Here is the scene: I’m in a beach town in Mexico, sitting at a table with a group of people from all over the world. The air is warm and smells like the ocean. I’m on the end of a trip I took to celebrate my 30th birthday. The drinks are flowing and Drake’s Take Care is playing on the speakers. The majority of the table is from Sweden. The rest are from Australia, Ireland, Canada, Sri Lanka, and Argentina.
We’ve been sitting here together for a few hours but I’m not sure if we’ve really talked about anything. Everyone’s drunk off of cheap Mexican beer and tequila, rum and vodka. The Australian keeps flexing his muscles for me, asking if I want to go into the bathroom to fuck, how many guys I’ve slept with, if I like anal, if I’ve fucked anyone in the group we’ve been a part of for the past week.
I barely respond to his questions. Other times I just lie. There’s nothing about him that makes me want to share a single thing about myself. You’re trying too hard, I say, but he doesn’t hear me.
He tells me all the girls he’s fucked on this trip and the places he’s had them. The roof. The bathroom. The kitchen. He tells me he came back late one night and ended up fingering a random girl in the corridor.
“Really? You still don’t want this?” He asks. “This is your chance to get with a dime.”
After berating me for another 20 minutes and getting nowhere he convinces the table I’m a frigid bitch and he’d never follow my writing because he knows he’s had way more experiences than I could have ever had.
“There’s nothing remotely interesting about you,” he says to me, confidently, before filling his cup with more liquor. “You haven’t really lived like I have.”
The Swedish guys look at me expectedly, waiting for a response, waiting for something amusing to happen or be said, but I give a slight smile and say nothing. “She’s a hard nut to crack,” the Canadian tells him.
Three minutes later the cycle begins again where he tries to touch me, makes a joke about anal and choking and jerking off and facials. He gets annoyed at my lack of engagement and tells me my hair looks like shit. He asks me where I’m from in the United States. When I tell him he says, “Oh, this makes a lot of sense now.” He makes a face and Snapchats it. Flexes his muscles again. Everyone laughs.
I’m the uncool person at the table, even more so now that I’m on my phone writing these notes. I know tonight is the kind of night I should be “on.” I should be responding to all his dumb questions with clever quips, laughing along with everyone because hey, we’re all on holiday, we shouldn’t be taking things so seriously. But I’m not that person tonight. I’m disconnected, not on the same wavelength as all these people. Honestly, I want to tell the guy he’s a fucking idiot, but instead I sit here silently, sipping a gin and tonic, observing the table.
I’m happy in general but there’s something about tonight that keeps my mind a million miles away from being here in the present. In this moment I’m blank at best, melancholy at worst. I keep trying to bring myself back to the conversation, to engage in a way that’s meaningful or entertaining, but I don’t feel like there’s any point. It’s okay. I’m not sad, just the opposite. I think there’s something about detachment and loneliness that can feel both bad and good at the same time.
I’m physically here, in Mexico, at this table, but my mind keeps drifting to other people. I think about the woman I found on her knees praying in the street yesterday, speaking a dialect of Mayan I couldn’t understand. I think about the boy from Finland I met a few days ago who left for Central America this morning. I think about the way the sky looked this evening and about my sister I don’t speak to enough and about friends from back home I’ve outgrown and about all the things I need to, want to start doing to feel like a more productive human. My mind hits and expands every central issue I’ve been thinking about lately until I realize 20 minutes have passed and I haven’t said a single word.
Isn’t it amazing how you can have all of this inside of you, and yet, to the outside world you’re a blank fixture in the room, a silent part of a social puzzle that has yet to find its place?
A guy from Mexico City touches my hand and asks if I’m okay. He offers me a beer. I study the Kurt Vonnegut tattoo on his arm that says “and so it goes.”
I look towards the door and think about escaping into the night, to the ocean only a few blocks away. I want to run into the streets and feel the energy of the people on their way to their destinations. I want to get lost in the world around me. I want the waves to crash so loudly I can’t hear my own thoughts anymore.
I look back at him and nod.
“Yeah,” I say, assuring him. “I’m okay.”