the other person, you’re already doomed.”
Four generations at one table, the eldest eighty-four, the youngest not yet two. My grandmother is watching us sing happy birthday to my father, her firstborn son. He just turned sixty. And I wonder which of us will be alive to see my nephew reach the same age. 2072 seems a long way off, but it’s less forward than ’54 is back.
Seeing the Sahara for the first time, a light and lifeless brown below, as words from Tai Lopez come to mind. “You want there to be rules,” he says. Rules keep planes in the air, breath in your lungs, money in your bank account. There’s an order to the universe, and that’s the way it should be. Imagine the alternative. You wouldn’t want to live there.
Somewhere west of Ipanema, this dude telling me he grew up in a slum. “I like rap music, but not guys like Drake. He grew up rich. He’s not real.” I’m about to make a case for a tough childhood not being a prerequisite for sincere human experience, until I remember my reading. So, instead: “Sounds like you really appreciate guys who have to overcome a lot to succeed.”
We’re led through alleyways and across rooftops of the biggest favela in Latin America. Military police roam the hills in packs, assault rifles at the ready. Rats scour the open sewers while tiny monkeys clamber through jungles of black cable. We stop for pastels and açai and notice a man sitting on a wall, casually flashing a handgun, kids wandering nearby.
I think I’m a pretty interesting guy, someone who can add value to many a life. Like Tynan, I believe people will like me proportionally to the amount of time they spend with me. But man, sometimes the ego gets very impatient. I hear it muttering, “Hurry the fuck up already and realize how goddamn amazing I am! What’s wrong with you people?”
The night’s starting to drag as we rest on steps made of candy, but I know how to revive this. I challenge Renata to get her photo taken with a stranger, Caitlin to ask a juggler for a lesson, and before long I find myself up dancing on a bar and them cheering me on. Seems all it takes to turn things around is a stretch of the ol’ comfort zone.
I picture him sitting there in a maroon-upholstered chair, in the study of my mind-made apartment in Amsterdam. I put a smile on his face and radiate a golden glow from my heart to his, sounds of crash and spray bringing me back when I drift. Finally I let him go and open my eyes to surfers gliding waves along the crust of Arpoador.
Last day in Rio, held out for good weather to pay a visit to the massive Jesus. The view is spectacular, but more remarkable is the photo-fest on display, people turning near-savage to stake space and strike a pose. Tis as if a single minnow was thrown to a barrel of hungry piranhas. You’d think the big man would miracle up a few more minnows to go around.
In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?