Being an imaginator

On our first evening we waited for the boat to take us up river to the markets.  I’d remembered the light at dusk, how it seems to last hours, how it makes everything richer, and then dips too suddenly into night.  I’d wanted to show it to Ant.  We stood on the pier and watched the fishing boats coming and going, and people milling around the top-end hotels on the banks.  The smell was salty, spicy.  There was a Swedish guy, who had a beautiful girlfriend, and they were relaxed, not tired of life.  They were chatting and laughing and messing around on the pier. 

I asked him if he’d take our picture.  We stood on the edge of the pier, together, in the half light.

“Honeymoon?” he said.

We looked at each other.  “Er…no” I said, a bit awkwardly. 

“Just in love?”

“Er…yes, I suppose so”

*****

There was an old man sitting in the shade, writing furiously.  He had pages and pages of handwriting next to him, black ink on slightly yellowed paper.  We walked past him.  I didn’t say anything.  Ant looked at me. 

An hour later, we walked back past him again.  He was still there, still writing.

“I think he’s writing to the love of his life, who he had to leave behind.  He writes to her once a month every month, and has done for the last sixty years.  He writes about his life and his dreams and his stories.”

“You’re such an imaginator”

“Ant, that is definitely not a word”

“He’s probably writing to his mate, telling him about the hot women he’s seen on holiday”

I’ve since looked “imaginator” up.  It’s a word.  It means one that imagines.     

*****

I had come here before, twelve years ago.  I’m not one for nostalgia, so we stuck to different parts of the city, making different decisions, having different adventures.  Last time I came, I was with a friend and thought I knew everything.  I remember I saw a monk buying toilet roll and felt surprised.  I understood then how young I was.  I remember I saw things and talked to people and took risks and wrote everything down in an endless quest to understand, to experience, to learn.  This time around I did the only thing you can do in a foreign city, which is be yourself, an outsider, and look in. 

We turned onto a street.  “I’ve been here before”, I said.  It was a long street, with a temple on the left and a lot of traffic.  I walked along the street, glad I’d grown up a bit, looking around for what had changed, thinking about the past.  I looked down, and realised I was wearing the very same shoes I’d worn on the same street twelve years ago.  In that time I’d graduated, started work, got married, a whole list of things, but none of them as important as learning how to give myself a break.  I was a different person, a happier person, wearing the very same shoes.     

*****

“Ant!  Ant!  Pee on my face!”

There weren’t many people on that part of the island.  But there were enough.  He emerged from the water, and ripped off his mask and snorkel.

“What?”

“Pee on my face.  Do it.  Now.  It hurts.  It really hurts”

“Anna, I am not going to pee on your face”

“A jellyfish stung my face.  It really really hurts”

“Let me see.  Yes, I can see.  Stop panicking.  Stop moving about.  Look, the shore is close.  Come with me”

“I can’t feel my face”

“Come with me.  It’s okay.  You’ll be okay” 

And because he was calm, I was too.  He handed me freshly-cut pineapple to distract me from making further sex tourist-like announcements.

It worked.  The pain went away.    

*****

I spent twenty minutes in the busiest part of Chinatown not moving a muscle.  I was watching a man with a wok, standing next to a stall piled high with vegetables.  He’d rinse out the wok.  Season it.  Put the wok on the flame.  Add meat.  Scoop up spices, fling them into the wok, flip over the meat.  A lady, maybe his wife, would scoop up greens and hand them to him.  He’d throw them in the wok and the flames would leap up into the sky.  Thirty seconds, and he’d scoop out the food, onto a plate and hand the plate to the waiter, maybe his son.  He’d rinse the wok.  Season it.  And repeat.  And repeat.  All night.  It was a kind of art.   

*****

“What are you reading?”

“Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier.    It’s about a woman who flees the empty life in London she despises and her boorish husband, and escapes to Cornwall, where she falls in love with a pirate who pillages the Cornish coast.  She dresses as a cabin-boy and goes on adventures with him”

[Silence]

“It sounds made up”

[Silence] 

*****

We wandered along the beach trying to find the right spot to take a picture of the sun setting.  I stood on the dirt track looking out at sea.  Ant walked onto the sand, and turned away to adjust the camera settings. 

In the time he turned round, the sun, the enormous, dark red sun that turned the sky so many shades of pink, had dropped behind the horizon.

He turned back to me.  “It’s gone”, he said.

So I described the sunset to him.  Being an imaginator has its advantages.

Categories: Life Experience, Travel, Written By Anna
37 interesting thoughts on this

36 Comments

  1. Posted March 27, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Oh this is so beautiful. Can I read this every morning at 7am please?

    Also – makes me long for it to STOP SNOWING!. I want a red sunset and needing to sit in the shade.

    Gorgeous writing x

  2. Posted March 27, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    The thing about a post like this is that your words makes me feel so something so powerful that I don’t have any words to give back to you. I’m sorry, but it’s just already perfect. It makes me appreciate the wonder of life.

