Afterwards

Joseph Mills

People will ask about the trip,

but what can be said? Superlatives?

Mentions of food? Quirks of culture? 

How you waved your hands under

what you thought was a towel dispenser,

and the man who entered the bathroom

looked at you like you were crazy?

How you pushed the wrong button

on the coffee machine and flooded

the buffet table? How you ordered

randomly, often pointing, not knowing

what you were going to get, not knowing

what it was when it arrived, not knowing

what it was after you had eaten it?

Are these markers of adventurousness

or cluelessness? Metaphors, moral failings,

or simply common travel experiences?

 

Do you mention how the first sign you saw

was for Wal-Mart, how everyone smokes,

how you went into a store looking

for water and it was a laundromat (maybe),

how you talked about Catcher in the Rye

in a taxi with a student studying English,

how clean the streets are, how people spit,

how the most difficult thing was to figure out

how to cross the street at some intersections,

how you have never felt safer in a city?

 

People will ask about the trip

and you will hesitate, unsure how

to respond and eventually realizing

there is no way to explain this journey,

or any, each is personal, intimate,

and so you’ll offer platitudes and

small moments that seem like truths.

They will nod appreciatively,

telling you how great it sounds,

and you will say yes it was amazing,

amazing, which is true, but so inadequate

that it will feel like a kind of betrayal.

(The Hong Kong Review, Vol. II, No. 2)

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