Sunday, 26 April 2009


Today I saw Auschwitz.

Black Holes and Revelations

I've been doing a lot of thinking this week. Time is running out but it's not moving very fast. The number of days remaining on the the trip trickle down the drain but get stuck there, like so much pubic hair. Damn hostel bathrooms.

So I've been wrestling with a lot of things. I won't bore you with all the details. I just wanted to make a point about one of my many revelations, which, like most, always seem to strike me in the midnight hour (or later) when there's no one else around. So here it is:

I am grateful for all of the trials that I have endured and will continue to endure, because no matter how shitty they might be, they grant me two gifts. They give me inspiration for my writing, and they equip me with knowledge which can be used to help prevent my brothers going through some of that suffering.

Friday, 24 April 2009

New Lows.

I've done all my washing. There's no dryer here. Everything is still wet. Only now do I realise I have nothing to wear to bed. Only now do I realise I have no underpants other than the ones I'm wearing. How did it come to this?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Uncomfortably Numb

Today there are 17 days to go until home but I can’t see it that way. Instead it’s only day 3 of no Emma. It’s hard. I feel weird.

I don’t feel the way I expected to. It hasn’t been killing me up inside like I thought. I watched the sunrise over Burgundy while the tracks pulled me away, thinking everything was going to be okay. Then the weight of the day crushed in on me and I got frightened. The last time I really felt afraid was the night I arrived in Chicago.

I’m moving in circles. I don’t want the hostel life anymore. Outside the void is cold and solitary. Look everywhere and see arms but none of them are out to hug me. If they were I wouldn't want 'em.

I’m drawing out tasks to stop myself being bored. I could see Warsaw in a day but I won’t. I’m trying to think about home to distract me but it isn’t working. I’m looking at photos from Thuy’s party but I can only smile with half my mouth. That twisted feeling’s back in my stomach. In Decize every thought of home made me so happy. Every skype call a chance to showcase. Everything excitement.

Everything was better.

Now I’ve gone backwards. I’m not ready to go home again. The thought of it frightens me. I start thinking real loud. How am I going to cope with the return? I’m sick and feverish now, my boosted travel immunity eroded. What if I’ve lost other things? What if I lose my immunity to poison people? There are a lot of them out there and they know where I live.

Emma’s left on her trip with Elodie. Makes things harder somehow. I feel further away then ever. Imagine how I’ll feel in a few weeks. I don’t like this but maybe it’s a price I have to pay. Maybe nothing’s supposed to fit so easily. Nothing’s supposed to be so perfect. Maybe we’re paying for it now in installments of months or years.

Don’t worry anybody. I’m fine. I just don’t know how to feel. I’m restless and numb and I can’t explain. Adjusting to this isn’t something I could imagine. It’s like trying to learn to live without skin.

… and in today’s ironic moment, as I finish this blog my iTunes on random plays ‘For Emma’.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Speak, Memory

Sitting at a table in an apartment with two French women and my girlfriend. The halting flow of semi-translated conversations. Jokes about me, about us, fly past me in another language. I try to grasp them as if trying to catch the wind in my hand. I watch the faces, the gestures, the expressions. I look at eyes. I listen to the animated stories with eyes, not ears.

Elsa mimes playing a violin. Now it's years ago, and I'm sitting at the kitchen table at Nonna's house in Elizabeth Street. The gaudy, colourful tiles surround me, comforting me on some level. This place is like a second home, in a way no other place has ever felt before or since. Mum is there, next to me at the table. Nonna is behind my mum, at her usual spot at the stove. Maybe she's making lunch. Maybe lunch is over and she's cleaning up. Nonno sits in his chair, the one closest to the door to the dining room. Behind him on the wall is the funny photograph of the pig, with the caption "Those who indulge bulge."

Nonno lights a cigarette and Nonna scolds him. Maybe in Italian or maybe in English. Scolding sounds the same either way. Nonno blows smoke rings, little circles expanding into infinity. Kieran is looking at the smoke rings with a strange look on his little face, his big glasses seeming to magnify it. I watch the smoke in amazement even though I've seen this trick before many times.

Everyone's talking but I don't know what about. Someone must have been complaining about something, and Nonno stubs out his cigarette in the ashtray and carefully draws an imaginary bow and plays a tune on an imaginary violin. Mum makes the face of a thousand memories, going further back in time then I can imagine possible at that age. Nonna shakes her head and says something. I can taste the smoke lingering in the air.

Now I'm 14 in the hospital seeing him for the last time. So much is happening in my life and I can't concentrate. This is the first time that I really have no grasp of a situation. Nonna is there fidgeting in the chair next to the bed. She gets up and moves around a lot. Nonno makes several lewd jokes about the nurses and Nonna tells him off half-seriously. The look on her face is hard for me to understand. My brothers and I are all pretty quiet. I guess we always are.

Nonno is wearing striped pyjamas. I think. I remember dark colours, like red and brown. I remember him leaning forward and sitting up in bed, and the gap between the buttons on the pyjama pants showing me a flash of pubic hair. I am acutely aware at this moment that I've never seen him or maybe anyone so exposed. I still can't make sense of anything. I'm shut off inside.

I can feel the sharp bristles of his unshaven cheek as I kiss him goodbye for the last time. At that moment I think to myself that I can't remember ever having kissed him before and I wonder why. I remember his smell that day more than any other day. For years afterwards I hold on to a jumper of his that Nonna gave me afterward. It was ugly and too big but it smelled like him still. I wore it to bed a lot until one day Mum threw it away. I was very sad that day.

Now I'm in an apartment with two French girls and my girlfriend. I'm quiet but I guess I usually am, especially in this context. Still, perhaps picking up on something, Emma turns to me and asks if I am okay.
I nod.
"I'm okay."

Saturday, 11 April 2009

In Decize, 1 am

Can't sleep. Everytime my head touches the pillow I hear my heartbeat pounding through my skull. Doesn't matter which side of my head. All sides equally amplify. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was the cheese. Cheese is probably not the best idea before bed. Maybe I'll have nightmares again.

These days are passing too fast. It only occurred to me 5 minutes ago when I realised it is now the 11th of April. I have less than a week. God damn it.

It's funny how certain numbers are time thresholds. In this instance, it was the calendar getting to 11. Not the jump into double digits but the number 11. Another example is when I consider it to be 'late' at night. It always happens at 37 past. The hour varies depending on when I have to be up. On a night I had to work in the morning, it became late at exactly 12.37am. On a normal night it would be 1.37am. Sometimes 2.37am. Probably more often it's 2.37. It's always at 37 past. I don't know why that is.

It's a good thing I came here. Aside from the obvious reasons, I'm just glad I've had France redeemed for me. Paris ate my soul in January and I had to get back into this country to get it back. The French outside of Paris really are better in every way. It can be tiresome at times I suppose. The double-kiss hello grates on me sometimes. On the whole though, I've been liking the feel of the culture. The food has been good. I've had a few home cooked meals with French families that have been delicious. Eating copious amounts of bread and cheese has been good too. It stirs up a lot of memories of home, and a happier time before Grant Street got out of hand.

I went and helped baby sit some French kids which was a blast. I'm not sure whether or not to be proud of the fact, but I totally kicked one of the kids asses at Mario Kart Wii. I was going to let him win, but he was trash-talking me in French so I rose to the occasion. After that things got physical. Spent a few hours having kids piling on top of me on the floor. Then I had the bright idea to start picking them up, throwing them up, spinning them round, hanging them upside down, and all the other tricks in the repertoire. They got a little over-excited. It'll be interesting to see how it goes down when I see them again this week.

So it's Easter weekend now. For a change this is a public holiday weekend where I'm not feeling alone and homesick. Nothing will go wrong for me this time. This last week has been without doubt the only time in this whole trip that I've felt truly 'at home' someplace. Even in Letterkenny with the family it wasn't this good. I'm almost too relaxed.

I wonder how I'll go for the last phase of my trip: Poland and Singapore. I guess it would be natural to think those would be two separate phases, but I'm not thinking of things in geographical terms. I have an overwhelming sense that I've found the last piece of the Triforce (if I can go all Zelda: Ocarina of Time on you). I've found so many things on this trip. So many pieces of myself that I had unknowingly scattered across the world. I've reached the end of the road of self-discovery for the time being. My quest is over. Now the last phase left is the homecoming.

Of course, that doesn't mean I still don't have a few more adventures to have along the way.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Soldier of Fortune

Today I can't stop thinking about the way things change. It was only a few weeks ago that I was walking around Rijeka in a state of solitary delusion, thinking about buying Croatian porno magazines. Tomorrow I'm going to be in France with my girlfriend. It doesn't seem real.

I should probably pause here to mention to anyone reading this that doesn't know me very well, that I am not and have never been a 'porn guy'. This fact might give a little more insight into just how drastically different I felt a few weeks back. I've never owned porn. Never bought, stole or borrowed any. Never even downloaded any on the internet. You could say I'm the antithesis of Ian, who is probably at this very moment working on some sort of radio device to implant into his dental plate that can vibrate pornographic images through his ossicles and directly into his brain.

But enough about porn.

The important thing is how I'm feeling right now: peaceful. I feel like I'm standing in a fixed spot, watching the world turn slowly on its axis, pushing me slowly into the sunlight. This trip has really taught me to enjoy the moment. There's no more fears or anxieties. There's still a future or many futures, but I'll take that as it comes. Right now I'm content to bask in the sunshine. It feels wonderful.

I feel like I've stopped resisting some half-imagined force that's shadowed me for years. And when I stopped pushing, it didn't overwhelm me, didn't crush my bones into the dust. It stopped pushing too. A stalemate. A balance point.

I'm free-writing again and I'm a little surprised myself at what's coming out. I just feel good. I feel like I can do anything again. I've felt like this so many times during the trip. Each time I feel it I grow that little bit more in confidence. I have to hold on to this feeling. I have to apply it to other aspects of my life beyond the personal.

Cheap Thrills

About an hour ago I was walking around Unter den Linden thinking about the crowds and experimenting with body language. It's amazing how much your body language can influence those around you. Sick of getting stuck behind slow-walkers and bumped out of the way by bull-walkers, I decided to shake things up. Stuck my chest out and my shoulders back. Got into character. Set my eyes kinda hard-like and walked with a slight swagger. Suddenly I had right of way. It was beautiful.

It was in this assumed tough-guy stance that a gypsy boy tried to attach himself to me like a parasite. I had my headphones on but he didn't mind. Asked if I could speak English. I shook my head and kept moving but he fell into step, with a smile and a laugh. Started to say something else. Knew I was an English speaker. Lucky for me, unlucky for him, I was too far into character to even be thinking. I just reacted. Burned a hole in his little head with my eyes. Stuck my finger in his face and told him to Fuck Off.

Should have seen the look in his eyes. Like he'd just been slapped. Took him a few heartbeats to get his head around the situation. Fell out of step with me. I had already won. Still, he had a little fight left in him. Caught up to me with a little skip, bounced his hands off his chest and threw his arms out. "Yeah... yeah... well fuck you! Fuck you!" His creaky adolescent boy-voice let him down. I laughed at his quavering, gave him a sideways glance and was gone. His feeble voice echoed after me down the street, each repetition a little more pitiful.

I walked home grinning.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Double Happy

The blood of the road still pumps through these veins.
The end is in sight but it's not here yet.
It's been a long cold lonely winter, but here comes the sun.
My listlessness and lethargy disappeared as soon as I got to Berlin.
The TV Tower looks down at me with it's ugly cross-shaped smile.
I stood on the dirt above where Hitler blew his brain out, and smiled.
I have a bottle of cherry-flavoured shower gel.
Yesterday I saw Bob play.
That sack of bones has still got it.
I have a train ticket to see my baby.
I can see the 'Die Welt' balloon rising into the skyline.
Tourists stand, looking out at the city.
Die Welt.
The World
is mine.
I can do anything and nothing can stand in my way except my own shadow.