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Title: An Apostate: Nawin of Thais
Author: Sills, Steven (Steven David Justin)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Apostate: Nawin of Thais" ***

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Copyright (C) 2008 by Steven Sills.



An Apostate: Nawin of Thais

By Steven Sills


1

He assumed that in being exhausted from sporadic fits of sleep
and wakeful spans of dull, hypnagogic thoughts matching the
inertia of his confinement he would finally become ensconced
there, in this train jostling him around, and at last fall
asleep. This was his hope; but in the meantime there was a
languid battle with insomnia and inordinate time that he, from
his "exalted tomb," disdainfully sullied.  A god watching the
cookie wrappers that he was emptying into his mouth from the
upper coffin glided downward like the leaves of a deciduous
tree; he was remembering happier times and in this confined
space it was taking him to the edge of madness. It seemed to him
that society lied about it all: motherhood as the continuation
of playing with dolls, manhood epitomized by competition and
money, and old age the enjoyment of spending time reliving the
incidents of the past. Children were not nice neat dolls to
which one claimed ownership, manhood had to be more than having
a heart attack from the stress of making a living and leaving
all to one's widow, and old age, if it came, had to be besieged
with problems of the present, which would be less painful than
recalling happy times that fleeted by and had no chance of being
resumed once again. This moving world that he was in was like
the 67,000 mile an hour projectile of the Earth, and he sullied
it (definitely the floor of the Pullman car, but perhaps the
world as a whole) with the crumbs of his fruit pastries. He just
lay there with the hours like a corpse in a morgue, eating and
filling dead space with his crumbs. Sometimes, to occupy
himself, he would continue the same game that he had pursued
three hours earlier before the seat-and-window thief left his
friends and crossed over, annexing his space and engendering his
expulsion. At that time, when he had been alone looking out of
the window at the tussling shadows of trees and their
counterparts, the light, on the rich verdant fields and on the
rough and uneven wooden strips of the rotting platforms of the
train stations of all these small towns, he had listened to
sounds. Then a game of exhilaration instead of a game of the
mundane, it had been an inane guesses that the particular car he
was in would hit those coupled metallic bumps of the rails while
on this incessant trip to Nongkhai, moving faster than both the
train and the Earth combined, even if the movement was a
desultory caprice with all this continual shifting of itself in
present and past tenses as well as its futuristic daydreams, his
mind tried to slow this weltering; it invented its games of
distractions, its clutter.

Numb in numb thoughts, even though he was extremely cold in the
air conditioned car he did not notice it all that much with his
face warm and flushed by thought, which kept trying to suck him
in and flatten him in its black hole of memory--memory as of her
falling from a balcony; a woman's form, white and light--to him
as beautiful as an angel--that seemed speciously able to rapture
into a billowing cloud overhead. He knew that it was not merely
crumbs that he was trying to sweep from this form but guilt, for
numb as he was he had that much awareness lying there with head
propped on a pillow. The crumbs on the blanket and the flimsy
mat were merely a nominal discomfort to him, so it was not
imperative to sweep away or shake off their substance; and yet
to sense something else also so incongruous falling through
space and time seemed reassuringly cognate. With the memory of
that light, white American, Kimberly Debecrois--or something
French--pulling away from his grasp of her hands disconcertedly,
half blinded in tears but intentionally jumping, falling all
those fourteen stories, and crashing through that plastic and
metal canopy over the swimming pool at Assumption University, he
needed his reassurance. To witness the sporadic dry showers of
crumbs falling onto the recently mopped but still noisome floor
seemed cathartic. These actions were undeniably childish, but
given the fact that the train personnel had mandated the
passengers, as naughty children, onto upper and lower sleepers
regardless of their will as paying customers, a marginal degree
of contempt seemed judiciously appropriate. To eat and to sully
was the quest of a man when caught on moving earth. He, Nawin
Biadklang, ate slowly and pensively, making the condensation of
crumbs and its showers less frequent than they would have been
otherwise, for to consume anything was somewhat nauseating with
the odor of toilets linking between cars permeating all and
making all a drought.

And yet there was an even more salient stench. What he believed
prior to sleep to be the fetid tennis shoes of this "sloven
individual" of the lower bunk, this thief of window and seats
(presumably Thai like himself although as sloven as he was, he
thought, he might be Laotian), was merely the effluvium of his
own damp socks hanging in a tiny net of one of the inner walls
of what he labeled in his mind as his "tomb." Hanging there,
these two strips of a cotton contained bits of his flayed soles
from the friction of his life's stumbled movements and were now
the bacteria's banquet; but, smelling their rot, he did not know
that he and nature's interaction with him were the source. The
smell often sent him on a molecular movement bumping and
bouncing off the stored rubbish of his mind, so it was not
entirely disagreeable. In many ways it besot him like orphic
sound to a musician, or the tenebrisms of artists (Carvaggios
like himself); but nonetheless he continued to project blame at
the bearded anathema beneath him, and he still glanced down
periodically at the floor hoping to find the putative agents of
the odor, evidence to bolster his bilious conclusions, being in
full denial of himself. "It's those shoes," he thought,
imagining that the sloven beneath him, this seat-and-window
thief, had kicked them opaquely under the seats that were now
this bottom bunk, for imagining and knowing were the fusion of
random bits of the fanciful, the real, and the probable in this
overall perspective of what is true, and they were most often
blatantly wrong. He knew this too.

He sighed unnoticeably. He compressed his lips firmly and tried
to stifle the thought of slapping the head of the fetid one with
his magazine, "Revealing Babes," which lay at his side. The
title was in English but the nude women and what little writing
there was within it were unequivocally Thai.

Once so titillating, a surfeit of the same fulsome images now
made them numbly and insensibly bland like a familiar wife:
illusory in intimacy and bewitchingly intimate in the illusion,
the photographs in the magazine and the yearning engendered by
them, like sex itself, were as pungent to his senses as his
dirty socks; but only the molecules disgorging from those socks
had consistency and longevity in their impact upon him. They
mildly aggravated and stimulated without having the effect of
flattening in frenzy--not that the subject of the ephemeral and
unreal aspects of such a frenzy would vex him, having been such
a glutton himself for silky, perfumed girls whose unique scent
(this hybrid of perfume and sweat ) seemed to riddle him
pleasantly like tiny beads of shrapnel. Yes, he told himself,
dirty socks were a more consistent, and thus a more veritable
stink. Even with the prior knowledge that engaging in sexual
activities would soon lead him into a vacuous afterward of
having to stay with such a woman, such an exhausted presence,
longer than the illusion warranted, and that experiencing such
an exhilarating penetration of shrapnel would soon reopen all
wounds of unfulfilled hopes for true intimacy, the hound was
still inexorably obsessed with defecation, and the soldier was
implacably enthralled with the excitement of being shot at by
his female subjects even when he knew it to be specious.

To him there was little merit in the magazine now, outside of
seeing it rolled up firmly and allowing the meretricious tool to
conjure plausible scenarios of itself being used as a weapon.
No, he thought, he did not seriously dislike this fetid sloven
beneath him. He did not know him. He had not spoken to him, and
by this time his dirty and hairy face with its certainty of
being the rightful proprietor of the area of the window below--
an area obtained with the aid of officers on board the train--
was experiencing the ablution of fading memory. Still, the
repellent fetidity had a familiar, fraternal theme that reminded
him of his belittled, abused, and forlorn youth. The familiarity
of a stink that he equated to his brothers was like going back
in time, going home, and being in an antediluvian state within
Jatupon (his former name and being) who was a vestige to him now
as his fingernails were the vestige to claws. It was a time of
being included in a group of home boys that he was excluded from
and of feeling the pangs of loneliness that only prisoners of an
institution felt.

The stranger was surely amusingly human, a caricature as all
were, and hardly worthy of serious fixation. Engagement with him
would be jocular levity and merely that. He tried shutting the
curtain that slid around his "exalted tomb" but for an obvious
reason that eluded him it only increased the odor. Deciding to
relax there, and to be at one with the odor that no reticent
grievance locked within his mind could rectify, it became him
amusingly the way the peculiar smell of defecation would at last
be agreeable to the noses of hounds. For a moment his brain was
free enough of the images of Kimberly falling and his wife
saying, "You should have jumped and not her," but restraining
herself enough to bludgeon his arm repeatedly with a frying pan
instead of the original target of his face, that he was able to
isolate the culprits of the odor: those socks. Suddenly
rebounding from his half hour of petulance in his typical good
nature, Nawin Biadklang chuckled quietly at his irascible hubris
and abjured this moodiness that was part of the curse of his
insomnia. The silent giddiness soon wore off with the itchiness
of the skin of his broken arm under the cast. All his firing
neurons once again became a cluster of pensive rumination.

Had all these years of being a celebrated artist of dejected
Patpong whores gone to his head to the point where he could not
remember having been as impecunious as a mendicant and poorer
than the fecundity of dirt? And for the hound that he was who
sniffed every one of his models, his Patpong whores, preceding
and following his marriage to Noppawan, why, he asked himself
should he object to odors? Dogs sniffed, claimed territory by
the spills of their urine, and growled at each other, but which
of them actually killed one of its kind? Which of them concocted
plans that brought on the suicidal wishes of another, a more
indirect and sophisticated form of murder, and by its
disingenuousness a worse form. In a visceral objurgation, for
one whose brain was being aspersed by sleep and yet could not
sleep as if it were being drugged and dragged through an exit
and then up to a second door that sleep could not open, he
repudiated his earlier thought lackadaisically. He was guilty of
nothing more than pursuing a human involvement. She had been
part of his personal life, disturbing the whole, but an
imbroglio as indispensable as being able to take a shower for a
positive perspective of the day. No, he thought again, she
sullied him or he sullied himself with her. As a pig wallowed in
mud so did a man in a personal life. The physical aspect of
intimacy was rapturous and easy. A man and a woman in the
friction of bodies became one, but a one that was a different
entity altogether--a fire of physical ebullience and pleasure.
Had facile sex not existed, he would have sought intimacy solely
in feelings, a thorny stem to hold if there ever was one. And
had it not existed intimacy would not exist at all. There would
have merely been the chiseling of ideas onto hard marble brains.

He told himself that when a young woman broke free from a man's
hands, ran onto her balcony, and jumped off it, she was, in that
last moment, the ultimate sovereign of her fate no differently
than she had been in other aspects of her life. Kimberly might
have found the environment upsetting, felt depression at the
loss of a body departing from her and into Noppawan's hands,
with chemicals amuck in her body and brain, and jealousy ready
to fulminate, but she was as responsible for her last claim upon
herself as she was for the formation of her life-- "No," he
told himself, "this is not right either." An internecine
battle for a dominant perspective or a logical merger of the two
variant types of ideas fought within him. How could he have
saved her apart from a dismissal of his wife's ill conceived
plan to begin with? And yet how could he not be culpable? It was
an insoluble dilemma that frustrated his ability to live with
himself.

A being's finality, he argued, was reproduction and death; and
the factors that elongated or expedited this plan of nature
could not have been in his control unless he had used some force
on her, and that never happened despite what the police officers
first believed. If he were indirectly responsible for
manslaughter, his wife, Noppawan, was the indirect murderess.
Barren Noppawan, marrying him, this celebrated container of
lust, and having to justify his infidelities all these years in
the name of art, decided that she might as well utilize the
natural state of man for her own benefit rather than be forever
victimized by what was beyond her capability to change. It was
she who proposed that he paint Kimberly, her colleague and
friend from the university. He did this; and behaving like a
good boy, he feigned a professional detachment toward his study
so successfully that he began to believe it himself. On canvas,
distorting the French-American into an Asian half-breed and a
lady of the night, he brought to his model vague Asian features
and his notoriously whorish sense of dejection.

But Noppawan was as dissatisfied with this platonic aberration,
if not deviance, as she had been with all earlier affairs. It
was she who proposed this madness of him begetting a child.
Begotten by the father and conceived by the friend, in a valid
sense the child would be a production of all three and,
according to this plan of hers, hers to raise. All three would
be more or less active parents with Kimberly as a visiting one.
And of course, she would be married to the biological father who
made ten times what she did on a good month; his paternal role
would be that of the "provider" as was the role of all fathers
before him. Had they thought out a hundred ramifications to such
a scenario it would have been hard to envisage any favorable
outcome. But the maternal professor, wistful for that feel of a
baby in her arms, scooted the glasses down toward the tip of her
nose and espoused the most libertine ideas for a spouse. So
obdurately fixed on a mental conceptualization of some type of
truth her eyes scintillated and they, these sinners of the
heart, became mesmerized believers in the idea that being free
of the fetters of self restraint would be for the good of
Noppawan.

Tiring further, cognizance seemed as the jammed teethed gears
and wheels of a mechanical clock--it seemed so...as tired as he
was everything merely seemed. In his last conscious moment as he
faced the tidal wave that he hoped would claim him fully into
sleep--instead of those smaller waves whose prehensile
inundations formed such an ineffective grasp--he wondered if,
as a wave or waves, whether their undertow led to fathoms of
heretofore unknown reefs, whether sleep was formed of waves at
all, and whether, as a jammed clock, it jammed so that something
in the subconscious more worthy than a record of time or mere
sentient essences of the present could be measured or expressed.
Ideas shifted around in his head like loose tectonic plates.
They were a phantasmagoria in a sleep deprived mind. They had
little consistency apart from the inundations of wanderlust of a
nearly middle aged man on his inexplicable, cowardly journey to
Laos. Sentience had its limitations; so why sleep seemed like a
jammed clock for a few seconds, a wave for a few more, and then
an edge of a cliff, a precipice, that intersected with the
ethereal was as insoluble as why man in all this impermanence
could master his fears enough to go out and forge his destiny.

Numb in his tenebrous tomb, it seemed to him that time was a
man-made concept erroneously believed as fully real and tangible
because of all the clocks and calendars, made to measure
mortality, and things known to have already passed away. As the
religious measured the ethics of their actions by those of the
characters in their scripture, so was time (its tattered
relationships, its solitary and jejune rides in coffins on board
trains) a fiction to mark individual and collective
progress.

But then, he told himself, he was not traveling to Laos to
progress but to degenerate. It was a cynical assessment posed
from a lack of self awareness of what he was in fact doing -
that he was wanting to revert or abscond to a more callow and
ingenuous foundation inside himself: to plausibly sully his body
on the ground near an ancient stupa, prop his head against its
stone spiral, and stare out into clouds and distant space. If in
doing so he were to be perceived as another wealthy and indolent
foreigner (usually German or French but not always so) suffering
and despondent because of a katzenjammer from a previous night
of quaffing Laos Beer, so be it. What would it matter to him?
Perception was more fleeting than even the beings who were
perceiving. For the man who would lean against a stupa and
unresistingly watch the worms and fire ants, more electrically
charged and shocked clay no different from himself, crawl onto
his body, the gods and Buddhas would obsequiously hover around
in mid-air.

Sleep deprived, he was, of course, losing it. His stance on the
world, that concatenated state that gave him a sense of being
grounded, was now showing its disarray. The foundation that he
stood upon had been but miniscule shifting bits of plates, brain
recorded sensory input all along, and he was succumbing to the
vacuous, timeless illogic of dreams where the cohesive bits
broke off and synthesized into something less real than awakened
perceptions. Sleep was this remote alter-clock, this remote
function of the brain deemed as less real and less cognizant
than the other but that was in fact more cognizant within its
fiction. This thing that he called himself, liquidated or became
a gas that shot through a circuit causing him to fall into some
type of a quasi-sleep.

He who was named 'Jatupon' on his birth certificate, he whose
fetid brothers had called "Porn," --those brothers who in his
early years had often made him terrified to move by swinging,
striking, and brandishing their sticks; he who was never called
a profane name from the shaking taciturn angel who silently
recognized that he could not leave his wife for her, he whose
wife called him "You prick!" on overcoming the shock about what
had happened to her friend, was and was not in sleep.

His dream silence, which was even more asphyxiating than the
carbon exhaust fumes permeating the heavy traffic that moved in
slow increments down the street was a fog that was embedded in
all living things and all moved through it. An elderly woman was
walking alone near some type of a hybrid of Sukhumvit and Silom
roads. Sensing that she was being observed, she paused between a
salesman's ice chest of coconuts and bottled water and a woman
stringing together jasmine rosaries from a small table. Looking
around the sidewalk in both directions, she did not sense
anything unusual; so dismissing her earlier thought and
questioning her ability to assess situations accurately, she
trembled at senility's brief chafing and purchased a yellow
rosary which she then stuffed into her purse. The rationale
behind the purchase had been to arrest fleeing sanity and, if
anyone had witnessed this early, disconcerted behavior, to have
that moment of senility's waning be expunged from human minds.
Her intentionally looking aplomb into the rosary saleswoman's
petrous countenance as she paid the money to her was a feigned
attempt to project composure and went unnoticed. Indifferent in
perfunctory movements, taking money and threading her flowers,
the saleswoman was as pachydermatous and robotic as the old
woman and everyone else was. Telling herself that the only means
to forfend senility was to be actively engaged in mental
diversions, she nonetheless sought any diversion that she could,
to ignore, if not discomfit, this paranoid erosion of sanity.
She went into Watson's Beauty and Health Care Store while trying
to ignore this feeling that something was walking behind her,
following the brackish, permed scent of that head of hair, as if
an ocean of harmony lay within it.

Something slightly tangible; something partially impalpable with
some of the thought, feeling and memory of this thing called
Nawin was indeed following the luminary whom he thought of as
'grandmother', as if she were the setting sun. He halted and
waited for her to come out--she who had as swarthy a complexion
as he had with features so resembling his own, but with the
particular habit of sliding her glasses down her nose like his
wife, and examining buildings of an uncertain destination
pedantically.

When she came out with her bag of goods she faced a gigantic
television screen of video animated advertisements on the wall
of a building across the street that flashed 'You prick,'
'Murdering philanderer,' 'You son of a bitch,' and 'Porn, your
brothers are watching your ass' at the bottom of the screen.
Nawin's life--his myriad faces of lost forlornness, the hes of
many ages--was the background to advertisements about soap,
beer, condoms, and cars. Repulsed by the foul language, she was
transfixed by it nonetheless, until feeling the acidic rain that
fell through polluted skies and the putrid city fall onto her
skin. Opening an umbrella against the rain, she noticed that
there really was a faint translucent man watching her. She
grimaced at what she interpreted as a glowering figure and
quickened her pace to escape him. Passing California Fitness, 7
Eleven, Robinson Department store, and a Haagen-Dazs ice cream
parlor, she paused briefly at the Temple of the Descending Sun
(Wat Kham) to pull up the umbrella that was briefly turned
inside-out from a strong gust. Then she continued to quickly
walk away. He stood there watching the shrinking form.
"Grandmother," he thought, "Where are you going?" He tried to
get the words out but all was mute including himself. He felt a
sense of consternation to see her fleeing from him. He thought,
"Why on Earth are you running from me now--why are you not
making it up to me now;" but he had not brought her into
existence and thus she was not his to possess. Whatever brought
him into existence, he thought, was the sole claimant. Still
there was a fusion of a being in love and this "grandmother"
who was diminishing beyond the unassisted eye to register.
Ambivalent between the emotional response of running after her,
a sacrilege against the gods, and a logical response, a
blaspheme against this positive mixing called love that was the
only sense in being on this planet in its forever of affable and
lethal associations, he just cried internally, silently.
Hesitant in a life clogged in these conflicts that engendered
ambivalent waffling and wallowing in futile rumination, he let
her pass away. Immobile because of a cold rush of dread, he let
the filthy acidic rain sully his head the way his thoughts were
sullied in desperation.

Ruminating, he thought about how each year for his birthday she
had fixed her American born, but not raised, angel food cake
burnished in icing, and brought him to fairs to shoot the moving
plastic ducks. Once she had taken him all the way to Bangkok for
no other purpose than to allow him to see the sedentary reptiles
there. He would often crawl through the window of her porch
where shelves were cluttered in Avon bottles shaped in animal
figurines, and when she saw him she would just chasten him
mildly with, "You, yo-yo, get out of there. What are you
thinking?" When he crawled onto her lap he felt the rugged
velvety silkiness of her legs in panty hose and he would stroke
them.

How cold her home was in summers with that air conditioner in
the window of the living room on early into early morning
chilling the house like an American winter, and he would snuggle
deep under a saffron monk-colored blanket that was as stiff as
it had been starched and ironed. Within that room where he would
sleep there was a picture in black and white showing her in
thick glasses with pointed silver rims on the frame and a long
dress as she held him in a fulfilled and satisfied sense of
pleasure. The image of the two of them--he a tiny child, but
both of them children lost in time--was just a weathering
photograph, a jaundicing pallid image lost forever, as a web
page with an address that was indefeasibly and indelibly
forgotten by all in time's thicket of images. It was one
sentimental but insignificant moment lost in the compiling
images of time--And here she was again, the one who had
absconded away from them at their parents deaths in a Bangkok-
to-Ayutthaya  automobile accident, walking away from him
hurriedly and as she did so passing the Temple of the Descending
Sun.

"How foolish you are. Grandmother. And a rich grandmother at
that, living in an air conditioned house instead of a broiling
shack on stilts in the sylvan area of Ayutthaya. "Not yours,
buddy; not yours," said a gecko that was crawling around his
tomb within the train. "What?" asked Nawin, whining
ingenuously. "The only panty hose that you have ever stroked
are the ones you take off as a precursor to your copulatory
sports." The gecko stuck out its tongue. "Brackish succulent
skin of an edible silky velvet are always the way one likes it
as long as they are young with tender meat and best of all, all
vanillaly caucasian as an angel--and then the sand paper tongue
strokes inside and out to get its salties and sugars. Young
succulent skin whose scents, especially in their far from
flowery holes, make silly male creatures repeat the delusion of
intimacy time and time again like their fathers, grandfathers,
and so on--young succulent skin as a varied brunch and dinner
delicacy." The gecko released a dry acrimonious chuckle.
"Speaking of eats, have you seen any mosquitoes in this smelly
train?" "No," said Nawin. "Not a one." "What a pity,"
said the miniature, khaki colored lizard of the Chakri dynasty.
The gecko glowered at Nawin with appetite and fixed interest as
if he were an esculent appetize--the gecko crawling on the
railing of the BTS Skytrain station looking down at the small
womanly morsels and traffic below and amorous Nawin doing the
same but as he glanced up dizzyingly at the facade of the
colossal Intercontinental Hotel with its eerie pale-blue light
diffused throughout, he felt like he was falling into a deep-
blue eternal space. His soul, this odd inexplicable word that
may or may not have a physical counterpart beyond the letters of
the word, was falling into this alien, colossal structure with
its lambent bluish light.

Then the edible Nawin woke, instantly realizing that his
grandparents had died long before he was born and that here he
was, just a few hours from turning forty himself (he was going
to consider himself 39 for as long as he could), arm broken,
relationship with a wife broken, and girlfriend deceased most
horrifically, cowering from his sullied personal life on an
upper sleeper of a Pullman car in a train bound for Nongkai and
nowhere. He realized that he who had gained his acclaim as a
painter of Patpong prostitutes, and had burgeoned from poverty
by his dismal themes and color, was all dried up in themes now.
Creativity and life were, for him, veritably exhausted. Was this
the middle life crisis that was so ubiquitous to man? He did not
know.

"Hey guy! Sawadee khrap [hello]," he said with face lowered
toward the bunk beneath him. He wanted diversion from any
stranger who could plant him outside his own thoughts.
The stranger chortled at the face hanging upside down before
him. "What?" he asked.

"Why are you upside down?" asked Nawin innocently.

"I am, am I? Khrap, khrap [yes, yes], I guess so that you would
ask me why I am upside down."

Nawin smiled widely. "Are you going to Vientiane?"

"Yes."

"To do what?"

"Partying there. You?"

"Sure, partying with you."

"Might as well have an early one then." The stranger raised a
beer up to Nawin who put it in his hands and gave the prayerful
gesture of the "wai" even though it was upside down. "How long
can you hang that way?"

"Don't know," said Nawin.

"Don't try drinking it that way. I don't want you to dribble on
me."

"Yes, of course, khorpkhun khrap [thank you]. Are those guys you
were sitting next to earlier going to the party too?"

"Of course. Guests of honor, you know. They have overcome
servitude in the Japanese owned/Thai co-signed sweatshops.
Independence, you know. They will be facing starvation in Laos
shortly. Early death is like being a marathon winner, don't you
think? Guys who starve to death are the true winners because
they get to the finish line first. Yes, a party for losing jobs
and visas. Games too. My favorite is who will be the first one
to dunk his head the longest in sunk drunkenness. And yet I am
also partial to another game: which of life's losers will join
the high ranks of the monks for a bite to eat and which ones
will marry their sisters."

Nawin laughed out a spray of saliva but immediately regained
self-control the best he could when upside down and having
drizzled in public. "Oh my, so sorry, forgive me." For a
moment he deliberately sobered his rolling caprice of laughter
with the thought of the bleak scenario beyond the bold and
refreshing honesty of the Laotian's words. "You've lost your
jobs?"

"We have. Business slowed and our use is over. We will drift
elsewhere in other temporary experiences. Don't worry about us.
Don't worry about me. Why are you going to Laos?"

"For a while," said Nawin evasively. "I guess I should give
you back your beer."

"Keep it. If I run out of beer later maybe I can ferment wine
from some of the rotting day old rice I was trying to eat
earlier and whatever you have stinking up your ass."

Nawin chortled uproariously until the saliva began an internal
strangulation. Feeling as if he were choking he coughed for a
couple moments. However refreshing this acrimony so unencumbered
by Thai-Laotian etiquette was, it was not worth dying for; and
so he retreated for a few moments on his bunk until dangling
once again with an opened can of beer.

He thought again how this stranger defied the obsequious norm
with a refreshing brashness that was like having cold water
thrown into his face. But like a fish that was suddenly snagged
on a hook, images of himself in poverty, which he did not care
to recall, caught him within. His pleasure in the stranger waned
as impressions of beings and beings themselves waned. He
countenanced a mere smile which altered further into a wry,
contorted, and ungainly expression that expressed little beyond
the awkward fidgetiness of wanting to withdraw from social
interaction. Tightened into the hook of memory, he unwillingly
recalled the hysterical deprecatory laughter, guffaws, and jeers
on that one mortifying day in gym class when, at the age of
eleven, his loose underwear fell through the legs of his shorts.
From that point forward he did not oppose his family's will to
have him toil along with them as a noodle worker in their
restaurant. At that time he preferred serving food to being a
viand for those who gormandized oddities. In this mundane world
one who suffered from a peculiar bout of misery more dramatic
than others (like underwear falling onto the floor of the
gymnasium) was cannibalized as an inhuman freakish joke that fed
their appetite for joyous contempt. At that age of eleven he
just wanted to serve obscurely and enter the world of
implausible comic book scenarios shortly before sleep. Back then
noodles, comics, and sleep had given to him a varied but unaware
extension of himself.

