Life on the road is one without lasting friends, one moving from place to place before lasting relationships have any time to develop, people who might be and sometimes obviously should be people one would be with for the duration simply fading away as ones boat or bus or taxi moves elsewhere, one moving on to meet other strangers who have yet to become those friends one delights in knowing and being with to share ones life and mind. So, on the road like this one finds those first inklings of companionship and incipient friendship in street vendors and knick-knack sellers and waitresses and people who contact tourists first and most often.
One such fellow for me is the guy whose name I will never bother to ask, like Primo Levi not thinking of his fellows at Auschwitz because he knew they were doomed from the start and there was no point, only pain, in knowing the drowned, is a street vendor, a cheery fellow who sells one day floppy hats, the next day sunglasses, maybe next time showing up with an armload of teeshirts for sale to those who long for a conversation with the locals so they can say they had this friend in this place and they felt that they belonged and were appreciated as people by people who live the life the tourist only visits and barely comprehends. I don't know the street vendor, but in a cheap and silly way I like him and we chat a bit when he passes by as I sit writing and drinking coffee, he off to find that magic tourist in need of stuff to validate his experience in this or that place, his contact with the locals made real by a piece of stuff with the name of this or that city painted or carved or embroidered on it somewhere, like the stuffed piranhas on a stick with the wooden base painted crudely with “Iquitos” that will set otherwise dumb on a bookcase shelf collecting dust as a talking piece for visitors who will ask: “Where is Iquitos?” which will give the collector opportunity to say how he met this fellow, a good friend of his, who gave him this fierce fish as a gift, a sign of friendship, not some commercial transaction between two strangers on the street, a man and a man meeting as equals and happy in each other's company.
I like this guy, and to some extent he would be, were I to live here, be a friendly acquaintance for me over time. He offers me bugs in a jar, and I can't take him up on such a cool offer because I haven't got a place to put them, though I would like to have them, have some time chatting with him about selling stuff, and to have a home where maybe, if I felt like it, I could have him over for coffee some lazy afternoon to find out about him as a person. He, like most I meet, is the surface of a river broad and deep that I will never dive into. So I smile when I see him, and I say hello, I ask how his day is, and we part on good terms, my life drifting along the surface of the city, not quite as stable as a beetle in a jar, not quite as fleeting as a tourist off and on a plane, bags stuffed with stuff to take back home as memories of a fine time that floated by one time long ago before the dust settled.
A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
Occasional-Walker-D-W/dp/ 0987761501/ref=sr_1_1?s=books& ie=UTF8&qid=1331063095&sr=1-1
And here are some reviews and comments on said book: