Day 365: Dice Man Quakes at Entering 'Real World'
They day was filled with wildlife I'd only before seen on the television or copies of National Geographic. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
IT'S AFTER midnight. Dice Travels, as a one year project, is done. Lying on the soft bed in a riverside luxury tent at Intrepid, inside the Masai Mara conservatory, a soft sadness and loneliness settles over my restlessness.
It was a good day. Our safari drive came across a mama cheetah and four cubs. On top of that, I spotted a male lion when I went out alone with John, our driver, for a short evening drive.
At first, it was the fact that John has been ripping us off by charging us a park fee, but not taking us into the park itself that had kept me awake. However, Lovince and I have a plan on how to manage the situation.
My German Princess was too tired to chat. Though Lila from Bagamoyo is online, we don't talk for long.
Instead, I'm left in beautiful, complete darkness. There's a hyena whooping in the distance, and then perhaps there's the sound of a lion – I'm not sure.
The dice played a very small roll in the day, only selecting meal options.
I'd imagined that Dice Travels would end on some wild, eccentric note – something extraordinary. However, it seems that there was some link to the real world, perhaps the real world cresting the horizon, its sun burning through the magical mist that has clouded my mind from time to time during Dice Travels, that reined me in during these final moments.
People ask if I'm ready to go back home, ready to go to the US. The answer is no. Then, they ask if I love Kenya, if I want to stay here longer. The answer is no.
I don't really want anything.
I think that's part of the sadness. I feel a bit melodramatic in the dark, wearing a white bathrobe – I did mention that this was a luxury tent resort, right?
There was to be a party on Saturday to celebrate the end of Dice Travels. To rejoice at dedicating a year to this project and seeing it through. However, I became violently ill that day, putting an end to the idea. Now, I don't know. Maybe I'll do something on Thursday to celebrate, maybe not.
People often ask if I'll stop with the dice when the project is done. I use to say I would or that I didn't know.
In the darkness, at the end of it, I know that I won't. That this isn't the end of the role dice will play in my life. The constraints developed for the project were so flexible, so malleable that it would be daft not to allow the dice to be used under similar circumstances in the future.
But will I feel a pressure to roll so often? Of course not. Instead, I'm considering more intense weekends of rolling or weeks of rolling; times where I can push my boundaries, but am not forced to document every detail of the moments I want to keep private.
The melancholy oozes through my veins, cold and unsure of the future.
My mind wanders back through the evening.
“After dinner tonight, we didn't have one cheers to Dice Travels,” I think.
Lovince and Liz had a much-needed relationship sit-down talk while I was out seeing my male lion. Liz was heading into a second bottle of wine when I got back. More medical people, Liz is a pharmacist, joined our group. The conversation went the way of their work. I was reserved, keeping my input to a minimum as the women swapped stories about how they met their husbands.
The British are both doctors, I think.
Sensing my silence, the British woman did her best to bring me into the conversation, trying to engage me about what I've been up to.
“Don't compare yourself to others,” she said, when I explained that I've mostly been bumbling around.
“But I'm fine with bumbling,” I said, getting a small laugh.
The reality of the situation, however, is that my heart wasn't into the conversation: the talking or the listening.
Already, something has snuck up on me.
I want to sigh out the feeling trapped in my chest. I've already had two wanks in hopes that that could somehow expunge the issue, but they didn't make a difference.
I should be asleep. We're getting up in four and a half hours when our wake-up call arrives with coffee, as well as a brandy for me. I don't know why, but something about a double shot of brandy first thing in the morning when you're staying in some luxury bush camp seems like the right thing to do.
The dice didn't decide to do that. I did.
At dinner, they were talking about buying houses, about sound investments. Liz goes on and on and on about credit and houses and so much adulting that I struggle to keep up.
There is part of me that is afraid that when I go back to the US I will be crushed. I have all of these projects that were cooked up while out here on the road, drinking up the world detail by detail – how many rainbows have I been blessed with this year? Dozens. Yet, the reality is that I'm returning to the United States with no money. Perhaps a few hundred dollars. [As it turns out, I landed in New York with 45 dollars and no credit cards, including all assets.]
I'm way ahead of the game in some respects, I have a house – my parents – and food – also my presents'. But that doesn't pay for websites or business plans or drones or tickets back to Africa. Things could go very badly for me when I land in the US. Not immediately after landing, as I have friends and family members across the nation who are coming to greet me. But, not long after, reality could become unsettling.
This, fundamentally, was always the risk of Dice Travels. The thrill was in the rolling, was in the romantic, nearly fictional way I could explain my lifestyle to those on the road – nonchalant mentioning that I would be returning to the US broke. The reality, however, is what I will be facing.
I was broke in Thailand, when I first arrived. It's damn hard to make friends when you don't have any money at all. It's hard to make plans. People do it, but it's not easy. I struggled in Thailand.
There is something terribly ironic about thinking about being broke while in a luxury-tent resort in one of the most renown African national parks in the world. However, like always, when I have money to purchase an experience, I don't hesitate. There is a cheaper way to do the trip, but Liz and Lovince wanted me to join them – I make a great third wheel. Their charity, friendship, and love have carried me through much of my travels in Kenya. That, plus Liz finding a killer deal on the resort left no real options that were worth considering.
There's an uneasiness in me that I'm trying to get at by writing, something I'm attempting to dig up, but it looks like I'll turn in for the night before going deep enough. Perhaps that is where I always fail.
In the early gray of the morning, before the coffee comes with my wake-up call, I slip out of bed. Staring through the electric fence between me and the world sprawled out on either side of the river inside the Masai Mara, I'm struck with the trepid sensation that I am about to cross into the real world. As if the closure of Dice Travels is pushing me out of a fictional world that I've carefully woven during the last 31 years. As if the project was in fact not a story in itself, but the last chapter of a long, illustrious childhood.
I look at my to-do list scrawled out in chicken scratches on a piece of resort stationary. It doesn't look that far off the sort of list I would make when I was 12 or 18 or 25 years old. Not so much in substance, but in the simplicity: get insurance, get a job, buy underwear...
Yet, when my imagination clutches at New York, it senses an overwhelming burden of unnecessary responsibilities. I've happily carried the weight of running a strong media company. I don't shy from responsibility or form shouldering a burden. However, a small fear in me claims to have the abilities of an oracle: seeing just beyond this closes ridge and deep into the Savanna grass. And there, it witnesses something that may leave me shackled, an adult tied into a system of bills and debt as loneliness seeps in despite friends and family.
But the details, as they always are with soothsayers, are blurry.