I used to have a running joke with my students. Whenever I would checkraise a flop against an opponent they would ask me, “Hey Dog, why are you checkraising here?” And I would always answer, “because fuck him, that’s why.” Halfhearted chuckles all around, and then I would explain the logic behind my checkraise. Well today somebody asked me why in the hell I’m working on a farm in Europe. I thought about all of the little things that I could say – that it would give me time to reflect, teach me about the value of hard work or the quiet of nature, and so on. But that’s all bullshit anyway. Why am I doing this? I answered him, “because fuck me, that’s why.”
This is my fourth night sleeping on the farm.
I’ve been working from 8:30 AM til 2PM. The first couple of days we have been repairing a damaged barn and bricklaying. Today we started clearing a forest near the back of the farm. I don’t think I’ve done manual labor on this level before in my life. My back, shoulders, and arms all ache.
It feels right. I need this. Somehow I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
My hosts are interesting characters. A Swiss-English couple. The woman, Wendy, is 68, and the man, Peter, is 39. They used to run a horseriding school in Switzerland together, but now they and their horses have retired to this farm in the south of France. Interestingly, they became a couple when Peter was 21. that means at the time, she was 50. They are, to say the least, a curious couple. But they’re lovely and have been very good to me. I am learning a lot everyday. But unlike me, my hosts go to sleep very early and wake up around 6am. So I’ve been trying to go to sleep earlier than I usually do, but in the last couple months I’ve been used to sleeping around 3AM or even later.
Every night before bed, I take a walk. As I walk down the country road, I start thinking to myself. It reminds me of the walks I used to take back home. But here, there are no streetlights, only the light of the moon. There is nothing around, and it is too dark to make out anything in the distance but the rolling hills. It’s quiet, and I realize that I am alone.
For a moment, I try to place myself. Try to tell myself that I am walking down a country road outside a farm in the south of France. That I am Haseeb Qureshi, that I was born in Texas and that I am on a journey to find myself. But none of that sticks. It rolls off my mind, like water. All I can do is wonder. Wonder what it’s like to grow up on a farm. Wonder if this would all be ordinary and unspectacular to me if I had grown up in the country. Wonder if the moon always shines like that, or if I just noticed it especially tonight – it’s really the light of the sun, just reflecting off the moon. The moon doesn’t have its own light really, that’s just my mythologizing mind. Wonder if I could jump that fence into the neighboring farm’s field. They say she’s never around anyway. Wonder if the book I write is going to be worth anything. Wonder how people will remember me when I die.
Wonder why I am so desperate to mean something.
And then I think: it’s late, I should head home. Because breakfast is at 8, and I suck at waking up in the mornings.