Some 5 years-ago, I was working alone in a small town in Missouri that would, one year later, become partially obliterated by tornadoes. It was a blistering February. I had no car and spent a week in a large Motel 8 suite with faded watercolor paintings from the 70s and light blue walls that carried reminiscences of hospital-sterility. Even though home was only three hours of driving away I felt poisoned by the most overwhelming sense of loneliness, as if I was decades and thousands of miles away from everything I loved and cherished.
After our flights got canceled this morning, the airline shuttle dropped us off at Excelsior Asuncion in the middle of old town. An out of repair brass sign outside the hotel proudly claimed “Five Stars, Best Hotel in Asuncion”. The lobby and the room hadn’t been renovated since their glory days in the 1950s, with rust-colored water stains in the dark green carpet. The hallways were long and musty and snaked into pitch darkness. My room had deep brown moldings, large closets that looked like they could have hidden centuries of secrets, small dim-lit lights, a 19 inch CRT TV, and copper electrical outlets that hung an inch off of the wall. Somewhere far away (and maybe not that far) someone was playing the same song over and over again. I tried to make sense of the muffled tones, until it occurred to me that I was listening to the AC conditioner outside my window, which looked directly into another room across from the hall that was dark and empty.
Traveler’s loneliness is one of the most desperate emotions one can feel. It often has nothing to do with having no one to talk to or not being able to speak the local language, sometimes it’s a lingering sense of dread whose source just can’t be pinpointed. It may have been the stain on the curtains, or the expired minibar snacks and liquor bottles covered in dusts, something within my sight had played a dissonant cord; my heart cannot be still on this quiet evening, in the heart of South America, after all of our plans had changed last minute, I ended the day hundreds of miles away from how and where I had envisioned it.