He considered pulling a few thousand baht from his wallet to
give to this Laotian. Then it occurred to him that he would need
to give the same to all of these marathon contenders, but he did
not have that much money in his wallet nor was he so inclined to
give what he had to one let alone the countless many. If it were
unethical to know the suffering of an acquaintance and be
unmoved to assist him, he rationalized, giving special favors to
one with no regard to the masses did not seem any more ethical.
So, as always, he horded what he had; and indeed he was one of
those who had an abundance being a purveyor of turpitude as well
as art which together was popular with both wealthy
intellectuals and idiots alike. Such a trivial dabbling of
philanthropy, he further argued, would more likely than not be
money thrown into the whirlwind of drugs, liquor, or other
exacerbated vice from which a self-deprecating fool more easily
annihilated himself. And if he wanted to believe the false
presage that such a nominal act would cause perpetual kindness
the way a rock thrown in a creek begets one ripple that begets
another it would not matter. He would not be able to
successfully delude himself for long; at best he would be
engendering a short time of ever diminishing ripples.

"Besides," he thought, "if this guy is so badly off, he should
not be riding in an air conditioned car." It was a rather harsh
judgment given his knowledge that the poor sometimes treated
themselves to a bit of middle class opulence to make themselves
connected to the society that they served and to sense that they
could thrive rather than merely live. He repeated to himself
that he would not pull out a few thousand baht and give it to a
stranger who would resent him regardless of what he did or did
not do. This was his conclusion in a sleep-deprived head that
had too much crammed into it.

He then considered that sleep was a diminishing reduction of
memory (a zipped file in a computer) but one where the zipping
weathers away the details. He considered that, given enough
hours over a period of evenings, sleep could even dilute the
memory of Noppawan repeatedly swinging the frying pan against
his arm--an arm that was still throbbing and itching in the
cast.

Giving a thousand baht would imply having a lot to give and
giving nothing would imply snobbishly holding back from giving
what little he could, so he handed the man a hundred baht. "I
can spare this. Keep it as money for transportation when going
back to Vientiane."

"Sure, why not, thank you" said the man.

Nawin felt satisfied by his decision to give little. It was a
compromise between wanting to ignore the sotto voce of thought
that told him to give what he had and that which made him into a
culprit for wanting to keep it for himself. And yet between both
extremes there was the constant cynicism that the poor were
merely pigeons and the more one threw crumbs to them the more
they would come to eat. It was a way of not examining that the
years of his life were pyrrhic: that they had given to him
affluence but at the cost of diminution of his humanity--that
each year he was becoming more pachydermatous than before with
an inability to empathize with others which made them as
disconnected to his life as a passing cumulous cloud. Only the
storms, the headlines of the masses that he read in English from
the Bangkok Post, would get his attention. A female beggar on an
overpass with a child that she nursed under her shirt was no
different than someone sitting on a fire hydrant as he waited
for a bus. Still, he thought, this was what he would try to
correct by a solitary wandering into Vientiane.

He noticed some lint on his shirt and flicked it off but really
it was the stranger whom he now wanted to flick away.

"What will you do?" he at last asked.

"Starve," said the Laotian. Nawin saw envy and resentment in the
stranger's face even though few things were absolute when being
conceptualized upside down. If his were envy and resentment it
was no different than the way many of his Thai friends often
looked at him when finding out that he had an American passport.
But then, everything was relative. Perhaps a Somalian would look
at a Laotian in the same way.

"How did you hurt your paw," asked the Laotian

"An old war injury," sighed Nawin.

"In Thailand?' That sounds a bit peculiar. You are a bit
peculiar, aren't you? An accident that you don't want to talk
about--some type of fight with a guy where you acted like a
coward or a civil war in your own home that-"

"Hard to explain," interrupted Nawin.

"Okay, whatever. Now tell me what you are going to Laos for."

"Again for a while--a few weeks or so," said Nawin in jest but
seriously believing that there was comfort in friends and
acquaintances alike remaining strangers.

"Wanting to have fun with a Laotian girl?"

"Do you have one in mind for me?"

"I will sell my sister at a special discount for you if it
doesn't cause more war injuries." These were mere words,
flippant wisps of air to fill the vapid moments of time while
confined with undesirable others on a train. They were of no
more serious intent than the earlier conversation but the idea
of selling a member of a family, or selling them out, was
something too close to home. It was repugnant enough to make
this paragon of honesty transformed grotesquely into an
inordinate abuser--such were the fathoms of childhood trauma
that a facetious play with words meant that devils could be made
instantly from gods, and that gods were made from the muck of
childhood sensitivities like any sand or snowman. He wanted to
end the conversation abruptly but needed to find a graceful and
amicable exit that would keep the one disliked clueless of this
fact.

"You don't say? No, probably not. I've become spoiled by taking
whiter meat."

"I saw your marriage ring when you first began babbling. Are
you married to a European?"

"No, a Thai woman who is darker than us both. That is another
story."

"Why did you marry her if she is so dark and ugly and likes to
hit on you?"

He became more conscious of the barely bearable itchiness under
the cast. It seemed to him that it would be a handy excuse for
absconding to his bunk. And there he could rummage through his
bag for a hanger from which to scratch with.

"Don't keep me waiting all night for an answer."

"It's morning now. She's not all that ugly and she is a good
communicator. Well, my arm is itching. I need to get some powder
or something, and besides I've kept you and perhaps others up
long enough. I thank you for the beer. It is already making me
drowsy. Excuse me, the blood has gone to my head."

"Okay. Whatever."

Nawin slunk back into what he amusingly considered his
"tenebrous tomb" not that he found such retreats into himself so
odious. Neither society nor solitude seemed to him as being all
that commodious and so throughout every waking moment of his
life he paced the two rooms of himself like a member of the
Burmese National League for Democracy under house arrest. Having
exhausted the reserve that fueled what extroverted
characteristics he possessed, he just lay there finishing his
drink and waiting for the liberating force of sleep to deliver
him.


2

A prodigious, big boned figure of a woman with stiff raised arms
that were erect, gesturing boughs waited for her man, not as a
doting woman but as a martinet; and four times she demandingly
called his name, 'Zero', and four times there was nothing.

(If his brainwaves were water flooding into his hard skull boat
and the air-conditioned drafts that he tried to escape by
bundling himself within his blankets were the battering
inundations of oceanic waves, then it would seem that he was
foundering in both the depths of himself and the world for every
minute his restless, lopsided head shifted to the other side of
his pillow. In the middle of the particular dream he was now in,
he turned sharply on his left side and he would have fallen from
the precipice of his bunk most judiciously in recompense for
Kimberly's death were it not for plastic black straps that
allowed him to be restrained there to his sentence of dreams--
suicidal dreams periodically jolting the body but having little
to do with her.) At last a man as fat as a tub and as sequacious
as a child wobbled toward this woman, 'Four'; but, according to
the feelings of the god, Nawin, that drenched the ground that
they stood upon lugubriously, the two were not meant to stand
together. No, the four and the zero were not meant to stay
together and the zephyrs of the god blew strongly upon them to
obtain their separation. But those winds were futile as a device
for prying away such an inspissated couple for once they were
together this man and woman babbled to each other a mutually
pleasurable one word jabberwocky despite the fiercely driven
rains, hail, and the flash flood at their feet. The drone of
these distant voices was of forty, and each repeated it to the
other forty times. Forty was eighty times redundantly beaten
onto his head as if it were a drum; and with a slight headache
Nawin awakened.

He instantly realized that he was forty; and although he told
himself that he did not feel any different, and that he surely
looked no different than he had some hours earlier at the age of
39, and that to have had the span of years needed to
successfully rise from what he was, was more of a blessing than
a curse, the idea that he was a half rotten apple hanging
loosely and purposelessly from a tree made him cringe and wish
that he were not at all. Light and flippant, jocular and yet
terribly morose, this self-destructive mood was nonetheless
powerfully upon him for he could not stop himself thinking that
forty was an end of virility, and that an end of virility was
the end of manhood, the end of all. This suicidal taunting that
was implanted in his brain from a dream snatched as a theme of
fears in overall consciousness was, he knew, the result of
turning forty in this tomb. Not wanting to confront the
morbidity of this attack, he retreated back to sleep as if it
were the sanctuary from negative ideas instead of being their
crucible.

The gecko did not favorably view Nawin unzipping his skin and
lying down in his tenebrous tomb in such a manner. A man
behaving like this, instead of fleeing from its formidable
presence was nothing like it had ever witnessed before, and it
found the situation extremely puzzling. As preoccupied as Nawin
was in escaping his carnal flesh and emulating those carcasses
he and his wife were so partial to (particularly the slit middle
aged husband and wife of a car crash in Ayutthaya who basked
peacefully in the lighting of their glass and formaldehyde
coffins in the anatomical museum at Siriaj Hospital), he did not
notice that the gecko was glowering with its forty eyes--
glowering at the man for being so inert when he should be
fleeing from the reptile and for having undressed from his
besmirched outer layer of flesh with such a crude, complete, and
unnatural disrobing. The museum was an anniversary site Nawin
and his wife had in fact gone to on a number of occasions to
commemorate their youthful meetings there, and to see the
freakish human pottery of tawny-brown or tanned ochre that had
been of such comfort to them as teenagers. Back then, before
finding the dead people and each other, each of them had been
wandering respectively through an asphyxiating smoke that was as
inescapable as a labyrinth and more confusing. But within it
they retained a faint hope that the smoke would eventually
disperse from the battle ground of family and that one day this
abstract word, family, with nothing concrete in it would
altogether vanish--vanish intellectually and emotionally the way
the river goddess of Loy Khratong diffused through a child's
years until the abstraction was gone from the mind as
yesterday's smoke. With 'family' being a word marring their
worlds, it was only natural that their hopes should be revived
in these preserved entities of Siriaj Hospital. Once alive but
now the smallest of freaks jarred on shelves, and the largest
grounded in containers, they were a reminder that there was a
stage of mangled life, of death, of being put on a shelf, of
being displayed as a museum piece, and myriad other unknown
possibilities. As it was with them, so family was a battle that
would end as all battles ended. Battle grounds could become
verdant again but this was not so of the battle ground of family
and they smothered in each other wistful thoughts of a return.
As a married couple they would occasionally take the Chao Phraya
river boat to the museum so that they might reminisce about
those meetings of their youth, thank the preserved specimens
that had saved them from life, and maintain a lexicographical
stance that words like "death" should mean precisely that
despite the vehement denials, neologistic concoctions of a
heavenly overture, and anthromorphic self-made mythologies of
the masses. In some respects, despite the enormity of his size,
Nawin was like any raw meat that the gecko had caught before;
but never before had any of its prey skinned itself and by its
own volition lay before it as inanimately as any torn, half
uneaten comestible. The gecko watched Nawin who was poised like
a reclining Buddha and staring at the ceiling that hindered the
welkins. Although the skinless nude lying there was a bit like a
boy praying after slipping out of his clothes, forgetful of
getting into his pajamas, the gecko was not able to make this
connection. It just assumed that the skinned and fairly
inanimate human was playing dead to save itself from becoming
its meat. But as time went by the inert human creature became so
wholly opprobrious to the gecko, who valued a good hunt, that at
last, as the small ceiling fan continued to turn arthritically,
churning an unnoticeable, fetid draft of warm air in the
direction of the man and the beast with a wobbling, scraping
sound like cooks in sidewalk restaurants mixing fried rice but
instead mixing these myriad, noxious odors of the train, it
informed Nawin of his freakish obscenities with its tacit
baleful eyes and scrolled tongue.

When he woke up his headache was worse. "A second commute is
never good," he told himself (meaning the commutes to and from
sleep that were as two onerous trips to and from Ayutthaya
within a day). He pressed his palm against his forehead where
his thoughts were taut and moved incrementally like the
lethargic cold blooded reptile of Bangkok's traffic. Painful as
his headache was, he told himself that it was just. It was a
well deserved "mental flagellation" (meaning an excoriation of
disturbing dreams for the sins of Kimberly's death, Noppawan's
separation, and the general muck that epitomized his personal
life). He told himself that he did not suffer enough in his
waking hours so a higher arbiter than will seemed to be his
judge and executioner, and it was all just.

But was he really dreaming anything about them even in an
indirect way? No, he had to admit, he was not having nightmares
about the women he cared for--and he cared for them all with
these two specially mixing in himself as paint, their pleasures
and sorrows his tenebrism. He was not even having nightmares
about being all alone, separated, and on a train trip bound for
nowhere. Instead, he was personifying forty and being nibbled by
a gecko.

It was darkly hysterical and he released a tacit, tickled guffaw
in a strong exhaled breath, circumspect to stifle noise that
could awaken the other passengers. The dream of forty was rather
unequivocal but the meaning of the other was not so obvious. His
best explanation was that geckos ate mosquitoes; in his youth,
when snorting glue and swallowing amphetamines back in those
days when his parents had died and he was working along with his
brothers in a sidewalk restaurant and being molested as a "cheap
date", he used to hallucinate about talking mosquitoes; so if
the mosquitoes were Jatupon's only companion, they symbolized
the self, a child of poverty that his name change to "Nawin"
could not consume. For whatever his external changes and
whatever label he gave himself, Jatupon, an abused and forlorn
child was within. At least that was his version of the
syllogism.

Amused by himself as he always was, he was much too curious at
witnessing his sudden desultory moods of asphyxiating stagnation
and foundering desperation within to ever be seriously suicidal.
Still, he needed movement--the sensory details of the here and
now--to override his ideas, to change him from what he was with
every passing minute, and to prove that instead of being a man,
he was merely an unfixed, impressionable, and amorphous blob. To
air out his musty, old mind became more urgent with every
oppressive moment in which he was increasingly discontent to
stay within the hole in the embankment of the Pullman car that
at times seemed a coffin or a drawer at a morgue, and at other
times like a coffinless rot in a crevasse within the walls of a
mountain. And finding that there were no more fruit pastries in
his box to obtain oral pleasure--pleasure giving man a sense of
being more cognizant than an automaton of space dust moving in
vacuous time eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, and, given
the chance, copulating (although there was little chance of that
in the train)--he felt claustrophobic and climbed down the
bolted metal ladder of the sleeper with the idea of going to the
bathroom. As he did so he heard the Laotian snoring as
uproariously as a siren and yet as mellifluously as the enticing
song of a Siren.

It was indeed strange that the disheveled being who was shooting
fetid wisps of air as sonorously as a bagpipe should be both
enticing and repulsive all in the same reeking breath, and Nawin
smirked at the sight of his acquaintance. He feigned disgust,
and this action mixed with amusement in a contorted, clownish
countenance until the odd smile finally flattened for there was
a peculiar sensation within that at first he did not readily
acknowledge. To evade the cognizable he again ruminated on how
odd it was that, now feeling as refreshed as he could be when
waking from rolling turbulent dreams that wrenched his brain
with a pain like the sprained of leg of a child fleeing a bully
(albeit that the bully in his case was the deprecating voice
within himself that censured him for being entirely lost at
forty), he should not be able to decipher appeal or repugnance
over something so simple as the pleasure factor behind the sound
and smell of a man's loud breathing--cacophonous mutterings of
a hominid or something quite orphic? This was his jocular
deliberation so as to stay hidden from himself behind a wall of
thought. Ultimately, however, there was a scaling of the wall
and the coward was ferreted.

"Am I really feeling this way?" he asked himself. He knew that
he was, for his body tingled with the titillation of one wanting
sex. He thought how consternating and queer it was that after
leaving his brother, Kazem, over twenty years ago without ever
thinking of him or any man in much of any sense (including "that
way" except in the most fleeting manner), that this man, this
unshaven and uncomely Laotian, should seem sensual to him now.
No, he thought, with a new idea repudiating the old, the only
peculiarity was that as a casualty on the battle ground of
family he should live so well and so long without having to
continually purge himself of memory that could continually
discomfit the present with its stench, rubbing its foul wounded
body in recidivistic and wanton desire.

Still, he reassured himself consolingly; it was not so "queer"
for an artist to love the beauty of form. In this world of
lackadaisical automatons who never appreciated the here and now,
the beauty of the human frame was there to be shown by
discerning artists. He posited that his own artistic
proclivities in conjunction with all the trauma of the past
month (Kimberly's suicide, Noppawan's beating of him with the
frying pan, and being locked out of the house when returning
from the hospital) were putting him in a dust storm no more
nebulous than that which he felt instantly at taking a shot of
whiskey or when spinning one of his madonnas on a dance floor.
It was merely a minute of temporary derangement that was quite
natural in life, a game of musical chairs in which the chairs
also moved. He further averred that a moment or two of confusion
when waking up from nightmares was totally understandable and
natural in life's craziness. But, he then asked himself, why
would any artist have this obsession in conveying the beauty of
form unless he were painting over the background that tainted
him? Perversion had the transitive root 'to pervert', and it was
rooted deep with the years: it was familiar, it was going home,
it was a homecoming to the illusion of that former family that
could be argued to have never existed at all were it not for
that almost impalpable stain that the perverted wore unknowingly
like a light jacket.

Desire: what was it really? It was mad hunger for what one
lacked. It was emaciated Haitians attacking a UN storehouse and
a mind loose and spinning of its own accord like a top; and
disconcertedly, he argued to himself in an alloy that was both a
question and a statement, the encroachment of desire was surely
a possibility only when the consciousness approved it with its
reluctant nod. "Isn't this so?" he asked the mind which knew
nothing but questions.

As much as these titillations toward the Laotian repulsed and
frightened him and despite a tepid attempt at eschewing his
feelings, he wanted the man, like a spellbound warlock whose
spells, even when having a life of their own, went contrary to
the intent. As abashed as he was by his compulsion to stare,
there was nothing to stop him. No one was awake but himself.
Uppers and lowers, they were all ensconced in tiny train domains
behind their brown curtains. He was quite alone enough to
elongate a momentary voyeurism to more. The burly stranger
wearing only sufficiently bulged underwear was both handsome and
ugly depending on one's perspective; and it was perspective by
which all judgments lied. To understand the level of
desirability or repugnance of a given thing (whether or not the
Moslem woman sleeping in an adjacent bunk across the aisle with
partially opened curtains was "with child," "knocked up," or a
southern terrorist in disguise, or whether the train ride, one
that every young boy would yearn to go on, was pleasant or not
for the man he had mutated into) an overall mood was needed, a
background color for the canvas based on faded memories falling
through the mind as softly as leaves or as revoltingly as trash
blowing on the ground.

Beams of light were able to slide through the myriad rectangular
slits of the metallic awning that had been pulled down the
window as a screen; and when somewhat blocked by forms in the
environment the passing southerly trains became oblique.
Obliquely, they changed the appearance of the man and in so
doing changed the perspective of him. At one moment the light
accentuated blemishes visible on his face and at another moment
it diffused onto the whole countenance making it sleek and
mysterious like tenebrous silver.

When the face was ugly its foul breath was fouler, and when
handsome the snoring was a nice inebriating gust that picked up
Nawin's kite; but in both perspectives the brazen Laotian in his
impoverished vulnerability reminded him of Jatupon. There in
tattered dirty clothes Jatupon, whom his brothers derided as
'Jatuporn,' was a vermin he could never entirely escape (scaling
the prison walls of the subconscious as the boy did), no matter
how many thousands of dollars in baht he was commissioned to
paint his whores. For a moment he was scared of the Laotian as
if having stumbled into a den of sleeping terrorist cells but it
was the self that was his only terrorist. It was the self that
filled him with stiffened, cold dread. Fortunately, with the
walk to the bathroom, the attraction passed him entirely almost
in the same moment it came upon him: Jatuporn was apprehended,
and the self was placated as if this particular feeling were as
inconsequential as all the other wind driven debris of the mind
that had gone before.

If he believed that anything which overtook rational thought and
equanimity in such a temporary, all pervasive and engaging
burning, lacked legitimacy (and in a way he might have for he
knew passion to be like the slight bitter aftertaste of too much
cloying chocolate), it was of minor consideration being the
Patpong prostitute depicter that he was. With lovely scented
women (especially those in ovulation, which was every man's
Venus Flytrap unless punctilious enough to carry a nosegay of
multi-colored condoms) sensuality was wild flowers of searing
energy popping up after a shower making the landscape anew.
However, any titillation regarding a man was tremor and
mudslides. It was his shaky world tearing apart, falling down
the sores of its cracks, and being buried alive within the fall
downward. Because of this, all he wanted was departure: in this
case, to depart from the man, the spell, and the train, and as
this was not possible, to again retreat into his once solitary
bower.

Even with passion waning with every step toward the bathroom in
a salvation of movement, his mind was preoccupied by wanting to
reclaim the window and seat from the window and seat thief, so
that he might let morning and movement pass through the orifices
of his eyes to obstruct memory--a morning with shanty stations
as gateways to shanty towns, rice fields and banana orchards
with coconut trees occasionally spewed in, thickets of verdant
weeds and knee high grass, sickly palm trees and two-story
shacks where the bottom halves had such high earthy foundations
and the true houses were the upper portions where drying laundry
hanging from ropes were the only ornaments apart from distant
glimpses of vehicles and amorphous motorcycle taxi drivers on
the main street of some rural town or another. Until he could
escape the man and the train entirely, until he could walk away
and clog his mind with other things, there would be a window
with which to take in various scenes to obstruct memory--an
annexing weed of consciousness to idle eyes. And the window
would be his were it not for the Laotian's sprawling body
clogging his space.

He imagined himself shaking the Laotian, kicking him on his
hairy behind, and dragging him out of this annexed space. He
smiled and internally laughed at such an absurd caprice. The
mind was littered with such protective mines, which soared
through the weightless space of ethereal consciousness. By his
laughter such evil was not claimed and thus it did not make him.
This was his enlightened thought in a partially refreshed brain
granted by a nocturnal sleep which had also slugged him with a
headache, made his clothes wrinkled and smelly, and left him
with the need to urinate.

Chemical fixations and caprices went out of him entirely with
his liquids. Urinating in this metallic East-Asian urinal
embedded within the floor of a toilet sandwiched between two
cars, he facetiously told himself that the fetid little space
was his friend. Even though he did it with humor it was the
stuff that Jatupon was made of. It was the animistic thoughts of
a child. Feeling relieved to relieve himself of fluids and
issues, he could have allowed the matter to stay there, but he
wanted a guarantee that nothing like this would happen to him
again. The dilemma was not knowing who the guarantor was, so he
sunk himself into the Buddhist myths of his culture. Ubiquitous
superstition, the guardian against creepy crawling memories,
came upon him. He said a bit of a prayer, as much as any atheist
could, to exorcise homosexual inclinations from his brain. The
prayer, if it could be called such, was not conscious or
subconscious thought but a type of semi-autonomous space-garbage
moving in quick orbits within the mind.

Through deliberately imagining it to be so, he made a spell that
transformed Buddha into a god even though there were no gods in
Buddhism (at least not in Buddha's Buddhism), no netherworld of
heavenly creatures, and no guardian Seraphs and cherubs--only
the deadening of desire, in the soft strangulation of this
illusion of self to engender a harmony that defiled the essence
of being alive. It was a toilet Buddha-god to whom he could
offer no oblation beyond urination and potential defecation.

Deep in his "soul" he knew that even if there were a distant god
beyond the gods made in man's image, men were mere cockroaches
before it, scurrying away from the vibrations of the foot with
no understanding of the foot being a foot let alone as part of
the limb of a body to a conscious behemoth entity. Such was
man's ignorance of God or gods, of which the most intelligent
believed nothing and the most ignorant believed the myths that
made their besmirched flesh hallowed enough to be at one with
them. He scolded himself for wanting a deliverer who would save
him from the fleeting whims that haunted the mind, moving it
like an empty ship navigating mysteriously by the mandates of
erratic winds and caprices. He knew how opposed to the intellect
such beliefs were when there was no evidence of intervention by
the deities in life's barbarism and injustices, unless it were
in the injustices themselves of gods favoring some and letting
others perish which would be the same as the traits of any of
the monsters of men; and yet he summoned his Buddha nonetheless.
Such superstitions were normal in these vulnerable and tenuous
corpuses and he was no different. He laughed; he amused himself
like no other.

He looked at himself in the mirror. It was the same handsome
face. It was not a half rotten apple hanging loosely from a
tree--at least not yet. It was the same brawny body that had
amorously begotten another male in the phantasmagoria of this
world. He thought of this child whom Noppawan was no doubt
jubilantly nurturing and pampering at this moment as if he were
her own. Should the separation seem permanent a few years from
now, Noppawan would no doubt tell her son a story in which, for
some families, there were no daddies. She might say that in such
lucky families children were delivered to mommies by the
assistance of an angel named Kimberly who was quicker with her
deliveries than any of the motorcycle delivery boys who worked
for Pizza Hut. It was a mean thought against meanness done to
him, but he decided that he would not berate himself for it.
After all, he could not figure out how there could be any sin
unless it were theirs. Disposing of guilt for a moment, he could
see the obvious: it was Noppawan's idea for him to father a
child through her friend; and prior to the affair how could he
have known that it would lead to Kimberly's possessiveness and
that in her post partum depression she would leap off of her
apartment balcony at Assumption University? Like every affair of
any nature one engaged unknowingly, so a beating with the iron
frying pan had been totally out of order. He sucked in his lips
angrily and told himself that he did not hate them which was not
entirely true.

Having begotten a child made him feel that his use had been
filled and that his virility had been smashed out of him most
intimately by the hands of two women attempting to quench their
maternal thirst with his apple juice and the seeds that were
rife within it. He was a mushy half-rotten apple that they had
squeezed most mercilessly to garner the seeds within his juice.
In a sense they had raped him; and he argued to himself that
rapes of the handsome, talented, and affluent types were the
most common cannibalism in this modern world.


3

He thought about a Bangkok Post article which, three years
earlier, had referred to him euphemistically as "The
distinguished benefactor of rural girls in an urban profession."
Back then, at the age of 36, he, Nawin Biadklang, had considered
the sardonic comment both humorous and exhilarating, for every
article allotting time and space to an examination of his self-
absorbed ruminations on decadent living, no matter how critical
and regardless of the domestic nature, like this one in point,
was to him, then, like the first lick of succulent success.

As with all reviews, at the time of this article's publication
he considered it, which now was the most recent critique of his
oeuvre, as another exhilarating current of air enabling him to
soar without much effort. Back then, he had been volant within
the dopamines and endorphins of his own head, anticipating a
maturity, a growth into the fit of his decadent skin, which
would allow him, as much as a serious artist was allotted, to
strut his succulence more fully on life's propitious catwalks of
fame. That had been the initial impression that had come about,
to some degree, from a rather inconsequential review published
in Thailand; and it had been an impression and reaction not at
variance to the impressions and reactions of all earlier
reviews.

