Friday, January 06, 2006

A pebble's life

I awaken, painfully. My lips are cracked, my throat parched. Eyes like boulders in their sockets. Water. I need water.

Where am I? Somewhere near Ashgabat. The deserts of Turkmenistan. The memories of 4 years ago combine with my dehydration conjure up an image. Of a pebble.

I think of this desert dwelling pebble, in the dry heat of the noon-day sun. Baking in the still air it clings to a recent memory of a cooling breeze tenderly tickling at its surface. It reminisces about the last day's rain that cooled its heat and penetrated to its core. And occasionally it remembers the oldest memory - or is it a dream, a fabricated false memory of a childhood experience never lived?

The dream is of its birth at the hands of the great Creator, in Whose cold hands it first gained consciousness as it was tossed and turned with its siblings until the jagged edges of adolescence were smoothed. When, how, did it leave that place? Was it ever really there? There is now no way to tell for sure, but it is the pebble's favourite memory so it clings to it nonetheless.

I slowly take a sip of water, savouring the sensation as the water rehydrates my lips, tongue, mouth and throat. Like a pebble in the rain. And I drift off, back into my fitful sleep.

A piercing scream. Somewhere behind me, I try to ignore it. The scream again. Continual, broken only by gasps for breath. I turn away, trying to focus instead on the verses of the Quran I can hear being sung in the background. The words mean nothing to me, but they help drown out the other, less palatable, background sounds. At some point the screaming stops, but still sleep does not visit me. I hear a short whoop of pleasure, a short giggle, presumably from the same direction as the earlier scream, but I am disoriented and tired and all I want is sleep.

Sleep. It used to be so easy for me. Get tired, close my eyes and drift to dreamland. From where, wherefore, has this insomnia invaded my mind? And I had thought the travel gods had been been smiling on me, my alloted personal space being three times more than the others, but it was teasingly sized. Just too small to stretch. Just the wrong size to lie down. A pillow just that little bit too hard. I cannot sleep.

5 hours sleep in Trinidad. 2 hours on the overnight flight to England. 5 hours in London. Now 2 more hours of dozing. I open my eyes again, adjust my position and notice that the plane has moved on from Ashgabat to the border of Pakistan, en route to Afghan airspace.

Maybe I'll get some sleep tomorrow.


At 9:57 AM, Blogger Gabs Lau said...

Glad to know that you are on the road again. I am getting increasingly travel lust, hope to embark on another adventure too. I just came back from a mountain trip from Sichuan, China. Take a look at my blog. -Gabs


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