"Holiday" in the South of Chile at Samadhi Eco Resort - Amir Reguieg
My arms screamed in protest as the rubber band cut into my flesh. Should’ve worn gloves, this wasn’t the first time that thought came into my head, and I cursed myself for not wearing them. Heaving, I pull the stack of hay along the ground, its weight pulling me down. The rubber band continues to seemingly cut into my flesh as I dragged the hay into the pickup truck, the smell of manure stinging my nostrils. I take a moment to rest my aching limps. I wasn’t built for this, was never built for this, my muscles were stingy at best, and even with my natural male strength, I can still barely lift the haystack. Hard labor was never my strong suit, an unfortunate consequence of living a comfortable privileged life, or rather a privileged non-life. I have no job and I barely know how to drive. Most of my time was spent on the Internet, writing characters into forum games, or watching videos. I was not cut out for hard labor. Maybe that was the reason why my father had us come here under the pretense of a vacation. Oh, it was a vacation of sorts; we lived in a cabin, away from everyone, no Internet. Now that shouldn’t be such a big deal, I have had no Internet before and lasted for months. But this time it was different. This time I had almost an obligation to get on the Internet. I can feel it like a pull in my mind, perhaps it was an addiction, I was certain it was, had to be, though thankfully I have never gone through any physical withdrawals, except perhaps a mild form of depression. And that was only when my Internet time was cut off. And that was the reason why I was doing this. Pretty lame, I know, but I guess that is one of the drawbacks of being a millennial, we never had the chance to do any of the hard work, we thrived off the hard work of our parents, who built us comfortable, pampered lives through the effort of their sweat. So, it was only natural that our concerns would be different and perhaps more superficial.
“Get moving, slowpoke!”
The voice came from Kendon, my … Overseer of sorts, not that he wielded a whip or anything, he was simply there to put me to work. In a way, it was slave labor, if it weren’t for the fact that at the end of the day, we had shelter and food, and Internet. And we had numerous free breaks. I had only been relaxing from work for what felt like a couple of seconds with very intention of going back so naturally his commanding voice made my nerves slither in a rather fiery way but I bite back any response I would have spat out and continued with my work.
The next haystack was at the top and I had to wrap my hands around the band and pull it out. It didn’t budge. I pulled harder and with more force, straining my inexperienced muscles, sweating through my brow. Again the bands stabbed into the flesh of my palms, a familiar sensation at this point but no less painful. I grunted as I pulled the hay out onto the hay floor, and then dragged it to the pickup where I had to lift it into the hay I had gathered. Manuel labor. A lot of heavy lifting. Strangely enough, I found I rather liked the lifting better than the smaller jobs, like, say, picking up rocks for some reason. Or my personal favorite, stuffing hay into a composite, which took at least three hours.
That had been our first family project. I had, of course, thought that it was only a passing fancy. That we would spend a majority of our time reading and sleeping.
I had to admire my father’s cunning. His cabin was where all the work was.
It was also the only cabin with Internet access. Something that he lamented on more than one occasion when he realized that his children would rather spend time in front of a screen, spacing out as our fingers drummed robotically over plastic keys, drowning out the world around us than outside in the wilderness. And it was indeed a wilderness. Not a wild one mind you, but definitely something city folk don’t see every day. There were woods out on the edge of the field, which I would later or had already found out had packets of bamboo ready to be picked up. Other than a gate and a single lone cabin, there was no sign of human habitation. Indeed, even the sight of only Internet network was odd. The cabin itself was small and cozy, not the three-story cabin I had imagined (did I mention we millennials have lofty expectations?)
In my time here, I discovered a pattern of sorts, and sort of routine your body does when it is exposed to any large amount of work. Eventually it became almost automatic, like your body knew what it was supposed to do. And that’s what was happening now. I continued to load hay, occasionally resting, but mostly loading. Eventually that was all I was thinking about. It was the closest thing I would ever have to a hive mind, only it was a singular mind. My own. Then again, my mind was very good when it came to focus.
But only on things I found interesting or enjoyed. Or in this case, had to do. Which makes it in turn, makes it hard to do any tasks that don’t pique my interest. Heck, the only reason why I am even typing right now in my mother’s home is so I can type this and still have access to internet. After all, nonfiction is not really my strongest suit, I was more about fantasy and sci fi. Characters coming and going, writing dialogues in my head. And that was the problem. There is almost always a movie in my head or a show, always a group of characters, interesting characters with their own eccentricities. Yet I find when I even attempt to write them down, I freeze, the initial juice lost. I find that I am more of a visual thinker than a verbal one. Hence why my stories tend not to have an ending. I also have a tendency to go off track as is demonstrated in this very paragraph, which makes no sense at this point.
