Tuesday, December 04, 2007

And everything since has just been epilogue

I was in a rather bad mood all of yesterday, which I think is a product of the incredible finality of the night before. The "Little Flower" thought experiment and the conversation that followed seemed so definitively conclusory to my time in Hong Kong, it seemed silly to wake up the next morning and still be here.

As the audience slowly dispersed, and only Sebastien, Sam, and I remained, we began to wax philosophical. It's incredibly easy to be unflinchingly honest in that environment, with people who you don't know if you'll ever see again. Sam insists that you meet in everyone in life at least twice, whether you realize it or not. I like the idea, though I'm a little too cynical to buy into it wholesale. One of the more confounding elements of my first study abroad experience was my incredible inability to predict who I would and would not stay in touch with after it was all done. There have been so many surprises in both directions, I haven't even attempted to predict it for this study abroad.

As we puffed on our cigarettes and stared blankly into the distance, Sebastien, who was about to depart on a nearly month-long trip to Tibet and had not decided if he would return to the university at its conclusion, asked us how far ahead we could see our lives.

Two years, I replied, and even that is less than my usual answer...the conclusion of my law school education, and about a year and a half in my law firm. In choosing between my law firms, I explained, I specifically, intentionally chose the unknown commodity. I rejected comfort and predictability for a higher ceiling and a lower floor, and more troublingly, no assurance that I would even want what I got if I succeeded after all.

One year, Sam replied. The conclusion of her college education, and from there, question marks, about what she would do and where she would do it. I recognized it as something that so many people I know have gone through, but that I had spared myself. It was strange to relate to...I was at once envious of the possibilities she enjoyed, and relieved to have my course charted at least a little farther.

But for Sebastien, it was only 15 days. He had things planned out for as long as it would take him to arrive in Tibet. From there - what he would do in Tibet, what he would do when it was done - it was all blank. Sebastien speaks excellent English, though he often complains about his inability to express himself properly with the language. But I think he sort of expresses himself better because of the limitations. I'm confident in my prowess with the English language, and one of the consequences of that prowess is that I can package and obscure a statement any way I please. As someone who tends to appoint a few individuals in every context as confidants and be relatively guarded with all others - this blog is a willful attempt at honesty in a nervewrackingly public forum - I use language to reveal as much about what I'm saying as I please, in measured doses. Sebastien doesn't have that luxury, and so, I found his words to be refreshingly honest in their simplicity.

"I am at an intersection," he began, before stumbling over what noun he wanted instead of intersection. I offered crossroads.

"I am at a crossroads," he started again, "and the roads are very foggy. I cannot see them. And that is very strange."

There was nothing we could say to that, no way for us to help him disperse the fog. Even a generic "I understand" seemed to be an unnecessary abuse of words; our silence sad "I understand" far better than the words ever could. And as I finally ambled back to my room at the end of the talk, my time in Hong Kong was officially complete.

Which is why it feels so strange that I'm still here.

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