And yet a year later when the drawing of all his escorts seemed
banal and jejune enough to be replaced by a celebration of the
ordinary (a painting, for example, like a photograph in a
locket, of his then platonic angel in the driver's seat of her
car but from a perspective of looking at her through the
exterior of a windshield and through the interior of a dangling
jasmine rosary that hung from the rear view mirror; another one
of his pedantic wife at a distance sitting on a bench outside
the Assumption University library while sipping through a straw
the juice of a coconut as she read a book through her heavy
spectacles; an odd if not grotesque painting of Noppawan with
the perspective from the forehead looking onto the dark, leaning
moled hills, and blemished declivity of her face; "A
Conversation on Surrogate Motherhood," as one painting was
mentally entitled in which both women were at a coffee shop, and
despite their restrained if not tranquil demeanor the room was
filled with their unrestrained, desperate thoughts flying
through the air in sundry shades of every color; and others
seeming to him more insignificant and raw stylistically than the
three aforementioned), he told himself that he was worthless as
a painter. He became determined to remove his paint and canvases
to a closet and to forswear art altogether. He averred inwardly
that all his studies of aching prostitutes who were quickly
manufactured off the assembly belts of this world, which
stretched decades, centuries, and millenniums toward the past
and the future, would not help one of them, being dead and
unborn as they were; and for those escorts in his immediate
present whom he gropingly attempted to befriend, to sooth their
jealous reactions toward his unwillingness to divorce his wife
and marry them, and occasionally tried to set up as beauty shop
proprietors, owners not merely of sidewalk restaurants but of
the open garage variety so common in Thailand, supporting them
financially while they sought a high school degree or other
certificate, and other futile attempts at empowerment, it
appeared that what he had succeeded in doing for the dead and
unborn whores was infinitely more. He had delivered no one to
their higher potential. Art, he said, was a frivolous
embellishment by those who were weary of enduring the ordinary.
It was lavish and empty like a string of heavy jewels locked in
a safe, or the accumulation of wealth to give specious dignity
to the tenuous body of carbon called man. It did nothing for
anyone.

It was then that, because of the article, the word,
"distinguished," began to snag his consciousness. The word, when
used sarcastically, suggested that one was a dirty old man, that
acme of all depravity. 'Depravity' was an all inclusive word in
which both playboys and bloodthirsty tyrants were erroneously
locked in as cell mates. He had not even climbed far into
sensual decadence, a different mountain entirely, with play for
the playboy tearing his crepe paper heart the inwardly
lachrymose and outwardly debonair way that it did, with these
bouts of sensing a woman's genitalia as vapid holes being banged
as empty drums from inside by a man's stick; these conclusions
that sex was just a bored erumpent man banging on any tin trash
can in reach for a bit of sound and vibration, and brief moments
of total, pellucid understanding called enlightenment as to the
absolute absurdity of an instrument of urination being used for
intimacy.

He knew that if viewed alone, without the disparaging meanings
pretentious and sanctimonious art critics gave to it, the word,
"distinguished," was more good than bad. Still, he did not
like the elderly connotation of it in reference to himself and
he did not think that he was accomplished enough to be
considered "distinguished." Nobly and decadently, he had spent
many years chasing lurid themes and nasty girls merely because
he, from personal experience, could empathize with innocence
being snatched away by the hungry wolves of this world--or
rather, the more complex commonality of not really being
snatched by those fangs, but innocence, in the form of a thigh,
being eagerly given to the waylaying wolves so that the whole
body could survive. By being tossed morsels of the good life
from the beloved abductor in exchange for a thigh, the body
could survive and the brain would be more than empty space for
it would have someone to love.

Regardless of whether the innocent were considered victims or
volunteers, innocence was nonetheless baited and devoured. As a
forlorn younger brother who was hated by all except for the one
who would use him as a "cheap date," he knew. He knew that
corrupted innocence was a perennial ache, which would ensue for
as long as there were hungers. And for Nawin, this Jatupon
(merely "Jatuporn"), it was an insoluble theme haunting him
with many blissful nights and compelling his days to be
slavishly spent in pouring color from tubes into imaginary holes
on canvas.

Fine as it was in youth to vindicate injustice by painting his
tragic madonnas, one could not exactly grow old that way and
seem inwardly wise or outwardly respectable, not that he
accredited the latter as having so much importance. Still it was
a rather repugnant thought that he who wanted to become wise and
enlightened once he entered old age would instead become just
another distinguished patron of massage parlors, obsessed by
vibrant youth, and having found no awareness from all his days
beyond his sexual rhythms. From this conclusion he retired from
art with a second and more puissant conviction.

Now he, this forty year old birthday boy in a toilet of a train
and the stench thereof, was once again trying to recall this
same article for he was wondering if the writer had really meant
all along that he was an immature painter whose use of the lurid
could only sustain him in his youth. For all these years he had
been gloating in all things written about him as if none of it
were critical or vatic; and it had never occurred to him that
perhaps, by behaving so, he was making himself ridiculous.

He tried to recall it as best the copying and projecting
apparatus of the human brain allowed so that he might
reinterpret the critique, but the lethargic crawl of memory
wobbled like an overweight, arthritic dog kept at a distance,
and only that salient collar: the word "distinguished," snagged
it a little within the thickets of thought that made up the
illogic of his consciousness.

Somewhere into this third time of looking up at himself in the
mirror for reassurance that he still possessed the same handsome
face, he imagined something like an older man within scraping
the vestige of his claws through the inner layers and then
through the surface skin of his Botox starched face. The hoary
phantasm of the stark, ugly possibility of self and the
probability of one day finding himself no more distinguished
than any old beast fornicating with youth made him once again
reel on this, his first day of being a forty year old man.

Suddenly, a plethora of other articles published about him
reeled through his mind like microfilm, but also in a most
diminished and faded state. Some of these articles might have
merely been the hype of writers at the insistence of gallery
owners or independent actions of newspapers and magazines to
give readers what they wanted: sleaze about a minor celebrity
whom through his paintings and tabloid gossip they could learn
more about than any snapshot of a movie star in bed with someone
other than his wife. From tiny facts or rumors of facts about
this exhibitionist god on canvas, the populace who were bereft
of significant involvements could gossip about him to make
friends with others equally bereft.

"No, my works are not salacious crap--well, not crap anyhow,"
he told himself, and laughed at his hyper self-criticism for it
was he who had been the youngest artist in Thailand to have an
exhibit of his work (a decade in retrospective) dangling nude
with legs marginally wide open in the temporary art museum. His
adulthood had been good indeed, he told himself; and he knew
that he could go on savoring his success if only he could find
an inspiration to probe the ordinary as profoundly as he did the
carnal. "Strange," he thought, "that the carnal is ordinary but
that the ordinary does not seem to be carnal," and he dwelled on
this paradox that he created for himself until memory intruded
on his game.

- What are you doing, he had asked Noppawan one late Sunday
afternoon after returning from his painting and philandering on
the floor of his studio. 

- Why all alone and in the dark?

- I am not all alone.

- Well, good. Who is with you?

She did not say anything. - Noppawan?, he asked mildly as if
addressing a sensitive child.

- I have my lovers too. Can't you see? As withdrawn as she was,
her words were barely audible.

- I see Basset on your lap. I see that she loves you just as I
do.

- No, hers is different...real.

There was silence between both of them and he felt she was not
real but a miniature spirit in a miniature spirit house that he
needed to appease with gentle words of oblation. Still, there
were questions to be asked: Why are you on a dining room chair
in the middle of an empty room with the cat? Why is the room
empty? he asked in slightly more critical tones but, as always,
still gentle and circumspect with his wounded bird as with the
angel and the madonnas. As an empathic man who knew what a
landmine the personal life was, there could be no other demeanor
for him for little did he want a battle of which rotting bodies
and their stench would be the only outcome. - Why have you
shoved all the furniture to the back of the room?

- I don't know. Comfort, said the reticent woman.

- Comfort?
        - A mirror
        - A mirror?

She said nothing until, like a drowning swimmer, words bubbled
up from the disconcerting ocean of silence that she so
cherished. - For the same reason you became involved with me,
Nawin. You needed to marry someone who reminded you of what you
were, how you were alone in your family, to remind you that the
world was not right for someone else and it wasn't just you
aching and mad in your own thoughts. So the furniture gets
shoved to the back of the room, so I look into space.

- What?

- As a mirror.

- What does that mean...'as a mirror?'

For a few seconds she withdrew to the cat, petting it but with
eyes that seemed to pass through that which she needed to
neediness itself. Then she looked back at him--I don't find it
lonely just to sit here.

- You should.

- Should I? I don't know. Being with you, not knowing what you
think of me...you in these women's company constantly, and me in
their shadows...Often I just want to be contained here in my
space. Here I don't feel so inadequate to your women, or the
need to deprecate myself so much for feeling that way...so
inadequate to your disadvantaged, dirty women.

- I'm sorry.

- Inadequacies are fired onto me daily, you know, even if I do
tell myself its inside me and that you do not pull the
trigger.... No, it isn't the affairs. What you press against
your body is none of my business. It isn't as if I need to
inspect the underwear you plan to put on...if its cotton or
silk, bikinis or boxers, clean or dirty...what you press against
your body, who massages it, and how, I don't care.

-What can I do for you?

-Yes, strangely enough you are so decent. Husbands should at
least be friends with those they have. I knew what you were when
I married you. It's those inadequacies like going out in
rags....If you like yourself before, you end up losing any sense
of anything good about yourself in being with such a man....No,
I can sit here for hours and not see anything so lonely in it.
Its like Ban Chiang pottery locked in a glass display but at
least in that container I have me. Out of it, with you, I lose
me... at best, I have just an image of you from long ago in a
special mirror nobody else sees.

-You don't look like my image. He chuckled awkwardly to lighten
the mood, fully aware of conversation being an inept bridge to
link any pair let alone the purveyor of pain with its victim.
Not knowing what to say he changed the subject--Let's move the
furniture where it belongs out of the corners. This was his
response to silence.

- Why, people ask me are we, I, an archaeological anthropologist
and you, a playboy artist, together. They feel sorry for me for
they think it a graphic humiliation worse than rape. In ways I
suppose it can seem that way when rape is such a private
act...and this is not private. I brag about your latest
paintings as if to say that what he does with his own body is
his business; I don't tell him how and where to move his legs so
why should I worry about his other bodily movements and
functions; and I couldn't be prouder of a husband who explores
the human soul through a vagina. I suggest it, although not in
those words...not any words really. She began to cry. - There is
no paint for me, Nawin. No canvas...just the clutter of a
woman's home...countless things if she marries well...countless
knick-knacks she has to move around and in which she has to
reflect her thoughts, all in different parts of the house. She
moves the furniture to see a world where the same pain exists
elsewhere to prove to herself that it is the natural state so as
to make all else bearable...I mean it is the natural state in a
sense but for other husbands maybe not to these extremes or at
least not so openly depicted. If natural, a woman can console
herself that it is not just the insanity of aching in her own
head.

- Are you leaving me?

- No, I'm not so courageous. It will always be more of the same
for me. So I am sitting with this so called goddess of Bubastis,
this cat on my lap, and as I do so it seems to me that a cat is
good for cuddling but a man with his premature pecker is not a
cuddler...just a lovemaker. That is what he is good at. The
Egyptians were right about there being a woman in the cat and a
cat in a woman, for the two creatures need to feel real within
the propinquity of touch. There with another non-threatening
suffering creature of this world, touching to feel real, maybe
it is just another mirror--just a bigger love, a fuller love
and perhaps a more selfish love than a man and a woman feel but
this cuddling with a cat is better for a woman.

The memory reeled around and played so distinctly that he almost
thought he was there with his wife; but how much of it he had
distorted to make it more meaningful, dramatic, and aesthetic
than it really was, he had no way of knowing. The brain was
always rewinding bits of memory, analyzing them, and splicing
them together like film; and as were two people walking down a
sidewalk without looking at each other, who were and were not
together, so was memory--it was and was not.

Were articles dating back fifteen years adulation about the
artist of his youth that might have been true words then but
little pertained to the man of forty, or were his works
tremendous talent that did not hinge on the salacious biography
of the artist and would live beyond his short eruption of
ephemeral years? It seemed to him, nonsensically, that they both
were and were not. Nonetheless, it was absurd to merely think
that over the past few years he had aged so tremendously that
critics and commissioners of his work alike had lost interest in
him entirely. The art critics had been writing about him, albeit
less frequently, until he ran out of inspiration for his
redundant themes, irrespective of the surfeited forms of whores
who came in droves, each with slightly different circumstances,
and each with slightly different expressions. "I was a sensation
until I lost interest in beating and stirring up such muck, and
none of it has anything to do with turning forty," he told
himself, but he knew that it was and was not true.

It was true that just four years ago he, the once eligible but
continual playboy, was appealing enough to be referred to as
"Naughty Nawin" with those English words in their headings
proving that he had not turned into mushy and deciduous fruit in
the little over three summers since; but it was not true that as
unseemly as his life might be in view of the fact that he was a
glutton of the personal life like a boy in front of a thousand
cookies he was the same as any foreign business holidayer of the
masculine gender looking for the nearest brothel. His was more
of a spiritual decadence. "Forty is just a number. You are as
handsome as ever," he thought as he looked at himself in the
mirror. "You stopped painting and they stopped writing about
you. It is as simple as this"; nonetheless he did not believe in
simplicity.

He missed the hype organized by galleries. He missed magazines
catering to those needing a celebrity from whom they could learn
intimacies, tiny facts or rumors of facts about the personal
lives of the gods. He checked himself. His mind was going in
circles around the word, forty. The circles were more of a
vortex as, on bad days, when he descended for some seconds or
more into early family and abuse, which could suck him in fully
were it not for his active vigilance.

Examining himself in the mirror for the umpteenth time with a
refreshingly spry countenance there to befriend him once again,
he gave thanks to the mysterious forces that had given him a
life where he might make a living presenting his varied
depictions of himself with his whores on canvas (a whore of
every type from every angle), fervidly contemplative of life's
decadent urgings. Like a schoolboy twisting in the grass, he
blessed the fates that had allowed him time to revel in his
spinnings. Free to contemplate the unequal plight of man (or
woman as it was in his case), to see color in forms and feelings
and thought, to mix with forms by allowing licentious whims to
twist around the kite in accordance with natural mandates to
reign in those turbulent skies, he basked in others perceptions
of him as handsome, successful, and affluent. Like juicy fruit
on the stem, his days in the sun, as an elated appetite of women
and an envy of men--at least for those who knew something about
contemporary Thai art--were embarrassing and awkward to the
modest Jatupon that he was; but it was the very furthest of
human plights. Selling his paintings at ever inflated prices
because of their worth and his celebrity status as their
decadent creator, he had the ideal life. The creature of
pleasure had to concede as much as this.

Smirking at himself, the wry smile soon fell flat at the thought
that even ugly pimps who were affluent from their brutish,
sexual peccadilloes might be considered equally sexy; and he
sighed at his bland fame. He had gained it from portraying the
same models in the same redundant and stereotypical theme to
which he knew no variation; and whether or not those guilt-
ridden self-portraits of himself engaging with his whores as
stiffly as a Buddha were an exploration of his models or an
exploitation of them remained an unanswered question.
He moved closer to the mirror and looked deeper into the image.
The rot of forty, if it were a rot, was an internal degeneration
that had not yet reached the surface of the apple except for a
few premature wrinkles, which he had already stiffened out with
Botox. He flexed his muscles into the mirror that like social
interaction and painting reflected consciousness and reminded
him of existing beyond the redundant actions of eating,
urinating, defecating, reproducing, sleeping and all the other -
ings.

Stepping out of the toilet as he was now doing, he posited that
such banal and inconsequential movements as this were like
copulation with a rife assortment of women, that movement
provided men with a base physical consciousness that was
indispensable to their overall welfare by making them appear
more tangible to themselves than any images in mirrors could do.
Still, while moving out of the toilet and pondering this new
justification for male promiscuity within the corridor between
the two cars, he inadvertently halted there before his image in
a second mirror. "I am still a young man. Both mirrors say so,"
he lied to himself; and then began to wash his face at a sink.
The tap water pulsated out in an extorted and convulsing
trickle, pushing him a little into those turbulent memories of
the recent past. Not wanting to think of Noppawan or the mangled
angel who was no more volant and permanent than any pallid
terracotta falling eleven or more stories (he had forgotten the
exact number with the burgeoning thickets of neuron brush that
were daily mutating the landscape of his mind), he looked into
the image of his own eyes to reassure himself that they still
had a young man's luster.


4

As he did this, combining the mirror's confirmation of forty
with a sense of feeling no different than he had at twenty so
that a nice conciliatory countenance of thirty stared back at
him, he remembered another fragment of that earlier dream in a
sleep that had been filled with such episodic starts and stops.

As the restless shifting of dreams like those he had experienced
in the 'tenebrous tomb' were the chaotic composite of what the
true self really was, they were also his idée fixe, for as an
artist he knew that the true self was the only subject worthy of
his delineation, his imagining, and that being awake was merely
the desperate garnering of the true self's scatterings. In some
sense being awake was a liberation from sleep, that anarchy of
fleeting images, fears, and anxieties about the unalterable past
which the subconscious lived over again and again in new
arrangements like a news reel seen in various colored filters
and in reverse of a young French and English teacher jumping
from her balcony. It was a means by which, if not to erase or
delete memory, to splice it, to fictionalize it, and to some
degree begin again; and yet he judged consciousness to be even
less real. Married one moment, separated the next, the boy was
always growing out of his clothes or being stripped of them. And
as the door of the fitting room by which people came in to wear
him and be worn by him never seemed to shut well, allowing all
whom he loved to briefly use him and be used by him to get a
variant feel of themselves before going toward new entries, it
seemed to him that the door might as well keep revolving. One
might even stifle human growth if one were to try. This had been
his supposition in maimed youth after his parents were
jettisoned from their windshield by a Fate seemingly eager to
part with superfluous human baggage, these burdensome nuisances,
and he was too old to part from such inveterate conclusions now.

Being awake was a concoction of pasting together the fragments
of subconscious thought. Whereas a biographer was a historian of
superficial events, the artist was a cartographer; and it had
always been his hope that collectively all artists (himself
included if he were not retired) would in time be able to chart
an accurate aerial view of the splendid, volcanic thrusts of the
subconscious. He took a comb out of the pocket of his wrinkled
pants and began to straighten his disheveled hair lovingly. Then
in consort with his debonair image, his Siamese twin in the
mirror, he put his palm on his forehead for it was aching
numbly, and more numbly was his heart. And thinking of his own
restlessness, he knew it would not end with ended sleep. He
could tell this from the hammering taps of his present headache
that were born of the travail of truly chaotic dreams.

He told himself that there was no reason to feel anxious; for
what was a man if he were inwardly shaken by external
vicissitudes? Many evenings before his self-declared retirement
he would stare up into empty space from the bleachers near the
lit sports stadium in that area where they both lived (an area
convenient to Assumption University where his wife worked),
sketch something, and feel warmth in the blackness and
nothingness. A real man, he argued, could sink himself into
blackness, knowing himself to be like a bit of top soil washed
away in storm waters, and think nothing of it. So Kimberly was
dead...so, he had a son by her in the hands of the wife whom he
guessed that he was now separated from...so he was a forty year
old man who briefly felt a queer amorous titillation of
homosexual yearning and a phantasm of a tryst inside his
head...so the tryst was for a Laotian in a train...so, like a
poor man on a train, he was going to the capital of one of the
most undeveloped countries on the planet...so, he was running
away on this December 5th, the king's birthday (Father's Day),
seemingly oblivious to any agenda about what he was running
toward. It was all a sinking of his dirt in eternities of black
space and he told himself that he was warm and content within
it.

The link of associated thoughts that had brought him to recall
this particular fragment of a dream while staring into the
mirror with a preposterous sense of  self-satisfaction was
oblique at best. It began with him looking into his sparkling
eyes and his clear white smile of multiple brushings and
whitening solutions, followed by a second in which he very well
might have used the English word "gay" to describe his image had
that abhorrent word of myriad connotations to which the worst
were dissonant to the pleasant characterization of himself as a
womanizer and a lady's man not been repressed. Then, to further
avoid summoning the word which he forcefully restrained into his
subconscious muck like a Burmese refugee to a sylvan camp in one
of those northern provinces, he stared into his mirrored eyes
deeply. He concentrated on how these eyes seemed to gleam more
in certain seconds and how his face looked even younger and more
handsome than thirty in these evanescent blazes or vestige
flashes of his former being, the boy whom he once was. The
delusion of thinking of his appearance as that of a thirty year
old man or as one much younger than this made him think of being
thirteen, frightened by his first wet dreams and the
accompanying stink of his body, which he then supposed to be
some type of inception of death or body rot; but it also made
him think of that day his mother bought him some goulashes for
thirty baht and how proud he, that tiny boy, was that she would
spend so much money on him. The goulashes made him think of
being coerced to trudge around with his brothers along the edges
of creeks and canals where they, guffawing sadists and
martinets, made him abduct and mutilate crawdads to recognize
that he was no better than any other creature of the natural
order that gloated at itself as one individual in a species of
myriad predators. And finally crawdad hunting in Ayutthaya, the
home of his forlorn youth, made him think simultaneously of
being with his brothers scavenging and pilfering refund cola
bottles in the doorways of alleyways so as to buy a little candy
from a local store, and wall crawling geckos.

In this earlier dream that he was now recalling a gecko crawled
on a wooden cross that marked a mound near the trash barrel
where a family cat had been buried in a shoe box coffin long
ago. Then on the upper portion of the cross, the gecko became
limp and stagnant, hanging on two of its arms like a dangling
Christ. Hanging there inertly, it inadvertently pulled on it,
this lever, opening a strange, familyesque commiseration of the
parents and mourning of the brothers just as they had felt it
together that time as young children long ago. But these odd,
cognate feelings over the death of a pet were like distorted
sound waves that bounced off the back of empty space and none of
them were present--not even himself--just a gecko silently
hanging on a cat's cross...feelings of loss...dross.

He sighed. In being awake or asleep in a state of mind that was
literal or symbolic, everything that was known to his brain such
as the certainty of having been abused by family, the certainty
of any past event, who he loved and how much he loved her, his
responsibility for the tragic outcome of a woman's life, and his
own self-worth, which fluctuated based on the height of the wave
it floated upon, registered merely as likely possibilities and
vague truths. Any aplomb that he projected could only belie this
frantic attempt to make sense out of his impressions of the
world--impressions like indentations of a cookie cutter on his
doughy brain, and impressions that were interpreted and warped
within the pull of memory. He knew nothing of the world at all
beyond loose impressions of incidents that were refracted myriad
times off diminished memories, twisting into something other
than what they initially were before becoming the subject of his
discernment as to what life was and what it all meant.

While pasting the fragments of the true self into a reticulate
and concocted whole following sleep, it seemed to him (who, in
boyhood, had once been envious of a 12 year old friend for being
told to leave home when there was, supposedly, not enough food
for him to have his share), that for those like himself who knew
the worst of family and had long lived as outsiders along its
landmine strewn fringes, such dreams--surely not of geckos and
crosses on cats' graves, but ones no less poignant in conveying
the same grief of being bereft of family--were common on all
Thai holidays. For it was on such days that happy or speciously
happy groups burgeoned rife on sidewalks as a type of rank urban
wildflower; and on these days in particular, pedestrians like
himself could not walk down a sidewalk without using a hand like
a machete against these impermanent but nonetheless hard and
obdurate clusters of families. As gregarious as he was, he was
often driven at such times by an obnoxious predilection to cut
through the thickets of their obscene closeness and at the same
time to take special attention to avoid the steps of shopping
malls where the roots of these blooming and ambulatory groups
more fully tangled his steps like seaweed washed on crowded
shores. On holidays like this, families were everywhere except
in fetid trains, like the one he was currently in, going to
Nongkai. It was for this irrational caprice among others that,
like a relatively poor man in this jiggling and forward moving
box, he was absconding on an economical and flightless journey
to nowhere. Although the train had couples bunked together,
overall it was pleasantly exempt of family, and as such it was a
bit of a refuge to Nawin. He laughed at himself for he found the
self to be more comically intriguing than any other being.

It was on such holidays, as teenagers, that he and Noppawan, and
the "they" that they both were, would go to the Siriaj Hospital
Anatomical Museum to be with the dead freaks there, to sit on
remote bleachers in tiny and obscure parks, to prop themselves
on the ground against the side walls of public toilets near the
Chao Phraya river with a small scattering of homeless
individuals, and to loiter in other impromptu sanctuaries exempt
of this urban seaweed known as family which both had an allergic
reaction to.

He thought about how easily a man in these idle hours of a
holiday could slip into a specific moment as a teenager or as a
child. A boy always outgrew his pants and yet a forty year old
man who was well educated, talented, and affluent would, at
certain moments, find himself putting them on. In unblocked
corridors memories could come to blast him with their spells and
he would once again become a straggling boy fighting the pull of
sadists on thin, stilted sidewalks along a canal. It was all
very alarming and intriguing, and it prompted him to smile at
the ironies of being human which totally confounded him in a
most pleasant way.

Thinking not only about the dream but the family that once was,
it seemed to him that any positive memories were a torturously
slow and bitter sweet poison unjustly administered to him,
someone who already resided fully as an inmate of his own brain;
and that had he been totally bereft of love when he was young so
as to be raised by absolute fiends, making him into one himself,
it would have been almost preferable. It certainly would have
been more liberating than just being confined in a memory
chamber where periodically he could recall vestiges of family
happiness enough to remember some specifics but otherwise only
felt their deep residue. Having their intrusion did nothing for
him apart from causing him to wish for what could never happen
again.

But then what did he know? Without a good night's sleep, how
were any of his ideas anything but minutely sensible at best? If
anything was for pulling and clearing it was this weedy thicket
of messy ideas in a landscape heavy in leanings toward sleep.


5

He was not exactly sure why, at the moment of contemplating this
rather non-germinal seed of love that was there clogging space
within his manhood, that this unpleasant recollection of his
attraction to the Laotian suddenly interposed between the
concept and the peaceful equilibrium that he supposed that he
sought--an equilibrium that he supposed everyone sought when not
bored with the tranquil and the blase. Still, it undeniably did,
the way the subliminal thought of his dampened socks in the
upper tomb still seemed to be aggravating his nose. He wanted to
tell himself that the brief titillation, so clearly a phantasm
of his own making, had not been real. It was easier than telling
himself that Kimberly's death and his separation from his wife
were not real; and yet he knew that even if he were able to
successfully repudiate this one--this tenuous abstraction, this
memory of such a queer feeling--as though it were merely the
disconnection of a somewhat sleep deprived brain, such a
repudiation could only be successful when he was at last off of
this jejune train and out of its monotonous rhythm, and had
other stimuli pumped into his orifices. Then it could be
forgotten like evaporated dew on a warm, sunlit day. Until then,
the stranger of the bottom bunk in underwear camouflaging an
erection was tangled in the burring thickets of thought that
permeated his mood as a mildew on the upper roots of a tree.

He felt disconcerted and a little anxious, and this apprehension
was beginning to make him, he who had not had a shower for the
past 24 hours, sweat odiously and stink as his elder brothers.
He stopped himself thinking of them for beyond this point these
uncultured beasts, long banished to the status of abstraction
with years of no contact and diminished memories, were a
forbidden subject of contemplation by the declaration of the
monarch, Nawin, in the kingdom of the brain. This strange,
disconcerted sense of himself was almost like a dizziness. It
was as if in part he had momentarily slipped out of his body and
brain to become an on-stage caricature whom he, an audience of
one, was watching obtusely. He was watching himself, a mute who
was trying to give a desperate soliloquy, through his only
attribute of wordless, dilated eyes. He snorted and snickered at
this discombobulated and confused state that was so unlike
himself. His forehead somewhat furrowed in the contemplation of
his puzzling idiosyncrasies. Then he wet his hand with a bit of
tap water and massage-slapped his face with his fingers the way
he spread his aftershave. The purpose was that of sobering
himself from delusion; and he told himself that the headache was
part of a slight fever. He convinced himself that he was cooling
his forehead from it but this was not so. In fact the atheist
(that same one who, once his child was born, had sat at an empty
swimming pool contemplating what his role as father should be,
but was interrupted by witnessing the manager bringing in her
oblations of food, incense, and wishes for prosperity to the
house of the spirits--a dollhouse on a pedestal, had
inadvertently scrutinized her, and then filed the diminishing
video footage into his mutating brain under the disparaging
category of "S--superstitious Thai" and "T--things not to do")
was now using tap water as holy water.

If in the past he thought it both amusing and peculiar that he,
an artist who recorded moments in time, should perceive memory
as such an assault he did not think it so strange now, for this
particular recollection of the Laotian seemed like the hand of a
minatory stranger smothering his face and he was somewhat
frightened by it as he had been by the actual incident itself.
At this particular moment he yearned viscerally for the Laotian,
the stranger, to awaken and remove himself from the train at the
next stop; and yet as the man was going to Vientiane, there was
little or no chance of him leaving before the last stop of
Nongkai. Nawin considered the fact that he could not spend an
hour or two (whatever it took to get to the last stop) absconded
in the bathroom, ostensibly hiding from him but really hiding
from himself; still, he would play the moments of impulses in
their respective order and for now the fetid metallic tiled
bathroom with its metallic floor-based, urinal-shaped toilet was
an oasis for the handsome lambent image of his that gleamed and
scintillated from the mirror. He splashed a bit more of the
water onto his face and felt better.

From non-germinal love hadn't the thought been of that stranger,
his father, and then from the father had it not been of the
stranger from Laos? Specifically, ruminations of being a kinder
man than he wanted to be and obviously not succeeding at that to
a memory of the father, and from the father to the Laotian:
this, he supposed, was the chronology of his recent thoughts. He
assumed that recollection of that titillation was preceded by a
memory of his august but haggard restaurant-working father
swaggering toward a second-hand reclining chair, telling him to
scram, and seating himself with right foot resting on the left
leg, thumping its smelliness into the air of what he always
declared to be his home, his domain, like a judge with his
gavel. Nawin was not all that sure of this being the cause, or
how one would determine a cause of a most peculiar and perverted
thought as this blown in with all the other perverse ideas of
his subconscious when, for whatever reason, it was tossed a bit
further on top of all conscious rubbish (of course, as always,
he was for the most part successfully blocking out the
copulatory sport of the second eldest, Kazem, and that one's
playground). He may have hoped, even though he did not believe,
that isolating it would be the means to an instantaneous cure
from all perverse ideas not of the heterosexual variety; and for
a moment he frantically unblocked most neurological corridors,
no matter how stygian, until contemplating this senseless
contemplation made him feel a bit nauseous.

He used humor to distance himself from this recollection of
momentary derangement or crazed but inconsequential titillation
by telling himself facetiously that the reason this incident was
now being shot like darts into his realm of contemplation was as
a form of dogged, fraternal torture inflicted by one sadistic
part of the brain against the other; but as fraternal
recollection could only exacerbate the headache with the
introduction of more dull emotional pain, he tried to block off
turbid memory and listen for the sounds of metal being kicked
and folded, upper tombs going back into embankments, and seats
being readjusted. Hearing none, however, he assumed that the
officer who was in charge of the removal of linen and the return
of the bottom bunks into seats was asleep. Being forty and not
having the desire of the thirty-nine year old to make the
awkward climb up the monkey bars to the upper bunk where he
would once again stare into the walls of his tenebrous tomb
until all elated sleepers were awakened and summoned to their
descents, Nawin decided that he would loiter in this toilet, at
least until someone needing to relieve himself procured his
removal with a few hard and eager taps on the door. The
titillation, he tried to pacify himself, was merely one more
inconsequential item of rubbish blowing in subconscious gusts
and like wondering if, across the aisle, a female passenger who
was wearing the hijab was a southern terrorist, it meant
nothing.

He had to admit that it was futile to ponder whether the barren
and the fallow might be preferable to this annexation of space
by a rather non-germinal seed of love that had been planted
within him against his will. He could hardly extirpate it, and
if the seed had stunted growth he knew of no inward manure that
might cause it to grow any more. And as for manure, his thoughts
jumped track within their locomotion so that he might change the
persistent discourse in his solitary brain; it was peculiar that
this substance should be the nutrient for growth just as it was
peculiar that an instrument of urination should be the means of
intimacy between a man and a woman or for that matter, a man and
a man...a man and a man.

The unpleasant memory of his crazed but momentary attraction to
the Laotian again returned to him as faithfully as a lover and
as sadistically as a brother; and for a second he contemplated
jocularly whether or not bad memories were merely shot as a
fraternal infliction by one part of the brain to another. The
query seemed even flatter and more pointless than before. With
the same redundant churning of thought, he reminded himself that
there was no point in quickly returning to his cubicle. He might
as well dally until one of the officers of the train returned to
remove the linen and readjust the seats or he would have to lie
in the tenebrous tomb as dormant as the seed of love that
existed within him.

As one of the Earth's honored higher creatures who could be
consumed with a lick of nature like the 200,000 of last year's
tsunami (thousands that at one time were pictured on posters
dangling from bulletin boards, and pedestrian blockage rails
near the Khao San Road police station and the National Gallery)
it was apparent that the planet was non-welcoming of the higher
guest. The world was a most peculiar place just as he was a most
peculiar being within it. The fact that the peculiarity of both
was rarely contemplated showed how base, inherent, and
instinctual factors shaped the good and the conventional of all
things. He chuckled in a couple latent, audible wisps of air at
his strange mind (its creative intellect and its redundant
recycling of old ideas) to which his white teeth within his
brown face seemed to jingle and gleam in the mirror like ice-
layered tree limbs shaking in the wind. He thought about how a
man lived in his self-made shack believing himself to be a king
in a palace and how his ideas were as laws that he assumed to be
sanctioned by destiny, but when things went awry such a common
man would in all likelihood say prayers to counter his bleak
prospects. He would send them into the ether of Nirvana with the
burning of his incense. Sound and sturdy atheistic ideas like
those experienced by Buddha before Buddhism or Christ before
Christianity could only be sustained by exceptional men as long
as they had good health, the necessities of food and shelter,
scant relationships at the very least, and some occupation to
direct time and thought; for otherwise the scaffolding of higher
and wiser vistas would teeter and break, thrusting a man who was
trying to balance himself on this scaffolding of tiered thought
into that abyss of perceiving the world as an amorphous blob
that was continually being twisted by supernatural forces.

Still, he could not quell this concept or misconception that if
only he had been treated with unrelenting contempt when he was a
boy, as he very well had been but without these sweet respites,
it would have "toughened [him] up" (meaning that if he had been
granted nothing apart from the worst memories of his former
family, he would have been as tough as a champion Thai kick
boxer when not wearing makeup and a dress in the sense that no
conscience would he have had to intrude onto his public and
private life, no pathetic themes would he have seen in the eyes
of women whom he intended to use for pure pleasure in the
brothels, and no pain would he have encountered in simple walks
along Bangkok's mendicant ridden sidewalks and pedestrian
overpasses). He sensed that such a scenario would have been a
liberation from the revolting non-germinal seed of love, and
that liberation from it would be a license to use as he had been
used in the sadomasochistic quid pro quo or bartering for
pleasures that defined human interaction. It seemed to him even
more clearly than ever that if he had been allotted the entirety
of contempt when young he would not have known enough of love to
miss it. It did not, however, dawn on him that such an escape,
even if it did not lead him to a fated time of being locked up
in one rat infested Thai jail or another as one more of life's
anti-social miscreants, would have vitiated his humanity.

He made his erroneous conclusion as if even a conventional 9-5
job and TV to bed existence, which was willfully ignorant of the
world at large, were better than someone seized by sorrow when
trying to seek pleasures and nude discoveries in every seedy
domain in Bangkok; and as if in this obsession to concatenate a
frenzied body to the pleasure receptors of the lower brain and
then to that upper brain that was empathic to human sorrow in so
much horror, he failed to deliver anyone (for it was true that
painting delivered no one to a better existence). However, in a
field of serious endeavor, a discipline, he was able to see the
flower in myriad events deflowered and plucked and beauty in the
ugly. In a discipline he found empathy, an openness to the
world, rather than apathy, uniqueness rather than replication,
and in-depth understanding of himself that made him an
individual, a complete being, rather than a speck in the mass, a
human cow in a herd. It was not true that painting saved no one
for it saved him to himself. And if he failed at being a good
person for lack of role models throughout his life, it was
through no fault of his own. Still, all in all, he thought of
himself as a 'pretty good,' Patron Saint for those who had been
treated perversely. Had he, Saint Nawin, not done his best all
alone with the resources he had to build his cathedral and
temple to atheism, Wat Nawin? He felt that he had.

He told himself that he was as obsessed by his colors now as
when he was a five year old child; and that he was still imbuing
his black and white world of early servitude with crayonic paint
and chalk as if it had never ended. He ruminated on this early
being whom he still was, in part or entirely--a being that
existed regardless of changing years, names, and social-economic
status. He could not recall anything much of those very early
years beyond the residual traces of a boy being allowed to take
periodic breaks from bringing bowls of noodles to the tables of
his parents' customers. Those were still-life images of himself
seeking crayonic ebullience that could glorify his and
humanity's noodle shackles. Weren't those first images, he asked
himself, undecipherable, waxy smudges on discarded paper that
had been wrapped over meat? From his rather indistinct and
diminished memories he supposed that they were, but the attempts
were the same as now: to evince a moment in time and despite its
bleakness to sense it as precious within form. And if his
depictions then and now were imbued with more color than that
which would have been a true rendition of the scenes, they were
soft and sensitive aberrations of love that could be pardoned.

He looked straight into the irises of his eyes--eyes that, when
not sparkling and jovial in social exchange or lustful and
burning from carnal angels that set them ablaze, seemed, when
sober, so inordinately tender. Those eyes were surely not just
portals to a rather non-germinal seed of love within him; but
even if they were such, and his love of women was little short
of a vaginal sport (to the immature dabbler that he was who
failed to be a he-man and a happy hedonist), still there was
more love therein than a failed marriage could prove. No, he
said to himself more resolutely, these were compassionate and
suffering eyes.

He pondered his effeminate sensitivity. He did not want it--he
never had--but there was nothing that he could do about it. If
he were to pretend to be as insouciant and aloof as so many men,
this rather craven fleeing from self would be an even more
egregious departure from masculine virtues. Sensitive eyes did
not entirely eclipse his joy. To women sensitive, boyish eyes
were alluring. This fact was proven in his having had a plethora
of them even in recent years. Most importantly eyes like these,
he told himself, accentuated a youthful countenance, and for any
man of forty youth was the breeze that set his dog scampering.

Then he recalled that portrait of King Rama V, Chulalongkorn,
hanging in the National Gallery. The depiction of his Majesty
was with eyes that sponged up human suffering. "Mine are the
same," he told himself; and thus his own were majestic and
august even though no royal blood was puissant within the
undulations of his veins.


6

It seemed to him as if old ideas in slightly new arrangements,
such as this obsession with an aging self and his ineptness at
long-term relationships, were quickly, dizzying, and incessantly
being repeated in his brain. He, another recycled being with
recycled thoughts, was ostensibly a creature moving forward with
the train but in reality a macrocosm of the ideas within him;
and these old ideas continued to circulate around the edge of
his brain like hamsters whose impressions were that with each
push of the nose they would find exits leading to the vertical,
the forward, as if there really were a forward within one's
cage, within the ideas of one's head.

Had this particular car of the train felt like the rest instead
of seeming cold enough to preserve his meat, he, this being who
was constricted to the tight walls and smells of the train,
would have blamed this peculiar dizziness that he was presently
feeling not on the perennial chasing of old ideas nor on ideas
mixed with the bad molecular smells of the toilet but, as he was
sweating more than he was accustomed, on heat. In lieu of this,
he told himself that his dizziness was from being drunk on the
self, a plausible theory, and yet he continued to quaff his
sumptuous reflection in spite of this conclusion.

The reflection was of a swarthy, handsome man, with tender,
toasty eyes glazed in ideas as if spread with honey. Was the
reflection an exact replica of what he looked like? The question
troubled him for no matter how long he thought about it, the
accuracy of a reflection was immeasurable and the subject was
insoluble. All that he knew was that the reflection was of a
much younger man than his actual age: that was the consistency,
even if moment by moment in each barrage of new light, his age
and appearance seemed to vary. And he would have stayed in the
bathroom for a half hour more staring at himself in that same
way in the hope of isolating an exact age for his physical
appearance and to gain certainty that his youth and beauty would
not submerge with the next emerging moment had a fierce
loneliness not begun to consume him like fire.

So stark was it that, to some degree, it seemed that he too was
on fire, that he too was plummeting as if from one of the
infernos of the World Trade Center while gusts of wind were
carrying to him the barely audible moans, screams, and demonic
laughter of other fallers; it seemed that he too was flailing
his arms against becoming a swallowed morsel cast down the vast
expanse of the deep gullet of devouring skies, and obsessively-
redundantly bewailing having jumped from a window at all. These
torturous feelings and thoughts were beyond loneliness. It was
as though the bogus concept of one's self-importance had slipped
off of him entirely leaving him exposed to himself and
acknowledging that he was naked and bereft of soul, a speck that
was a billion times less important than a disregarded crumb
flung off a kitchen table by a finger tip. He was merely a
falling speck of minutiae that if not thudding unheard like a
landing water balloon, smashing and exploding onto a rock in a
desert, would finally decompose no differently than all other
bits of matter.

He did not quite expect it and yet how could he expect anything
other than that fierce loneliness would befall him? The fact
that he was taking this aimless trip at all was evidence enough
of sensing himself as a plastic wrapper that was being blown in
miscellaneous winds. And here on board this random train, chosen
for having a departure time coinciding so well with his arrival
at the train station (a train instead of an airplane so that
there would not be an inordinate distance between him and his
wife; for if there were such a vast distance it would, for him,
have been a sign of a near, looming, and pending divorce),
movement was painfully curtailed when it was so desperately
needed to curtail pain.

During the past few weeks since the tragedy and his wife's
flogging of him with the frying pan, he managed the throbbing of
his arm with pain medication, and his loneliness by filling his
thoughts with feigned urgency and shuffle. He threw out canvas
(completed paintings, partially completed, and blank for all did
not matter), paint, pallets, and all other dirt, trash, and
clutter of the space. He attempted to change the studio into an
apartment by adding a bed, a couch, a refrigerator, a kitchen
table, a microwave oven, and basic electric burners. He had a
pharmacist fill a renewed prescription and engaged in mundane
actions like grocery shopping that could belie the desperate
surge of loneliness. At that time it was successful; but here on
board this train taken randomly from all trains, there was no
motion to hide behind, and just the obvious reminder that he was
random, without destination, and out of control. Having no-one
and yet as any mortal needing to cling to a consistent source to
foster the illusion of permanence and worth within himself, how
could the dark suffocating nets of loneliness not envelop him?
How could they not? Even for such a man whose only sense of
family was to look at it as a make-believe concept, a mere
abstraction, which time erased or, if having something material
within it at all that could be grasped, which was always snuffed
away, washed out to sea as last year's tsunami victims, but
needing to be washed away, vanished like Bonaparte, Hitler,
Mussolini, General Phibun, and one day even the emperor Bush,
but leaving its stain--a stain that would trouble the mind and
upset a positive mood as any fading but never fully diminished
nightmare. The stain was memory, a vague copy of barbarous
family preserved in one's wretched thoughts, preserved like the
male and female corpses at Siriaj Hospital who, despite their
slit bodies acting the part of striptease artists of human
entrails, had always seemed to him to resemble his own mother
and father in their late thirties. How could they not? Even for
a man who perceived all women to be programmed with urges for
whoreish involvements to gain independence from the parents
within the union of a man, to rob a man of the juice required
for baby making and that occupational obsession of baby rearing,
and foremost to gain a parcel of land to call one's own (a
perspective Nawin, the empath of whores had gained from society
overall and not so much from his mother and wife who both
relinquished money for the love of poor men, although he himself
was no longer poor having quickly ascended to the ranks of the
affluent). More saliently, with this imagined tryst of himself
and the Laotian being continually replayed inside his head, most
ominously how, as much as an hour earlier, could he have been
anything but certain that loneliness would soon be descending
upon him in that dark, suffocating net? A middle aged man
traveling alone on a train to nowhere, Nongkai, and then to the
sister city of Vientiene, could hardly be exempt of internal
lonely burnings any more than he could feel stable when twirling
around in this chase within the self no matter how insouciant or
cocky he seemed when reflected from others in a figurative
mirror or himself in the literal one.

"I don't need a wife--certainly not one who blames me and not
herself even though this surrogate mother arrangement hatched
out of her egg and not mine" he told himself, but being so dizzy
there was not much chance of him believing his insouciant
thought. Latent ideas were supposed to be the real ones, but
there was not much that was true in this thought clutter,
hoisted up to convey  a positive self-image, beyond attempting
to persuade himself of masculine nonchalance and a wish to
repudiate a vulnerable neediness that was sticking to him like
glue to a boy's fingertips. And no matter how many times he
tried to wash it away its grittiness was extant.

After so much decadent thought about the Laotian the implosion
of his solitary tower was an inevitability.

For the most part he regretted having thrown his telephone into
the garbage at the train station. He lamented it; but it was
done, and had he not done this he would have humiliated himself
both in the emasculate and the deprecatory sense. He would have
spent the trip calling Noppawan incessantly, and if she answered
he would have shown his true visceral remorse ingenuously, which
she would have interpreted as an admission of guilt. He might
even have begged that she let him pass through the same doors,
his doors, that she had made anew with recently acquired locks
during his in-patient time in the hospital. He could not think
of anything more emasculate and self-deprecatory than innocently
showing deep sorrow over the victims of events in which he had
had an inadvertent role, and being perceived as pleading guilty
because of the admission. It would cause him to suck in his
bottom lip while thinking to himself, "As if she had not urged
it on--as if I would have had this relationship with Kimberly,
as much as I may have wanted it, without this being
asked...twice having it pushed onto me..me who am weak when
importuned twice on such matters...weak for beautiful women...
not that I have ever had situations like this one presented to
me before. That is right. I am especially weak on new and
intriguing situations and this 'please impregnate my friend and
make me into a mommy' bit was a completely new thing for me.
Little in the world is really exciting and new so I succumbed.
What can I say? As if the impregnation idea were not concocted
by these schemers in some coffee shop or another a year ago...by
their own admission it was." More alarmingly, if he had not
thrown away his Nokia he would be calling Kimberly's apartment
over and over again as if there were a possibility that he had
tripped over his thoughts, that she was not dead, and that her
alleged death was just one more item of rubbish blowing in his
subconscious gusts.


7

Inebriated, he was a passive receiver of the sweet stench of
human waste and of the residual cleansers and ammonia that
seemed to dilute the former. It was just like in childhood when
he was a passive receiver of the dual stench of family, this
sanitized word also reeking of and under an ostensible
cleanliness. And while he made the association of a literal
stink to a figurative one, acknowledging the possibility that
each could be exaggerating the other and thus proving that he
did not have a clue what was real in this capricious self, he
thought of that visceral yearning long ago to believe in family.
As a child he wanted to believe in the purity of it and yet,
having to justify the indelible somehow, all that he could do
was to conclude that it was he who was wicked, that it was he
whose ingratitude toward the family that conceived and sustained
him made him unworthy of their association. Still the flame, the
puff of smoke, and the stench of childhood had come and gone so
quickly. It almost seemed to appear and vanish over night. And
here he was like magic, a man materialized out of smoke and hot
carbon residue, and his own august, tenacious, and still
reasonably intact will--even if now he was in the toilet of a
train, alone and obsessed by a hope of seeing the flame of youth
in an aging self.

Familiar as family, and made fouler yet by that association in
the mind, the toilet was an increasingly nauseous place for him,
and he felt increasingly peculiar within it. He only felt
marginally connected to the whole of himself for he was
experiencing seconds of a fleeting self as if he were watching
part of it on stage doing and saying nothing in particular while
the partial audience of one continued to wait for a soliloquy
that would not be forthcoming. It was a most disconcerting
peculiarity, this inanimate and uniquely discombobulated show,
as jejune and surreal as spinning his head dizzyingly while
watching the lifeless dummy of himself the only prop on a barren
stage. "Am I going crazy?" he asked himself many times but he
knew that thought was merely a symptom of his thinking too much
all alone, his sputtering like a car needing gasoline.

Believing that he had little ability to make sense out of life
after Kimberly's death and perhaps even before that, yet needing
life which was, after all, touch, a link beyond the self, he
raised the dust tinted window to sun, greenery, and wind. The
toilet tissue reeled out as a streamer and began to take off
like the tail of a kite. Sun fell into the bathroom like
confetti. He laughed in that ineffable joy of liberation from
musty chambers of thought. "Is this true?" he said to himself.
"Is it true that all anyone needs is a strong gust to slap
across his face? Is that all?" for the wind was carrying light
and levity to the cryptic and stygian corridors of his brain.
For a moment, as he wound up the loose toilet tissue on the
cylinder of the toilet paper holder, he was as convivial as one
could be when in a party of one. "I guess so. All anyone needs
are simple pleasures pouring into the orifices" he said; but as
he stuck his head out of the window, allowing wind to massage
him hard and orgasmically, he saw emaciated and barefooted monks
in soiled saffron robes stepping outside a rectory that was near
a temple. Then, there was a forest, and a few minutes later from
a cleared sylvan embankment, the stench of billowing smoke. He
saw a burning wooden "castle" that had been concocted around the
departed to at least ensure a physical arrival in the ethereal
when heavens and the spirit were just conjecture or faith, that
adult fairy tale. He saw a family of mourners grieving as
families were meant to grieve and meant to care, but all he knew
of them moved faster than childhood in the rush of the train.
All that he knew was from one glimpse. He thought about how
quickly after the death of his parents in the car accident his
brothers had sold off everything and had carried him, their
slave by default, off to the big city of Bangkok. There had been
no time for mourning and yet had he been given time to mourn,
little reason to do so. He smiled ruefully since he felt that
this equating of the fundamental human institution to a stench
or other pejorative similes was a ludicrous misjudgment based
upon conjectures from the stinted, pathetic, and sometimes
perverse experience which made up his understanding. As his
belief in family was slowly being restored he felt the sad
yearning to be in that clan of what was no more, and to grow old
and die among them like the departed. When it was his time to
die he wanted to die in this manner, in love, with his unburnt
bones sent out to float in the embrace of the river goddess.
Instead, he was sure that, after a two hour, two thousand degree
baking in a fancy furnace at a modern, westernized crematorium,
his bones would become a gritty white sand which no one would
care to keep in an urn; and that although his obituary would
have the significance to become an insignificant news item, no
one would mourn him personally. He closed the window and sunk
into himself. He rationalized that his reason for shutting the
window was to shut out the world, which to him was a bad place.
It churned up the poor and the desperate, forcing them to feign
a spiritual connection to get a bit of food in their stomachs,
and it disposed of beings and generations of beings like a
consumer throwing out beer bottles.

He knew, as much as one could know from the few tiny apertures
leading to the cramped little cell of the brain, that it was in
his best interest to leave his toilet theatre of one and loiter
in the aisle of bunks. There he might wait for an opportunity to
engage in a moment or two of small talk with staff members as
they slowly materialized into vapid space to sweep and mop
cursorily before passing into the next car of the train. Just a
brief moment or two of feeling himself a real and solid presence
in the company of others (if only in an inconsequential
conversation of being asked to move from an area blocking the
dust mop or being told that this particular car was smelling
more and more like a locker room) would restore him to himself.
There would no longer be the slight oozing away of the self or,
at times, those marginally desperate eyes of one who, having a
philosophy of needing no one, did not think that he had a reason
to be desperate.

For a moment, the walls of the bathroom began to spin around
with his mirrored face, and the faster they spun, the more the
lambent reflection in flight became former diminished copies of
a dominant trait of a mutating self that must have sustained
cohesiveness in these former beings of what he looked like at
various ages but was no more. For a moment he felt that he was
imploding and he slapped more water on his face believing that
he had to be suffering from a fever (surely not a nervous
breakdown as his anxieties were not that acute) and yet, placing
a palm against his forehead, it did not seem abnormally warm. He
laughed. "Of course it won't feel warm when dripping from
water," he said aloud. Then he thought of his laughter. What was
it, really? It was being cognizant that one was a fickle,
disorderly creature whose emotions and experiences made him into
a different man with every new minute of his irrationality and
his blind stumbling, and yet not being morose about it due to
the fact that he maintained some degree of logic and awareness
of himself.

He was certainly different from the man whom he had been as an
undergraduate at Silpakorn University, young and herded into
massage parlors after soccer games by his classmates' proddings
and his own urgings. Thinking of his simple life then, he
yearned for those former thrills that had once let him be purely
free of the entanglement of barbed neurological connections of
relationships. It did not occur to him that if he were to have
casual sex now as he did then, such extreme pleasures would
interfere with attempts at extension, this adding of scaffolding
and stories to the mature mind of a mortal being. He was
thinking about extreme pleasure not only from the wish to be
detached of the entanglement of real relationships--not that he
had any of his own now for he was still suffocating in the
debris of what was before--but due to his present need for it
to suffuse over his headache as cold as an ice pack.

"Something happened to me," he thought. "What was it?"; he
thought for a few seconds and remembered. "I began to draw the
sadness of prostitutes to compete with my peers--to show how
clever I was. Then I married Noppawan to share my success... to
confirm that it happened through her and for her to enjoy
it...and then there was this mixing and fusing of selves like
colors that could not be separated without destroying what they
were painted on. Earlier, when I was still wet behind the ears,
my life was certainly less complicated" --meaning that as an
undergraduate in his late teenage years he had not yet gone
astray from hedonistic aims.

Now in the little casual sex he had, eroticism found itself
impaled in envisaging exploited frailties and male aggression
behind the façade of the beer and chip gaiety of prostitutes and
clients sitting around stages of dancing girls. It was pointless
to determine whether or not the competition with peers or
maturity itself were culprits or facilitators of more meaningful
interaction, and it was pointless to determine if this artistic
competition with peers had aggravated a dormant tenderness and
empathy that might well have been left alone for a happier
existence. He possessed the sixth sense of empathy now and it
was not the type of thing one could discard. "So," he thought,
"I've gotten older. It is surely better that way"--meaning
something to the effect of, "So there is now this maturity with
its yearning for connections to others, an aggrandizing of a
petty self in union with another, making strangers of the night
less erotic than they would have seemed in youth...so, there is
empathy..so empathy of a former sufferer of this world to
present sufferers is my lot...so I made some badly constructed
bridges to women in the past as relationship building was new to
me, maybe I can be a better engineer in the future."