    I did laugh at the face-peeing. That would be me.

    K x

    • Vivienne
      Posted March 27, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      What Katie said. I don’t know why these posts touch me so much but they do

    • Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      I think it is because there is something profound in the way that Anna writes, as if, when analysed, her words could contain the secret of life but because they’re so beautiful, you don’t want to unpick them, but simply enjoy them instead…..

      • Posted March 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        Yep, this. I nearly didn’t want to comment because what can you even say? They don’t need more words added.

        My favourite is the first one. I love still ‘just’ being in love :)

      • Posted March 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Yes – these posts are just beautiful. I have no idea how to comment, and no intention of unpicking the why of this, I just enjoy this so very much.

  3. Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous writing as always K. Plus, you got stung on the FACE by a JELLYFISH? Holy shit.

    Px

  4. Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I love this – so beautiful! You have a definite talent Anna and I hope to read more very soon :) xx

  5. Mahj
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Can I put a request to either a) go on holiday with the K’s and have adventures with them or b) have the K’s come on holiday with me and then write all about it?

    If this is ‘drivel’, it’s of the wondrous variety.

    xoxo

  6. Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    What everyone said.
    So beautiful, I felt I was there walking by the sea, smelling the food, discovering.
    Keep writing Anna.

  7. Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Oh, oh, I loved this. I read AOW every morning before getting out of bed, and this sent me back into a state of dreamlike tranquility. I love your writing, Anna K. This pulled me softly into a place of warmth and relaxation, and was quite possibly the best thing to wake up to.

  8. Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Anna reading this made me smile xx

  9. Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    This is perfect.

  10. Rach M
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    So beautiful. Anna you have to write a book. Please. Your writing is delicious. Xx

    • Yanthé
      Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I wholeheartedly concur. Anna this is just beautiful.

  11. Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Anyone else singing ‘nobody drivels better’ to the tune of Carly Simon’s Bond theme?

    Nope?

    Ok, just me then.

    *power ballad drum*

  12. Pickle
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    This definitely sounds Southeast Asian to me. Which means I missed out on actually meeting AOW in my (newly adopted) part of the world – gutted.

    I hope you had a wonderful rejuvenating holiday and Anna I hope you know you have a fan club pretty much in any part of the world you find yourself in – next time AOW come to this part of the world cocktails are on me.

    • Posted March 29, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Pickle where are you? Anywhere near KL?!

  13. Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I really heart AOW for this kind of post. It’s wonderful.
    If this is drivel then anything I would write would just be less than useless claptrap. I like it here, I think I’ll stay xx

  14. Anita
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    So. Beautiful.

    Please tell me where you were on holiday? Bits of it sound like Cambodia, bits of it like Thailand, and I am just so nosy…

    Unlucky with the jellyfish though….

    • Posted March 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      Thailand! And thank you.

      • Anita
        Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

        Knew it!! SO glad Ant didn’t pee on your face. I am remembering the Friends episode and laughing to myself now ;)

        • Aine
          Posted March 28, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          Yes, me too- not only is it gross, I read somewhere that it doesn’t work, anyway. Which would mske for a truly terible afternoon!

  15. Posted March 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I love this. A perfect little short story for my lunch break. I have no idea where it came from and what prompted you to post it today, but it was a little slice of holiday perfection in a horrible, cold snowy UK.

    • Posted March 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      I just got back from two weeks away and these were some of the conversations and memories I jotted down in my notebook…!

  16. Posted March 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all of you, for your life-affirming comments and the boost this has given me. It’s absolutely made my day, week, month. I shall continue to drivel as long as there are people like you to drivel to. I am completely overwhelmed.

  17. Amanda M
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I also love this.

    Being an imaginator is romantic in the classic sense of the word. Being an over-imaginator is not. I am an over-imaginator – an example is when we were in Spain and my boyfriend walked ahead of the rest of us down a hill. I sped up to catch him up and couldn’t find him. Well, in my mind he’d been abducted for some strange and incomprehensible reason and I would never see him again but have to wonder why for the rest of my life. Or find out but be taken myself. I was astonished when he turned up (and relieved). It’s possible I read too much.

  18. Fran M
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I’ve added imaginator to my mental list of favourite words (everyone has one of those, right?)

    Anna, your writing is just perfection. I can identify with the going back to somewhere you’ve beena long time before, and realising how far you’ve come in the meantime. Mindblowing, really.

    Already pining for a SE asian sunset again, and it’s only been two months… *sob*.

  19. Beth
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Just perfect Anna – bar the jellyfish incident (are you OK?), sounds like an amazing trip. I love that imaginator sounds made up but isn’t – so fitting.

    • Posted March 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      I’m fine! It hurt for about an hour and then the swelling went down and the pain went away. It sounds much worse than it actually was! x

      • Beth
        Posted March 27, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        Phew! And thankfully Ant had the presence of mind not to pee on your face! X

  20. Posted March 27, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I loved this so much.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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