23 May 2013

Taxi Cabs, Tears and Puppy Love - The Curse of the Farewell

We all get our comfort from somewhere.

Today I did something that expats just do.

I said goodbye to someone I have grown to care about. A boy with whom I have been spending time who I care for deeply. The situation, to coin a phrase, sucked.

It was a strange weekend in Pokhara, that mix of happy and sad that can make you feel like you have truly lost your mind - everything is swirling and confusing and foggy. Add a bout of the flu and some afternoons of drinking into the mix and I had a recipe for an emotional meltdown.

Looks like I am good at following recipes. I got messy.

I caught the last flight of the day from Pokhara back to Kathmandu - a flight for which I had no reservation as I just didn’t go to my scheduled flight at noon. (I didn’t call or cancel or anything - as a former travel agent, this is unthinkable) but things are relaxed here in Nepal and this didn’t seem to be a problem. I was handed a boarding pass.

I checked in with literally one minute to spare, arriving for the 4:10 flight at 3:55, having dragged my sick, shaky body from the boy's arms moments earlier. I knew I may never see him again and yet I still walked out that door and down that street, deciding to just try to feel what was happening. (Turns out that this "feeling stuff" thing is terrible. I do not recommend it.)

This is Gertie immediately sitting down on my foot as I ordered coffee. Dog always has to be touchin' me.

I arrived less than an hour later to the domestic terminal in Kathmandu, notoriously the most scam-ridden place to catch a taxi in the whole city. Normally 300 rupees to my house would be fair, but the driver wanted me to pay 350 and concede to sharing with a stranger to Thamel, a stranger who would pay the same 350/400 rupee price and therefore double the driver's earnings in a really dishonest way. "No, dai." I said, "no sharing. Straight. Straight to Lazimpath." He argued with me gently, cajoling me and telling me "no problem, you have another come with, no problem."

I was hot. I was tired and sick and so, so heartbroken and angsty that I just literally burst into tears. My face exploded and I began to wail. The taxi driver looked horrified and deeply concerned.

"Ohhhh, ma'am. Ohhhh, Didi, what is wrong?" I did my best to reassure him that it had nothing to do with his negotiations, and that if he really wanted to, he could pick up one more passenger (although I dreaded the idea of small talk). He shook his head gently. "No, we go. We go straight Lazimpath."

The entire ride home I was texting and mewling and he finally looked at me, at the tears running pitifully down my face and dripping off of my nose, his face screwed up into a look of deep concern. ""Madam! What is ok? Why are you tearing?" I tried to tell him, and he seemed to understand, nodding knowingly. "You will miss your friend." He said. I nodded as I gulped back tears.

"Yes. I will miss my friend."

"Ke Garne?" He said sadly. (Nepali for a rhetorical "what to do?")

Best keg party ever.
I decided to go for a coffee rather than wait for Kalinka at my house in the quiet dark of loadshedding. I schlumped out of the cab and noticed that one of the street dogs, a squat guy I call "The Keg," was plunked on the steps. I sat down beside him and began to pat his head, his tail wagging happily as he licked my fingers and put his head in my lap.

I slightly closed my eyes as I let him just be nice to me - I needed something calm and sweet and gentle. A group of Nepali guys (who are always sitting right near where the dog is always sitting) looked at me, and they seemed like they were about to make small talk or jokes but something in their faces softened and they looked away.

Dirts McGerts. Her real name is "Choira" which in Nepali for "Brown." Nope. Changed.

My calm with The Keg was soon shattered. My favourite of all the street dogs in Kathmandu, a gal I call "Dirty Gertie" (for the fact she is FILTHY) galloped down the street and practically launched herself at me. She normally sees me every day and my six-day absence seemed to have upset her. The Nepali men began to laugh as I lavished both Gert and The Keg with ear rubs. "Oooohhh, she like you!" They exclaimed. 

“I know. I like her too.” I said in broken Nepali, and they laughed some more.

Within seconds The Keg had gingerly placed his paw on my lap, making a passive aggressive yet territorial move. Gert reared her head and stamped her paw on top of his and they began to literally fight over me on and around me. I jumped up and the men roared with laughter. I couldn't help but follow suit.

Gert is kind of pseudo-owned by the coffee shop, which is open air and doubles as an art gallery that plays good jazz and has fantastic espresso. She followed behind me like a shadow, and when I sat down in my usual chair she climbed up onto my lap like a baby and nuzzled her head so far into my armpit I think I was leaning on her face. She licked my fingers and face and made a “woo woo woo” sound that made me feel both incredibly cherished and horribly, horribly lonely at the same time.

 Lose a boy, gain a dog. Nepali math.

I cried. I sat there with that dog (who is NOT a small dog) in my arms and waited for my iced mocha and cried like a little girl who has lost the thing that she wants most in the world, waves of want and regret and just plain sadness washing over me. And Gertie made it feel better (even though I’m pretty sure they were playing John Tesh).

I have chosen this life. I have chosen a life that means I will constantly meet amazing people to whom I have to say goodbye. I attend leaving parties on a weekly basis. But yesterday I said goodbye to someone and it really mattered. Because he wasn’t simply a friend.

With Matt, Kelly, Gemma, Kalinka, Cass, Jess, Attiq, Romeo or the countless pals I have met on this journey and others – I KNOW I will see these people again. We’re travelers. When I next go to Rome or Stockholm or Capetown or Hong Kong or Sydney, I know that facebook will alert me that someone I know is in the same city and we will meet for beers and snacks and laugh like old friends. Because we are old friends, bonded by our nomadic ways.

But this is less simple. When you say goodbye to a person with whom you are romantically involved, there is always the chance you will never see them again. They could meet their future husband or wife – or you could - and even though you would love to just go and grab a Sapporo and some gyoza in an izakaya the next time you are both in Tokyo, it just wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be appropriate. And it could be very dangerous. So you just might never see them again. Fact.

This was an exchange I had with my best friend about it yesterday:
Me: Anyway, I said if he meets a Siberian princess I will understand.
        And then I will bottle her.
Christina: Like a true lady.
Me: I would never bottle anyone in a manner that was not ladylike.
Christina: It’s true. You’re a good Canadian girl.

So I am a little raw. A little vulnerable. I leave Nepal towards uncertainty next week and I have no idea what that will bring. I am torn about what to do with my beloved cats when I move to London. My stalker has chosen RIGHT NOW (as in, like, this very minute) as an appropriate time to message me and tell me his opinion on my last blog. I hit my head on the tuk tuk roof hard enough to leave a huge goose egg. Life is a mess. 

Violet. I have something very meaningful to tell you.

And that dog, that sweet, sweet Dirty Gertie, is like some chicken soup for my very fucked up soul. She’s beside me right now, looking at me with a mix of love and dumb and just dog.

A reminder that this is all going to be ok. It always is.

Ke Garne. 


Tonia said...

Ain't nothing like a dog for trying to make you feel better. Mine stuck to me like glue all throughout 2012. The cats came and went and demanded food like nothing had changed but he would lie there with his head on my feet for hours.
Kay Bayo indeed.

Amanda said...

The thing is...the heartache made for one of your most emotional pieces and you grew as a writer. The curse of the artist is we thrive on these events for the shear agony of what comes out the other side.

Michael Smith said...

The fare was in the quoted range and there was nothing unpleasant about the experience. I will definitely call then again next time I fly early morning. Taxi Brighton to London

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jowdjbrown said...

wow! your post is really a great help, especially riding a taxi during night time.. Its soo sad that there are still lots of drivers who are very greedy Taxi Cyprus