By far, the most enjoyable part of my travelling has not been what I’ve seen along the way but who I’ve met. If I had stayed in my hometown in England I’d never have shared a smoke and a few lines with inmates in their cell during a prison visit in Ecuador, or had a conversation with a freight-hopping Brooklyn vagabond in the alleyways of New York City, or played a thousand hands of cards with an eccentric Panamanian who drank Las Vegas dry and escaped the US owing thousands in medical bills. From drinks with a ’60s Slovenian pop star to a night in Thailand with a Hawaiian pot dealer, for me, it’s all about the people.
It’s just a shame that I’ve either had to cut the meetings short, (I should have gone to the golf club in Ljubljana), or missed the bones of a conversation (what was the moral of the homeless man’s tale again?) If I hadn’t had the Crow flapping in my ears, maybe I’d have learned and experienced more than I have. But then again, if it wasn’t for that feathered demon from the abyss, I probably wouldn’t have sold my home in England – I wouldn’t be here, house-sitting in Greece, watching the distant fishing boats idle on the calm blue sea.
I often lament those split conversations, the times when you find yourself talking to someone in the outside world, but you’re also busy trying to talk sense to yourself somewhere on those chaotic plains in your head. Dissecting a thought you take too long answering a question, there’s an awkward silence, maybe you didn’t quite catch what was said. You ask them to repeat their question, just as another spiked cannonball roars from the Howitzer, hurtling in your direction. You’ve missed the real world conversation AGAIN! You’re standing there, literally face to face with a man you met on a train, and you’re listening but struggling to hear a single word he’s spoken all morning. A third time, and yes, you hear what’s being said but it makes no sense because you missed the critical three minutes of dialogue before this current query. You smile apologetically, “Sorry mate, I was miles away.” You blame a late night, say you’re a prolific daydreamer, or, “that joint has really hit me, man.” You certainly can’t mention the screeching bird in your cerebrum. “Sorry mate, I was talking to the Crow,” is not an option.
The problem is not only missing the key words but also, when you know precisely what’s being said, your stomach can feel so full of lead that you don’t have the mental strength to join in, or expand the question, or debate it, or anything at all because you’ve got the black feathered Prince of Doubt pecking holes on your head. Chances are I’ve missed out on more than a fistful of profound revelations because of this. I could have had the answer to life explained to me in glorious detail but was too busy thinking about killing myself in front of my Nan to heed the advice.
If it worked the other way around it would be the perfect solution to my problems. “Sorry Crow, I was talking to my friend, you’ll have to wait. Stand in line, or come back tomorrow.”
The greatest problem with OCD, for me, is that big fat O – Obsessional thoughts that fight for my absolute attention the moment I’m conscious. My alarm sounds and I open my eyes, and there’s my breakfast on the bedside table, six inch nails on toast. Of course, most people experience dark thoughts every day, but with the crow, and the millions of other crows, imps, and demon monkeys out there perched on peoples’ shoulders, it’s not just every day, but every second of every minute of every hour of every day.
It’s not surprising that we miss things. We just have to make the most of the conversations we do have, and as the Crow circles me a little higher these days, here is a plea to all OCDemons the world over to ignore: “Give your hosts a break, let them have a spike-free conversation with whoever is sharing their table, whether it’s in a bar in Southeast Asia or in the lounge of their grandmother’s house, back the f*ck off for an hour or so.”