Weekly Writing Challenge: Transpacific
What the hell am I doing here?
The leitmotif of my life has been indecision, an unwillingness to take any serious risks. Vacations spent at home, going to the same restaurants and bars – that’s me. So what made me think that taking a job overseas was a good idea? Because someone mentioned that it was a possibility?
This isn’t me. But maybe there was some part of me that wished I could be that person, that person who sees and does things that others never do.
It’s just before midnight. I’m in the backseat of a car driving away from the airport, headed somewhere. The company driver presumably knows, and that’s all that matters, I guess. We’re on the freeway, or whatever they’d call a “freeway” around here. It’s mostly black, interrupted at spaces by lights from buildings in the distance. I feel like I’m eight years old again, counting the hours on a long drive to the Rockies.
The lights are becoming larger, more focused – we must be in the city. I stare out the window at the buildings, covered in illuminated signs in an unfamiliar language. I try to pick out words, run them through my head, but I’m so exhausted that nothing’s coming. It’s just so many lines being beamed into my face.
The buildings grow smaller, and the car slows down. We’re off the freeway now. I can see people on the sidewalks, going about their business. I always wanted to live in a city where the world didn’t just shut down at ten o’clock, and I must have found it. Most of them are young people, gathered around tables in the streetlights. They’re playing chess, but not the kind I’m used to. Others are just sitting around outside their apartments, laughing and bullshitting and doing what kids do.
The friendly woman in the passenger seat is trying to point out buildings I should remember. This one is a hot pot restaurant. Over there is a bar where they have live music. Here’s a dry cleaner – you might need that one day. There’s no way I’ll remember any of these places. I don’t even know where I am. Is this the center of the city? The edge? Would knowing that even help?
Finally, the car comes to a stop behind a building. It’s damn dark here. I can’t make anything out – the buildings are just giant silhouettes against the city lights. I pull myself out of the car, dragging my luggage behind me. A door opens, letting a band of light loose into the alley. There’s a staircase behind the door, six flights – the maximum before the building codes require an elevator. I’m at the very top.
I’ve insisted upon carrying most of my things, which was clearly a mistake. Gravity has me in a chokehold now. Each time I clear a flight, I’m thankful I didn’t slip and pitch down the stairs. How stupid would that be – to come all this way, only to get my ass kicked by steps? By the fourth floor, I can’t feel my legs, and I’m wondering if I’m even going to make it. But I muscle through, all the way to floor six. The door swings open on my apartment. It’s not so bad – I’ve lived in worse places, and in smaller ones. I drag my things into the bedroom and let them fall to the floor. The woman hands me a complicated-looking key and then I’m on my own.
Now I’m alone. I’ve lived alone before, but this is different. I try to take a shower, but there’s no pressure – I should have paid attention when the woman was explaining the water tank. There are some instant noodles and orange juice in the kitchen, but even though it’s been hours since I’ve eaten anything, I’m not hungry. I’m just tired. Too tired to sort through my luggage, too tired to change clothes, too tired to do anything but drop on the bed and stare at the ceiling.
It hits me: I’m here for a year. Twelve months. What the hell am I doing here? I’ll never make it.
But I did.
(Written for the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge)