Drabble 181 – Dépaysement

A photo of the exterior of Versailles.

In my most recent newsletter, I talked about traveling. It’s a privilege to be able to travel, and it’s another privilege to be sad about not being able to travel right now. That doesn’t mean that being sad about it is wrong. We’re all sad about a lot of things right now. That’s more than normal—it’s natural. We’re undergoing a collective trauma, and trauma often rears its head in unexpected ways.

When I feel something complex, I try to understand it. My sadness over not being able to travel is not just that I’m sad I can’t go to New Orleans and eat something delicious I’ve never eaten before, though that may be part of it. It’s part that the opportunity has been taken from me, and part that traveling is an entirely new experience, a place to see things I’ve never seen and do things I’ve never done. At home, I do more or less the same thing every day, with variations. Get up, read, work, watch TV, bed. This weekend we drove to see family from ten feet away, still seated inside our car. That was a variation, but it was still so much of the same.

Seeing a new place is an opportunity to escape that sameness, a reminder that there are places in the world where everything is different, even if it’s only two towns over and the biggest difference is that they have your favorite bubble tea and your town doesn’t. Since we don’t know when travel will be possible again, nor what it will look like when it is, it feels as if that potential has been entirely snuffed out.

I speak only for myself, naturally. Maybe some people travel for other reasons. But right now, I’m missing that heartbeat racing feeling of being a little bit lost, the confusion of a menu in a language I can’t read, the wonder of seeing something in three dimensions that previously only existed in two.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

DÉPAYSEMENT

(n.) from French dépayser, for removing somebody from their typical place

The feeling of being somewhere other than home.

Outside the window is blackness. She’d assumed there’d be stars, that they’d look like jewels ready to be plucked from a velvet cloth. But things look different out here, strange and uncanny.

On Earth, she was restless, moving from one place to the next. Here, she has one place to explore, and yet she hurtles through space as if launched from a trebuchet. She thinks of Earth as home now, even if it never felt that way before, even as she thinks that Earth is but one small piece of the universe, this great unknowable darkness that is also home.

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