Early into his career, he halfway believed that in his studies
of the dejected Patpong whores, petrous automatons of suburbia,
desperate homeless mendicants blowing bird whistles at
pedestrians near the Chao Phraya river pier, and himself, an
outsider inside the travail, the torture, the jailhouse of this
unjust world, that he would somehow redeem all. He did pay the
nude models who posed for and lay with him but apart from this,
neither in amorphous smudges on tattered paper as a boy nor
disciplined depictions of form on canvas as a man had he in the
least contributed to the redemption of his thralls. And for all
his money Jatupon was still there within him shining with tender
King Rama V's Chulalongkorn eyes of suffering for his people.
Those smudges helped no one but himself and for all his money he
could not buy the thing that he wanted most--a hardened mask
and protective gear similar to that which he had worn while
fencing in his undergraduate days at Silpakorn University which
might fortify him from being impaled by dejected beggars,
peddlers and their carts, sidewalk restaurant workers, whores,
and monks who were never given a chance. Suffering abounded--it
scurried away from the heat of the sun like a legless mutant
seeking the slippery shade of shadows on the sidewalks and it
would be there through decades, centuries, and millenniums to
come regardless of temporary external forms.

Had he been able to raise them to their full potential he would
have been a missionary with a mission instead of the sordid,
missionless man that he was, drawing the oppressed, but as they
were connected to him really drawing the self. It was a self
that was embedded in the personal life like a tree in its filth.
It was obsessed by being besmirched and colorizing the
besmirching. It was obsessed by dopamine, adrenalin, and
serotonin within for all that he put on canvas--at least it was
before retiring and giving himself to indolence, making
Noppawan, perplexed at what she could converse about with her
retired spouse apart from the names of the bimbos he was
copulating with.

He slid down the bathroom wall into a fetal position on the
floor as he was obviously imploding. For a couple moments he
meditated into nothingness, and had no thoughts beyond a
recognition of himself as fallen debris. It seemed real to think
of his brokenness and that the pile on the floor was absent of
self. He wanted to stay like this forever but thoughts, like
muscles in a fresh corpse, began their spasms to be restored.
They fought for redemption of the illusion of self despite his
own will to shut down. He pulled a bag of cannabis, a lighter,
and some rolling paper from his bulging pocket, assembled a
joint, and smoked.


8

Seated in his fetid corner, he was tacit in thought, still in
its fathoms like a corpse in a sunken and forgotten ship of long
ago, and he stayed in this state of sediment and mire,
nothingness and abyss, until startled by a sound of flapping and
the stirring of more than the usual continuum of sharp wind.
Startled, he turned toward this movement. In a split second he
saw wings and then the hard eyes, head, and beak of a black bird
sharply changing course when confronting itself in the mirror.
Then a couple seconds later it was gone and there was nothing
novel to see. It was just a reflection of himself staring back
at him, this mere self. To him, a separated man without a
relationship who was besieged by a redundant, torturous sense
that all along, without being aware of it, the sordid grains of
his life had been blowing incrementally out of his open hands
and were now passing away with an exponential conspicuousness
while he remained here absconding in a toilet of a train; it
felt as though he were sitting in a collapsing sand castle
waiting for an ultimate asphyxiation. "It was there--I am sure
it was" he told himself (meaning the bird, that which was
fleeting and had already fled) as if knowing the reality of
something so inconsequential with absolute non-human certainty
would prove that, despite doubts, his was a stable and sane
sense of reality. And if a stable and sane sense of reality was
not really possible in the skull-restrained jiggling of his
jellified brain that told itself that it was more than all
right, saner than the herds of men, he did not want to know of
such things.

To calm his racing, startled heart beat and damn off the
adrenaline that permeated and burnt through thought to the rigid
ready-to-respond posture of his muscles in a spreading ethereal
of flaming gas, he made the dark omen jocular. He told himself
that the bird was the ubiquitous symbol of a man running from
his own image figuratively while retaining a fixed stare at the
literal one. He might have even believed that there had been no
bird at all if it were not for his racing heart and the simple
fact that the window of the toilet was open. The two together
made the bird's existence more plausible (at least so the self
said if it meant much in the mixture of inhaled cannabis smoke,
swallowed antibiotics, and pain killers that had to be
stretching and distorting perception by thwarting the natural
flow of neurotransmitters into different speeds and in new
spirals of circuitry and thought). And yet even if this copy of
the bird that was branded or molded on a bit of his brain had
diminished to the point where it was now as unrecognizable,
weathered initials engraved on a tree, or an outline posing as
form, that did not mean anything. Did not a year in the life of
a boy ultimately vanish without even an outline? All that he
could say for sure was that even if it did not happen, that
which did not happen was gone now. He chuckled and found
pleasure in tilted equilibrium juggling its lit torches of
ideas. Then he thought, "Maybe I should have gone to a beach in
Phuket the way I was thinking I should earlier at the train
station. Watching the waves, I could have forgotten." It was a
natural enough response as embedded as it was like an instinct.
Intuitively one first sought large bodies of moving water, a
tangible version of eternity, by which to compare and measure
oneself. In so doing, his problems would become minute with the
man; and this was what he meant, for the train ride out of
Bangkok was doing nothing for him. "But really," he continued,
"how long can one be immersed in waves unless washed out neatly
with a tsunami and there is little chance of that happening
again anytime soon." The main reason that he had not gone to a
beach had little to do with fear of boredom. It was for fear of
seeming to himself as one of "those old retired nobodies with
money" who waited near the waters edge for death. To him those
waiting for death who sought non-failing amusement in the waves
which acted as their sedatives were a lost and lifeless
abhorrence.

"Anyhow," he thought as he sucked in the smoke of his reefer,
"about the bird, what am I thinking? Who gives a fuck about the
bird? Why am I dwelling on this bird. If the bird came in or not
it couldn't matter less. It does not even matter if I never know
anything and just go from one belief to the next under the
influence of whims" for it seemed to him that reality was the
obsession that we were under in the immediacy of the moment. If
the ultimate decay of one's exterior form made his existence
dubious, he argued, the tenuous and watery interior life of a
man's mind was even more that way.

With images of wings fluttering salient in his imagination,
desire suddenly began to percolate within him, tingling the body
like an intimate pot vibrating and ready to boil over with life,
and soon he wanted a resurrection from his fetal position on the
fetid floor. He wanted to fly and yet all that he could do was
remove his clothes. At first, it was to be only the removal of
his shirt for he needed to block the marijuana smoke from
exiting through the crack of the door. Soon, however, his pants
and underpants followed suit in this denuding. Soon they were
there caulking the crack as well. And as wind of the open window
swept over his nascent nakedness, dispersing the clouds of smoke
enough so that he could see fuliginous figures within the world
of his cramped toilet, he began to masturbate to the movements
of smoke-clouds.

Within, he was seeing diaphanous geckos on top of the ceiling
scurrying hurriedly out of the smoke of the toilet and through
the other cloud he was ogling a loosely robed sheik of an olive
Asian complexion who, fairly and most saliently naked in the
most critical aspects of that word, sat on a rock.

Four of the geckos had appearances of his former women as much
as geckos were able to resemble human beings. There was a dark,
ugly one with spectacles like Noppawan. There was a white
angelic one like Kimberly. There was one like the pretty white
Thai, Porn, with black hair bowering to her buttocks. There was
also that self centered one of childish exuberance radiating its
face like a skipping five year old. This gecko was similar to
Xinuae, whom long ago he had bestowed the nickname of "Chinese
Karen" so as to commemorate the day in which he had learned that
he was American by birth. Altogether the reptilian insects were
also like these former girlfriends in carrying off his love with
their eggs as they ran off to others who promised them an
immediate fulfillment of biological urgings, for in reproduction
there was not only the continuum of existence but womanly
purpose in nurturing posterity, and such happiness had statues
of limitation on it. It was not a literal smoke that they were
fleeing from nor even the asphyxiation of being alone. He could
tell this. It was a symbolic smoke of dying without purpose that
they were trying to escape. They knew that the flaming
impetuousness with its smoke cloud of being in love so as to
beget children was as brief as the body's ability to replicate.
They knew that nothing was more asphyxiating than a passing
cloud that they had not breathed in. They knew of no grief worse
than a barren existence in which they had not done the mating
moves in a timely manner that were part of that illusion for
meaning and purpose in their lives. To not see life as a rushed
activity that one needed to bungee jump into and to run out of
time to breed was a capital Sin-u-ae in organisms whose sole
purpose was to reproduce a bit of the self that was a composite
of replicating cells.

And as for the Laotian sheik, there he was sitting on a rock.
Nawin, while masturbating, which he called "stroking the bone",
paid most attention to him who had a voice that ripped through
the silence. "Since you were about ready to go on your trip to
the states, Nawin of the Thais with your American passport, we
decided to delay you for a while and show you our cave. An hour
ago we took the liberty of putting a nanotech bomb comfortably
in your ass. Rest awhile and you should be able to get around
tomorrow even if now there is a little pain. We had to seuter
you with whatever we could find, you know--wild poppies for
one. Don't worry--no plane cancellation for you and you will
not feel any discomfort at all when sitting on this flight to
Washington in a few days. When George Bush Junior puts the medal
of freedom around your neck there will be an explosion never
witnessed before. He and the entire capital will be a second and
third Grand Canyon. But for now, as training, know me--my
smells, my taste, the shape and feel of the contours of me. Know
it as training!" It was then that Nawin ejaculated most
volcanically onto himself and the wall. He did it with exquisite
visceral pleasure and pain like a Thai elephant making his debut
as an abstract artist. A minute later he was hand washing
himself at the sink. Pushing down on the tab to get his dribble
it seemed to him that every man was a dilettante artist.


9

From a hot Tuk-Tuk taxi ride leading to the train station to
being a carcass in a refrigerated car, and then from thinking
himself as a member of a couple with marital problems to one
slowly sensing in his lone journey out of Bangkok that he was
separate and separated, he was now journeying through the toilet
of the mind that was as fetid as a brother's sock and as
explosive and debilitating as the non-ending barrage of critical
words from the miscreants he knew familiarly as family. He was
being flushed down with the floating and volatile excrement of
memory and where it all would lead he did not know. As such he
thought,

- Nawin, what are you doing in there so long? [He was recalling
his wife's callow voice from that first week of their marriage]
Nawin? [As the marriage was new, her irritation was new; and
novel and so it seemed to transcend the barrier of the door to
mix sweetly with the falling waters and the rising mist of the
steaming shower] You know, you did not marry the bathroom [It
seemed a dulcet resonating warmth emanating to him from all
directions].

He remembered how as he stood there listening to her voice and
scrubbing his naked physique, he suddenly became preoccupied for
the first time with wanting to isolate just why he had this
belief that he was inordinately handsome when really he was as
dark as dirt. The facial contours and muscular physique seemed a
little better than average (whatever that meant) and he was
"just right" in not being too tall or short with genitalia that
were larger than ordinary, but not freakish or even
extraordinary. What, he asked himself, made him special? His
sullied attractiveness could even be perceived by some as
mediocre were it not for the fact that this mediocrity of
masculine symmetry was made extraordinary by his interactions
with women and their numerous touches with which his mind had
been filled over the years. Perhaps, he told himself, these
women were aware of nuances that he, a male and the subject of
the inquiry, was ignorant of. However, more likely, this being
groped had nothing to do with being handsome at all. Perhaps he
was merely a non-ugly entity glittering in a bit of fame and
affluence that made one popular. In his case this surely meant
being portrayed in the newspapers as naughty Nawin, the artistic
savant who pursued his studies of common whores with the most
uncommon diligence and when dressed, was regimented in
fashionable attire that anointed the brown body of Jatupon and
transformed into Nawin. So, in the bathroom he asked himself
whether the gropings were really for his beautiful self or for
characteristics that made these women feel beautiful in his
presence. Wildly, he surmised that if he were a preserved,
inanimate corpse like that in an anatomical museum this being
handsome would be seen as something that was ugly so undoubtedly
being attractive had little to do with physical appearance. A
woman did not want an inanimate corpse of a man to stand in
front of her bed but one to move with the symmetry of her
movements and in public to make the unit of male and female
gleam like the Emerald Buddha and scintillate like the golden
roof of a temple as a hallowed luminous body. It occurred to him
that subconsciously he knew this all along for it had not been
the gropers whom he had married but she who knew him longest,
she who had witnessed him in poverty when his dark skin seemed a
revolting filth. He had married Noppawan for truth. Thinking
this, with a bar of soap in his hands, he gloated in the marital
bond and spoke to her.

- No, nothing comes before my wife. [he said the words in
gargled mutterings distorted by his giddy softly cackling
laughter] The bathroom is just my royal consort.

- What did you say?

- Forget it. He was basking in being missed, which was being
loved; nonetheless, he could not help but that repeated dulcet
tunes were cloying to any listener of music, that a repeated
tune eventually became travail to the ear that required variety,
and that love was no different from any other sweet, diminishing
thing. Rinsing off the soap it seemed to him that surely love
sustained itself briefly on finite fuel which was pumped from
mutable rigs and that sooner or later when the energy was
depleted, with much less that could be tapped to keep him
dancing inside his head, he would see togetherness as the
constricted space that it was. If a man were missed when he went
into a bathroom and the bathroom was a subject of jealousy it
was obvious that the one who missed him wanted warm, glowing,
and perennial felicity and was dependent on him at all moments
and that she would be pulling his leash to have him with her at
every turn which made she and her male spouse, "them," as if
they were handcuffed together. At any rate, that was his fear;
for they who in childhood had spent so many years confined and
tortured in a cell only to become adults feeling, despite
amicable and gregarious facades, inwardly guarded and stiff with
each new approach of another human being, an ability to rest in
love's embrace was impossible.

At the mirror above the sink the fixed eyes recalled his own
voice of youth on that day.--I am waiting for you to come in and
wash me, he spoke loudly to transcend the bathroom door and the
material world with thought.

- I am not that kind of woman, she retorted to feign an
independence of her lover that was not hers. He chuckled at that
which could not be believed for only he, her husband, understood
that her wish for it was just that. Hers was the ingenuous voice
of a romantic who believed that he brought the world to her for
he was the new world, a real family replacing the dubiousness of
a former one, which she had repudiated and dismissed as just a
bad dream. In that sense they were both perfectly alike.

There in the bathroom, in this luxurious condominium overlooking
the Chao Phraya river, the water he felt and could not seem to
leave was not the water of a rich man pampering his longing for
hot showers but the cold rain of June in which a much younger
version of himself stood behind a food cart fettered in noodles
and pork, a boy named Jatupon who served soup to customers under
a leaking plastic canopy. In this state even the cognizance of
his wife being outside the door faded. There was just the
recollection of servitude under a cobbled leaking roof that was
trying to fly off like a kite. For a few minutes his self-
awareness remained as the poor servant he once was until he
heard,

- Nawin?

- Okay Honey, getting out now. He turned off the water, wrapped
a towel around himself, and exited.

- Nawin, she said a minute later as he came out dripping in a
towel, why do you have large stacks of new underwear in the
closet. She was laughing at him.

He smiled coyly. - You never know when you will need clean
underwear.

- This one stack alone must have fifty and they are totally
unworn with tags attached.

He smirked. - The idiosyncrasies of man, he said.

- Weirdness I would say; but he knew that she understood. As
someone who had known him in adolescence as Jatupon, and had
seen JatuPORN, as the fraternity called him, weep in the museum
of preserved corpses for the wish to be as deceased as they, she
knew the poverty that he was. He knew that she would assume the
stacks of underwear to be a repudiation of what he was. He knew
that she would not mention this, as indeed she did not, and he
loved her all the more for it.

"What do you want?" he asked an enormous gecko that was staring
at him, distracting him from inhaling a new cloud of smoke after
exhaling the previous one.

"You" or "Youth" it said, [He was not sure which one the thing
muttered] "I will eat" and it began to eat a long sheet of paper
like a poster which had his photograph as a noodle worker on it.

"Stop that," he said but the recalcitrant monster continued to
eat regardless of his wishes.

- I am not Panyaporn any longer, said one of his favorite models
one day in his studio.

- Is that so? He smiled.

- You are not drawing the woman you think you are but a stranger
of another name, she said.

- I don't mind strangers, he said. As they are strange they are
full of unknown possibilities.

Besides, imagining someone as other than pathetically human is
terribly erotic. Don't you think so?

- Why are strangers more erotic models, Nawin?

- You mean why are strangers more erotic creatures in general. I
don't know, he said playfully. Human beings are quite lovable,
you know, their painful journeys, their tragedies. At least I
think so. But the first brush stroke or caress of a stranger is
not love. It is different. It is uncomplicated, buoyant, and
mysterious like melting into the flames of a goddess."

- Nawin, I think that you hide behind your canvas. I think that
you are a pervert hiding deep in your paint so that women won't
see you for what you are. They believe that you are different.
They think that you aren't using them but admiring their beauty
when really you are no better than any man who abandons his wife
to come to women like me.

- Of course not. No different at all. All men feel the same in
being with others. There is no love in it, no empathy, it is
simply melting in a flame. Melting... and it is a melting
substance that releases its enzymes and eats the source of the
flame. Hold still while I draw your chin! That's right! Drawing
prostitutes, fucking them, it is all in consuming and being
consumed by beautiful flesh...flaming angels if you will. It
lacks love because love is baneful to lust and making love... an
obstacle to reproduction, you know. Illusions and delusions--
life is dependent on them. So you are not Panyaporn. No, I
didn't know this but then how would I unless you told me. I
wonder why the face and voice are the same, the body, the long
hair falling onto the breasts and burying them, and the salient
nipples peaking out of the burial demurely.

- The name, Nawin, the name! The monk told my mother that it was
an unlucky name and I needed to have it changed.

- I like your name. I cannot see anything unlucky in it. For
what reason? Why do you need this name change?

- To escape bad luck.

- Yes but how? You are with me so I cannot see how are you
unlucky. She shrugged her shoulders and he put away his brush
and walked over to her. You look like a Panyaporn to me.

- Either you believe in the monks' intuition or not. My mother
does so I have a new name to improve my life...to become more
happy, wealthy, successful.

- Poor and ignorant men in orange cloth leading the nation of
Thailand and the simpletons within it, he thought. Still he
smiled, for the Buddhism of the Thais had such ineffable beauty
the way a sunset was both true and lovely and he did not know
why. He did not want to think but to devour his girlfriend's
succulent skin in voracious kisses and he did just that until
she backed away. What is wrong? You are with me. How much
luckier can you be? Do you give your mother the money you earn
here?

- Of course. She is happy to have it. She is pleased to sell my
looks.

- You are lucky then. So do I still call you by the nickname of
"Porn?"

- No my real name. My new one is best.

- What is it?

- It's too long to say. Let's just call me Bun. Porn is too much
like my previous name.

- Like a bunny rabbit as they say in English.

- Take me out of here, Nawin.

- Here? he asked.

- This world. I want to go with you to another place.

- Rabboplanet, I bet. All bunnies like Rabboplanet. The gravity
there is so light that in one hop a bunny can stay midair for
ten minutes.

- Rabboplanet, she said in rapturous veneration as if
contemplating a utopia. He looked up at her, contemplated her
sincere wistful ecstasy at this contrived word, and guffawed.
Then he knew love for her, that wish to give any resource that
he had to deliver her to a better life.

He thought of leaving the bathroom again. It was different in
the mutable mind that knew and remembered imperfectly.

- Nawin, you know that there is a closet back here? And in it is
another one of your mountains of folded underwear. Why would
anybody need so much underwear?

- A guy can never know. One day he might be shooting some balls
on the court when suddenly his underwear falls from his hips
down to his feet like a hoola-hoop and all in front of the other
players looking down at his equipment.

She laughed, thinking it was a joke, for what did she know of
poverty? She knew the grief of family which had aged,
enlightened, and separated her to be bereft of the giddiness of
youth and this was plenty. Pain sobered one to the injustices
and suffering of the masses. But for he who knew the inordinate
burden of both there was a twice-fold enlightenment that came to
him. It was an emptiness like the vibrations of blowing into a
hollow bottle and an ache as eternal as a mortal could know.

The marijuana had numbed his headache so for the most part he
could ignore the lifeless aching. It was not all that different
than the monotonous chants of Buddhist monks that were broadcast
from speakers hanging in tree limbs of certain residential areas
of Bangkok. The sounds of bees and nagging wives one might not
be able to ignore, but a headache, active but flattened in
cannabis, was a throbbing numbness that almost felt titillating.
Still, mental pain could excel a bit of the lesser and more
manageable, physical pain, even when one was lucky enough not to
have both exacerbating the other. Thus, he felt the duress of
loneliness making him slide deeper into disconnection as the
stimulating and riveting air rushed through his hair.

Feeling more and more disconnected by the minute, he finally
released the joint to the vacuum of winds outside the train.
Then he waited a minute for a sufficient amount of zephyrs to
flush out the odors of the smoke before grabbing his shirt from
the crack, dressing completely, and stepping out of the toilet.
A stranger who had been timid at knocking squeezed by and went
into the toilet. A train officer who had been responsible for
placing the linen on the bunks was now gathering it from the
cots and stuffing a wad of it into a crevice beside the sink.


10

Leaving the toilet, he walked toward his seat, which was in the
eleventh car. His movements were slow as if this shivering from
the coldness that descended onto his carcass in the
"refrigerated car" were the cause. He wanted the warmth that was
in the other parts of the train but more wistfully, for a warmth
that was less superficial. It was a yearning to be, if only in
proximity, in some way connected to the lives of laborers within
who were going home to meet family for the long weekend of
Father's Day, the king's birthday. Before him a train official
was removing the linen from the bunks of the passengers who were
already awake and there was a mounting pile of blankets, sheets,
and pillow cases on the floor as though for him an augury to a
fallen but still scattering life. Suddenly stopping at a
distance to wait for it all to be cleared away, Nawin wondered
of the laborers in these other cars who were bringing their new
families to meet the old ones. Were they not conscious, he
thought, that the families manufactured from having "banged
their cocks" in Bangkok were the only reality (a reality, such
as it was, exponentially longer than the carnal devourings of
flesh and pleasure that were the impetus for the conceptions of
the offspring, but no less ephemeral)? Did they not know that
upon leaving the reunions their extended families would be
relegated to the faces of strangers in the foggy back alleys of
memory in which they would exit as maternal, paternal, avuncular
and aunt-like outlines of diaphanous faces and stick figures
only to be restored a little from time to time with letters and
telephone calls? Did these laborers not know that their own
loin-begotten families conceived by emotional and physical
frenzy were easily diminishing puffs of smoke that in a brief
space of years would replicate into other puffs of smoke before
entirely vanishing, and that the labor of ethereal man to keep a
puff of smoke there in his clasped hands was to no avail? Never
to be made sagacious by the wisdom of perversion, were each of
these myriad aestivating dwellers of arid complacency to never
experience as he had a rude awakening of fraternal molestation
in cold showers from that only family member who genuinely cared
about him and whose insertion of hard riveting love almost
seemed true with brothers who knew and yet said nothing beyond
the distortion of his name to Jatu-PORN or the equivalent
thereof and with parents who knew and did nothing but to
continue the usual mandates of errands and chores with more
vitriolic contempt? No, fortunately for the masses of men they
did not have his background. They were innocents content in
their illusions as innocents did when innocence was bliss.

He smiled bitterly as he glowered into space. He realized that
he was groping and swinging his aspersions madly as a blind man
piercing the air indiscriminately with his stick and yet at the
same time he was writhing in himself, eager to escape his own
skin. He was curious about the family men whom he had seen many
hours earlier walking contently enough to the "cattle cars" at
the train station accompanied, demarcated, and limited by wives
and children while at the same time censuring their perfunctory
lives. If his thoughts were in part an iconoclast's blaspheme
against the family unit, a group that comprised all groups, they
were also full of regret that, beyond a work of art, a mortal
man could not change into the livery of another's skin, of a
child who was proud of his Biadklang name and the parents who
owned their own rice and noodle cart that was part of their
sidewalk restaurant, of being their son if but a slave who was
reproached and disparaged most awakened minutes, and of being in
a fraternity, an eternity of belittling words sported against
him to get the grin, chuckle, or tacit endorsement of the father
emperor who, when at home, crossed one leg on another in his
recliner and thumped his foot in an erotic gavel. He abjured
devoting so much thought in this vein; still, the high of the
marijuana was at certain moments lifting his grave ideas like a
magic carpet, allowing an exhilaration of uninhibited thought
even if the turbulent ride was dependent on intermittent gusts.

Hydrogen clouds detonating into stars; stars exploding as
supernovas and the debris congealing into planets; microorganisms
of those planets that became extinct, stayed the same,
or evolved; male life forms in some of these worlds disgorging
bodily fluids within partners who would sometimes conceive new
offspring; this expended energy producing offspring that was
animated or still-born, born with health and beauty or defects
and predispositions toward degenerative illnesses, and all was
chance in this spewing forth of matter. Pondering this around
ten feet from the toilet in a part of the aisle which was an
intersection between the two cars of the train, he knew that
even with this proclivity for imploding in his own black hole he
too was a bit of an exploding star, a spewing mess unto himself
going randomly forward.

Standing there, wanting the worker to suddenly finish his task
so as to allow him to proceed to his seat or bunk, he could only
sense an oblique and loose connection to himself in the obscure
light. Eagerness for any activity was curtailed in a man whose
self seemed to be oozing into his shadow, and he was no
exception. As much as he was capable of, he wished repetitively
for his expedited entry into the car but minute after minute it
was blocked by this encumbrance of a train officer. His tepid
eagerness was not so much for a return to the confines of a
space that had been designated to him but to end a silence that
was becoming more disconcerting with each passing moment and
from a concern that the time of waiting there would sink him
further into himself. He wanted to smoke a cigarette to have
something to do. It was not nicotine or an oral sensation to
clog the void of space and time that he so much yearned for but
a mental conceptualization of himself with a cigarette in his
mouth which when matching the reality of actually having one
hang there would be equated as insouciance. Doubting that a
relaxed mental outlook was really garnered with such an
ineffectual drug as tobacco and theorizing that its efficacy in
making one at ease with the world was not so much from the
nicotine but the pleasure gained in graciously sticking out
one's cigarette to the world, exhibiting nominal contempt for
the planet by blowing smoke out onto one's miniscule sector of
society, and concocting a sense of defiant and invincible
imperturbability in a world that he knew one should be perturbed
by. It occurred to him that imperturbability was really the aim
of any smoker; and he posited that lacking a quality caused one
to imagine a quintessential form of it, to stencil it onto the
brain from the pattern of the ideal (man with cigarette,
detached, and triumphant in a haughty and complacent
indifference to all), and then to persuade himself that he was
the paragon of that which he was lacking. This being so, the
billboards in Bangkok showing images of the cigaretted man
alone, felicitous, and nonchalant or felicitous and nonchalant
with a felicitous and nonchalant partner smacked of an unreality
slated for destruction.

Uncertain if it were at all permissible to light up a cigarette
anywhere in the train, if he would be reproached and fined if he
were to do so in this particular area that he was in, or if he
even wanted to smoke at all, he floundered ambivalently before
dropping the subject altogether. Still needing to have something
to do, he re-combed the breadth of his unwashed hair and beyond
that continued to stand aimlessly, inadvertently smelling the
effluvium from his shirt which in the space of twenty hours had
become its own unflushed toilet. Then there was a sudden need to
defer to larger movements of the moment so he backed against a
wall near a sink in the corridor to get out of the way of the
officer who was now officiating over two large bundles of wadded
linen that he was dragging toward a container near Nawin's feet.

