Thursday, October 9, 2008

You wanted to see how good it feels to leave

I stood by the window looking out on the landing field. Our airplane, a large jumbo jet with a china airlines logo inscribed on it, was taxiing into the gate. It would still be 40 minutes til we would board. About a half mile away another plane was prepping for its flight. Luggage was being shuttled in. A large truck sat next to it pumping in fuel. I wondered who would be on that flight, where they would be going. I turned around and looked at my fellow passengers. It was a ragtag assortment. Mainly asians, but a few foreigners who were trekking through the jungles and tourist traps of southeast asia. I sat down on the stiff plastic chairs that lined the waiting area. The chairs were blue. They were shaped like orange peels and were not comfortable. I looked at my hands and traced the lines that were in them.

The first time I was in this airport, waiting for this airplane, I was swamped with thought. Now there wasn't a thought in my head. My mind was preoccuppied with the nervousness of travel, and still scattered from things between myself and Amy. Amy was my college girlfriend.We had first met at a party. We were attending CCA, an art school in north Oakland at the time. It was an embarassing social gathering of pimple faced rejects, berets, and pretensions. I thought she was cute, if a little plump and invited her to see "The Maltese Falcon," which was playing up on Shattuck.

Our relationship was a casual friendship at first and we spent much of our time discussing art; the lines of De Stilj, the vacuity of surrealism, the explosion of Dada. We painted together and our first art shows followed. Our relationship became more serious as are time together increased. With the passing days we had more and more in common. We planned a trip to Thailand together. We would take the time off of our schooling in order to focus on our creative enterprises along with traveling. I'd never been out of the states, she'd never been out of california.

Our plans fell apart when I learned she'd been cheating on me consistently for several months. She'd started hooking up with a TA in the film department. He thought he was her boyfriend as well. He liked Goddard, she liked sleeping around and lying. Our falling out was uneventful. I wanted there to be blood, smashed heads, crucifixitions. It was a bit of stamping about, huffing and puffing, and taking back a few of the items I'd given her. I cancelled her plane ticket to Thailand.

I started to spend time with my friends again drinking and complaining for a couple months. I finished a few paintings, and started talking to Amy again. I felt we were young, that people made mistakes, that I'd screwed people over before yet still wanted them in my life. She was still leading the TA around an a short leash and so our relationship was one of limbo. I was leaving for thailand, she was hedging her bets. Before I left I told her that if she was single during the time that I was in thailand and available when I came back I would consider getting into a serious relationship with her again.

I took up an apartment in eastern Bangkok and rarely left the city. I enjoyed the grittiness of the capital, the crowded streets, the dangling wires from the broken telephone poles, the constant construction that was unguarded. It was a stark contrast to the safety of college, of school, of art professors, and lectures. I wandered the city for hours, following the klongs, the sewage filled canals. I would try to count the number of houses on the canals, the number of tuk tuks on a busy street. I rented a motorbike for a few days then decided that it was far too dangerous, and I simply didn't have the courage to risk my life in the haphazard traffic.

I met Molly Tolliver the same week that I had my parting phone call with Amy.

Amy called me in the middle of the day. I knew it was her from the unusual string of numbers that appeared on my phone.

"Hey," I answered.

"Hey, do you have some time," she asked me. Her voice was slightly shaky.

"Sure, I'm just sitting at home playing video games," I responded. I didn't know what to expect from this conversation. We'd been in decent communication, a few emails, some letters, a phone call or two. I didn't trust her anymore, and she'd done nothing to attempt to earn my trust. We seemed to be going through the motions. The distance between us had grown after she exposed her long going affair. We had tried to patch things together, but she seemed to be riding the fence. She still talked to the TA and I didn't doubt that they were sleeping together. Part of my desire to go to Thailand was to get away from her. It seemed like I couldn't quit her, it made me feel weak.

"I don't know how to say this...," her voice trailed off.

I sighed and rolled my eyes. "Go ahead."

"I'm moving out of my apartment."

"So what's the big deal about that? You've been talking about how you've disliked your roommate for several months now."

"Well I already gave her notice, and I don't have a place to go yet."

"Ah," I said with conclusion. She was going to move in with the TA. She had few friends and cared more for her immediate comfort than our relationship.

"I'm moving in with Rich."

"That makes sense," I said with comfort.


"Yeah, you have no friends because you've spent the last year sleeping around rather than focusing on one relationship and making friends. Now you have nothing to fall back on but Rich, who is far more lenient with you than I. You've been hedging your bets for a long time now. Biding your time til one of us quit the game and then you'd stick with the other."

"Are you mad?"

"Of course I'm mad. You're not holding up your end of the relationship at all. We said that we'd be single until I came back and then we'd try to start things over... remember?"

"But I don't know what you're doing over there," she pleaded.

"I've told you before that I don't have a girlfriend. I've done nothing over here. I wander the city, I read, I drink occasionally, its g-rated."

"Our agreement makes me feel restricted. I don't like you telling me what to do," her whimpers had turned to anger.

