Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bugs, ants, geckos and other friends

Are tiny brown ants bad for laptops? My desk is teeming with them. They crawl along the iPod wire and they race around the edges of the laptop screen and they dart underneath the keys. I chase them, my fingers smack the keys. It spells nothing. They are a bit distracting but it’s nice to have some company. They don’t care if I wear a shirt.
My clothing is fully alive, nearly self-realized. The least odorous dries on the balcony rail. The others are downstairs with a pair of shorts, rubbing around inside a machine. This is their first machine ride in a month. I wonder if they are giggling. Are my t-shirts ticklish? Are my shorts stoic?

I’ve developed a certain bond with other creatures of the world. There are very silly geckos who dash for the ceiling or behind anything when you walk into a bathroom, or down a hall at night or, well, just about anywhere I guess. There’s a sort of humor when, standing up from a massage on the beach, I see my electrolyte beverage is now covered with ants, lots of them. When the waterbug makes his nightly appearance, it’s always a fresh new show, very fast and exciting for everyone. I don’t think to kill any of them. I’m heavily outnumbered.

There’s a guy from Calgary who doesn’t mind any of the insects or reptiles, but moths send him into hysterics. His girlfriend thinks it’s cute. She’s afraid of spiders.

Back to my friends the ants. They have overstayed their welcome. I may be about to make a big mistake, but it needs to be done. I’ve sprayed insect repellent on nearly everything else, why not the laptop? … Deet can stain some parts of a laptop. It now looks like I was frying bacon next to the touch pad. Otherwise, all is well. Unless, of course, you’re an ant who once decided it was a good idea to climb all over a laptop in Laos.

Border Pretzel

Get me to a border crossing, any border crossing is fine. Expired visa. Already too far for Malaysia. Is Vietnam easy to get to? Must I go through Cambodia? Will I backtrack? How much to fly? I say easy ten times to the woman. She sits next to the counter where I got my Thai SIM card. I trust them. I say easy again. She parrots, Easy? and declares my next destination, Laos. I’ve heard good things. How soon can I get out of Khao San hell? Tonight. I spend the day lost, wandering the streets of Bangkok. I get funny looks sometimes, but not many.

There is a certain enjoyment in folding myself into various positions on a bus. Once I’ve achieved one of these fancy yogic postures, I “sleep”. Sometimes I don’t even recline the seatbacks, just to see if I can do it. Overnight, there is nothing anyone wants to see. The driver barrels down on motorcycles and compact cars, they whisper close secrets fender to bumper over a dotted white line and no one is the least bit phased. So we sleep and don’t look.

A single border crossing can have many signs. Some say $30, others say $31, others say 8am others say 9am, others say Saturday and Sunday, others still say other things that make absolutely no sense at all. Sometimes there are conversations about it which make even less sense, if that’s possible. Each window wants something from my pocket. I want to leave two days late, my pocket. I would like to enter your country, my pocket. No, really, I’d like to come in today before 9am, my pocket. No, I don’t happen to have a 3x4 photo of myself, my pocket. I want to walk over there where the bus is, my pocket. I’m not sure why I’m giving you this dollar but you have a booth and a uniform and I don’t think it would be any cheaper at this point to turn around and go back, my pocket. They smile and explain that it’s three because today is a holiday. I don’t ask which one but I expect it’s the famous reach-in-your-pocket holiday. Quite enjoyable actually.

Philosophical questions stroll beside the pedestrian events of my day.

Whiling away the days on Koh Phangan, it’s easy to loose track of time. An hour can be a day. A day can be two or three. A moment can be a lifetime. I watch the tide go out and my day unfolds. I watch the tide come in and another cycle begins. On the other side of the world I hear good news, I hear bad news, I hear no news. Life goes easy and hard at the exact same moment and I contemplate humility. I smile because it makes more sense than anything else I’ve tried.

My pedestrian day. The attendant dispenses another 40 baht into the motorbike tank. A guide on a longtail boat smiles more than any person I’ve ever seen, he is a champion at poi but will never mention it to anyone – that was a different time. Iodine, alcohol, gauze, bandages, tape help to doctor a pretty girl’s toe torn open on a dance floor beach. A thousand lost pairs of sandals sunbathe in the morning; their owners will come to retrieve them and they will never be found. Another dejected thousand un-paired flip-flops and birkenstocks gawk at the couples, their own mate has staggered off for breakfast, for sex, for drink, for fun, for a ferry back to another place – the moon begins to wane. Life carries on.

Boxed up long pants and sweaters are sent on a three week journey home for the cost of twenty nights in a bungalow. Mysterious rashes were never the cause of ant work but instead too little water. Smelly t-shirts remind me of varsity letters earned years ago in high school. Mastery of contortionism with two seats on the top floor of an overnight bus gets interrupted by a night market pit stop, time enough for a piss, mystery food, a smoke and another conversation. The ride ends. Find shelter for the night in Bangkok. I could strap the bag to my back, but there’s pavement and sidewalks and ramps and it is hot and I am hot and I use the wheels and I feel smart because I’m lazy. I still don’t have dredlocks. I can shave without a mirror.