Tag Archives: My own weird flavor of happiness

The Gift of Squid

This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader.

Overview: Whenever I meet people for the first time in a new place, they assume I’m “on holiday.” Sometimes I have a hard time explaining that I’m not on holiday—that I live life on the road, and to do that I have to always be working. I’ve gotten a variety of reactions to this disclosure, but none quite like this…

Last night I was writing on my laptop, sitting cross legged on the floor of one of the wooden bungalows atop top of a cliff on an island somewhere in Thailand. I’ve been writing a novel and was deep in thought, when all of a sudden a little boy walked over and set a plate of squid on my table. I tried to tell him I didn’t order it, but he just smiled and ran away.

I looked around, confused. To my right I saw a table of heads looking at me from a across the deck. A shadowy hand waved. Then a woman got up and came over to me, I assumed to reclaim her misappropriated order, but then she explained it was for me.

“He want to give to you,” she happily articulated with carefully calculated English.

“He ask his mother: ‘why she so quiet?’ And his mother say: ‘because she working.’ And he said ‘ohh.’”

She made a forlorn face to signal the little boy’s contemplation about the matter.

“Then he say: ‘Can I take squid for her?’ and his mother said ‘yeaaaas, go.’ So he came to give squid to you.”

My jaded little heart just about exploded. I laughed and awww’d and thanked her. She motioned to the boy to come back over, and he came shyly with his father who said something to him in Thai. The little boy stuck out his right hand and looked at me, hopefully. I shook it heartily and said “kap kom khap,” thanking him in my best attempt at Thai.

He looked elated and bowed deeply, thanking me (for accepting the squid?) with his hands pressed together. He turned to run away again, overwhelmed, but his father spun him back around and readied his tablet cam. I posed for the picture, draping one arm around the little boy’s shoulders and making a peace sign with my other hand. (In Asia, there is no shame associated with the peace sign, unlike in US where it has become a sort of pasé hippies-only gesture.)

The three thanked me and went back to their sunset dinner, leaving me to my work.

I’ve never even really liked squid, but I ate that whole damn plate, except for the heads, which I discretely gave to the resident kitten who has taken a ferocious liking to me as well.

When I was done writing for the night, I went over to the family dinner table where the owner of this glorious place was also seated, and they all beamed at me. I thanked them again and asked the women to translate for the little boy that he made my happy night working even more happy. He smiled and hid in his father’s sleeve. I bowed to the table with my hands pressed together and told them all goodnight.

What a perfect gesture of childlike innocence and compassion, to attempt to improve my, what to him must appear to be a very odd and solitary way of life, with the gift of squid.

Of course I am quite happy here in my literary paradise, where I can explore nature and focus on my art undisturbed, and at the same time remain connected to the ones I love around the world via a pretty solid internet connection. How heartbreakingly funny that being quiet and working, the very things I have traveled so far to do, seem like the pits to a 10-year-old Thai boy used to seeing tourists in a temporary state of elation and excitement-seeking.

I considered that he may have had a point. I was already wearing my little black dress, so I put my computer away and walked down the hill with my Thai bartender friend to the beach bar where a band that covers Bob Marley and various other songs with beachy vibes plays every weekend, and watched the crazy French tourists dance until they were covered in sweat and falling over. It was arguably a better use of a Saturday night in paradise than sitting by myself and writing. Maybe if it weren’t for that plate of squid, I would have just gone to bed.

Thank you, little boy. I will never forget you.

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A Tourist In A Dream

This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader. 

For the first time in six months of traveling around the world, I’m not sure I should be leaving the place where I am. There’s usually some gentle force in the environment pushing or pulling me to my next destination, outweighing the static force that holds me still. But here I am, leaving the Netherlands tomorrow, and all I want is to do is stay.

I arrived at the decision to travel here in a seemingly random manner. But there’s actually a methodology to my plan that goes back to the most stable activity I engaged in in New York: going to my favorite bar in Brooklyn on Tuesday nights. I never went to bed at the same time, woke up at the same time, or went to any place in the city with any kind of routine—except for the Larry Lawrence. That’s where I met Tom Smith, chatting across a tea light and drinking away the burden of knowing too much.

