As a writer and a constant reader of books, I’ve begun to feel increasingly disconnected from other people. I think it comes from spending too much time alone in a room. There’s a glass barrier between myself and the rest of the world. I’m seeing it all at one remove, through the TV screen of my eyes, from several feet back in my head. Maybe it’s a consequence of traveling alone, when the glances of strangers don’t rest on you for very long.
I sit on the sea wall of Casco Viejo, up above the Plaza de Francia, and I have to keep reminding myself where I am: just above South America, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, lost ten years in my past.
I walk through the streets, revisiting places I’d been, trying to recapture how I felt then: alone, disoriented, unable to speak the language, lost and without purpose at the start of a journey that would change me in ways I had yet to comprehend. But it’s no good. I can’t connect.
I sit in a restaurant and eat alone, writing these words as dew drops run down the side of a beer bottle. I’m inside my head and it’s like these other people aren’t even here. They’re just a few feet away, but they’re behind that screen. They can’t reach me and I can’t touch them. And in an hour or two they won’t even remember that our lives intersected.
But this doesn’t bother me. I’m happy to sit here mute among strangers. Writing. thinking. Reflecting on the past.
I only regret that the city has changed so much, and I’ve changed along with it. It feels like I no longer belong in this world. I can’t find that person I set free in Central America ten years before. The person I wrote about in Vagabond Dreams. Did I change so much when I crossed that gap to Punta Paitilla and the West? It was supposed to make everything easier.
I resigned myself to a different vision. And then, just as I’m about to leave this cantina, the 70’s funk stops and a song by Maná comes on the stereo. It’s a different Maná mix, but it’s one of those songs I bought on a cheap dubbed tape in Bluefields, Nicaragua. I listened to it the rest of the way through Central America ten years ago, and it’s plaintive, hopelessly romantic songs became wrapped up in the feeling of that journey.
I smiled because I knew The Road was sending me a reminder of what I used to be, and of what I still am. And it brought the past back to me again in these same streets.