I write the sounds and sunsets of southern India, the crystal waterfalls of Laos and the songbird summers of Nepal. The creamy, buttery words of Malaysia and the apricot views of Sri Lankan coast lines. I feel like I am tricking you.
It is true that The Himalaya comes to me in waves of drinkable mountain air and gulps of masala tea, memories of grinning children and the swishing tail of an elephant. Like India, it is at my fingertips. It takes just moments for me to picture the ripples of Lake Phewa and the turquoise of Tibetan jewelry. I can breathe it in, pen it out, hear the prayers the children chanted and smell the frangipangis of Anna Purna.
Laos takes more time. It was longer ago, when I was different. But, if I close my eyes, I can feel my younger body slicing the pool of blue at Kuang Sii. I can sense the hot brown skin of the Brazilian I danced in circles with; remember the currents that buzzed between us under the light of glow sticks and moonbeams. The tart taste of excitement as we gripped hands and flew into the sticky air above the rocky river below. Bleached hair blows behind, tangled in wind and smelling of whiskey. A mud bath, caking us in sludge and drying on our limbs, warm. I remember hoping the thickness of the sunbaked mud would trap this feeling in my skin forever.
Even China, with its spiky freeways and tangled high rises, comes from me to you in the feathery clouds of Yunnan as they skimmed my shoulders. Wafts of incense caught on a smoky morning and the bell tolls of temples next to a river. The trickling torrent of stones as they petered into The Tiger Leaping Gorge, rippling the grey. I can seduce you with the melt of freshly baked bread in a mouth, hot in the hands of street vendors at the foot of snow capped Hue Shan.
But what if I tell you a different story? Words that plop from my pen to the page in unsightly blobs and make me feel cold and feverish. The unpicked stitches in my seamless tales of sunshine days and moonlit nights. Hot breath and heavy fumbling hands, roaches and motorbike screeches, bitter swallows and a dropped torch. Would you still listen?
If air was laced with guilt and not spices, would it be as fresh? Do suntans hide scratches? Can words etched in a diary become confessions? Crossing borders can’t draw lines under people or things. They are like lines made with silver twigs in the sand, stepped over by strangers and filled in when bare feet run, but still there. The salty sea fills them in, stinging. Someone high on the cliff top can always see your marks on the beach below.