We all laid on the bank of the river and it seemed that time joined us in a hammock as it swayed side to side but ceased to move forward. Perhaps it was the secret of the serene calm that the moon decided to show us. Maybe it was the bustle in the hedgerow. Or it could have simply been the good company.
Yusuf had been chasing something earlier that day. It was a very specific high, quite literally, and as he was scaling the jagged banks of the Mekong River by Tat Somphamit rapids it came to fruition. Reaching that physical height above the rapids wasn’t the high he was looking for, rather he was in it for the natural euphoria that our body and mind create – that feeling of making it through to the other side, a most profound sense of accomplishment, an adrenaline rush. Call it what you will but I would like to think we have all felt it. As I came to realize later he was searching for that high so he could come to understand the mysteries of its counter part, the sub sequential low that can bring you down to a level equal and opposite of the zenith, when the body is void of the endorphins that had flooded its receptors days, hours, or minutes before.
By this point it was early in the morning, before dusk, and my surroundings seemed a bit hazy. Yosef’s description, however, is to this day no less clear in my mind than the sun was hot earlier in that summer day on the island of Don Det. “Life guides me to some of its most amazing places and shows me some of the worlds best kept secrets just before digging an infinitely deep hole and kicking me in the arse, over the edge, forcing my hand to make a move in an attempt to get back to where I was.”
“So was this high worth the low?” I asked.
“This one hit pretty hard, the low that is. It was blunt, empty, and the numbness flowed through me. I had thoughts of locking myself in a dark room and trying to forget about life.
I almost immediately knew what I wanted to ask, but it took a couple moments for me to verbalize it.
“Than it must have been nothing short of spectacular at the top, does understanding the high you’re looking for have any effect on it?
He took a few deep breathes before answering. The conversation was intense by nature of the subject but there was no sense of urgency. “While I was at top I could feel my mind enter a realm of consciousness that I wasn’t used to. Delving through my troubles and perceiving the beauty that each moment has in store for me became second nature” He went on to describe how the little things, like almost losing his footing on a rock or missing a bus were no longer problems worth the energy it takes to think about them once the moment had passed. It came off as a uniquely practical enlightenment.
At this point he had me, I was sucked into the conversation and needed to know more. I asked if the feelings grew stronger as he climbed higher, or if it hit him all at once, at the top.
“As I pulled my weight up onto the highest ledge i was suddenly grateful for the vastness of what life can be, for nature and for all of the opportunities that lay ahead. The contrast of being so close to the river, really feeling its power at the bottom and then getting this birds eye view and thinking of the seemingly infinite reach of the Mekong had an effect on me that is hard to come by.”
“Do you still feel grateful even though your not there anymore?”
“The high goes away, but even after its gone I am still left with something near tangible. I understand that feeling of being truly grateful and when I was feeling down later in the day, sure enough, it stayed with me. The more I come to understand the highs and lows of life, the easier it is to stay positive through almost any situation.”
It was a conversation that I hoped would carry on like the swaying clockwork of my bed, but all the cards were on the table. I was basking in the early morning moonlight and Yusuf was getting up for work. His boat left the shore at 5:15am every morning and this would be no different. As it is with all things good and bad, time was up. As long as the road traveled had been a good one, and it had been, than I’d like to think of this as a fork in the road, and not as an ending.