Saturday, April 30th, 2022
Location: Dobrota, Montenegro
Mood: Like a newborn who has fallen for the fifth time, but I am not a newborn. I am my own scornful parent.
A fresh pot of boiling water awaits the potent bag of peppermint tea still sitting in the pantry. Luckily I have a thrice-used mug dedicated for a drink that wishes to calm me.
In the last travel log I wished to do some research to fill these pages with something, and to make myself feel as though I am learning something. I did no such thing (but that don't mean I won't).
Today the weather was beautiful and hot. Last night, it was that perfect humid thickness amongst the cool starlit breeze. Tonight, it fares much cooler. Before then? A lapse in my memory.
The spectre of community and companionship looms heavily in the atmosphere, no matter the weather, while I continue to revel with my newfound isolation. I forget that my go-to defence against being is seeking refuge in the company of another. Well, I haven't forgotten, especially as I lean into my exile by cutting myself off from those I care about most. Or maybe I'm not? I talked to Marcell a few times, I talked to my parents, my brother, and Maya of course. But still there is this distance. As though I don't want to admit that I haven't been completely alone for this long (only just over a week), and that it is a difficult adjustment for me. That is likely why when Maya merely mentioned the fact that I am alone and it is new, I became so upset. I wish for nothing more than to be the master of all things, the wisest in all things, and yet I won't allow myself even the most mundane suffering which allows wisdom to emerge. (this will likely be a common theme, I apologize in advance)
Self-loathing, self-pitying am I.
What have I been up to?
I have been reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse the last two days. As I see it, a classic and simple book for lost souls who wish to grasp at anything to guide their feeble lives under the guise of control. Or am I just talking about me?
Walking down the one road toward town, the bay to my right, I listened to the audiobook this morning and (disdainful as I type this) thought of all the simple beauty around me.
There are blues and greens, and whites and yellows and reds.
There is the sea (again, to my right) which is beautiful.
There are mountains surrounding the bay.
They are jagged in parts and rounded in others. Some are green, some are brown. Trees grow atop most of the peaks, and not a building to be seen in the top three quarters.
Too, there are trees and plants and flowers and fruit of all a familiar and foreign kind much closer to the mountain base. And each one appears just as beautiful to me as the last.
There are the people, mostly slavs. My people all around. Despite the language barrier, I feel at home around them. And just as they are where I know them best in Canada, here they are both ugly and beautiful.
There are smells of all kinds. Changing and blending often before I suck them into my nostrils. Smells of salt and cinnamon, of cigarettes and fish and garbage and stone and chlorophyll: they enter without invitation and they are beautiful.
Just as Siddhartha saw the world anew when he decided to become his own student, so too did I remember these simple things.
Last night, I decided to go into the old town at midnight. I thought it would be terrifying and exciting to bare its blackened corridors and squares empty, just as a thief in the night.
Just as today, the same path filled with beauty leads, even as the moon reigns overhead. At night, the pathway is much different. I begin to notice not the mountains, the flora, the sky, even the people: only the crumbling spires and stone structures and the looming black ocean. At night, it seems especially so here, it is no longer God's domain, but of human. Of sin. And if the sea is also of God, at night its terrifying capabilities and our hapless attempts to conquer it waft off its rushing waves into my feeble ear. I look to my right and gaze into its void without reflection, save for sparse spires of light; a sinister beacon of safety as if to lure the greedy, the hungry, only to swallow them whole.
In the domain of humanity there is no beauty like that of God. There is prettiness in it, but beauty I say not. In this environment I turn inward, looking at what we have built and thinking about my insular humanity.
I look at the bell-tower of a church perched atop a fortified hill of centuries-old stone. I approach and think all the while of surveillance with rich history. Maybe not from this tower, but there are others.
I stop and jot down in my notebook: "A shadow in the watchtower"
And still, there are others. Other moments like this when my dialectics with our infrastructure caused me to pause and inscribe:
"As I approach the old town, the streets become increasingly brighter, quieter."
"A wilted palm leaf. Passed over by a man, distracted."
"I catch a whiff of chewing gum."
From a distance, the fortified town is completely obscured. A void that mimics the scornful ocean, blended into the mountains behind it.
I'm at its walls and people are all around. There is no crowd, but it seems as though they are all leaving for their beds.
And I enter through its gate and the streets are packed. There is music, there are lights, there is life. Young and old, together. There are all sorts of bars and a few nightclubs open.
Although the town was not desolate as I had hoped, this atmosphere radiated the same depravity I had expected from the godless night. Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Jealousy. Each alleyway led to another opening with a new combination of these themes: in the lights, in their state-of-dress, in the glances and in their staggered dances. And I walked between the precipice of them all, at times, converging above the buildings in an aural hypnagogic cavalcade that pierced through my stomach and boiled its acid.
I didn't sit and ponder, I darted through each hallway of this labyrinth. Present. Waning. I gave in and attempted to join my midnight companions in sin. Though, in the classic fashion of re-accustoming to social life, I first sat at an empty bar for a glass of wine.
Here I met two men, a portly fellow named Gavrillo, and another suave-type who's name I did not ask. They served me wine of this region and I left with a basic exchange of information. After attempting to squeeze my way into a night club, amid a group of buxom young women who scanned me with their enticing gaze and attempted to have me join them (dispelled with what I assume was a charming exaggerated physigonomic exercise that read of awareness, bewilderment and lornful decline), I progressed to an empty heavy-metal bar at the farthest point from the entrance. Here, I met two Turks, the owners, who made me an off-the-menu drink and gave me Canadian film recommendations.
I paid and I left and planned to stay and write, when two other men appeared and began speaking to me. They saw me writing and asked me to join them. Never before had I met someone from Azerbaijan. They invited me to their apartment, which lucky for me was in the same direction as my own. I began walking and we talked and joked and argued like old friends. One of them was so cold and intoxicated in the warm night that we stopped often to rest amid discussing East vs West, Putin, states of societal decline, the internet, ambitions, our lives, and whether Jordan Peterson was worth a dime. The conversations seemed so normal, I thought that even in the sin of night, God is not all but gone to offer me a branch of familiarity. We continued and one of the men kept complaining that he needed some water, caught in our communion, I realized we had made it the long walk to my apartment. I invited them in, gave them both a glass of water and they continued on their way while I stayed behind.
What could I say about this night?
It caused me moderate pleasure, and great pain.
But only because of these barriers and bridges built within myself to stave niceties.
Perhaps "moderate pleasure" is the wrong word. It distracted me. But just as in Siddhartha, the student of Kamala: there is no pleasure received without pleasure given. During this night, I think the barriers blacked out myself, and I did not try to overcome them. I acted as I do, with disregard to how lonesomeness has affected me. The old game. This I think about today, and this I do not want to continue thinking about, but noticing so my body may tell me what it needs with clearer communication.
Though I am not discouraged, I returned to the old town the next morning and went to a few antique shops. I will definitely return, but left with two postcards that will fit aptly on my wall when I return home.
Ah, home. It is with you, those whom I have chosen as my life companions. The summer has not yet begun, and I may not need to wait until the Fall to return.
I'll try to do some reading about Montenegro before next we meet.