In Chinese they always say, to bite your shoe before you start wearing them so they do not bite your feet (blister). This probably doesn’t make any sense at all, but… even though the baggage I checked in on both return flights was only 5.7kg, I definitely felt the weight of the mental, emotional, damaging one, sitting somewhere in my head throughout the trip. Insecurity – it breeds negativity and pessimism within. I thought I was through it all, but I must have misunderstood, for this little parasite journeyed with me through Hanoi.
It wasn’t obvious though; it was only halfway through the trip that it made its presence known. How do you explain the unexplainable to your friends, even the ones who’ve seen you through childhood and teenage years? Sure, they can sympathise. But to be at the lowest – or offering them a little preview of the thoughts that run through the systems of nerves, it is prevalent that however hard they try, they will not be able to empathise. A fleeting thought that lingers around as long as melancholy has ever existed within, to them, seems morbid and odd. These friends have been there since I was 12, up till now, when I am almost 21. Yet something as deep as such seems to be like a root that runs deep into the earth, which none can identify.
This adventure has been, perhaps, the best one I’ve ever embarked on; but it hurts so much to have my self-esteem slowly deteriorating from the realisation of how inadequate a human i am, how unfitting of me to be with such an amazing and kind group of people. I don’t exactly remember when it started surfacing, but it was somewhere during the second day of the trip: of how badly I was at scaling the mountains and slippery rice terraces despite a pair of good shoes and whatnots, which ended up with me falling twice on my butt and also a somewhat upset stomach to stick with through the day. On the third day, everyone except myself rented themselves a motorcycle: I chickened out, thought of the consequences, think about the mental barrier of not even being able to conquer driving, and on top of that I could only visualise myself falling off the bike and panicking. I ended up hitching a ride on the guy pal’s bike thinking it was the best possible idea, yet my thoughts were stabbing. The fourth day, my phone got snatched away in the wee hours of the morning. That was the breaking point, for it left my strong front cracked, disintegrated and eroded, like the steep surfaces of a tower karst. Truth is, the snatching incident left me thoroughly traumatised. The first thoughts that came was being so glum about losing all the photos. Then came the retrospective thought process: replaying the scene again and again, working out what exactly was so terrifying. It sure hurt a hell lot, but i found my answers: being vulnerable. alone. confused, and afraid. And later on, the realisation that the photos were a form of security, since one day… our memories would but depend on a faulty camera in our minds. Much as I am a slave to technology, it was a guide to me: directions, as if it were my walking stick. On the fifth day, I think how amazing my friends are, their courage, their fun, their everything. And then I saw myself comparing to them, which felt like someone was drilling a nail into my brain, and it was a splitting pain: because I am not half as good as they are, and i cannot identify in me those traits they have. I thought they would have an incredibly fun time without me, and i couldn’t see how my presence would affect them at all. My best girlfriend is beautiful both internally and externally, so much more resilient yet strikingly gracious, and i was envious. Envy isn’t good, but envy invades. I saw my guy friends, who kept mentioning the bro code. I eavesdropped, only to have my heart fall apart into hot trickles of tears. The exclusion, them thinking i am not sober, them communicating. It felt a little like Maxine in The Woman Warrior who was silenced. I pretended to be alright, drawing in a half-dazed gaze, as the tears continued to flush. Trash. And the loss of my phone – having to rely on their phones, and to have them wait for five-ish hours for me at the police station ended up accentuating those feelings in such specificity. Yet I didn’t want their mood to be crushed all because of my own esteem issues, and therefore it was best to stay silenced.
At the train station, I saw a pair of mountains before my eyes. It was nice to watch, at first. But then the view slowly faded, enveloped by the fog and clouds; and I remember, that gloom intruded into my mind as well.
It felt nice to be around the mountains, karst and caves. To be naked and vulnerable in nature’s arms was heartwarming. I thoroughly enjoyed the companionship, but honestly, there were times I wanted so badly to be alone: to have nobody’s watchful eye looking out for you, to have that liberation to be comfortable with solitude, to share an intimate moment with nature, and not to have to worry so much about my own safety. And this was me, doing my best, around one of the most enjoyable bunch, and the people I really loved and cherish so very much.
Honesty hour: How damaging does this get??
It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds