The shot glass from France was stolen along with my passport. Also with all of my makeup, and my favorite dress. The shot glass from London was mostly dissolved when a well meaning college roommate soaked it in boiling hot water along with the rest of the crusty dishes in the common room. Even my adventures are beginning to eat themselves alive.
My shot glass from Jamaica, like many of my shot glasses, isn’t a glass at all. This one is a wooden carving, whittled by hand into a deep green well with a small bird and the word J-A-M-A-I-C-A spelled out ever so carefully on the side in a scrawl that looks like it belongs to a child.
Today I open the kitchen cabinet to find that my shot glass from Jamaica has been turned nearly to dust by some sort of wood boring insect. It’s split down the middle right to the base and sitting in a dusty pile of it’s former self.
Each and every adventure, actually. How fitting.
I scoop the thing up, not having any desire to unleash a bug that can eat 100 times it’s body weight into my apartment, but also feverishly searching for a way to preserve my memory before it eats me out of house and home.
These shot glasses, these silly little dollar things, are all that I take back with me from whence I came. No trinkets or toys, no postcards, no jewelry. Just one bitter-sweet dose of lightheadedness from each and every place.
Because I’m American, and because I am foolish, I believe that most problems can be solved with strong bleach and water brought to a boil. So I pour too much Clorox into a pot I never want to see again, and submerge my piece of the island into a disinfectant baptismal.
“How hot,” I yell to my roommate, “Do you think tree bark would have to be to kill a termite?”
She cocks her head to the side like I’m nuts.
I’m probably nuts.
The truth is that I could go back to Jamaica eventually. I could mail order a new shot glass, even if it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be cheating. I went there, I earned it, and I can’t help it if my memory was devoured. But I don’t want the article, however genuine, if it’s off of Ebay. I guess I just want to take the long way to the things I love. It’s the only way I feel like it means something. And I have no desire to go back to Jamaica.
I have a confession to make. No matter how much fun I have in a place, I never want to go back. It will never be quite right or just so again, and I know it. So I pick up a shot glass, drink to the memory, spin the globe and let my fingers do the walking. I can’t really explain it, but no matter how much I’ve loved (and sometimes, I have truly, deeply loved) a place, I just can’t find it within myself to go back.
I always want something else. Not necessarily something better. Just a flavor I haven’t tasted yet.
I remember England. The purple flowers pushing through the snow on the ground and the boy I loved standing in them, throwing rocks at my window.
I remember Thailand. The heat of the night sticking to my skin and slithering down my back. I remember the strangers who gave us the ride home. I remember clinging to a crying friend in the streets of Chang-Mai while his secrets tumbled out to me – and thinking nothing could be more tragic, or beautiful, or complicated than what was happening to me that very minute.
My wheels are always turning. Take me to Israel, I say. Better to burn in a bombing than rot in a cubicle. Turn me into something on fire.
Still, my mind is a jumble. When you never stop moving you have to ask yourself why it is exactly that you can’t stand still. And I can’t rid myself of the pounding, persistent thought…
“You are not the first 27 year old to want to devour the planet”.
It’s true. And I know it. And yet here I am, playing out the planet like some sort of twisted drinking game. Consume, consume, consume.
What am I thinking? Are snowballs in Sweden changing my life? Getting my passport stolen in Paris certainly didn’t. Was it really that different getting high in Amsterdam then in the back of my boyfriend’s garage?
Garbage in, garbage out. Consume, consume, consume…
I’ve walked barefoot on temples in Thailand, and touched a golden Buddha the size of a building. I’ve danced along with the St. Patrick’s day parade in Ireland.
Maybe just wanting more is enough. Maybe wanting to see outside of yourself is enough. Maybe discover and desire is enough.
I rinse the shot glass out to find the wood has swollen shut, and there no longer appears to be a split down the middle. I turn it over in my hand, wondering if there’s a creature I don’t know of that could have survived 45 minutes of an unannounced two hundred degree hot spring. Slowly… doubting… against everything I know to be wise, I rise on tip toe and place the shot glass back on the second self from the top.
Quick. Somebody save me from myself.