He certainly could have easily felt better just being there with
awakening, groping creatures of movement like himself and would
have begun to do so in this moment of proximity to the train
officer except for an unsettling feeling that was a precursor to
the siege of memory. Being in this darkened aisle, he felt as if
he were once again the adumbrated boy whom he once was. It was
as if he were that being who was scared to advance beyond the
back corridor leading to and from he and his brother's room at
his parents home, for fear that his presence would be despised
by all. He snickered at these craven impulses for a few seconds
but this coarse and bitter fire of laughter quickly incinerated
what was jocular within it. It occurred to him that the boy's
perennial sadness had so fully overcome him that it was as if
what he had been experiencing were nothing other than an
attempted coup. Jatupon's thoughts had briefly usurped his mind;
and even in repugning the advances and regaining this mental
kingdom from the boy he was certain that Jatupon was probably
still there hidden behind a hill of gray matter, wounded but
waiting for an opportune moment to initiate a new attack. As he
was forty now it was rather obvious that these insurrections
would be ongoing throughout the entirety of his life, that the
insurgent named Jatupon, whose suppressed, raw, mauled emotions
and thought were as intransigent as his own will within these
skirmishes, would attempt to control critical sectors and
regions of his mind at unsuspecting moments, and that behind the
scenes he would attempt to influence and discomfit key decisions
in the mind.

When the officer was gone, he remained stationary for a few
moments longer to allow, or ostensibly allow, the free passage
of the toilet goer who was returning back to the car, and then
for a glass bottle of Gatorade as empty and hollow as he was to
roll quickly past the toes of his bare feet. More significantly,
however, he stood there leaning against the sink to feel
something solid beneath him as the train was seeming more and
more like a jet in turbulence as if, for a social creature
dwelling in the waves of his stagnant body of thoughts
concerning his social relationships, there really were any
turbulence beyond that which was there in one's own mind.
Throughout the minutes of waiting in the aisle it seemed to him
that conversation was becoming as imperative as air to breathe.
He needed the vibrating air of speech to interpose between his
thoughts so as to stabilize a ruminating spiral into self-
destructive, non-sensical darkness where there was a risk of
losing all that was tangible in himself.

Like with most strangers, in both of these brief encounters with
the linen officiator and the toilet goer he had respectively
greeted and smiled at each of these individuals at the moments
of seeing them with a sawadee khrap and a gracious nod of the
head in place of the wai. As a result of being high, the
expressions that he had exhibited then were exaggerated and
ludicrous and generated little reaction but eyes attempting to
avert him. They had given him reciprocal greetings but they had
been begrudging utterances of asperity and dismissal. Thinking
of this now, his smile deadened to a bland and withdrawn
expression as strangers, these treasure chests in which
conversation could unlock knowledge and spontaneity, seemed
empty and exhausted resources. It was not only true of these two
men but of those he saw at a distance now awakening in the car
before him (some who were seated lengthwise or dangling their
feet from upper or lower bunks): they were all diminishing
steadily to remote and alien presences.

Standing there as he was, for a moment he had to hold onto the
sink for the physical world seemed to be turning into a gas. For
a few seconds he imagined geckos flying low in an air born mist
moving like low-flying, prey-seeking pelicans and then, as they
receded from him, like squirrels hopping over the caps of the
waves of a river as furrowed mounds of the dirt of a field. As
the mist thickened into fog, they became less and less visible.
The only thing that was salient was the immediate past impaled
by feelings of regret and futility for that which could not be
erased and redone. There was just the immediate past which could
not be consumed, altered, or forgotten. Recalling it and
reliving it again boosted his stress. It was as if he were there
at the Italian restaurant with Kimberly and his wife. It was as
if he were once again foolishly, gullibly, and jubilantly
agreeing within the surreal flickering candlelight of the table
to father Kimberly's child and this agreement was being done not
only with the hope of releasing pent up sexual energy for this
foreign woman who had been part of his moral code of
unapproachables (concocted morality the equivalent of timidity
and hardly a virtue at all) but also to have something from a
life that was so unremarkable and indistinct when lost within a
middle aged fog. Every man by getting married divorced himself
from his parents, but it was only in having a son and making his
link to the concatenated continuum of life that manhood was
obtained; and whether or not his parents were alive, spirits, or
nothingness beyond loose elements, a man had to commune with
them and declare his manhood in this way. This is what he had
done, more or less, in marrying sterile Noppawan, and completing
fifteen years belatedly with Noppawan and Kimberly; and yet he
could think of no battleground more deleterious than family.
When he was a boy, had the Burmese been at war with the Siamese,
like the elephant wars of yesteryear, he would have enlisted as
a soldier, for to be impaled with metal blades was less of a
travail than to be impaled with mental ones, these spoken words;
but ironically here he was now in his own sad concoction of
family as one diminishing plume of smoke begot another.

And there on hardened benches or pews with the dust of the open
windows smiting their eyes were these laborers in something
slightly more opulent than cattle cars. If they preferred to be
in this air conditioned car that he was in with its padded seats
which had folded out into sleepers the previous night, he, the
laborer that he had been born as, would almost have been
inclined to go in there and stay with them. And as giddy and
light-headed as he was from that which he had smoked, he was
tempted even further to go into the tenth car to randomly ask
sundry individuals for invitations to one of their family
reunions but that within him which retained logic and a sense of
the socially acceptable and plausible was only moved to laugh
until his body jiggled like Jell-O at the absurdities that ran
through the human mind.

Shivering and immobile as he was in the "refrigerated car," he
thought of himself as a half dead carcass with sexual energy and
desire having been recently depleted in a bizarre, depraved
masturbatory experience that had confounded him for being
contingent on oogling and grazing over an imaginary version of
the Laotian in his head, and regrets about Kimberly having
churned and re-churned his thoughts into a liquidated mass. It
seemed to him that he was as bereft of viscous thoughts sticking
to the surface of the brain as his own readable perceptions of
life. He told himself that he just wanted to return to his bunk,
cover himself up, and return to sleep. His brain was on a
descent from its high, but it seemed to him that even if he were
to land gracefully in a field of his choosing he would be
whipped around in the winds of this world regardless of what he
were to do. Unless he were to return to the landing strip of
family his whole life would be for nothing and yet that landing
strip was on gaseous Jupiter and the strip was ethereal and
waving as though a gas were being pumped into it from
underneath.

He knew that even if he had a telephone, all his attempts to
reach his wife would be futile. There would be the same
perennial ringing in his ears as when he was at the hospital
broken at her hand, in the driveway locked out of his own home,
in the hotel room womanless, alone, forlorn, lost, and
directionless, half hoping to become a nice couple's foundling
at the train station. If he were to borrow a telephone and call
her now it would be wasted, unrecorded effort at making contact
as a scream in space reverberating forever through and for
nothing; and yet he was reaching a hand into an empty pocket
nonetheless, as if his mobile phone had not been thrown into the
trash barrel at the train station. He was subconsciously bending
his fingers as if they were clasping the Nokia 3660, and he was
tapping imaginary numbers into his palm. Then he recalled the
plausible which deflated hope and imagination to earthly things.
He noted the possibility of never seeing her again. It occurred
to him how the plausible and real were part of his daydreams.
Even in them he could not shirk reality where calls to her would
be as calls to the Nirvana that was Kimberly.

For a moment he felt that same intense nosocomial sadness and
regret which had caused him to cry in front of a nurse a few
days earlier. If she had judged him, it had been a judgment of
tenderness; but for him the emasculate act of visceral mourning
over Kimberly's death in front of this stranger had been so
mortifying that it was worse than spilling the content of one's
curved, plastic urinal onto the bed sheets. Thinking of it now,
he decided that if ever again overtaken by the tragedies of this
world, slitting his throat would be the only act of self-
decency. That did not mean, however, that he expected suicide to
be his eminent end any time soon for it seemed to him that he
could make a distinction between the negative occurrences
surrounding a life from life itself, and that two people, for
whatever comity that they displayed in love, were volatile wills
like tremors of changeable landscapes in which the suspension
bridge of a relationship was tied. Sometimes things just fell
apart.

Standing there in this back corridor that was permeated by the
dulcet stench of the toilet, he spent a few moments breathing in
and out as deeply as he could in his own dabbling of lay yoga.
It was as though he were a vacuum cleaner in reverse
regurgitating from his bag the filth of this world. Then he told
himself that Kimberly's post-partum depression and her swift
leap into the elements had not been his fault (fault not having
yet been officially determined by Bangkok police officers who,
in this ambiguous situation, were perhaps as circumspect,
finicky, and slow to move as squatting, urinating bitches in
Lumphini Park, enamored and distracted by some such bitches, or
preoccupied with matters involving the location and use of drug
pushers for target practice). He was not one who could divine
evil events but merely a participant banging and being banged as
one of life's billiard balls. In a further attempt to calm
himself he rationalized in an analogy apposite to an artist that
any ostensible relationship might appear as a fusion of color in
all this mixing, but the color could recede and when it did
there were just two individuals staring at each other in black
and white from distant corners. All relationships receded in a
world of impermanence, said the atheist bombastic to himself
most piously.

He told himself that it was true that the present moment was the
motion and commotion now registered to the senses with the past
gone and the future not yet nascent. Then he told himself that
although yesterday under logical scrutiny seemed the epitome of
archaic and antiquated happenings and had no baring on the
present, it propped up today the way the distant past depending
on family background was a solid or unstable foundation that was
the pedestal for yesterday. Then he concluded that although the
past was unreal, it constituted the present and could never be
repudiated successfully. And as for regrets, any sentient being
had regrets over negative, adventitious happenings. Still, to
expend one's rational powers trying to expunge the negative
happenings of this life with intangible thought seemed the most
absurd act of futility.

Now relaxed in an objective distancing of himself from
prevailing emotions, he conceived an idea for a painting which
he did not care to ponder. It was one which, even with the right
artist, would not work well as a series, let alone as one image
and yet there it was projected onto the canvas of his mind as if
he were destined for it. It was story and images in which a
hoary man with the appearance of the train officer was moving as
one urban speck in a peripatetic herd of pedestrians when for a
second his phlegmatic demeanor identical to those around him was
altered by a spontaneous surge of despair, a feeling which in
turn caused thought about the meaning of his life to imbue and
pulsate from his face. Needing or desperately thinking himself
to need the continuum of former friends, he grabbed his cellular
telephone from his briefcase and called one, only to find that
the man was now a stranger who was distorted in age and mental
outlook from that which he remembered. Then he attempted to
emulate his earlier stoicism but he kept seeing shadows of the
form of his deceased wife stretching out as shadows in front of
store windows. Abjuring the idea of dialing the telephone number
of their former home together, he did it nonetheless as if there
were a chance that she would answer and tell him that her staged
death had been a practical joke. Hearing an automated voice
telling him of a disconnected number, he cowered into the crowd
and seemed to wither there. He envisaged this as if it could be
transcribed into art and as if he, a retired has-been who had
merely reproduced whores and slight thematic variations of them,
were the right one to depict it.

As this was not a given second but a series of changes in a few
minutes of a man's life, he soon saw these scenes in a chain of
diminutive beads. Every other bead would reflect the present
dilemma and alternate beads would portray a significant person
in his life. The significant others would be mirrors and a light
source that would give some visibility to a huge diaphanous face
of the man that the entire chain outlined. He was, after all, a
reflection of those whom he was trying to desperately contact
and it seemed to him that they should make up every other monad
and that their eyes would be attempting to look at the entirety
of a face that they would never be able to see fully. As it
would be an anecdotal work on a large canvas, each scene, each
bead of this outline of the man's face, would be a punctilious
and time consuming feat to render. He did not have a clue
whether the motif was incandescent or prosaic and insipid. The
only thing that he believed with some certainty was that if the
painting was worth doing he was not the man to implement his
ideas. For in comparison to a Caravaggio, a Titian, a
Michelangelo, or a Da Vinci, he knew that his talents were the
top of the bottom tier of dilettantes, and even a knowledge that
he was able to render his own mediocrity with the splendor of
originality was not helpful. The thought of his mediocrity was
asphyxiating to him and he again pondered that he was merely a
prostitute painter, a fetid and odious "nobody" within the
demarcated self of a Nawin Biadklang that he could never
transcend. He fretted about his place in the world as if the
masses of men ever found a voice within themselves, as if his
earlier paintings, which were still being collected, valued, and
traded, had vanquished with him off the artistic scene, and as
if his brief inclusion in an article about contemporary Asian
art in Newsweek had meant nothing at all.

The train officer clanged each of the metallic ladders with the
handle of a butter knife while repeating, "Nongkai in one hour.
Breakfasts for those who ordered them." Then he began to pull
down linen, shoving tenebrous tombs back into their embankments,
and readjusting bottom bunks. Nawin relinquished the idea of
returning to his seat anytime soon and sat down on a box of
clean linen where he contemplated the article. He recalled:
"Nawin Biadklang's paintings are almost like a hybrid of Montien
Boonma's Buddhist sculpture with an amateur painter's penchant
for easily obtained nude models in Bangkok's red light district.
Biadklang's talents at present are clearly dwarfed when compared
to his predecessor, the most important Thai artist of
international significance; but then youth is often seedy and so
are his works, studies of prostitutes that make up his oeuvre.
The combination is a somewhat refreshing exhibition that
succeeds as a study of the oppressed and the human condition."
It was a passage that he knew by heart and yet one where the
writer's meaning still eluded him.

Then without meaning to do so, the self was eclipsed and he was
asleep in a nap with its expeditious transit into a percolating
sea of images. He was deluged in raw feelings, the construction
material of thought, which the movement of those images brought
down upon him. Within one series of loosely concatenated images,
one dream, he (he or something similar as one part of himself
seemed to be an audience of one watching the Nawin debacle from
an objective distance) was in his mother's car driving to her
home. They were returning from a cemetery in which they had
failed to commune with even the positive memories of the
deceased. They were inadvertently deviating into that distant,
solitary region of themselves where negative and defunct
memories continually reverberated against bluffs of the mind as
faint, unresponsive echoes. The short journey to her home seemed
long and dull and thirty miles into it they both felt ill. She
asked him to stop the car so they bought some fast food and
turned into a parking lot along the Mississippi River. There
they began to eat while looking out onto the sodden waters under
darkening skies. There was a flock of pelicans flying overhead,
and geckos trying to elude the birds by floating on top of the
mist.

"Look over there," she pointed. "They must be making their nests
under the bridge."

"What is?"

"What is?," she mocked. "The pelicans!"

He looked. "I don't to see any of them making a nest," he
murmured.

"Well, maybe I need to take you to get some new glasses."

"No, that's all right," he said. He tried to look again but this
time he was distracted by an eerie roll of thunder which sounded
like the ambulatory movements on creaking floor boards of the
residents of an upper apartment heard from one story below.

"To the left, under the bridge. Can't you see?"

"Oh, I see them now. I bet so," he lied blandly. "A lot of them
seem to be clustered over there, don't they?"

"It's got to be nests," she said as she rolled down her window
to gain fuller clarity. Sitting in there with his mother, it
occurred to him that their relationship was merely a spoken list
of adventitious occurrences recorded by the other's senses. On
this day, it was ornamental designs engraved on tombstones,
xanthic blooms of Magnolia trees, the flight of birds observed
from the car, and now nests under a bridge. Yesterday it had
been the number of buds on her rose tree, the clothes he had not
brought with him and needed to purchase at Wal-Mart, sheets and
pillow cases that she needed to buy there, grass that needed to
be mowed, food that they wanted to eat, a bathroom that needed
to be cleaned, and other incidentals that they happened to relay
to each other. As such, there was nothing personal in it at all.
Still, she had nurtured him when he was young. She had been the
one who had fed and clothed him, made him soup and gave him a
wet washcloth for his hot forehead when he was sick, had him get
out of thunder storms, told him to never walk across the street
unless in consort with the masses and only at green pedestrian
lights or when incoming traffic was stalled at red lights, and
given him a sundry of unrecalled, commonplace items that forged
the early bonds of affection. Even though she was not interested
in him now, she was his mother, and he wanted to at least feign
an interest in her, for feigning often became believing if acted
persuasively enough. Thais thought that altruism was the impetus
of parental love, the purest of love, and he told himself that
regardless of the veracity of the claim he should go on thinking
it was true for if he were to cease believing in its goodness,
all other forms of love would be instantly rendered as
mendacious counterfeits. Also, the superficial evidence of words
and facial expressions often belied the inner feelings and
sensitivities that might be active within these guarded human
creatures. He always felt her disapproval of him even in the
most favorable situations, but with the intangible and often
erroneous nature of feelings, how would he know that it was not
his own imagination? Furthermore, how could he on any day, let
alone a day of returning from a cemetery, look into her haggard
countenance and pass judgment on her as unloving? If shopping,
meticulous housekeeping, gardening, and commentary on nature
were her only subjects of concern and her only crimes, it seemed
to him that they were rather innocuous ones. If she fortified
herself by clogging her mind with these activities it seemed to
him that the impalpable self needed them for definition and that
human beings had to clog the space of their brains with at least
some nugatory issues in order to have any degree of sentience.
And yet, in her curtailed life, which was so fortified by the
distractions of the plants she grew, domestic chores that needed
to be performed, and diurnal trips to and from Wal-Mart, he knew
that she immured herself from self-reflection. She, an active
defiler, had to know the stench of her former family and yet it
always seemed to him that she pretended the rot and her role
within it did not exist. And more importantly, the absence of a
mutually agreed past left them bereft of a present, rendering
talk on the most trivial matters arduous if not ineffable.

Silence overtook them until at last he concocted something to
say. "You know, birds like that quickly abandon their newborn.
They have so many of them that they can leave their survival to
chance."

"What do you mean by that?" she asked pugnaciously, as if
comments on the maternity of birds were an oblique critique of
her role as a mother. Then, sensing the absurdity of the
association, she tried to modify his perception of her. "I mean
you don't know anything about pelicans, do you?"

"Just an article which I looked at before we left the house." He
lied. He had not read anything. It was just that he did not know
what to say to this human being who was reliving a former role
as a maternal autocrat, a mother whom he had outgrown long ago.
This had been his lie, his benign artifice, to connect with her
somehow, although the benign contained its own acerbity.

"You always did like to read."

"Yes," he smiled.

"Books and paint but rarely doing any work. That's the way it
has always been with you, hasn't it?"

"I am a famous artist now. I make more money than--"

"You are nobody. You are no better than the rest of us."

"No I'm not," he admitted and pressed his lips together into a
contrived smile that hid his teeth. For a moment he was reticent
to say anything at all, but fearing a worsening imbroglio if he
continued his silence he asked, "You've never seen pelicans
here?"

"No. I said that before. I don't remember even hearing of them
in this area. They are normally from warmer places. Florida, the
newspaper says. I guess all of them came out here from that
area."

"With a road map and a desire to see the Midwest for their
holidays," he added facetiously. It was an utterance meant to
make their relationship congeal in levity and friendliness but
he immediately sensed the sarcastic nuance within it and that he
was as much stating his own displeasure at seeing her once
again. He knew that he was making things worse. "Maybe they've
been in the delta all along but migrate up the Mississippi River
during abnormally warm springs."

"Whatever!" she responded biliously. They were silent for they
were perplexed as to what they should say to each other so the
woman and the middle-aged son whom she was ashamed of (at least
the taciturn disposition, pressed lips. and sunken eyes seemed
to be a suppressed animadversion of a being whom she wished that
she did not despise) wondered about the ramifications of saying
nothing at all.

"I wish that your father were here to see this with me," she
said. Unmarried and living away, he was failure personified so
why would she want to be seated inches away from him? Maybe she
thought that he should never have come home. Maybe she thought
that he should have run away before having his first wet dream
at the age of twelve thereby allowing her, even decades later,
to frantically hope for the well-being and return of that
perennially missing child of her imagination. Even worse, he
wondered, maybe she preferred for him to be dead instead; and
yet he did not know those as her thoughts or how to know much of
anything really.

This was their respite after seeing the marble stones that
indicated where his brother, Kazem, and his father lay, but now
he was as bereft of words as he had been then and he was
straggling tortuously in his head the way he had wandered with a
numb and aimless gait around the tombstones. He had returned
from Thailand to restore a relationship and more importantly to
once again be with his mother and hear her call his name and yet
for this earnest effort how could he speak with her earnestly?
How could he say that he was glad that at least some of his
torturers were buried underground, or admit that his best
thought toward the devil who was his father was that he should
rest in peace. He could only nibble his hamburger, slurp his
chocolate shake, offer to share some of his onion rings with
her, his stout mother, which she finally did take, and remember,
as no lobotomy or other expurgation of specific memories was yet
in existence. Visiting a cemetery for a man was supposed to
engender lachrymose thought rather than tears and vented
memories tenderly spoken; but for him whose life was an
aberration, it had merely evoked minced silence. And this, his
silence at the cemetery, which had flagellated her with the
unalterable past, now made him repugnant to her.

At last something good, the mellifluous and the true, began to
trickle from his brain and pour in with the saliva of his mouth.
"I'm here. I know it has been five years--you needing to help
raise your grandchildren or whatever required your attention
during this time--grandkids or not, it doesn't matter... I'm
not blaming you--but finally you relented and we're here
together, and I am glad...glad to be here with you." It was
there, a harnessed wisp of liquidated air in his mouth, but as
he believed that she would only despise him were he to release
the words he replaced sentiment with the mundane, as strange as
it was. "Did the newspaper explain the geckos? Their migration
here seems odder yet. The fact that they float up there eating
bits of the sky seems odder than any pelicans migrating this far
north."

She got out of the car and went to them, her birds, as nearly as
she could approach them at the edge of the river, that body of
water that was distended in fish and sewage and barely able to
move like a fat man after gormandizing at a buffet. When she
returned she had him change positions, took over the driver's
seat, started the car, and they drove away. By this time the air
was thundering with such a noise of pelicans that they could no
longer hear the creaking of the air under the weight of the
geckos.

"I don't understand your hurry to get back"

"Your Aunt Helen and Uncle Jake will be waiting. I plan to eat
ice cream and cake with them even if the guest of honor refuses
to go."

"I did not refuse. I simply pointed out that the invitation was
ten days belated and followed you giving them some furniture.
You know that it is less of an invitation than a token payment
to make sure that the giver keeps giving. How obvious can it be?
They haven't communicated with me for twenty years, so why
should they bother now? And as for this idea of yours that if I
don't go I don't love you, maybe it successfully manipulates
children but it is rather reprehensible to adults, wouldn't you
say? If I were to go what would I say about my personal life?
I'm forty years old, unmarried, and they are bound to ask. I
can't exactly continue to stammer out some evasive nonsense to
the question about my involvements: that I am still looking, or
laughing uncomfortably and ignoring the question altogether--
whatever I said or did last time. I really don't remember what I
said. Maybe it was that I wanted to get my career in order
first. Maybe I was silent like a mental and social retard."

"Don't go then!"

"What?"

"Don't go. I don't want you to be there. You aren't welcome."

"I want to know why in all of these many years you never even
show the least interest in my life relationships, friendships,
where I travel, where I live, what I do."

Her face cringed at the steering wheel and dashboard and he
could see in it repugnance at what she believed to be the
turpitude of his life.

"Why can't you ask anything?" he importuned.

"I don't want to know anything. Go back to Thailand and do God
knows what. You don't even live with anyone do you? It is just
sex. Your life is just filled with sex."

"You don't know anything. How could you with nothing ever asked
or said. You make assumptions without knowing anything."

"What you do with your male friends--your sex life, I don't
want to hear about it. It is private--your private business and
I don't want my nose rubbed in it."

"What has your nose been rubbed in, Mother? I have a girlfriend
and a child--a child. For God's sake, look at the pictures in my
wallet!" he pulled out a wallet, unfolded it, and flipped the
photographs randomly.

"Get them out of my face. They are the same ones that you sent
to me--the ones I glanced at and mailed back to you. It's not
your child. It has nothing to do with you and less to do with
me."

"It's my child," he yelled.

"Don't you dare raise your voice to me. Don't you dare raise
your voice to your mother."
At this place that in youth he had referred to as home for lack
of anything more substantial, he quickly packed his bags and
thought of how concocted and sententious morality was. It seemed
to him that it was the equivalent of timidity and hardly a
virtue at all. It was seeing shadows and monsters in that which
deviated beyond the boundaries of one's awareness and only this.
There were clearly wrong actions, actions of hate, but these
were not issues of morality but the loss of a logical restraint
to instinctual passions of destruction for the sake of self-
preservation. He told himself that he would and could break off
the relationship for to not do so would make him the mimesis of
the bad they thought that he was, and if he believed that he was
bad he would relinquish self-control and in a turbulent rest
allow himself to be overtaken in a vortex of destructive
passions. He had gone through this much of his life without in
the early juncture of his youth having constructive role models.
Still he had concocted his own imperfect expression of love as
others who had been mulled in family. As they did with the years
of their lives, he also tried to fine tune what benevolent love
existed within him and would go on doing so, sometimes even
accomplishing it.

He woke to human contact. It was a nudge.

"What are you doing?"

"Oh," said Nawin while smiling. "I was just trying to stay out
of your way."

"You can go back to your seat now, I'm done."

Nawin stood up and the dream, like flooding river water, receded
back to its usual course. Deemed as unreal and untrue, it was
relegated no differently than other repudiated and forgotten
experiences within the continual shove of movements in time and
by a consciousness which only accepted the reality of everything
new that flowed into it (At this moment, for him it was what the
senses were recording as the linen officer departing into
another car, the drab and fetid qualities of the train, and his
constricted space within it as he continued to flee his fumbled
personal life, which he remembered all too well). He shook his
head and scoffed at the dream where a dim sense of reality
persisted. Pushed further into the past with every mounting
moment, it still discombobulated his present reality with its
magnetism. It had been a mere dream but when he was in it, the
images had seemed so clear, motivation had seemed less cryptic,
and he could not help but wonder if in sleep the awakened state
would seem dreamy if dreams had cognition of such a state.

Contrary to the dream, he had never known his mother in
adulthood and apart from being born in America and living there
for a few years, possibly the bastard of an unknown father (at
least that was his conjecture to explain his parents separation
then and the degree to which he was flouted afterward over so
many years) he did not know America. This was apparent by his
conceptualization of the Mississippi River where motorized
gondolas moved around high rise condominiums only to depart into
a canal the way they did in Bangkok. Whether the dream attempted
to indict him as a homosexual or depict sexual ambiguity, he
could not see either one as exceptionally true at mirroring his
image (truth being that--a mirror). He certainly was not a
homosexual whatever queer caprices might come upon him--sexual
energy merely flowing without direction or destination were it
not for mores and a negative, positive, or hyper-inflated
interpretation of one parent or both as role models which
barricaded the momentum and, like crags, altered the flow. No,
he told himself, he was no more queer than any heterosexual--it
was just that what was most pleasant in one's bleak environment
at a given moment became the playmate and intrigue in one's head
to which innate energies were channeled in its favor. And of his
relationship with his mother, as she had died when he was
fourteen years old, there had not been enough time for a
rupture. He recalled that this mother in the dream had not been
his own but a macabre, ersatz face stolen from the naked,
preserved corpse with the slit chest at the anatomical museum at
Siriaj Hospital who the fourteen year old child, Jatupon, had
rightly or erroneously believed in his grief and neediness to
resemble his mother--the details of the face of his real mother
having diminished like the engraving of a name in the sand after
the first wave.


