Stephanie Karlik

Category: Transitions

Dear Wanderlust,

Do you remember when we first got together? We couldn’t stay away from each other. I’ll never forget that time you took me to ride horses through the Andes with an Argentine gaucho guide. The sunset was orange and purple, and I thought that my horse would just gallop me into the horizon, and we’d melt into the sky. We were on the road for a while but then family beckoned, and I had to go home. You kept right on traveling, sending me the occasional postcard, one time from Paris, one time from Prague, reminding me of all I’d left behind.

Life seemed to return to normal for me. I was gradually forgetting about you, but then you showed up on my doorstep one day unannounced. I suppose I could’ve turned you away and told you that period of my life was over, but how could I really do that after all that we’d shared? I let you in for what I thought would be a harmless cup of tea and before I knew it, we were falling over from laughter as we recalled our adventures. There was a moment in-between the laughter when I looked up at you and knew we’d get back together again. The feeling you gave me was too comfortable not to. A cup of tea eased into an all-night affair and soon enough I was regularly coming into work late with bags under my eyes and disheveled hair, nodding off at my desk over a cup of coffee, praying for dear life.

That period was hard. I was filled with so much indecision. I wanted to resist you, but you made it impossible.

One day, you came to my place and said enough was enough. You were tired of our secret nocturnal affair. You wanted to be together together. So you convinced me to quit my day job and run off with you, promising that I could come back if I really wanted to. I believed you and quit my job the next day.

You told me you wanted to take me to see my ancestral homeland, that I could learn the language of my predecessors if I stayed long enough, and it’d be rewarding someway somehow someday. You were right. I’m so glad you pushed me. I’m not sure I could’ve done it without you or if I ever properly thanked you. I know I started neglecting you after awhile, but it’s just that identity was all that was on my mind then, something neither of us really anticipated.

When I left you to go back home again, I had things I wanted to do in America, family to spend time with and stuff. I was unsure of whether we’d really broken up or not. You kept calling long-distance, remember? Just as I was settling in, you told me you’d found a place where people were full of imagination and creativity, that they wore costumes on the street and bought plush toys and knick-knacks just for the hell of it, just because it was cute, just because it was fun, just like us!

You sold it so well that I came to be with you soon after, this time convinced that we’d stay together, that I’d be your Asian Alice in Wonderland. We had fun for a while. Remember how we ate pieces of chicken butt off of sticks all the time? You thought that was hilarious. I thought it was just good food.

But then our wonderland turned into a radiation-filled wasteland. There was a price to pay for all the fluorescent lights we loved to dance around in. We took off for fairer shores, uneasy about staying in the land of chicken butt skewers and cesium.

When we were told it was safe, we went back apprehensively, but I knew neither of us would stay long. I was mad at you for leading me into so much uncertainty, so much danger.

Coming back home this time, I’ve really let you go. You keep calling me, just like in the old days, but your adventures don’t even sound fun anymore. They just sound, well, dangerous and I know you hate this word, but I’m going to say it anyway… irresponsible. I’m not judging you, nor am I saying you should change. I’m just saying that I’ve changed. You tell me to relax because I’m in L.A., that everyone here has Peter Pan Syndrome so it’s no big deal, that I’m not even thirty yet, but I kind of want to start living like I’m not some character in a made-up story, ya know?

I want the best for you. You should be with someone younger, someone who’s bursting at the seams to see the world with you, full of wonder and curiosity. Don’t you want to see that twinkle in a girl’s eye when she looks at you, the feeling that she needs you, must have you, can’t live without you? There’s someone out there dying to be your new muse. I met a girl named Hipster the other day, and she seemed to be just your type.

It pains me to tell you that I can’t be that girl for you anymore. In fact, I think I’m dropping “girl” from my vocabulary in reference to myself from here on out. See, it’s just that I’m tired. Do you see those wrinkles on my forehead? They got there from raising my eyebrows so much, sometimes in bemusement, sometimes in agony, sometimes in shock, sometimes in bliss. But those are stress lines, ok?! Stress.

I’m not worried about you. You’ll be fine. I hope it doesn’t hurt you to tell you this, but maybe it’ll help you to move on more quickly so I’ll tell you anyway. I’ve met someone new. His name’s Career. We were acquainted before, but nothing ever happened between us because of my relationship with you. He told me he always had his eye on me, that he hoped I’d be around and available someday. It might be too early to say this still, but I like him too, and I think he might be the one for me.

So I’m sending you this box,

full of all the things your future muse is gonna need. Don’t mind the wrinkles. No, not the ones on my forehead, the ones in the clothes. You know I’ve been living out of suitcases for some time now. I’m enclosing:

an Oaxacan hand-embroidered dress

a Harajuku doll dress

a goth loli get-up

a Pocahontas skirt

my favorite “Miso Hot” tank top

a black qipao from Shanghai

some Colombia and Spain soccer jersey zip-ups

a Chinese-inspired strappy red dress

pink spandex leggings

a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt from Seoul

hot pink Thai pants

Hello Kitty pajama pants

a Brazil tank top I wore under Christ the Redeemer

a geisha t-shirt

a stretchy mod-Alice dress I got in L.A.’s Fashion District

and a punk belt with skulls and pink bows.

You don’t have to tell Hipster they’re from me.

The truth is I’ll miss you, and I’ll think about you every day. It was a good run. Altogether, about ten years. I’ll always cherish the moments we spent together and I’m sure every now and then, I’ll think about you, me, the horse, that orange and purple sunset, and wish we could all just melt into the sky.

Who knows? We may even see each other again somewhere on the globe, though it’ll never be the same. Until then, be safe. Get tested for STDs. Call your family. And don’t forget me.



The Timeline of Life

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