The world around me is getting smaller. Just a week ago, I was striding along a path in the desolation of the Patagonian Andes. Despite the majestic emptiness, signs of human interference abounded. Red dots on the rocks marked the path, and every once in a while, a crushed soft drink can, missed or ignored by the rangers glared brightly from under a rock.
All this, I could abide. Another hiker crossed my path, going to the place from which I had come. We exchanged greetings and took the opportunity to rest our feet and drink some water. This, too, I could accept.
But when he pulled out a cell phone–nothing fancy, just an ordinary phone–and called someone who, from the way he spoke to her, was his girlfriend, I had to leave. I left the trail, left the national park and left the country. Driven out by the bars on a phone.
Africa, I’d thought. It would be vast, unspoiled, dangerous. I moved northeast from my landing spot in Capetown. Up to the glorious savannah-covered national parks of Tanzania.
The park rangers and their Land-Roverloads of tourists, I could take. None of them were on the phone. They’d told me that the elephants saw the vehicles as yellow rocks that moved. If they could take it, so could I.
But the researcher I talked to, on the banks of a muddy watering hole, was one thing too many. She was observing tagged elephants for some conservation fund, hoping to stop the poachers who kept decimating their numbers. Even though she was uploading data onto a university website somewhere in England through a satellite uplink, I could take it. At least a satellite uplink meant that superhuman technology was necessary to tame this place.
But when time came to put away the laptop, I noticed she was carrying a large carton of latex condoms. She explained that she gave them away whenever she encountered a villager. AIDS was a real problem there.
The image of a village couple having sex in a mud hut with a condom is, for some reason, too much.
So I sit here, feeling the western world closing in around me and wonder whether some remote island in the South Pacific will manage to bring me peace. Or if I should set my sights on the Gobi desert and hope that a desert surrounded by half the world’s population would not come up with some spoiling detail that would send me, once more, on my way.
Or maybe I could just accept the fact that it was too late.
I might be best served by catching the next plane back to Manhattan.
Gustavo Bondoni is from Argentina, but his professional life makes it more likely that you’ll be able to find him at your local airport, in Mexico or Online. He writes science fiction and an occasional Literary piece (just to throw off the critics).