Zigzagging an empty room. Tracing low ceilings with fingertips, confirming ease of reach. The man before me palmed a lightbulb as we glided through. “Tu pasaporte.” Stamp. “Gracias.” Arrived. Her surprise. Hugs and cries. Then out. That same burnt smell. Quiet arteries of a city, meeting at congested joints. The whites of his eyes stared at me, paced, as I ordered my morning coffee. Three aproned women stood up to shoo him away. “He said you’re beautiful because of your blue eyes and I am not.” A foreigner again. Hidden sugar. Expanding bodies. “He asked me if I was gay… Apparently being over 30 and skinny in Mexico means you’re either gay, or… not living, not married…” Inhalations that choke. Blue toilet water. Fabuloso and Glade plugins. Hives across my neck. He accidentally ran over her foot outside the Casa Azul. Quite a lot of stuff for a communist. Heavy Suburban doors. ¿Bulletproof, por que? I never close it tight enough. A smiling man with long hair in a VW van—full of dogs. Coyoacán. “I went to school there for a year, then they kicked me out.” Down the street from Cortes’s mansion, and La Malinche’s. They must have been fucking. Shivers at the oldest church in Mexico. I touched its wall. I don’t know why. Mezcal. 80s MTV, a cantina where grown men sleep. Huitlacoche, escamoles, caldo de res, elotes, tacos. Up a 1930s elevator, through a hall of agave and aloe, onto a rooftop terrace, an orange sky + mountain view. Some beers, some cocaine. Good people, good conversation. She’s escaping European lockdown. Lived in Berlin her whole life, but still, says they can sniff out her difference. Her high cheekbones, the in-tact femininity. A further East scent. “All the women in my family; PhDs in leather mini skirts.” Then into the tiny penthouse. Full of herbs and handmade clothes and trinkets, two busts, from a friend who passed, towers of books, an AR-15 in the bathroom, or was it an M16?, toothbrushes in an I ❤ BERLIN mug, frames collected from all over the place, without intention, recklessly/beautifully. In a small circle, calm. Everything we need for now. I shared a leather chair with her as she trimmed her herbs. We spoke about lineage, sexuality, past knowledge, pain, the chaos of the modern world. What led to this. “Eventually, a future generation is just going to go absolutely bonkers again, orgies and everything.” “The kids today aren’t even fucking—-maybe their kids then.” “It’s going to be a fiasco.” I’ll be back in a few weeks.
The process of transformation consists mostly of decay and then of this crisis when emergence from what came before must be total and abrupt.
But the changes in a butterfly’s life are not always so dramatic. The strange resonant word instar describes the stage between two successive molts, for as it grows, a caterpillar, like a snake, like Cabeza de Vaca walking across the Southwest, splits its skin again and again… Instar implies something both celestial and ingrown, something heavenly and disastrous, and perhaps change is commonly like that, a buried star, oscillating between near and far.”
A Field Guide to Getting Lost
The flight attendant kept winking at me as we flew from summer to winter. Maybe he knew I was high from the sunrise in my eyes. So many Australians, so many snowboards. I said gracias to the customs agent but luckily he didn’t hear. First kiosk out the gate: sesame onigiri. Train tickets rubber banded together with origami. ♡ Kind and meticulous. Spiraled into a pink bathroom. Heated Toshiba toilets. Baby seat in the stall. A full platform; silence. But a constant buzz in the background. Bird chirps from a speaker. Crowded into cohesion. Face masks in phones. White and red lights. Lost in Shibuya station, staring at characters on a map. Then serene backstreets. Shimmering and matte tiles. Grey grout. Concrete floors and wood grain ceilings. Immaculate decay. Doors that don’t push or pull, they slide. Baozhi’s forehead split open and he emerged as the eleven-headed bodhisattva, deciding to open a ramen bar. Nodding out on noodles. Trying to read a vending machine. Not sure if all this travel is chipping away at me or building me up. Stimulation. Download. Overload. iPhones clicking. Another product shoot. Pain stretching behind my ear. That buzz. Did it again, lost my shit, there it went. Trying to be still in the middle of Harajuku, but everything’s speeding up. Moving and consuming. Can I pay away this pain? Empty and fill bags. Too ripped for all these vintage shops. American flags and *NSYNC on blast. West consumes East consumes West, what a beautiful/destructive reach. What happens when we all go the same way? The Earth will tip. Loud sigh, hot shower. Yoga on my towel. The cherry blossoms are blooming early this year. Headstones in the middle of a farm. Qi Baishi at the National Gallery. The meaning of it all in a girl playing with her doll. Draw the eyes bigger. Puff the lips up. What happens to the youth when infantilization grows old? Buckets of water in case of a fire. Took a seat in a saké bar. A hand next to me slid over a plate of coconut cookies. Sweet potato and fish chips. Saké, saké, saké, saké, shōchū. The bartender: our translator. He bowed his head and backed away.
