I don’t know what country I’ll live in next year.
The deadline is approaching for deciding whether to extend my contract. This means deciding whether to stay, or go.
This is not my country. After floating around its straggly cities and crumbling, forested mountains for several earth years it still does not feel like home. It’s an odd place, a country that does not officially exist; a place holder in my life and in the reigns of past and future empires.
There are no push factors. The country is safe. The food is good and cheap. The job is fine. I can get a bit of tepid sex if I put in the hard yards. My city is best described with the phrase, “Hmm . . . it’s okay.” I’ve made a bit of progress with the language and want to learn more but I am too lazy to do so.
There are some pull factors. Money. Sex. Excitement. Learning an easier language. The grass is always greener. However, I may not be able to chose my next location – it may choose me. Saudi Arabia, here we come.
Should I stay or should I go?
I stared at the mountains in the smoggy dawn light and it occurred to me: it doesn’t matter. My life takes on the same, dull, comfortable ‘okayness’ wherever I go. I flit from country to country, expecting to find the Promised Land, and instead find myself. My strange obsessions and neuroses. My habits, good and bad.
Each time I go to a new place I find the local market or supermarket and figure out what I can cook from local ingredients. I find a gym and a place to go running. I start language lessons. I try to make local friends and fail because I get along much better with my own kind. I nevertheless feel jealous of those who do have local friends. I try to find a hot, young girlfriend because I think, in this country, surely my status has enjoyed a contextual increase. I end up with a string of older women, each a little mad in her own way. I never get a pet. I don’t buy anything big because it will be a hassle to take with me the next time I move. Wherever I live, it looks as though I’ve already gone.
While I have lived in many places, psychologically I have never been entirely present, perhaps not even in my country of origin. I exist in my own head, observing the world and its people like a cosmonaut staring down in wonder at cloudy oceans and nocturnal specks of light. It is beautiful, this world. I have climbed high peaks and felt the gaping spaces in between. Trudged through the dirt of the red desert. I have battled my way through the flashing neon glare of the world’s busiest places, feeling as though I were smack bang in the middle of the world. I have slept with beautiful women. Felt their love, or the female equivalent. But during all of it I was observing through three-pane glass, safe in my pressurized cocoon.
One day I will die. I am haunted by the moment when I am old, reflecting on my life. Was it significant? Did I use my precious decades of consciousness wisely? Sometimes, flitting from place to place and from woman to woman seems like the sensible thing to do, adding to my total life experience. At other times it seems like the opposite because I am purposefully missing out on the profound connections and relationships that give normal people their happiness and fulfillment.
Also, I can’t be bothered looking for another job.
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