11

There was one second of thinking that the memory of his mother
had neither dissipated in part nor whole but surely remained as
something inappreciably more cohesive and tangible that was
either lost or banished and forlorn within the present jungle-
thicket growth of neurons, and caught in the weeds and brambles
of failed possibilities. He thought that with sedulous and
indefatigable will, even more paths could surely be trodden
within his growing array of brambly chaotic connections; and
that eventually from this somewhat circuitous trudging through
memory and thought and being nearly blown away in volant whims
of his biochemistry and penchant for pleasure, these paths would
bring him nearer to those lost bonds of the past (not to her
who, of course, was deceased and when alive and enervated from
perennial work and exasperating children and who had despised
him placidly within the ameliorating parameters of maternal
instinct, but to a recollection of her the way she really was
instead of the distortions of memory that had her as a weathered
and defaced countenance like a featureless rock or, at other
poor attempts at recollection, merely the ersatz of that
preserved female corpse seen at the anatomical museum at Siriaj
Hospital; to recall something like her face from those early
and less bleak childhood memories when she would begrudgingly
join him and his brothers as they played netless badminton and
volleyball on a dirt road near their home; to let these memories
of shared smiles and laughter, mutual pleasure that registered
as "love" with such beings, permeate his consciousness as
pleasure in its imprint of memory was the only perception of how
close a relationship it had been, and whether or not he had to
some limited degree been valued as an instrument of pleasure,
and so in a sense cared been about; and to reluctantly
acknowledge that he was one of those beings who was susceptible
to love, that mixing and receding of color, a mere human even
though to him this word neither defined nor demarcated him very
well). The next second he was thinking of male Silpakorn
University students whom over the years he had seen at various
outdoor restaurants near the campus, each eating and laughing in
his group indistinct from all others, but when solitary would
often be reading a comic book and riveting one of the legs under
a table though not in a queer sensuality toward comic books; the
phallic gestures were a satiety of virulence that was innate in
a man. The throbbing of legs was a venting of superfluous
flowing energy that by its sheer force could be channeled one
way or another or both to the objects of one's intrigues, these
friends who possessed admirable traits that he lacked. Then,
more probingly, it occurred to him how unlike the womanizing
playboy artist that he was, that a truly unperverted mind had no
sexual orientation at all: that for such a being the pleasure of
intrigues, these soft and low beds of earth that from His
affable magnetism surrounded Him, were the natural course from
which His, an Unperverted Bisexual's liquids, would easily flow
into. But for the perverted, like him, who for the most part
allowed themselves to be channeled in one particular sexual
orientation, their limited intrigues were not so much an
interest in these intimate associations as they were a
replication of the same parental model, or a finding of the
antithesis to one or both parents or the reminders of mothers
and fathers interaction with each other that such a mind cared
to emulate or reject. Then he pondered how common he was (not
that he, the supercilious one, believed it with fears of being a
commoner ravaging his psyche and compelling him to contrive the
august demeanor and beliefs that he had as all beliefs were
contrivances and fortifications against one's fears). He
pondered how when out of academic and artistic circles, as in
this train of passenger-rustics and professionals who still
clung to their agrarian roots of Nongkai or Vientiene, his
presence was glanced at and dismissed like anyone else; and this
caused him to wonder if he would even be remembered in artistic
circles five years hence (not that, he being a part-time
lecturer at Silpakorn University and full-time wastrel--one who
had to some extent rid himself of art, relinquished himself to
the void, and remained divorced of the artistic omphalos as well
as the paint brush--to be followed by, were it to happen, a
physical presence which might expunge him from the planet in
some accident, there would need to be five years for public
memory of his work to be forgotten). Then, to avoid thinking of
man's insignificance, he returned to a sexual theme, that
personal sanctuary, as ineluctable appetites constituted so much
of his mental faculties and preoccupations. He thought of how
the women he liked most were more often than not a docile
antithesis to his mother with the notable exceptions of young,
recalcitrant, and sexy martinets of selfish whims imposed as
laws who when with that same draping and tangled curl of hair
and the same totalitarian streak to squelch all males seemed
just like his mother, or what little he remembered of her beyond
his castrated will under her auspices. Present relationships
were for all heterosexual and homosexual perverts based on the
model of the parents who had been of an adequate, deficient, or
excessive nature, as caretakers causing a given person to
reject, accept, or fiercely need what had or had not been given
to them. He had no sooner concluded his deliberation that one's
choice of intrigues was in large part due to one's
interpretation of failures and successes of parental and
espousal models than, before he even knew it, he was at his seat
and the Laotian was saying unto him a hello, which in the Thai-
Laotian that they had concocted hours earlier was still "Sawadee
khrap" with the accompanied gesture of the deferential wai.

"Sawadee khrap. Sabai dee mai? "

"Sabai dee. Where have you been all this time?"

"Above you, of course, sleeping."

"I mean since 5:30 when you thudded to the floor."

"Oh, sorry, did I wake you?" Nawin's concern in this matter was
only marginally genuine. For the most part it was feigned for
the sake of kindness and to thwart this voice of distraction
from his subject of deliberation. He was preoccupied with a
bigger worry that, prior to going to the toilet, the stranger
had seen his eyes grazing his body. He was wondering what
gestures or facial expressions might indicate that the man had
seen him ogle his body, if he indeed had, and yet the reason for
caring what another individual thought of him eluded him. Had
not art, this flaunting of his portraits of female whores with
his own whorish self-portraits to which both parties were
portrayed as locked in self-degradation, and going to these
exhibitions of his work with an arm locked in that of his best
friend (legally a wife), Noppawan, shown that he was free to
express his desires in his own mode without having to subscribe
to another's moral ordinances regarding the energies that exuded
from him? With such a force there needed to be rules of
restraint so that one was not sucked into the vacuous oblivion
of desire and did not lose rational cognizance in the
meaningless frolic of sexual quests, which were the mere
insatiable manipulating urges of an animal and could so easily
be the sole and altogether forgettable essence of a man. This he
knew from interaction with the inordinate array of bitches who
pawed him with their love (their needy and myriad convoluted
yearnings for no other reason than a handsome figure to admire
their flesh and thereby gain the illusion of immutable beauty -
a neediness dirty as their underwear which he more often than
not successfully tugged off to be intimate in their flesh and
their and his own selfish caprices). He needed restraint, but to
him those ordinances should come from within himself, this
prowler's own creative and logical prowess.

"Yes, definitely a loud thud; but it wasn't from the noise so
much as that smell that cascaded down with your body."

"Smell?"

"Yes, but I don't want to think of it, thank you. No more of
that. So tell me of your adventure this morning."

"What adventure?" he chuckled softly with a sotto voce of
scoffing asperity as if there had been no earlier adventure on
the metallic toilet floor. He said it for in a sense it had been
unfitness, a secret aberration even to areas of his cognizance
that could not accept anything but the thought of himself as a
lady's man and womanizer, it was true.

"I don't know. As I have nothing better to do, tell me where you
have been."

"The toilet, mostly," said the body ogler with an embarrassed
laugh as if this trifle of where he had been (this masturbatory
exercise in the toilet of the train) were not worthy of speech
instead of being a paramount expression of repressed, latent
forces that had been compressed within him for so many years. It
was still his assumption that as a sleeping body was beautiful
with its breath rising and lowering the chest rhythmically like
a raft on an ocean, so an artist, the appreciator of beauty in
the mundane, would have an artist's aberrations from the
insensate throngs, and as such, such appreciative aberrations
should not be judged as anything that was particularly queer or
at any rate queerer than anything else. Just being on the planet
at all, a successful conception from one of competing sperm
spilled out in a moment of two people needing, from a transient
mood, to subscribe to an illusion of intimacy in a physical
experience, was queer enough.

"I suppose looking at that handsome but middle-aged face
deteriorate in the mirror--I mean when you were in the toilet.
Right?"

"Maybe. Something like that."

"Well, that's a bit odd if you don't mind me saying so. Even a
woman would not dare to pee or stay in front of a mirror that
long."

Nawin laughed. Like his expressions of love in his juggling of
women that was and was not the love he claimed it as being, he
had moments of a predilection for mendacity like a boy wanting
to hide himself within the shadows of a field and to remain
there indefinitely, never to be discovered. He spoke
mendaciously and yet to him it was not really a lie. "I wasn't
there all that long. Afterwards, I just waited outside the
toilet for the seats to be readjusted. Just waited back there,
wasting time." Of course "wasting time" had consisted of that
adolescent masturbatory sport, which he had conducted earlier in
that fetid toilet, a water closet that was more tin than tinsel;
and as he thought of it once again with a mischievous grin, he
thought of this use of the source of the fantasy for pleasure,
the Laotian, without much compunction. Then he thought of
himself as guilty for not feeling guilt until recognizing that
these new sexual urges were as a volcano spewing out old molten
churnings of lava. So of a volcano, he thought, so of a human
psyche. He accepted this change to the contour of the surface
for ultimately (according to his rationalization), as queer as
it was, like everything else, there was nothing new or strange
in it.

"And while waiting outside the toilet you were probably staring
at yourself in one of the other mirrors, weren't you?"

"Yes, but how do you know that?"

"It would have to be a guess, wouldn't it, unless I can read
minds, at least in some imperfect way. In this case it is not so
much reading minds but faces."

"So what is in my face?"

"It doesn't matter what is in your face. I don't need to look at
it all that much. All upper class Thai darkees are the same.
Cleansed and made beautiful and white by money they are a vain
lot--solitary cowards behind face fortresses. They are like the
Chinese in that sense, and both Thai lightees and darkees with
money pretend to be of a higher species. They try to avoid
foraging, disease carrying primates like me. Their fortresses
are built from fear that lack of money will make them have to
acknowledge that they are merely hairless monkeys--no more
special, no more potential to matter than any animal."

"You think that I am like that?"

"Well, each person is a bit different. You don't seem so bad.
Let's just say that for now, you are a nice guy in a snobbish
sort of way" (meaning that having been given a bit of money the
previous night in that gesture of unbegrudging levity as if it
had merely been the sharing of a bag of sticky rice, a smile
from this giver, Nawin, since these Thai compatriots saw smiling
as their highest attribute, and voluble conversation beyond the
vouchsafed utterances given to a repugnant laborer from a
country that was poorer than Thailand, he could hardly hate this
particular Thai with that quick primeval xenophobia, in which
hominoids reacted to those strangers of a different and
potentially deleterious group). Nawin had to be put in a special
category slightly different than the usual brand of rich and
dark Thais of money.
Nawin chuckled abashedly as he tilted his august face to the
floor. Then he lifted his head and, in the way of the Thais, a
morose, soft, and artful smile alighted on his swarthy
countenance like a lambent shadow of a descending airplane
across a naked field. He became aware of how much he needed
other human beings, these jovial extensions to his limited
domain, these pleasant respites from redundant churnings of
thought and the hauntings of memories, and he knew that he would
feign any interested smile to get the reprieve. "Did you have a
good sleep?"

"No, not at all, if you really want to know, which I couldn't
see that you would really. Personally, I've never minded a
little stink: a sock here, a shoe there, even women smelling
like raw, rotting tuna down where a man wants to go--I accept
these things. Things that get used get smelly. But that which
was stinking up there was of no use....unless one were to
capture it, put it in a pill somehow, and sell it off as a cheap
form of methamphetamines to truckers, bus drivers, and maybe
even guys like me who want nothing better than to stare into
space on a bunk all night instead of sleep."

"My socks?"

"Your monstrous socks!"

"Was it that bad?" asked this American Thai, Nawin, with an
awkward laugh. He was feeling a sense of exhilaration at being
with one who was unlike demure Southeast Asians' superficial
demeanor. Like a Nawin Biadklang painting in being so wanton in
declaring sordid reality as such, so seemed the man; and Nawin
liked what was true and like himself.

"It was like drowning in molecules--at least a little. Still, I
survived it all right, so it's okay. Morning came."

"How did morning make a difference?"

"The train official removed those rotting monsters with tongs."

"With tongs?"

"Tongs from the restaurant car."

"With tongs from the restaurant car?"

"Big tongs. Forceps, maybe. Well, something like that."

"Where are my socks?"

"Above you in your bag. I told him to bury them there. I hope
that is all right. I hope that it didn't contaminate the rest of
your clothes too much."

"Ground contamination is always the better of the two options,"
Nawin said as he sat down. His zipper which was still open from
his bathroom adventure parted suddenly like the spreading
foreskin of the V of a vagina. The Laotian looked down at the
off-white pee stained hill of underwear within and yet the
artistic demigod did not notice. "Airing out the old elephant, I
see."

"What?"

"It can't always be happy to be kept away in its smelly stall,
now can it? A little air can be just the thing for its mental
health. Also a good airing out is as good as soap and water.
That's always been my theory." The Laotian grinned
mischievously, and then looked out of the window.

Nawin supposed that he was making reference to an elephant in a
hamlet, one in a forest, or one in a field of a passing
landscape. "Do they put elephants in stables?" asked Nawin with
ingenuous naivety as he pondered the meaning of the Laotian's
questions.

The Laotian burst out in a laughter which started out as a mild
guffaw before burning away any acrimony against opulent
Bangkokians, their ignorance, and more specifically, this rich
Thai's obtuseness, to become a pleasant and embracing cacophony
of good will.

Nawin noticed a blanketed entity at his feet that puzzled him
and made the reason for the laughter cease to matter. Then the
Laotian spoke and the blanketed one who was half on the floor
and the two seats before the window was forgotten.

"So, a rich man like you doesn't know where elephants are kept
but then why would you? I guess it wouldn't have been something
that you would have studied in college." He waited for a
response but all that he got was the artist's furrowed look of
puzzlement followed by an aloof stare. Like a faithful childish
protégé who was fascinated by the most mundane of motion and
noise, Nawin, an animistic thinker even in this more than waning
prime of life, began to listen to the fan that rotated above the
luggage. At first he was merely wondering why the fan was now
on, stirring the cold air, thereby making the air-conditioned
area seem colder yet; but as he listened to its grating squeal
he imagined that he was hearing the fan talk to him all so
discreetly. It was whispering that the vibrations heard by the
man who was supposing it to be the actual sound of the fan were
fallacious. It was saying that, as with the sound of the fan, so
was the Laotian's voice and all specious sound: that sound, by
being heard indirectly if not vicariously, existed only as an
adulterated sensation. According to the fan true sounds were
unknown for one was not hearing what true vibrations sounded
like inside a given source, but was merely hearing the air
vibrating from its disturbances, or more obliquely one was
hearing disturbed air from a vibration that then became
disturbed and distorted once more in hitting the eardrums and
this thwarted sound, correctly attributed as originating from a
given source, was incorrectly attributed as being the real sound
of that source. Likewise, said the fan, the Laotian's cologne
and aftershave, like any smell, were a diffusion of higher
concentrations of molecules to lower ones, so he was not
smelling the scent of the man mixed with the artificial
chemicals as they were on him, but the scent of him within his
perfumed mixture as a less dense concentration oozing away from
the man, leaving him and diffusing with other molecular scents,
and the more one was at a distance, the less distinct this or
any smell became. Sight was unabsorbed color that was exuded
from a given presence although the mind believed it to be the
filling in, the materialization, of the object's outline. All
senses seemed fallible, and the world of the senses seemed like
a voice echoing in a canyon, and no more real than that. It
suddenly seemed to him that his own marriage, an abstraction
concocted in his and her head, and then spilled as ink on a
tenuous sheet of easily torn paper made hallow in ceremony, and
by a deistic, bodily fluid overseer, imbued less sense than the
nonsense the Laotian was speaking. This thought that a caring
relationship grounded in many years could dissipate with such
precipitancy by a mutual friend jumping off a balcony was proof
of the vaporous quality of all things. It tortured him in one
deranged second for all was a phantasm of the mind and the
phantasmagoria of an impermanent existence. It made him feel his
true proportions as a disintegrating speck in a microcosm of the
galaxy.

He once again recalled Noppawan's summary of an incident that
should have been an augury to them both. It consisted of facts
bloated in an imagined scene. Momentarily distracted at hearing
the window sliding on a sill, she was unconcerned and returned
to typing her handout at the computer in her office at
Assumption University when a premonition suddenly shot a cold
and macabre sensation through her mind and body. Running to the
back of the office, she saw Kimberly in a black rectangular hole
of the open window. She saw her in that empty black hole of the
self fluttering loose, tattered, and free like a banner on the
fade of the university building they were in. "Oh no, Kimberly.
Come down from the window. Please." "I want to die," "No, you
don't. There are so many people who care about you. You don't
want that!" "No one cares. Not really." "Oh, you know that is
not true. Unlike me, you have a ton of friends and close friends
in me--Nawin too. He would be here in an instant if he knew
that you were so unhappy. We didn't know it was so bad,
Kimberly. It's late. Come down and go to bed. Things always seem
clearer in the morning when emotions burn down in sleep." "I'm
just a hole to men here--nothing else." She was crying but her
weakened voice undulated loudly with strident, random words. "A
pearly white sperm receptacle here and there, in America and
France, just a woman, another one, with nothing special in her.
I'll never find anyone to spend my years with, the way you have
with Nawin. I'll never have someone like him." "Please Kimberly,
life isn't easy for any woman. You think living with him is
easy? All these women he paints and pants after. Come down
Kimberly. We are the same, you and I." "It's different. You have
him. I just have all these others whose only use in me is to
make claims on my body for to them I am only a tool for
pleasure." "Sometimes I wish that someone would claim me. He is
not mine, you know. I just share him in these compromises of
marriage." "You do share him, don't you? Will you?" "What?"
"Share him with me...not like them but like a marriage--the
three of us." With a display of their desperation and sometimes
given conscesions in love, such people never committed suicide.
That was what he and Noppawan told themselves immediately before
and during Kimberly's impregnation and pregnancy: that she would
never really kill herself: that had been the belief.

These voices (in large part his own imagining but plausible and
faithful to the outline delineated by Noppawan's narrative)
resounded in his brain and, in consensus with his own verdict on
himself, they condemned him. Still he snuggled up to them for a
middle aged man with no one was naked and discomfited in
purpose. Holding tight to what had passed away he believed that
he was less lonely even though conversely this snuggling to
imagined abstractions with female bodies, facsimiles of what was
that was distorted into what was not, made him feel even more
lonely than he would otherwise have felt. He imagined these
voices of the past and the dead, and yet for all their distinct
clarity, they were at best half-imagined impressions, half
concocted indentions in the damp putty of his brain. In reality
they were as behind him as the township of Udon Thani that the
train had now passed through. They had parted with him and fled
like the bird that had witnessed his homosexual solo-eroticism
in the fetid toilet of the train. How alone he felt; and the
thought of the three of them shopping for baby clothes together,
watching DVDs, or roasting marshmallows on the ends of sticks
held over a barbeque grill near the swimming pool of his estate
made him queasy. He continued to query himself incessantly with
what-ifs. If he and Noppawan had invited Kimberly into their
home, he wondered, would none of this have happened? And yet it
seemed that something else could have taken place. Had this
invitation been made and accepted she might have drowned herself
in the pool. Who was to say she would not have done so? He
excoriated himself for appeasing his guilt with such a morbid
thought. Maybe tomorrow a mega-sized typhoon of global warming
dimensions would pass over Bangkok and clean the slate of people
like himself, obscene drawings of human denizens; but then he
was going northeast to the sleepiest of the world's comatose
capitals, Vientiane. What could happen to him there? Only if he
were to ignore the illustrated signs of a man being electrocuted
that graced the whole of Vientiane, and grab a low electrical
wire would an end come to him there. Only then would he end his
umbilical connection to this immoral world where existence could
be so randomly and arbitrarily obliterated to some, as life's
gluttons watched it as entertaining news from their television
sets, and where under the wrong circumstances a good man might
become a looter, a thief, a prostitute, or a beggar.

"I said, if you weren't listening, that I guess it wouldn't have
been studied in college. Why would you know if an elephant is
kept in a stall in the back yard, tied behind a tree of a
neighbor's penthouse, or kept in a neighbor's wife? Elephant
studies can be confusing to any novice especially when he
doesn't make a distinction between the two species of elephants.
Honestly, I think that with both breeds, the figurative and the
literal elephants, there are stalls for them. It is certainly
true of the figurative when they can be tamed enough to stay in
stalls."

"You know, I don't have a clue what you are talking about. You
are rambling shit like a crazy man."

"You don't?"

"No, but I'm okay with that, really. I'm just listening to your
amusing nonsense and not caring particularly whether or not
there is anything at all sensible in it."

The Laotian laughed until the point where he had difficulty
swallowing his saliva. Then he coughed, and regaining his voice,
he cleared his throat. The grave expression of gagging on his
saliva as if were as gaggable as ox tongue, roasted duck
gizzards, and fried cockroach in burnt rouge cream at a Laotian
restaurant attempting to emulate French cuisine, only lasted a
moment and then he smiled, putting at ease disconcerted Nawin
who was now rising from his seat as if being called on to
perform the Heimlich maneuver. "That's good. More people should
do that--not be so serious all the time... just realize that you
are fucking around with your time, keeping your life from being
entirely meaningless with a personal..." He could not find the
word.

"Experience?"

"Yes but more. 'Titillation'--titillation here and there; but I
think that we did have a subject. We were talking about
elephants if I remember correctly." His words did not come
volubly. They were forced and contrived like one intent on
seeming educated. The sentences were spoken slowly like one in
search of latent words that were once heard somewhere but,
because of social-economic privation, stagnated in
unfamiliarity. "I have noticed that in this, your country, rural
compatriots sometimes bring elephants into large cities in the
hope of selling their fine fodder to the pedestrians so that
they might have the experience of elephant feeding."

Nawin was amused at the strained efforts the Laotian underwent--
with some formality of diction--to impress him. "Yes, in Laos
too, I would suppose."

"I don't know, really. I haven't seen people pay money to feed
them in Vientiane, if they do, but that doesn't mean that they
don't. But it would make more sense doing it in someplace where
the people are filthy rich, and I guess seeing large literal
animals is a bit of a novelty in cities like Bangkok where they
are so used to the open exhibition of the figurative breeds. I'm
just trying to imagine those silky hands of yours scooping up
elephant dung off sidewalks. I am trying to imagine how someone
like you would cope in being a beggar pulling an elephant down
the streets."

"No better or worse than other beggars. What would give you the
idea that I am from a privileged background? Believe me, I am a
self- made man and these "silky" hands, as you call them, have
done a lot of things. Do you have a name?"

"Boi."

"Tell me something, Boi, I'm curious; do the beggars with their
elephants just sleep with them randomly on sidewalks? Where do
they go after shoppers go home and man and beast need to sleep?"

"It's a mystery," said the Laotian and then grabbed one of
Nawin's hands. "Thai silk. Just as I thought; if these things
were not so large or so strong, or at least stronger than the
average woman, their texture..."

"The silkiness?"

"Yes, the silkiness--the silkiness might seem to some like that
of a woman's hands. Fortunately you are darkly complected. That
makes you more masculine in a pretty boy, middle aged man sort
of way." Nawin chuckled at the absurdity of someone making a
study of his hands. "You haven't exactly used these things very
much in hard labor, have you? Yes, if they were not so large and
strong they would pass off as women's hands. What is it that you
do for a living, anyhow?"

"I am an artist."

"An artist? That would explain hands like these. What do you
draw?" he asked while returning the hand.

"Naked women."

"And people pay you for that?"

"They seem to."

"Do they pay well?"

"Yes, of course. I am a rich man according to you."

"In Thailand, one finds both the calloused and the silky types
but in Laos even some of the higher government officials are
workers in their secondary vocations. They all have the
damnedest hands."

"What? Do you study the hands of government officials too?"

"A brief survey, I guess. I wouldn't think of it as a study."

It seemed to Nawin that the two of them were merely crows cawing
at the night to give texture to the air and all vacuous
substance in order to make themselves and their world seem real.
It seemed to him that small talk and bantering were, as the
Laotian said, titillations to make something personal in the
void of time and space. "How do you know that I'm a loafer?"
asked Nawin with a laugh.

"Did I say that you were?"

"I don' remember. Maybe not exactly like that but you implied it
anyhow. How do you know that I am a loafer?"

"I don't. I just guess that you are."

"I am, you know."

"Are what?"

"A loafer. Not much of an artist now. Retired."

"Retired?"

"Uninspired. They are synonymous words."

"Why would anyone want your paintings? That is what I'm trying
to figure out. Video porn... DVD porn for those with computers,
okay. They are closer to the real thing, aren't they?" Nawin
smiled widely. He felt reaffirmed and grounded in the
inconsequence of vain, lofty pursuits and his retirement finally
felt good. Then the Laotian said, "There is some real porn that
I am witnessing right now. It is too bad it's just that of any
locker room scene" and then he pointed down at Nawin's open
zipper.

Nawin looked down and smiled widely. He was before the Laotian
in an unzipped state after having masturbated to an image of him
in his head (the same type of illusion that a man had in
copulating with his wife to keep illusory human existence on the
planet at all) and yet he felt no particular compunction for
what he had done or what a man tended to do with his own body in
the privacy of his mind, or in the intimacy of a real embrace.
In all cases it was the massage of his own body to ease himself
from the stress of thinking, knowing, and having to live in a
world of illusions. It was the massage of one's body which one
rightfully owned if anyone did (certainly not one's partner) and
thus this acknowledgement repudiated, and rendered inane words
like adultery and perversion.


12

Left to himself for a moment, he slipped into a brief sleep
where, once again, he was with Kimberly. He too was a prey of
gravity, and they were falling rapidly from the balcony of her
apartment in the Queen's Tower at Assumption University. The two
of them, morsels down the gullet of skies, seemingly torn by
winds active as enzymes, pummeled the air futilely with
desperate, flailing limbs in an attempt to swim through the air
from whence they came but could never return. Hardly an occasion
for declaring mai pen rai, still there were scarce traces of
hope; and as hope was consciousness, there were scarce traces of
the latter as well. If, as scared as he was, he was cognizant
enough to have a group of interrelated thoughts beyond the
perennial wish for "God", which redundantly played in his head,
to save him, it was in reference to a belief that there were
some actions that could be reversed. It seemed to him that as a
change of one's mind could cause a departure to become a
homecoming, so there was a remote possibility that this action
could also be reversed. Maintaining hope and consciousness,
wisely, it did not occur to him that such a return was
physically impossible since beings plunged through life just
once. Shrieking as they punctured two large holes that made one
prodigious gulf in the thin metallic tiles comprising the awning
over the swimming pool, they plunged together, splashing into a
fiery inferno of loneliness before the last of their inevitable,
lethal descent.

