11 years ago, in 2005, I travelled solo through China's Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.
I was in search of good food and good scenery... I found both.
I also found people. This happens when you you travel alone - you collect people and memories.
I met this one guy, Kevin. We forged a strong bond in a day, lost it later.
I wrote about that good day in my diary, in the third person. I just re-read it and found it a beautiful scene. Two young people talking about life and ideas, connecting and feeling each other's spirit.
The idea of that inexplicable 'connection' between people is something I am so interested in. I explore it in my novel, Ghost Girls, and I found, via this diary entry, that I have been exploring it in my writing for a long time.
I also found a reference point to a scene in Ghost Girls, in which the little boy, Da Wei, fumbles in the dirt. Re-reading this diary entry, I am sure that a part of that scene came from this lived experience.
I don't know what became of Kevin. But he was nice, for a while.
Kunming stone forest is beautiful You can find information on it here.
Kunming, late Winter, 2005
"At the top of the first hill, the view was sweeping brown grass and rock fingers reaching to the sky.
In the distance Kevin saw trees and Cat saw more pillars. She pulled herself down into a squat while he continued to gaze.
There were burrs in Cat's socks. She pulled at them, one-by-one, watched them blow away in the breeze. Down here, near the ground, she was surrounded by dead flowers - miniature daisies, yellowed and cold. Their petals were turned down and ragged at the edges, like split ends. Their stems were brittle to touch.
'Do you believe in God?' Kevin had perched on a rock by her shoulder. Cat could smell his cigarette smoke. She plucked at the dead petals, split a stem finely in two.
'I believe in something,' she said.
'I was raised Catholic... But then, I'm a woman.' She turned her head and caught his eyes on her neck. 'At the moment, I'm interested in Buddhism as a philosophy and way of life.'
Kevin watched her. He had teardrop eyes and tiny spider veins on his cheeks.
'I was raised Catholic too,' he said, finally. 'I like Buddhism and Taoism but I guess I just try to make my own sense of it all.' He tucked his cigarette butt into his pocket.
'Shall we move on?'
He eyed her. 'Let's stay a bit longer. This is nice.'
They sat together in the warm sun and watched the distance.
'I don't feel like I'm in China,' Kevin said, after a while. 'It's just the earth.'
'It's beautiful.' said Cat.
'I mean, banking is global, telecommunication is global, media is global,' said Kevin. 'The only thing not global is people.'
Cat looked at him. 'People cling to nationalism.'
'Nationalism is poison.'
They sat together, watched the sky.
Finally he turned to her, kissed her on the cheek. 'I feel like I've made a good friend today.'
The teardrop eyes became swimming pools.
Cat stared into them. 'You have.'