A word about the setting. It is called Samadhi. It is going to be a resort, where men and women come to stay. We are essentially the first workers, which is fitting, as our family would inherit this land one day. Though what we are to do with it after that is no one’s guess. I like to imagine it as a refuge in case shit hit the fan – aka World War III, which unfortunately looms over us even more than before, or in a even more fantastical way, zombies, reanimated corpses hell-bent on consuming flesh (or universes collide, causing a distortion of reality, and breaking it in the process, damn, I need to write a story about that one day). Honestly, if it were total nuclear annihilation or zombies, I would rather take the zombies. Then again, what would I know? The most survival experience I’ve gotten was putting a log into a fire. Samadhi was pretty distant. And chucked all the way in Chile, pretty far from any feasible targets of Armageddon. So if there was a nuclear war I had a feeling we would survive. After all, who would nuke Chile? It’s largely unimportant in the worldwide scheme of things. Just a little tourist attraction at the tip of the Americas. Of course. Precautions. I do not think shit would hit the fan that quickly. As Kendon once said, only an insane man would nuke a country. The cost of a nuclear assault far outweighed the brief yet undoubtedly terrifying moment of destruction.
I heaved the hay again.
Flashing forward to the present.
There are a lot of things about Samadhi I remember. And remember quite fondly as a matter of fact. Walking into the field of sunflowers behind the cabin, listening to the bees buzzing, and realizing how picturesque it was. It truly was. I actually regret not having a camera on me. I had a perfect shot.
Just the back of the house, and a hill of sunflowers. And I wasn’t alone. Well, I was in a very conventional physical sense, but they were there. They were always there. My characters. Sometimes I would have conversations with them. Actually, I would have so many conversations with them that my father actually told to do it further away.
I feel the need to clarify for those of you readers who are not my father.
I am not insane. This talking to my characters is a tick I have. I’ve had it since I was five. At first it was enduring, but now it has almost become a hindrance at my increasingly advancing age. An aging that, even now at the tender age of twenty-four, I feel everyday. Hence why I took this job.
Yes, I’m quite privileged, I will admit that wholeheartedly. I just never realized that until the moment my father just handed me a job. Simply because I told him I was looking for one.
The characters in question you might see or you might not, but that’s not the point. The point is, I hear voices. Not actual voices mind you. More like my own voice being projected multiple times in various ways, each persona adopting a form and a back story and each of those personas giving me advice. Or just partaking in epic battles to the death aboard a ship head to a island of madness, with a woman who looks like Emma Watson and another woman who looks like Rosie Leslie – and with that, I have now dated my story, curse you brain! Woe to anyone who reads this way past the early 21st century, because those two actresses are either going to be so old, they might as well be dead by now, or have been dead for years - yes, my brain is that weird. Also I don’t like telling so if you figure it out, you figure it out.
Okay, waves of now confused readers aside. If I have fond memories of Samadhi. Why pick the memory of me doing manual labor? In a haystack?
Because that is the essence of what my experience there was.
Sure, there are moments of free times, moments where we just sat back and relaxed, or in one case, got so freaking lost that we had to go back to the city to figure out where we were. I could have done a story about that but recollecting the exact details of those adventures is tiring. Though it was quite an adventure. To this day I swear I saw us pass the way we were supposed to go, but didn’t say anything because of uncertainty. It makes me chuckle a bit. We had parties, or in some cases, my father had parties while we were hauling our asses, sweating like bulls, doing all the work while people danced and music blared. That wasn’t very pleasant, not very pleasant at all. For a moment, I knew how the working class felt watching those snobby rich kids having parties while they had to do a dirty job for hours on end. An interesting lesson, if it is one learned perhaps unintentionally on my father’s part.
I heave the hay onto the truck, my overseer watching, or rather lounging, and puffing his e-cigarette, basically his way of telling me that I was taking too long without the verbal abuse. Well, abuse is too strong a word - that would imply that he said these things to genuinely hurt or emotionally cripple me, but he didn’t. He was actually a genuinely nice man, quite easy-going, and though one would find it hard to believe, quite like me. Only he was larger and stronger, and was hardened by a life in South Africa. Whereas I was one of those privileged kids that knew of no true hardship except the pesky first-world problems that plague us millenials everyday. At least I knew that my problems were superficial at best, more than I can say for some other people who treat their first-world problems like they are the worst thing in the world. I know a lot of things. I know that I am lazy. I know that I go on the Internet too much. I know that I am not supposed to do my ticks outside. I know a lot more than most people think and my father knows this. He calls it my “game” as if I were somehow consciously playing a game with them, as if I had purposely manipulated the system. In some case, I have. In other cases, it is merely because of how I am.