"It was an agreement. It was something that you wanted as well."

"You're so far away... I need something now."

"I'm not there. There's nothing I can do about that. I can try to stay close to you in other ways, but part of why you're not here now is because you cheated on me, on the relationship. I don't want to be in someone's life who is going to back out of every agreement, who won't stick it out."

"But its hard, I'm having a hard time right now, I'm lonely."

"What can I do about that? I can write you, I can call you, I can email, what do you want?" My tone had turned towards vexation. At some point my feelings had turned. Maybe it was when I boarded the plane to Tai Pei, maybe it was during the flight from China to Thailand. Maybe it was when I was wondering in the Pat Pong district, eating lunch at the MBK food court, watching a fight at Lumpinee stadium. It was quite possible that they'd turned that day during that phone call. At some point my feelings for her had turned, they'd become stale. I no longer felt attached to her. It was my sense of commitment that had kept us together. My desire to see things through. That will buttressed my emotionally confusing and unwanted entanglements. She was my first long term girlfriend, I'd been happy I'd cared. I was no longer happy with her, I no longer cared.

"I don't know, I don't know what you can do, I don't know what to do...," she started to sob into the phone.

I held the phone away from my ear for a moment. I wondered if she was faking her tears.

"You never know what to do, so you do what's easiest. You don't break off a relationship even if it comes into conflict with another because it would be too hard. You don't bring the truth to light because its too hard. You can't be alone because its too hard. What was it you said once? 'If I was in a relationship with myself I would end it.'"


"This is your fault, this is your responsibility. You've made choices. You chose to cheat on me. You chose not to try to gain my trust. You chose to hedge your bets. That said I made my own choices. I chose to leave, I chose to try to patch things up, I'm not saying that I'm clear of all the wrong but you've made choices."

Again there was silence on the other end of the phone. I was getting tired of the conversation. It had an emotionally exhaustive quality to it. We sat in silence.

"Its my fault," she said with no tone.

"Is that a question or a statement. I believe its the latter." I nodded my head and looked at the wall. I was sitting on the edge of my bed. The video game before me looked alluring. Outside of the window came the sounds of Bangkok's constant construction. I'd like to remember that last bit being the way the conversation ended. Instead there was more silence, more wasted time.

"I've got to go, the supermarket is closing soon and I need to pick up things," I finally said.

"Isn't it noon there."

"The supermarket closes early today, some sort of election thing," I replied. I hung up the phone and sighed. I laid down on my bed feeling relieved. It was as if I had just bathed after descending into a New York City sewer or a Bangkok Khlong. I sat back up and started playing my video game again.

Amy's phone call filled me with a real sense of ennui. The drama of our relationship was over and what would fill my life now, I questioned myself. After playing several more hours of video games I went out.

I walked south out of my apartment complex to On Nut square. The chang beer area was its usual evening quiet. In a few hours the dancers would get on stage as a singer would croon out the latest thai pop hits. There were two singers, one a thirty something rotund man and a petite thirty something thai woman. The man would dress down, usually in jeans and a polo, while the woman would wear a cheap sequin dress. The dancers would wear skimpy outfits which was quite amusing considering the variety of their body shapes. Their was a skinny dance, a thick dancer, a medium dancer, and a lady boy. When I'd shuffle by the stage the lady boy would cat call me. After a week I quit blushing.

The beer area also served as an open air market with usual wares. There was a booth for food; som tum, som blah, and tod blah. Several cheap clothing stalls were set up. They had sandals, underwear, thin shirts, and shorts. Most of the clothing was for women. Of the 5 or so clothing stalls only one was for men. There was a little stall that sold pirated dvds and cds. One could purchase the latest thai blockbuster or foreign import.

I moved through the market and to On Nut square proper. The front of the square was a tiled area that served beer. The square itself was a covered building with air conditioning. Inside were more clothing stores, again mainly women's clothing. I sat outside and ordered some beer. I liked the atmosphere outside in front of the building. There was a small stage on which a dj performed. The music wasn't too loud. I could still hear the chatter of the staff as they lounged around. The staff of the beer area was uniformed in tiger and chang beer outfits. The tiger outfits were flattering blue dresses that came to mid thigh on the young thai women who wore them. The chang beer uniforms were tight small shirts that clung to the nymph like frames of the other workers. I sat in silence as I drank my beer and looked at a mixed couple a few tables away. The girl was dark, with a flat nose, she looked slightly lao and I figured she was from Isaan a poor province to the northeast. The man was blonde haired and tall. He had a slight gut from drinking and spoke to her in an Australian accented English.

I drank another small jug of beer and felt a mild buzz. The beer was a cheap lager and was a session beer. A fair amount could be drunk before one was drunk. I got tired of the loneliness of being by myself and got on the BTS. The BTS, skytrain, is the above ground railway system that runs through Bangkok. The fare is charged by distance but is kept pretty affordable. The On Nut stop was at the end of the line. I got on the train and rode to Asoke. Asoke is in the downtown financial center of the sukumwit. The sukumwit is a long northwest-southeast running road that houses most of the foreign financial businesses. Asoke connects with the underground MRT, the other extensive public transit system, and also is surrounded by large malls.

