Letters by Kenny Mah

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“Look to the stars”

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December 25, 2013

Hey you,

By the time we reach Melbourne, we must have clocked hundreds of miles from the Great Ocean Road to the Grampians. We have taken photographs of kangaroos and koalas in the wild (if you consider the lawn in front of our motel or the eucalyptus tree next to the tourist information center wilderness); we have ticked off apostles and bridges from our list of limestone stacks rising from Victoria’s coastline. We have been nearly eaten alive by summer flies (or whatever those wearisome insects were).

Yet it felt, after a fashion, as though we were merely going through the motions. We were playing at tourists, yet we aren’t really tourists, not at heart. We want to wander and linger and waste our time. We don’t want to follow an itinerary.

After we have checked into our hotel at Williams Street, we decide to cross the road to the park opposite, to make full use of the longer hours of daylight. We walk around without intention or hurry. We talk about unimportant stuff. We observe small children playing with each other. Wood chips instead of sand on the playground soil. The strange flowers on the trees, unknown to us. Some have beautiful fragrances; others none. We smell every single new bloom regardless. We are not in a rush, after all.

We walk around. We talk. We smile and laugh a lot.

Later at night, much later, when the sun had gone down, we lie in bed, reading on our iPhones. Others may say this is a bad habit, but it’s convenient. I show you some old videos I have taken of you on my iPhone during our earlier travels — you photographing a pond in Sapporo; you bowling with grace and precision ahead of a company-sponsored competition; the two of us strolling along some wharf somewhere in the world (we can’t quite agree where), with only the sound of our laughter as accompaniment.

I tell you when you were away in the UK for two weeks of training, I would play these videos before I went to sleep, as though they were lullabies. You smile and say I am silly. You ruffle my hair, still slightly damp from the shower.

“Look to the stars,” I say.

“Where?” you ask.

I smile and shake my head. If I told you they are in your eyes, you will just shudder and call me silly again.

Folks will tell you that when you are on holiday, you ought to make most of it. Take more pictures, visit more sites of interest. But what could be more interesting than simply spending time with the one you love, and really be in the moment, even if that means reading blogs and online novels on your iPhones, side by side, in bed? What picture could be more memorable than the one I am taking of you now, with my eyes, to keep in my memory, to take out and look at again and again in all our years to come?

Kangaroos and koalas don’t stand a chance when you get to walk around and talk about unimportant stuff together. Really, what could be more important?

Yours always and always,

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