He hadn’t meant to be gone so long.
Originally it was just supposed to have been a few months of cultural exchange. Him, the unwashed, bearded musician with a metal slide for a guitar in his pocket. Them, them impeccably groomed and dressed “Other” that lived across the sea.
He’d teach them about the blues rock and roll, and they’d teach him how to politely bow away the fact that they didn’t have any idea what he was talking about.
But, like all travelers in beautiful places, he got lost somewhere along the way and forgot about home. It must’ve been the barefoot walks on the beach just down from his apartment that made him go native, because it sure as hell wasn’t the food.
The food, however, was what brought him back.
He was video chatting when a friend back in Memphis one day when it happened. The friend was in the middle of lunch. Eating something that looked so familiar, but that he couldn’t quiet place.
He asked what it was.
Barbecue, the friend replied.
There was a sharp pain of memory in his gut. Smokey, sweet, spicy, delicious pain.
He booked the flight home later that day.
That one’s for Al, who’s spent the better part of the last few years bouncing about Asian teaching English, taking pictures and raking muck for local newspapers. Every once and a while he’ll video chat with us. We make sure we’re torturing him with all the great food he can’t get over there every time he does.