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Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles by Sally Wen Mao

It is strange to be a stranger. You must have felt this, surely. In your own city it almost doesn’t matter—you’re part of the blood flow, you’re one of the limbs, you are all one body just moving moving moving. Outside of it, when you’re oceans away and one hour behind a whole nation it’s almost as if your strangeness has no weight. Not forgotten, but nameless and faceless. It is as if you exist to disappear.

A lady was peeling pineapples beside her bike. I could feel the sun on my scalp and shoulders. This was the only thing I was sure of at that very moment. I asked if I can take her photo, and she offered me a slice. I always fall in love with strangers and this person was no exception. Here I am, standing at a street corner, the world around me hurrying and not stopping for anyone. On my left I was holding a cigarette, on my right a piece of fruit. I felt my lungs expanding inside my body. People are good sometimes, I wrote in my journal.

There’s a kind of peace here that’s new to me. Or perhaps every place in the world has something like this tucked away in their pockets. I almost catch myself thinking, I could live here. I wonder if I entertain the possibility because I’m a stranger. I wonder what I’m chasing after—the unusual or the unknown.

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
Sally Wen Mao

In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
           glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride
alone – it taunts you for the mileage
           of your solitude, must be past

thousands, for you rode this plane
           alone, this train alone, you’ll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
           well into the next hamlet, town,

city, the next century, as the trees twitch
           and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
           spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll

wonder if this compass will ever change.
           The sun doesn’t need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don’t need
           to be close, so why should you?


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