The sharp blast of a horn wakes me up. I am still half asleep and thoroughly confused about where and when I am. After a brief moment I realize:
What I see outside my window are not the harvested corn fields of Indiana. The lights in the distance are not those of a Friday night football game. The stores we pass aren’t small town gas station mini marts selling beef jerky and styrofoam mugs of fountain coke. I am not 16 years old on the way home from a swim meet or tennis match on a yellow school bus.
What I see are the sloppy rice fields of Vietnam. The lights are those of a train charging down the tracks on its way south to Saigon. The shops are homes that double as restaurants selling noodles at tiny squat tables with plastic chairs so low to the ground it looks like a restaurant made especially for kindergartens. I’m 31 on a sleeper bus heading north to a town I can’t remember the name of because I couldn’t pronounce it to begin with. It feels as though 15 years have flashed before my eyes.
Life is strange. So many things have happened that I never imagined, and other things I expected never came to fruition. In the end I’m the only one I’m with throughout the entirety of my life. I’m in control and that’s how I’ve found myself here and, if I have the stomach for it, it’s an empowering thought. How terrifying. How exciting. I thought I was still a little girl.
The complex beauty of life materializes as a lump in my throat. I put my headphones back in and stare out the window, brought back to the reality of my current life as a traveler wandering the world.