I got off of Asoke and looked around. I decided to have some more beer and went towards soi cowboii. The small side street off of the sukumwit is well known for its go go bars. The go go bars are small brothels but have more of a strip club feel to them. I went into one on the left hand side of the street and was guided by the mamasan to a seat by the bar. The club was small. Running along three of the walls were booths, in front of them were small tables. The center of the club had a small stage on which a dozen young thai women danced. They slowly moved about to the thai pop that was played on the house stereo. Dressed in skimpy white bikini's I wondered if they were cold. I tried not to look at them in the eye, and when the mamasan came over I ordered a beer. I drank the beer and looked the women's legs as they danced around. Most of them were in cheap converse style flats that offset their more luxiourous looking outfits. I wasn't quite sure what I was doing here. I thought about indulging in a woman but decided against it. I stared at their legs for another drink and then got up from my chair and went out. The street was a little busier having hit 11 o'clock. A small elephant the size of a volkswagon bug walked on the street led by a young thai man. I moved around the beast and started walking down the sukumwit. The sukumwit had quite a few falang bars, mainly english style pubs. I ducked into the first one I saw. That's where I met Molly.

The pub was two stories. The pub was dark. Irish pubs always seemed dark, anywhere in the world, due to the Irish's reluctance to show their facial blemishes in full light, or even half light. Along with the darkness of the bar was a full bar, a red haired and matching nosed Irish ex-pat singing out pop songs and a handful of bored looking white people. The staff was mainly Thai, with a falang manager.

Molly was sitting by herself at the bar. She was dressed in faded blue jeans, a low cut lime green shirt that was a size too big for her wide shouldered frame and wore a black beret. She was leafing through a book. When I see a girl I'm attracted to I give myself 3 seconds to talk to her. After the initial contact its too late, I'll either seem too creepy, too apt to linger, or I'll just seem like another weak willed average fucking chump. I went and sat next to her at the bar.

"Hey can I ask you something," I began.

She looked at me and stuck her finger in her book. I knew she would give me some time.

"It will just be a minute. I was curious as to your advice about something."

"Yeah, sure," she replied with a slight irish accent. The accent made me aroused. Every american loves accents from europe, its a perversity dealing with how we were initially colonized by them.

"So, I've been looking for a little part time income while I've been out here and have gotten a few odd jobs as an extra in movies. My availability and congeniality have led me to get quite a few call backs. Next week there is a Bruce Willis movie being shot. The director wants me to do a spot as an army lieutenant. There's a speaking role in it which bumps up my salary big time. I'm in a dilemma not because I'm afraid of getting some sort of tropical disease (which is almost a certainty being out in the jungle for so long) but because a good friend of mine is having a muay thai bout. My friend and I came out here at the same time and he's having his first bout out here. I'm a bit worried for him. Its far from home so I'm afraid that if he gets his brain smashed open by some young thai punk no one will be able to help him. They'll take his limp body, slide it onto a thin stretcher, carry him to the curb and turn the stretcher over. What do you think? Do I go with something that would really jump start my career or do I hang with my friend?"

She looked out into the distance for a second then returned her gaze to my face. She had light blue eyes. "Do you really think your friend is going to get hurt? I've seen some muay thai fights and those guys don't seem to get too banged up."

"Yeah," I say with hesitation. "I just don't know. I don't know about his abilities or more importantly his opponent's abilities." I shake my head feigning confusion mixed with sadness.

"Well what do you think of the movie role? Do you want to become an actor?"

I nod my head vigorously. "I never thought that I'd want to act until I landed this shot. But I'm torn. Where does my duty lay? To my friend? Or to myself? What would you do?"

"You know I think that I would stay with the friend. Especially if he's been around for a while. If you haven't been friends with him for so long I'd go with the career. If you're close I would chose the relationship."

"Hmm. That makes sense. I'm getting all caught up in my drama... What are you reading?"

"Its e.e. cummings."

"Oh the poet?"

"Yeah. I recently got this book at the paragorn bookstore, you know over by siam central."

"I've been there, go on."

"I don't know I like him. A lot of his poems are sonnets, he talks about love and nature. He doesn't always make sense. He misspells words, and makes up all these compound words."

"What poem are you looking at now," I ask. I brush her hand away and open the book. With I rest my other hand on her shoulder as I begin to read the poem aloud.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

I finished reading the poem and set the book down. I looked at her right eye, then looked at her left eye, then my eyes moved to her lips.

"It was beautiful," I said.

We chatted, talking about where we were from, what it is exactly that we were doing out here in the city of fallen angels, and talked about music. Surprisingly we found that we had a lot in common. I took her back to my place after a few beers. We had sex. While I was on top of her I wondered what she was thinking about. I didn't ask her. I wondered if she was thinking about other people, then I wondered if Amy thought about the TA while I was boning her. In the morning Molly and I had sex again.

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