The itch is back.
It starts in the back recesses of my brain and hides out in the corners of the dreams that I can just barely remember. You know the kind; the kind you wake up from abruptly, where the trails of places you just were and people you were just speaking to are just out of reach.
The thoughts soon start to flicker into my day-to-day. Looking out a San Francisco bus window, I close my eyes for a second and see the swaying palms and endless fields of sugarcane. I blink and see dust flying off dirt roads -- Jeepneys to my left, rice spread out and drying on tarps by the side of the road.
I get an IM from an old friend. “This is going to be the most epic year.” Our first communication in five months. “Details!” I prod, “Do tell!” And he lays out for me the bare bones of his ambitious travel plans for the year: tour of Mexico, stop-over in Hawaii and an extended exploration of Australia. The pangs of jealousy pull at my heartstrings. I can literally feel the strain. I can see the smile in the words he types.
A skinny tall boy with dirty blonde hair invades my dreams when I least expect it. When I awaken, my heart is heavy with a loss, a yearning. I used to think, for some reason or another, my subconscious couldn’t let go of that fleeting relationship. That because it was so short and imperfect, my neurons couldn’t get enough of it. Only later did I realize that this boy was merely a symbol. His form hinting at a time when I first realized I could drop everything and just go for it. His slight shadow haunts my REM sleep, alluding to everything that’s out there to explore. Adventure. The unknown. I’m not heartbroken for the boy who played with my trust; I am lovesick for wanderlust.
June 2007 - 24 years young. My fingers wear grooves in the steering wheel of my ’98 Civic as I drive cross-country. The backseat is heavy with what remains of my worldly possessions. Stacks of printed out Google maps occupy the passenger seat, creased from consternation, torn from abuse. I’m bright eyed and ambitious, looking forward to an unknown destination with unknown companions.
August 2007 - Black Rock desert. Accompanied by my CouchSurfer host and friend of 3-days, his campmates and the 2 boys in the camp by the main “road,” I explore a city filled with dreamers and vagrants. My borrowed duct-taped bike with back-pedal brakes leads me dark into the vast open desert. Out of nowhere, a looming work of art appears in the distance and I change my heading, pulled like a needle to North. I sit cross-legged in the dust of the Playa and watch the lights, surrounded by like-minded travelers adorned in costumes and glowsticks. We glow.
August 2008 - Back of a Tuk Tuk. We ride, our fingers intertwined, in the open-aired, three-wheeled vehicle weaving in and out of traffic. The smog of the city invades my lungs. To the left, a gold plated temple peaks above thick white walls. To the right, street-food - vendors with rice noodles, soy sauce, fish on sticks, octopi, and balls of rice. The swirl of aromas is almost overwhelming. Josh’s eyes are drinking it all in. His heart, too, hungry for new. Hungry for next. Hungry for now.
November 2008 - Alone on in a hammock. Overlooking the beach, I lay alone. He is not far in distance, but is still far. “Looking up at the underside of the palm tree,” I’ve said numerous times, “means you must be in paradise.” And as my hammock sways in the slight tropical breeze of the land of my birth, I am in paradise. But lost, at the same time.
November 2009 - City by the bay. Here we are carving out a life in San Francisco. Fleeing the Midwest once again and driving cross-country without a home awaiting on the other end. Without jobs. Without knowing a soul except each other. The trees were green when I drove across the California border. The air was fresh and I drove with the windows down.
Now I am sitting at desk.
I am filling out spreadsheets, I am screening my phone calls, I am counting down the minutes ‘til 5:00PM.
And there’s this itch at the back of my head.
Buried in the recesses of a dream I can just barely recall.