Grasping invisible grocery bags, I listen carefully to the lady at left. There are chuckles as she finishes speaking, then hands over a card and leaves me standing all alone. I take a breath and glance down to check the words. You’re at a party when a cute girl comes over and pukes on you. How do you respond? I look back to the audience. Three English chaps, an Indian gent, and more than a dozen Vietnamese, all eying me expectantly.
These groups drag me forward, often kicking and screaming. Dean taught me the importance of setting harsh penalties. I haven’t missed a goal since. This morning, for example, there was no way I would have gotten up two hours early if not for that deadline looming, that penalty threatening. I got up, washed the sleep out of my eyes, and did the work. I couldn’t afford not to.
I awake to a chorus of snores and a warm body pressed against me. I don’t know any of these people. It’s still dark and the bus has stopped. I guess we’ve reached the border already. That puts Hanoi twelve hours behind, Vientiane a dozen in front. I don’t mind the long journeys. Everything comes and everything goes. I’ll try grab forty more winks before the sun comes up.
He orders a second coffee as I catch an early slice of sunlight glistening off the temple across the way. I stopped randomly at this place, he sat randomly at the table next mine, we struck up a random conversation. Turns out we’ve got grapevine connections, mutual friends in New Orleans and Berlin. “That’s crazy,” I say. He takes another drag of his cigarette and shrugs. “Hey, that’s how the world works.”
Difficult conversations are easier side-by-side, when you don’t have to look the other person in the eye, not all the time. Better say the tough stuff that way than not at all. She asks if I still love her. I tell her I’m trying not to. Because still loving her makes me even more of an asshole. How can I love her yet walk away so easily? My best answer is that I’m weird. I’m fucked up, man. And I thought I was at peace with that, until she began to cry.
Strangers sneak peeks like I’m a sex tourist. Broad daylight and this girl ten years my junior, dressed for a club and trying to link arms. I brush her off with the reminder that she’s not my girlfriend. This is business, let me clear my conscience and get the fuck out of here. I buy her three books: Kaufman, Canfield, Kiyosaki. “Promise me you’ll read them.” She does but she won’t. Then I say goodbye, knowing full well that I’ll never see her again.
There’s a middle-aged man playing a thoughtful tune on a saw u as I emerge from Hua Lamphong. Ten steps beyond and the sound pulls me back. I sit on a step across the way and take a moment, thinking about the letter I received this morning. Such words will make you question everything. Is this how I should be living my life? I wait for reasonable doubts to arise, but time finds none. Satisfied, I get up, drop a tip, and continue on like the letter said.
Bangkok looks a lot different from the river, more authentic somehow. We wind our way down towards the Grand Palace, glimpsing other fantastic rooftops along the way, all lit up for the night. It’s been their first full day in town. We did a mall tour earlier, now on our way for dinner nobody knows where. It will all turn out just fine.
My 9.5 hour bus ride to Chiang Mai unfolds like this: First hour answering emails while the hotspot through my phone is still catching a signal; a glorious three hour nap; free meal at a rest stop as part of my ticket; 2.5 hours of hardcore video editing; half an hour answering emails I saved to tackle offline; half an hour listening to an interview with Cliff Ravenscraft; and finally the home stretch listening to jazz and breathing grateful breaths at a red sunset.
It’s going pretty good with the family in town. I won’t write much about it here because, well, they’d rather I didn’t. And I get that. I don’t care all that much abut my own privacy, but the privacy of others isn’t mine to play with. It’s going good though. This evening we strolled through quiet streets and ate a cheap feast at the Blue Diamond. Tomorrow I’ll drive them up to Doi Suthep. Later we might drop by an elephant park.
I love when people tell me they’ve forgotten my name. As opposed to pretending they remember when they don’t. That’s not fooling anyone. And it’s so easy to ask. It doesn’t have to be at all embarrassing for either party. “I’m sorry, I’m totally blanking on your name. What was it again?” Not picking on you; I write this mainly as a reminder to myself. I still don’t ask sometimes, like this morning, trying to play it cool, not fooling anyone.
People are more likely to act shitty when nobody calls them on it. Sometimes they simply don’t know any better until someone speaks up and corrects them. Other times they’re just bad apples taking advantage of the fact that most of us shy away from confrontation. We need to stop doing that. It’s that appalling silence Dr. King talked about, a problem well within our circle of influence. There are wolves, there are sheep, and there are sheepdogs. Which will you be?
As he comes up the stairs with my order in hand, I quickly flip a page I’m not finished reading, a page with a bolded title of Physicality and Sex. I don’t want him to see it. But why? What am I afraid of? That he’ll think I’m some kind of sex pest? That he’ll label me a loser because I’m reading a book about dating and attraction? So what if he does?
I badly want to build a profitable, value-adding software business. What’s stopping me from doing that? I believe I have the confidence and the know-how, but I’m lacking the time and focus. It’s too easy for me to get scattered. This blog can be a diversion in itself. Writing posts, replying to emails, processing comments. I love it, but I’m conscious of the opportunity cost. I’ve been thinking that the smart play may be to push pause on it all for six months.
I watch the van drive away, wondering what the appropriate amount of time is for a boy to stand there, looking lost. Part of me wishes for some sadness, but it doesn’t come. Instead I feel just a hint of guilt, quickly dismissed with the silent reminder that I’m not broken, just different. A belly breath shifts my shoulders and I’m on to the next thing, regaining control, reminder morphing into a mantra.
In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?