Goa: A Lesson in Life. Chapter 16: Last Day in Goa
Time and reality had finally caught up with me and, after a month’s ‘sabbatical’ in another continent, this was the final morning. The bed sheets that Felix’s wife had kindly laundered for me never felt completely dry, but their methods were more primitive here, one last reminder that I hadn’t really missed the mod-cons of back home at all. As I clambered to my feet my remaining pile of clothes, unceremoniously flung in the corner of the floor, were scooped up and dumped into my still-open case in one flowing movement. Amongst them, I only needed my clothes for today, and, it being a special occasion, the journey home too.
Documents were the next item on my task-list for today, which in turn were quickly dealt with by clearing out my only piece of furniture, the desk in the corner. As I meticulously sifted through the items to keep or to bin, I fondly recalled the incident with the rat way back on my arrival. With those sorted, I was struggling to find other things to do, so with the communal, makeshift, but surprisingly effective brush made from twigs, I gave the room a final once-over and made the bed. Looking around it was as though I was never here. I’d mainly kept my own company after all.
The intentionally long, lingering shower again focused my thoughts on our differing cultures. There was no hot water here, the wash-facilities where barely standing, and must’ve broken every self-imposed health and safety rule in the book back home. But, at the end of the day, it worked. Isn’t that all that matters? Tomorrow, I’d have a whole set of irrelevant, unimportant concerns. Today I had none.
On the table outside I gathered up the remaining books that Roishin had left behind, and just as I’d promised to the book-keeper in Vagator a couple of days earlier, I caught the bus to his shop. The grey, wizardly looking gentleman greeted my with a beaming smile and open arms, like the return of his prodigal son. I was clasping a collection of books, (a couple of my travel guides and a sci-fi thriller), that, to me had no value at all. However, on clapping his eyes on them, the old man turned very serious and businesslike. In yet another unexpected turn of events, he rapidly offered me a surprisingly high price for the battered books I no longer had a use for. Looking around the bare but neat shelves I could see that he took a great pride in his shop, and I suppose in the same way a guitar-shop owner acquires a desirable second-hand instrument to display to his customers, he seemed to believe my books would enhance his shop window somewhat, so I gladly accepted his generous offer, which would be enough to make my last few hours a lot more comfortable than expected.
It was still morning as I arrived back at Anjuna Palms, with 3pm being departure time. I’d planned on a haircut and shave before I left, so, for one last time, I set off down the road to Baga or more specifically the village halfway. This was about as ‘authentic Goa’ as it got, a tiny, sign-less wooden shack, but as I sat myself down I was reminded again… Does that matter? Do we need anything more? I was slightly taken aback by the person staring back at me in the mirror. My hair had grown to shoulder-length and I was deeply tanned, but my cheek still hadn’t fully healed up from my incident down the sewer. My stubble had grown more rapidly than usual, and for once didn’t look like an adolescent’s patchy efforts. Before my trip I built up my fitness and may have even looked on the gaunt side. I was stressed and hung up on life’s worries with a terrible complexion to go with it. Now though I looked calm, relaxed and healthier,with clear skin and glint in my eye, opened up to the world. As the young lad cut away my locks, the new me disappeared, never to be seen again. I had one last task in Goa, my sandals had lasted the course, just, but now it was time to keep a promise I made.
Anjuna beach looked bleak today, lifeless and unwelcoming. As I approached the wall where I first met the impressive young boy, he was no-where to be seen. As I put the sandals down on the flat concrete surface I half expected to be mobbed again or at least see children playing, but it was cold and silent, as if there wasn’t a soul for miles. I wonder if he ever got his sandals I promised him?
One last time, I looked out onto the Arabian Sea. My time was almost up and soon everything I had looked forward to for the months leading up to this trip would become just another memory. After everything I’d done and everyone I’d met along the way, here I was again, alone on a beach, much like the way it began. Nevertheless, I raised a glass to them, in my imagination at least, as now it was time to go home.