Here lies “The Point beyond Forgetting,” said a sign by the road. It is one of those trips to the North that need unaccompaniment, other than perhaps a bag at the feet and a seat by an open window.
The sign went unnoticed before. Perhaps because there had been other things that called attention, more imposing things that distract from the minute. The dancing of the sugarcanes. The smell of mascovado. The rolling of the hills that play with light and shadow.
They all sought attention, the type that a first time traveler greedily catches and tucks in her backpack to be hoarded or shared as she wished.
You see, I handle places with the same sentiment I handle human relationships. I fall in love with novelty every time.
And more than their novelty is the accompanying temptation to create first impressions. A new place meant a reinvention of the self, the unquestioned liberty to be somebody else. This, in part, is what makes traveling so necessary, to meet several selves that have yet to be seen.
But I have been to the North a good 20 or so times since those initial encounters. It is the longest this self-proclaimed nomad has kept to a place since, and the redundancy has created an unfamiliar sense of familiarity.
I now know the proximity of arrival from point A to point B. I sleep through the sugarcanes, the rolling hills, the coconut stumps, and still wake up somehow knowing where I am.
Arriving at the port, a suki porter calls me by an endearment, grabs my bag, light as it was, and places it on a spot at the ferry he knew I preferred.
Some locals know me by name now, ask me how long I’d be staying this time around, and suggest I bring their newly caught seafood, ones still in net bags wet from the sea, home. They offer this even when they still question what exactly it is I am there for. In this zone where you are no longer an alien but not an insider still.
And when they don’t know me by name, they most certainly know me as the girl in shorts, often listening to fishermen, or women, or foreigners, or anyone deemed interesting in a place grasping to find familiarity again, even as I constantly grasp for the unfamiliar.
There is no safety in being anonymous anymore. In the repetition of visits, one cannot “unfamiliarize” the familiar.
But “The Point Beyond Forgetting” deems me wrong. I look at the sign now, every time I go back, and ask how many have actually noticed the profundity covered in grime.
How many have added it to their own milieus, deemed it relevant enough to be visible in theirworlds. How many have passed it and not really seen it. Or like waking from sugarcanes and coconuts, have seen it only for the first time.
There will be more rides to the North. Each time, I notice more grime than the last. But also, more poetry.
To handle places and relationships perhaps, one must find the beauty in redundancy. And looking past it, realize there is no such thing.