We barely got to know each other before I was at his going away party. He was moving to Austria to work for a company that figures out how to keep us all from annihilating ourselves with nuclear weapons. I went to his going away party at our old wagon wheel bar and ate one of his Star Wars cupcakes. We messaged each other intermittently over the years, and then all of a sudden I was being propelled from Berlin to Amsterdam and I messaged him to see if he was still in Vienna. “Come to Amsterdam, I have a place to stay in The Hague.” And so I did.

When I saw him, he was greyer than I remembered, but it may have been a reflection of his suit. His eyes drooped with sleeplessness and pure exhaustion. He told me his work had been killing him, and I assured him I was a low-maintenance guest as we traversed the wavy Dutch cobblestone paths through the city center. We ascended the two elevators to reach his penthouse apartment in the fourth-tallest building in the city. He apologized for the place being a mess, as he hadn’t had time to unpack since he’d moved in. There were boxes, papers, tools scattered over every available surface, from kitchen counter to coffee table. I told him I’d help him get settled.

We went to dinner in China Town that evening and regained some semblance of our past selves. We talked about the guys in our lives, and gossiped a bit about our mutual friends back at the Larry Lawrence. I told him I was digging the lifestyle in Amsterdam, and he told me I should go to a place called “Kramers” that was a coffee shop on one side and a bar on the other.

The following day, I walked all around town and ended my trip at Kramers. I tried to buy weed but they wouldn’t let me because I didn’t have a Dutch ID. New law as of a few months ago says they can’t sell to foreigners. I looked around the smoke-filled bar at all the grungy hippies and middle aged men, wondering which of them would be the one to offer their spliff to me. I sat drinking a Leffe at the bar, returning emails from a mid-day New York City on my smartphone when I caught a burst of blonde hair out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to glance at him, and he looked at me and smiled a smirkish, cocky smile. I turned my head back to my phone before I smirked back.

A minute later, an arm reached past me on the left and grabbed a jar off the table filled with dried green leaves.

“Hey what is that?” I asked the arm, following it up to glimpse the face framed by two asymmetrical swathes of blonde.

“You don’t know?” he asked, piqued by my naivete. I shook my head. “It’s like an herb. You mix it with weed instead of tobacco,”  He started to walk away and then turned back to me. “You can come try it if you want.”

And that was how it started: the most insane fling of my life. Inside the little glass room meant for smoking cigarettes, which we occupied against its purpose to smoke this novel concoction, Nicholaas and I blazed and he asked me how old I was.

“How old do you think I am?” I asked.

“23,” he replied.

“I’m 27. How old are you?”

“23.”

“Wishful thinking.”

“What?”

“Nothing.” I smiled smugly and he stared at me intently with his wild blue eyes.

His English was good but not perfect, but still he spoke it effortlessly. I didn’t plan what would happen at that point, I simply opened myself to the possibility of it by conducting myself as someone who had made up her mind that it wasn’t a good idea. He was too young, too cocky, and he ran out of Kramers to meet a friend at the train station and left me standing there holding the burning spliff. Flaky.

Three days later, we were fucking on LSD on an island North of Amsterdam while everyone back home was eating Thanksgiving dinner.

I have been living the dream here, existing in domestic bliss with an awesome gay man and having some of the best sex of my life with a 23-year-old Dutch god; managing my publication online and organizing the apartment while Tom does his part to save the world. Tonight when I was packing, he told me I was like Mary Poppins for him, and that this was the first time he wasn’t lonely since he’d moved here. His eyes welled up, and I realized that he looked vibrant and rested and healthy, a different person from when I arrived. And I’m packing, and packing, and I can’t bring myself to finish packing. But I guess I should go and preserve this memory forever, carrying it with me as I traverse the other side of the world as a new standard for what life can be if I follow my impulses.