Guide to hitchhiking // How to keep going


“Rules 5-10: You write them. Choose your preferences. Perhaps you hate the ocean. Perhaps you wear a crucifix inside your transparent blouse. Perhaps you are a U.S. citizen on a sort of holiday. Perhaps you have a destination, such as Houston, in mind at all hours. Perhaps you have a gun. Perhaps you are a man. Perhaps you are red not green, I mean green not red. Perhaps you are a driver and are interested in the psychology of hitchhikers though not in being one yourself. No, you are a hitchhiker in all likelihood. I write to you, hopefully, in the zigzag, reaching you there…I invite you to write the remaining rules for the people who keep going. I couldn’t. I had to stop.” (Bhanu Kapil Incubation: A Space for Monsters, 80-81)

5. Embrace accidents.

Openings occur there. Forget schedules and plans: tempt serendipity. Pack lightly and improvise with your surroundings. Squeeze your body between happenstances. Go on a blind date and fall in love with improbability. Dance to whatever is on the radio. Driver took a wrong turn? Splendid, call it a long-cut. Make decisions according to the ninth billboard sign you see. Forgive your instincts.

6. If the landscape bores you, paint a new reflection in the rear view mirror.

When I crossed the ocean, I suddenly looked different in the mirror. So I changed a few things about myself. I picked up a new shade of lipstick. I wrote spoken word poems. I stopped biting my finger nails. I smoked socially. I went clubbing and stayed up till sunrise. I drank too much coffee. I flossed. I took photos and posted them online without filters.

7. Go farther each time.

Add an extra adjective.  Take a larger bite: a surplus of delicious punctuation!! Dare to dive deeper into any topic. Fall down Wikipedia rabbit holes. Pursue footnotes religiously. Anything can be interesting. You can wander into a leaf. Leave your doubts at the door. What’s another mile or two or three?

8. Red lights remind us it’s important to stop.

Yes, stopping is part of how we keep going. It’s okay to linger at a breath mark. Sometimes it’s just a temporary hiatus to break. A bathroom break, a nap, a meal. Sometimes it’s more substantial as we lose momentum and hope. I give you permission to change your destination midway. Anywhere can be your point of arrival. Right here is just fine.

9. When the engine gives way, refuel with perhaps.

When the going sputters and stops but we are not quite there, our travel interrupted by an unexpected catastrophe. Like when our nightmares become realities—say, a pipeline threatening our water source, or a madman elected president. Somehow we draw energy from the necessity of there being another way: lift ourselves up higher and push through, fighting for the counterfactual. By which I mean we carry ourselves in a conditional possibility. A vehicle of turning, regeneration, rerouting toward a secret utopia which is on no map.

10. I love you; please don’t die.

Do whatever it takes to protect your body and everything you love. Even if it feels unnecessary, and especially if it feels cliché. Watch for both sides of the road before crossing. Buckle your seatbelt. Spray mace. I will keep you in my thoughts as you go on without me. Call me if you need me.

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