My Overseer puffs on the smoke of his e-cigarrete and watches as I hale the hay onto the truck. Why do I call him my Overseer? Simple. Words have power. And in this case, he was my Overseer. He made sure I worked and that’s what an overseer does, he makes sure people work. I never hated him for it. Sure, his words sometimes got on my nerves, but in truth, it was time spent away from my chat room and online friends that I hated. I would wake up in the morning, hoping for rain, hard rain so we wouldn’t work, so I could go on my computer and chat. And every time we did work, I would convince myself that it would only take an hour or so. Almost every time, it took the entire day. Yet I still persisted in this increasingly naïve belief. So why were we hauling hay anyway?
Simple. We are building an archery range. Well, not really a range. It’s a single target. But for that single target, we still need a shit load of hay.
Finally, after what felt like several grueling minutes, I load the last hay, and go to the front of the truck, my arms aching, and my body covered head to toe in hay. I try unsuccessfully to dislodge the bits of hay on my shirt but to no avail.
Kendon climbs in.
“You sure you put them in correctly?”
I look back.
There weren’t as many as Kendon had and some of them were stacked really high.
“Yep. I’m sure I did.” The truth was, I knew I didn’t but I assumed I had done it good enough that they won’t all fall over.
“Okay. But if one of them falls over, you’re picking it up,” Kendon replied.
We drove on, slowly, each bump on the road, causing the haystack to shake and tremble, getting precariously close to tipping over. With each lurch, I looked back, trying to see if any of them fell. It wouldn’t be that much of a disaster if they did, but we would lose time. And I was already edging to get back on my computer.
We continued to drive. The cabin coming into view. The hay barn was not that far by car or even by walking, though walking would have taken longer. If we had gone on normal speed, we would have been there in minutes, but crawling as we did, it felt like several.
Then finally, two of the haystacks I had so expertly packed tipped over and fell out onto the road.
I internally groaned as Kendon stopped the car.
Once the heavy lifting was done and I secured the hay as best as I can, we were off again. Back in that slow crawl.
Eventually we reached our destination, a pile of hay stacked on top of one other.
“Hopefully this is our last trip,” I say, glancing at the hay pile.
We immediately got to work. I gave Kendon the hay while he lifted it and put it on the pile. It was like that for a while. We slowly followed a routine. I was handing him the hay. He was lifting it into place. We tried the other way around briefly but I was so inept at positioning that I threatened to pull the whole hale pile down, so Kendon told me to stop.
We had been at this for what felt like hours in the hot seething sun - I swear that whatever is out there just loves turning the heat up when we are working – and by now, I was longing to go back into the cabin, throw open my computer, pull up my chat room, go onto my forum game and just type away. The mere thought sent waves of relief through me, just the idea of sitting in front of that computer, relaxing, finally free of this work was enough to keep me going. Strange. Freedom from work was somehow making me work more yet freedom in general is what slows me down - at the time of this writing, I have been on the internet at least twice and jumped once, yet I still manage five pages – and somehow I knew that the end was in sight.
A sort of sixth sense as it was. Naturally, it isn’t always reliable. So I continued in my laborious way, muscles straining, heaving hay. In actuality, it was not at all hard work, but it is tiring work, very tiring work. It continued on like for quite a while until finally we staked all the hay up.
Of course, I could continue but even I am growing bored with this endless description of hay, and work. Plus, if I were to recite very single thing that happened from here to the end of my task, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. This isn’t a glorious character piece or even an actual story.
This is an introduction, an introduction to my possible work and me. My writing and few bits of insights into my mind. In truth, this was supposed to be about Samadhi and it only just occurred to me that this didn’t necessarily need to be nonfiction. But that’s the point. My mind is often one-track, a rushing train speeding across the railroad, not waiting to stop, until suddenly it slows and stops on its own. Remember when I said my mind has a tendency to lose interest really quickly? That is what is happening now. Perhaps you have noticed the sudden change in tone. Perhaps not.
Funny thing about writing, it is almost alive in the way it forms. Things just happen.
Like right now. When I wrote this piece, I did not intend it to be an introduction. Yet that is what it became.
Other thing about writing or any art form.
There is always that moment of self-doubt, that moment where you feel you may be in over your head. Sometimes it will manifest in the writing itself.
I’ve told you guys that nonfiction was never my strong suit. However, I suppose an ending is in store.
My name is Amir Shadi Reguieg and these are my short stories, and this was just a tidbit.