The privilege to pause. Under the fan of a whitewashed Colonial deck. That’s the first mango tree I’ve ever seen. This place reeks, humid with humans. Reserving a spot to lounge all day. Smoothing out stripes under mutating rays. A welcomed breeze. The bluest blues. Beers and fries with lunch. And this expectation to love everything about it. To match the atmosphere. Don’t worry, be happy. How could you be anything but in a place like this? Doused in SPF 50+ and bug spray. Still the only one with mosquito bites. Just five more days… Should I have a drink? “You can swerve on the road, you won’t get pulled over.” These bridges are empty anyway. How is this even Dutch? Was it peaceful, was it violent? It was violent. Abandoned multicolored mansions built on sand. We reminisce the past, but can’t remember it. We were never there. Hand picking parts of a whole. Thousands of slaves passed through these stone walls and I couldn’t find a sign. Just a mall. “Real Curaçaoans don’t like the Dutch,” she said. But so it is. They pour in to sleep and swim and pose on the beach. Fly in for a season or two to take the better service jobs. Front of house, pouring French wine. A hostess from the Hague said she likes it better here because the people greet each other. Hi ma’am, yes ma’am. How do you do? Can I ask you a question? What’s the source of that custom? I’m just looking for some sugar. The locals work the night shift — the cashiers, the janitors, the guards of gated communities. Descendants of stolen people. Pay the price to enjoy. A golf course in the desert. This island always catered to his comfort. But the checkered families brighten my mood. Feeding stray cats kipper snacks. A live band rotates at the Miles jazz bar. Drums, bass, timbales, congas, piano. La vida tiene sabor and it’s thick. Culture rich. A quarter later, gigging in my highchair. Now I can relax. “So what..?” written on black shirts. Dutch punks with tattooed arms serving Curaçaoans straight. Cuban rum, Italian grappa. The first Pernod I’ve found in Latin America. Ass sweat on a wood seat. The kid’s frown itself was jazz music. The kind of rhythm you don’t learn. Hands so fast you can’t see. The lights are shaking. Rastas speaking Dutch. Music as resilience. A lineage of pain. But somehow smiles and tunes so unifying. Warm. Sam, wake up, there are pink flamingos outside. Of course the church habla español. Why is Daddy Yankee headlining the jazz festival? Spoonfuls of full-fat European yogurt. Gouda and salami. We met a Dutch guy who’s been living here for 14 years over rolled tobacco. He showed us on his phone the finca he bought outside of Medellín. Said it cost close to nothing. His son speaks four languages at four. Almost stepped on broken glass on the floor. Tiny shells in my pocket. A lizard came to my call. Question where you lay to rest. We have access to the information, but will we use it?
It’s easier to establish a voice away from home. Surrounded by expression foreign from your own helps you feel more alone. Background voices merge into a hush. Hidden in a cafe, away on a train. Sinking in solitude. Language becomes noise. Until I hear my own. That accent pierces past and I distract. Mind deciphers meaning. “We sold two so far.” “She was so wasted she couldn’t stand.” The words of others crowd my mind and expel my own. Familiarity pauses attention. The known pulls me out. Craving lips moving in silence. Everywhere I go, one language turns up the volume and drowns my stream of thought. The others, a sea of sound I can sense, but not grasp. A liberating loss of comprehension. Drowning in the unknown, searching for significance. A pocket of air. Choking, an inner voice becomes more clear. More distinct. I can think.
Where the sidewalks stop. Sending a letter in the mail can cost you 120,000 COP/41 USD, but a joint 2,000 COP/.70 USD. Every new apartment comes with servants’ quarters attached to the laundry room. Buses and trucks push black clouds into your pores. Would you like meat with your meat or more meat? Men, this. Women, that. Everyone is looking. ¿BIEN O QUE? Run before you get hit. Breast and butt enhancement. Worship God and a virgin. “Oh my, how this place has changed.” Hasta abajo. High interest rates at banks. GOOOOOOOOL. Thunder. Fruit you’ve never tried. Grocery lines that are never express. Rat tails. Arepas con quesito. Please take a number. Maximum capacity. “No, no, really, hire a driver.” Mr. Tea at the country club. Pico y placa. Unfinished buildings, unfinished business. Días violentos en la comuna 13. Mazda, Mazda, Mazda, Renault. Venezuelan migrants trying to get their families out. Saturday sin, Sunday mass. “Yo no creo en las brujas pero que las hay las hay.” Numerology readings and pink quartz somehow under your pillow. European backpackers flocking to resort hostels to sit on the beach and drink beer. Selfies so they know. Chicharrón everything. “Restaurants don’t let me park my taxi outside when I’m a customer, so I don’t really eat out.” Don’t question, have faith. Buenas. Nonconsensual reggaeton. Got cut in line for the cable line. +DMT, -TV written all over the city. People say hi. Hooks under the table. Don’t give papaya. White lace on a five-year-old girl. Her brother almost went priest. Juice with added sugar or milk? Postobón brings the family together. Weekend lunches into TV marathons. Magic realism can’t extinguish the trash fires, but the butterflies are real. Long tees asking if you wanna buy some coke. More likely perico (not the bird). Trauma. Un tinto, porfa. Bricks. Near misses on motorcycles. Feedback loops break with a punch in the face. Two condors poisoned in Tayrona. “It’s God’s Will.” Cream paint job with tinted windows. Still a patrón. Don’t say his name. Salsa, merengue, bachata, cumbia, vallenato, champeta. Brave bicyclists wearing facemasks. Nada cambia. Single/American/male tourists who often refer to themselves as digital nomads and openly cackle over the conversion rate. Parents hustling candy at traffic lights. Sniffing gasoline will suppress the hunger. Medellín es una chimba. A child begs for money while an older man watches from a distance. The leaves will breathe it all in and spit it all out until the valley suffocates.