He woke, fully startled to find himself in wakefulness.
Concentrating on where he was to allow the excesses of the
saturation of sleep, a more temporary reality, to be shaken from
his sodden neurons like wetness from an animal's fur, he then
did nothing further. He merely allowed it to slowly evaporate
from consciousness. It seemed odd to him that in all these
diurnal commutes between wakefulness and sleep that the mind
should continue to allow either of these two states to overwhelm
the other. It seemed odd that after so long it would continue to
be sequacious to trust what was experienced in either of the
chemically induced realms but then, he asked himself, what
choice did it have? Was not sand layered by wind and waves? It
was; and so the human brain was molded with whatever energy and
force happened to be applied to it. Then, in the next second of
thoughts, it did not seem odd at all; and conversely, he
speculated that perhaps most individuals considered both states
specious and succumbed, like prisoners, to the coercion in
apathetic numbness.

Was it not so in this city of Bangkok where incense was snagged
in carbon exhausts and its residents were engaged in amusements
to escape their small speck on this rock of the planet? They
were a lackadaisical ethnicity and their amusements were
definitely petty--the young chasing balls and finding the extent
of their physical prowess; carnal youth in sexual peccadilloes;
the worker ants who, when not at work, and no longer succumbing
to that role that gave some structure to their existence,
spending time in evening revelries about owning their own
businesses; elderly women engaged in Tai Chi and their husbands
in Chinese checkers on park benches; the poor along the canals,
clustered in evenings near their neighbors' shacks for beer and
cigarette pilfering, sometimes the men comic book swapping and
always musing the day's pettiness amusingly; the rich
speculating on how to invest and have more, seeking large flat
screen televisions and the fastest computers at Panthip Plaza,
the most fashionable clothes in the best of malls, and
exchanging tips on how to improve their landscapes and gardens;
but which of them, in the thickets of men, felt or thought
deeply about the world? They were as wild vines that grew with
the rest of nature on the rock of the planet and sprawled human
entanglements and preoccupations thoughtlessly upon it.

It was only from the constancy of waking in the same bed in
which he went to sleep, waking to the same issues that he went
to sleep with, and finding himself next to the person he fell
asleep with the previous night, that sleep was considered sleep
and not wakefulness, and wakefulness was considered wakefulness
instead of sleep; and yet knowing this did nothing for him. He
felt discombobulated as though this dream were of more substance
than dew over the eyes that he would eventually dry from, a
sandstorm within the self where, were it not for his own angst,
that same regret that he felt a dozen yesterdays ago and was a
constancy that would commandeer a lifetime of perennial guilt-
ridden tomorrows, he would not know reality if it were to
swallow him. "I feel a constancy of pain and therefore I am," he
thought satirically.

For a couple of seconds he noted how, from where he was
positioned inwardly and outwardly (pinioned inside himself as he
remained seated a few feet from the window) the swath of fields
and outlying roads of small towns hurried past him in an
incessant green and grey smudge of flat images. Even though they
fleeted by incessantly, they were like pop-ups from a children's
book; and for a few additional seconds he began to withdraw into
a self that was deflating surreally into a diminutive and
flattened form in an imagined land of stationary pop-ups where
the unreal was still and preserved instead of the seemingly
real, which was always wide-open and fleeting. Then this too,
this relinquishing oneself to the void to cease this expending
of one's energy in sifting through all of these illusions in
illusionary existence, formulating "reality" based upon
garnering the most plausible of the illusions, ceased with
hearing the loud yawning of this stranger named Boi. Glancing at
him, Nawin displayed the notorious Thai smile which was always
feigned and hospitable with the genuine warmth of wanting the
recipient to like him if not of needing to be liked. He did it
almost like any reflexive jerk, a physical retreat of the body,
as he ruminated on this word, stranger.

When, he asked himself, did a person cease being a stranger? Had
he not known Noppawan since he was fourteen years old (as if
years meant anything)? Had they not become soul mates for the
reason that each of them had possessed empathy for the other
innocent being charred in the torturous hells of family? He had
and they had; and yet upon gaining a child from him she had
treated him with indifference as if, having obtained what she
had always wanted (one of her husband's sperm fertilizing an egg
and allowing her a son even if it was through her best friend),
he was now irrelevant and made all the more so, weeks later, at
Kimberly's demise, when she locked him out physically as well as
psychologically. He had not even known her. In all of these
years of marriage on top of those comprising their friendship of
youth he had not known her any more than one did the strangest
of strangers.

"Still tired," asked Nawin.

"Of course," said Boi. "There is little sleep for a man bunked
under another man...especially when under a man like you and
with socks stinking like that, like an elephant's breath...not
that the socks were the entire problem. Those were finally taken
away in the morning when I couldn't bear it anymore. They didn't
bother me after that. It was..." He stopped.

"It was what?" asked Nawin with a relieved chuckle, grateful for
flippant conversation to interpose his silent ponderings. The
idea that a Thai and a Laotian could not engage in conversation
without an elephant trudging through it almost tickled him to
tears.

"I don't know," he smirked knowingly. "I am used to sleeping in
the mornings so after they came and removed those contaminated
articles of yours I could have fallen back to sleep. For a while
I attempted to wave away the remaining cloud of stink so that I
could do just that. I rested quietly enough after a time. It
wasn't as if I was asphyxiating from those smells any longer.
The cloud was still there... extant as they say... but I could
have slept were it not for this weird feeling that somebody was
looking at me--looking at my body. Have you ever felt that
way?"

"No."

"Not at all?"

"No, I don't think so. Not really. I mean with my wife. Maybe at
times she watched me when I was sleeping. I wouldn't know."

"You wouldn't know?" he mocked. "And these models that you say
that you paint, would you know it if one of them watched you
while you slept?"

"I wouldn't know."

"You do paint them?"

"Yes."

"And get butt naked with them, I guess, if you paint them as
nudes. Who wouldn't, or at least who wouldn't attempt it unless
he was 100 percent gay?"

"Of course I am intimate with my models. That goes hand in
hand."

"Do you ever watch them as they are sleeping?"

"I guess, maybe once or twice. Well, now that I think about it,
I've painted a few in restless positions while asleep. This is
an odd question to be asking me."

"Why? We are friends, aren't we? A friend can be one of hours
and not years, and it is still a friendship, isn't it?"

"I suppose so," he said. It was the same question that Nawin had
postulated silently in his own head and he felt even more
inclined to call him a friend for this affinity to his own
private ponderings.

"If it were me I would not get any sleep at all. I'd be staring
at them continually. I think it is the same for you if you are a
painter of naked beauties; but then maybe they are more cute and
handsome than they are beautiful."

Nawin smirked and then grimaced. "I'm not sure what you mean by
that," he said but he knew, or at least sensed, an attempt to
deface his masculinity with homosexual innuendos and thus he
manipulated his words and actions accordingly. "Anyhow, most men
would consider them quite beautiful, think what you want."
Having said this, and glad that he had, he still was not content
for the Laotian to think what he wanted and so he pulled out a
wallet that contained some slides of his favorite paintings that
were there with some of his favorite condoms. Deliberately
pulling out the former and dropping one of the latter, he showed
some of the slides while stuffing a condom back into his wallet.
Boi held each of the slides up to the light of the window and
squinted. "Well, what do you know? You are an artist. What are
these beauties that are your subject matter?"

"Ladies of the night. Patpong professionals for the most part."

"Beautiful."

"Do you think so? But then what is beauty? An overweight middle
aged man can be considered appealing to an anorexic and her
thinness, sadness, and youth can seem beautiful to him if both
lack qualities that the other possesses, or have qualities
mirrored in the partner which makes them feel less alone. That
is my theory, for what it is worth."

"You are a deep one, aren't you?" asked the stranger.

He thought of his own limited sex symbol status. In this decade
and a half of being glossed onto covers of esoteric art
magazines and the photographs of him with articles being
emblazoned on the back pages of Sunday newspapers, this married
but eligible hedonist with a sensitive stroke was considered
handsome and debonair, luminous in sensuality, jaunty and
recalcitrant, and an empathic sufferer for those whom he studied
and represented. He was alluring for these qualities and most
importantly for being fully comfortable with himself as such.
He, "Naughty Nawin," was a luminosity in artistic circles who
was more desirable for having been desired by others; and yet in
all this time he sensed it for the inferior illusion that it
was. In a world of complete illusions, a plausible reality was
really the thing that was most desired and clung to and so he
had clung to Noppawan, a girl who hated family as much as he
did, and yet by clinging he had made a family with her. He had
forfeited bachelorhood, as much as a Patpong artist could, and
had slipped himself into their union only to find that the woman
he was married to could not conceive a child and that by her
being infertile his days of bachelorhood (except at least on a
legal piece of paper) would be as perennial as the wild flower
days of his life. He knew illusions so well, for they were his
art to convey truth in fiction and reality in abstraction. He
liked producing color on canvasses that would act as a mirror of
indictment on this world, where the weak were depicted as abused
and falling prey to illnesses like the dogs that were born in
the streets, kicked, starved, mange-ridden, and dead early and
hideously. He saw this perennial cycle of victims going on
forever and only nuclear bombs falling like cleansing rain
stopping it. He knew how like a magician he could cast a spell
on others through his canvass, but he also understood the
potency of words and by words he might now circumvent any
suspicions about his sexuality which, the way he saw it, was
"straight" and intact, despite a few strange caprices that blew
in here and there.

"Supermodels and actresses are considered universally beautiful
but I don't think it has much merit. I think that beauty really
is in the eyes of the beholder for the earlier reasons that I
gave. It is only because of the extent of their physical curves
of femininity which are beyond the normal range for most men to
find in a partner that supermodels and actresses are depicted
and believed as some type of a universal beauty. They would only
be considered slightly more beautiful were it not for their
fame. The fame makes their style of beauty become embedded into
minds as something supernatural. In most cases, I think, beauty
is just what we lack. As I am a man, I lack the tender touches
and graces of a woman, those gentle curves and scents, and
responding like a man I want to thrust myself into that
gentility whose hands worship a man's physique. I want to rivet
and devour." He knew that his words would be considered
outlandish in Thai society where everything was done with
maximum freedom but never spoken, and he knew that his turgid
words, spoken as if he were the professor of beauty, would bore
the most pedantic. Still, that was the aim: he wanted to take
the stranger on a meandering path of circumlocutions that would
shake him from earlier thoughts and deposit him in this concept
that he, Nawin Biadkang, the prostitute artist, was and forever
would be a lady's man. "Women are the viand of a man's eyes, the
fruit for the bon vivant." He used French words that were
retained in English without being Anglicized to give puissance
to what he thought of condescendingly as his befuddled mother
tongue. In that respect he was no different than any
supercilious upper class American or Englishmen who required
superior utterance even though to most of the contemporary
world's populace the elite language was base English itself.
Then he glanced toward the aisle and surrounding seats for
although not really embarrassed by his words, ensconced as he
was in his role as a libertine, he was deferential enough to
worry that he would inadvertently bludgeon a listener with his
peculiar thoughts. He then became inexplicably reticent although
no one was listening.

With conversation continuing to seem cogent, moving on
stretched, unraveled ends, Boi was on the verge of accepting
Nawin as a womanizer and might have possibly done so were it not
for the artist's cowardly withdrawal into himself which
befuddled the befuddlement. Nawin had turned away and was
staring at the fan clipping speedily at the air. There could be
no other interpretation other than that this Nawin (on the birth
certificate, Jatupon, a word that still thrust a cold chill down
his spine as cold slackened his pace, freezing him to danger),
feeling uncomfortably seated on exaggerated truth, was becoming
fixated on these rotating blades dicing the air the way the
second hand of a clock seemed to suggest the dicing of a man's
life incrementally. Due to the extent of his boredom, to Boi he
was a suspicious character, an ambiguous puzzle needing to be
solved and a landscape of contrasts to set his claim upon. Nawin
sensed this intrigue but gained no satisfaction from it. All
that he wanted, he told himself, was to relax and not think so
much when thinking was such morbid drudgery like an impoverished
gold seeker sifting through mud and obtaining merely that.
"Wasn't my reason for coming here to purge people from my life,
and live purely in complete empty space without needing others
to plug up my loneliness," he thought. "And yet here is one more
bit of dross stuffing my gutter."

He realized the impression that he was making and so he smiled
and looked into the stranger's face. "So, did you like the
paintings? --not that as slides held up to the light anyone
could see them all that well."

"They were done well."

"Unlike you who have probably gained a lot of various skills in
your labor, I don't have many practical skills. I can't fix
anything. Not even a drawer that is ajar in a night table. Never
learned to cook anything but noodles from my parents' restaurant
and my brothers' noodle stands. But I know how to draw naked
whores. That is for sure. I guess it is my gift."

"If those slides are your own work, you do, my friend. You draw
them so well, so exquisitely, so astoundingly with all the
feminine curves and wiles just right; and I am sure that after
you paint and love them they sometimes like to watch you sleep
and you like to watch them sleep. But that was not the nature of
my query. I am meaning someone whom you don't know all that well
looking down on you. Like I was earlier this morning, you are
not quite asleep and so you hear him--yes a man, as it is a
man's breathing that you hear. Earlier I was lying alone here in
my bottom bunk drowsy but not asleep when I swear I heard
someone drop from an upper sleeper and got the sense that he was
examining my body, wanting it. Strange, huh?"

"I would imagine that it would be," said Nawin.

For a moment he was stunned to have these crevices of opaque
light so heavily and obliquely invade the filthy corners of his
mind, the dark enlightenment being alluded to, both parties
seeming to peer onto it (he himself undoubtedly so and this
smirking of the Laotian and his eyes that seemed to pierce his
soul so knowingly could not have equivocal interpretations). He
kept debating whether he should stay or go and found himself,
due to his indecisiveness, floundering in desperate ambivalence.
Clearly he wanted to move to a different seat so in that sense
of knowing his own dominant yearning and witnessing it unopposed
by contrary yearnings he was not ambivalent at all and yet, he
asked himself, how could he just go? To go so precipitously
would be rude even if done with the obsequious gesture of the
wai (although even this was complicated by the fact that he was
the older and vastly more affluent of the two parties and should
not be the one initiating such gestures); and to leave for one
of the now vacant seats would only aggravate suspicion. The idea
of the Laotian having proof of his decadence would dog whatever
specious tranquility he hoped to have in a vacant space of his
own. He could stay. True, it would be uncomfortable but then, he
told himself, there was not any option for solving any problem
that was ever entirely perfect. He was uncomfortable now, and
would surely be even more so with the passing moments. Such
discomfort would sprawl like a dark vine onto the minutes,
strangling them like a rope, or in excessive growth smothering
them like a baby buried in its foam bath. And yet if he were
inordinately resolute if not obdurate in staying where he was,
would not the tempestuousness pass away easily by acting the
part of a god? Zeus-like in shooting his thunder bolts, albeit
thunder bolts of conversation against that soft epistemological
core of a man's mind which realized that nothing was known
absolutely, he could easily impart the venom of doubt. He could
lead the conversation into inconsequential matters such as the
latest news about these Moslem separatists in the South or the
seventy year old saffron frocked monk who mistakenly pulled out
glue from the medicine cabinet, inserted it into one of his
eyes, and then allowed a colleague to remedy it by applying
paint thinner into his hallowed orbs.
Anything believed to be known, could be doubted as illusory when
the possibilities of the present were continually supplanting
those of the past. By continuing to talk it would become more
real than the Laotian's vague recollection of him staring at his
body. Still he did not know what to say, and feeling that
discomfort, he wanted the closure of all communication with a
stranger who knew him more than his own wife.

These homosexual feelings had swept out of nowhere, and they had put
him in an inferno of desire, which only masturbation in the toilet had
been able to douse (this particular desire all the more savage for
being so alien to adulthood). Still with the appropriate undaunted
response such a caprice and aberration did not need to brand him in
the Laotian's mind or his own. And yet this chill that seemed to drip
onto his spine like water from a leaky pipe in the tiled ceiling of
the bathroom, was incessant; and perennial was the trepidation that
the Laotian should know the cryptic depravity that lived in the messy
far reaches of his brain, and the latent whims that gushed out from
his childhood memories. For a few seconds Nawin was able to stare at
his curious rival with a resolute confidence and a lambent smile but
it did not last, and so he stared out of the window and withdrew back
into himself. He once again began to romanticize those cars of
laborers with their families. It would be there, to them, from which
wafting scents of dirt, rice, and wildly lush and weedy greenery, lost
molecules from the whole, would pour into open windows. It would be
there in poignant rushes of wind slapping their faces that, complacent
or even content, these laborers in shared travels to the homes of
extended family would find meaning in their relationships. From the
illusion of desire and love, of transient rushes of feeling, the
families existed and became the boundaries and summation of
themselves--accidents and stumblings from that which in ignorance
begat the unions and material presences to which they tolerated, and
to some degree cared for, as they were extensions of themselves, their
fate.

The bundle (the feet on the Laotian's seat and head leaning
against the edge of his own) began to move and like a decarpeted
Cleopatra her face became visible and it was beautiful.


13

Throughout these moments of the conversation she, whoever she
was, had been at his knee all along even though, oddly enough,
her presence had registered in his brain with the vaguest of
awareness. Now that he was fully cognizant of her, he perceived
this oddity of having overlooked her earlier as a somewhat
amusing anecdote in a listless, perennial train trip largely in
need of even the most dull amusements, a fact which was droll to
him in its own way; and yet outwardly he hid his smile and tried
to restrain himself from glancing downward. He told himself that
he did so out of Thai modesty which mandated some degree of
reticence, or at least a bit of a reluctance, to broach
questions (being installed by cultural indoctrination this was
the most frequently used program which, when lacking an
operator's manual for one's life, even iconoclasts like him
would switch on reflexively in an effort to make an appropriate
social response before reconsideration and subsequent action).
Indeed that did have some bearing, but for the most part his
silence was in the hope of keeping her there longer.

Clearly, she was now exhaling her warmth onto one of his knees
so, he argued to himself, why not patiently allow the query of
who she was to emerge slowly with her presence when waking would
at last tear open that cocoon. As bereft of women and
relationships as he now was and as confused as he was by what
had transpired inwardly immediately before and during his odd
release in the toilet, it was quite pleasant to imagine her as a
more docile and devoted member of his long throng of scattered
harem over the years and now, at the age of forty, decades of
adulthood. He knew that this desiring of a woman to stay on his
knee was not all that different from the previous night when
with beer in his system and insecurity at being chased by the 4
and 0 which were almost as tangible as stalkers, he had hugged a
pillow to secure some limited sleep. He knew it, and he knew
that this repugnant human weakness suggested that the peace of
mind he hoped to obtain by a Buddhist trip into Vientiane could
be easily ravaged by wild desires as random and pointless as the
landscape of weeds and sedges about the train, for desire was
innate as the yearning to breathe. This wild mono-homo incident,
he somewhat cogently told himself from the more than nominal
truth that was therein, had merely been a release, a mechanical
need to discharge a full load of semen rather than a desire for
one of the same gender; and he fervently yearned for the
obsequious knee doter to stay where she was for as long as it
lasted, not that he would have disturbed her repose if it were
not intertwined with his own pleasure as well as a need for a
secure sense of self-identity. Was not that, he asked himself,
what made the distinction of a kind man from the rest of the
predatory male animals: a patience and tolerance of others'
happiness, and a willingness to invest time to secure it even at
the cost of one's own discomfort? If so, kindness was the virtue
of the former he, Jatupon, who, in lost, forlorn boyhood, when
not wanting to disturb sleeping cats allowed them to lay hours
at a time on his lap. He guffawed silently in his own mental
chamber at such sanctimonious, thrasonical ravings, for childish
behavior of long ago was not evidence for his untenable claim of
being a kind man and thus a good one. It had no relevance to his
barely nominal interaction with the beauty that was sleeping at
his knee. Furthermore, he recriminated himself, his fame came in
depicting the exploitation of others which was in itself a type
of exploitation even were he to reside in the deepest squalor as
an expose journalist, a Mother Theresa, or some other paragon
for ending injustice and suffering. Had not his whores sought
deliverance for themselves and their impoverished families
because of him? Had not jejune sojourns been made to the homes
of their respective rural families where he had to eat with them
as one of their members? Had not a belief that he would leave
his wife for them and an innocent expectation that they would be
redeemed by this deliverer burned within their breasts, hearts,
and clitorises? "Am I a good man? I rather doubt that I am," he
disparaged himself. He even doubted goodness. One never
interacted with anyone unless pleasure was in some way
associated to it. A human, even the best of them, was hardly the
making of a saint. Clearly, were they not so soft and his need
for love so great, he would not have stayed in that
uncomfortable posture on a tree stump outside his parents home,
long ago, to allow cats to sleep upon him.

This idea that pleasure was interconnected with all pursuits, a
viand of a thought, could well have become a repast if not a
banquet for discernment; and as an artist's dissertation was
done on canvas, ideas for a painting, now raw feeling boiling to
the rim, were on the verge of being shaped in his mind. And yet,
he dismissed them. He repudiated them by telling himself that he
would never rank as a great artist, that he was void of color,
theme, and technique.

A knee doter--he could barely hold back his laughter (how easily
he was amused by himself, a wonted practice from the vestige of
childhood along those banks of the Chao Phraya river in
Ayutthaya when solitary play with the elements inherent in air,
rain, and dirt and the chase of an idea scurrying through a mind
which was barely aware of its presence, brought him peace from
the incessant barrage of disparagement meant to stomp upon him,
their cockroach, in that war called family). The verdant
landscape, now near Nongkai and her sister city of Vientiane,
came incessantly toward the passengers as the train moved
through it. It came intimately. Every minute of a man's life
that was not in sexual intercourse, he thought, was in an
intercourse of a very different kind, in union with circumstance
and thereby impregnated with new thought that made him a new
man. A knee doter, he inwardly chuckled (once again he was
pondering how easily he was amused by himself, a practice he had
become accustomed to from the vestige of that hell called family
in which, if one's sensitivity was intact enough to not laugh at
a sundry of crude commentaries such as the father's daily
repetition that it did not matter what a woman looked like as
she could be denuded and a sack put over her head, and these
manly attempts at being the most clever one at belittling the
other (mostly aiming for him, that easiest and most sensitive of
targets) these rudimentary and vulpine or wolfish members of the
pack would attempt a full annihilation of him in words--all of
them that was but his brother and tacit protector, Kazem, whose
hard eyes were his fort, but whose gun would discharge later in
his rectum). He found this peculiar idea of her as the
obsequious love slave, as much as the source behind it, not only
amusing but arousing. It had always seemed to him, fettered as
he once had been in ideas and paint, obsessed with transforming
sordid memories and thought into color as he inexplicably gazed
at a barren wall of canvas, that one never made love to a woman
but a facsimile of one in one's own brain which that brain
distorted to meet the orgasm it longed for. It always seemed to
him that the craving for women was merely for a spark to
stimulate fire in the vacuity of the brain so as to liberate it
from catatonic list, the result of boredom, and thus orgasm was
merely for oneself even if by chasing illusions of "love" a real
child materialized along the way. Thinking it now, it was
nothing new for him, for to him, Jatupon, who was once in love
with his brother and scrutinized the validity of human emotions
thereafter as Nawin, feelings were gossamer threads of chemicals
prompting puppet man to breed and breed elsewhere. Marriage had
at least taught him that tempestuous feelings of love and
despondency could pass if one gave them little credence and by
being unmoved by their promptings one could at least have some
years of success in obtaining a consistent uxorial presence in
his life. Love at first sight that was felt from brief
encounters was merely a neediness for an interesting presence to
stir up one's passion for life and end loneliness. It was always
transferred to a conceivably obtainable sense of beauty by which
to obtain immortality in a DNA continuum. For even love from a
sexual encounter, to have any substance of reality, had to be a
reciprocal neediness ground in years of friendship. And yet a
woman was a whore whose penchant for a parcel of land and a
branch of a tree to build her nest was an instinct that was as
fulsome as the worse of human hungers. His mother, to get her
few scanty goods, had closed her eyes to his suffering. His
wife, now that she acquired his child, took over his domain and
changed the locks. Ironically, here he was lusting after a woman
once again for did not every man require intimacy like butter
that would melt and fuse him and his sausage onto the woman and
her egg? Did he not secretly want a woman's bypassed stares in
the minutes of anger to diminish him into the dissolved umbrage
of her shadow like slinking into shadows of an alley to taunt
thieves and cutthroats to have some limited intimacy with death?

He allowed his ruminations to quickly shuffle through his mind
once more, for they amused him tremendously. Then he redundantly
centered on one in particular. Throughout this nascent
conversation with the Laotian, whoever this man was, who perhaps
used a nickname-alias of Boi as an easily worn but also easily
removed one word summation of himself, this pallid, young female
with flowing hair, just as he liked them, had been inches near
his thighs and he had barely even noticed it, as he was
preoccupied with this bizarre homosexual caprice that had rushed
upon him an hour earlier as zephyrs from the subconscious, and
thinking of ways to repudiate any judgment of him as a
homosexual that might be in the mind of the Laotian. Eagerly
succumbing to desire for the girl, and perhaps even exaggerating
any desire that he did possess to feel masculine within himself,
he deliberately glanced down at her even though he was once
trying not to do so. She looked like that nurse at Siriaj
Hospital who had been responsible for catering toward him whose
wife had broken his arm with a skillet and his heart with those
words, "The son that you and Kimberly brought into the world
should not have a hateful person like you as his father! Get
out! We're through!" For ongoing emotional comfort and to set up
dates for caresses he would be calling that nurse, smitten as
she was for his good looks and his marginal celebrity status. He
would be doing it now at this moment were it not for having
thrown away his telephone at the train station.


14

Although more clinch than original, an idea as trite as an
aphorism ruminated in his head. He told himself that ideas were
nothing unless one acted upon them; and yet from a less
cognizant mélange of disorganized feelings which had not been
refined into thought he was really meaning that fervent,
peculiar whims prompted all pleasurable acts and that unto
themselves these saccharin gusts that bate were of no substance
unless, in opposition to society at large, one partook of them
fully by allowing them to saturate to fulsome, insatiability in
behavior that was in complete accord with their perverse
dictates. In the brief space of that moment he repeatedly
averred this facile idea silently in his mind. He willed belief
into it like pumped air into a holey inner tube which, like in
his filthy boyhood in the still filthier Chao Phraya river in
Ayutthaya, for a brief time of escaped labor, he would ride.

Ideas are nothing unless one acts upon them: the thought was not
at all novel even if this particular context for it was. It
seemed to him to have Buddhist or Biblical implications which he
supposed as having been transmitted to him long ago through
someone affiliated with a temple or a church, although he was
not exactly sure how or when such an idea had been passed to him
or how it had become so embedded in his brain even if brains
were, for the most part, mere sponges. Oddly enough, there it
was, even in such a man so unfettered by moral restraints as he
was. It was like a blood-sucking mosquito but quaffing away
analytic and synthetic processes of idea making, aggravating
placid delusions in fever, and muddling the mind in an amphigory
of simplistic human nature, which when unchecked, was really
more carnal, multi-dimensioned, and beastly than anyone would
care to presume.

His prudish behavior on this day was diametrically opposed to
the Nawin of old who on virtually every other day of his adult
life but this one, from influences of feelings and underlying
thoughts which he hardly recognized, had followed his carnal
whims with women inordinately. A being, after all, did the
tricks that nature prompted him to do for the sweet bait of
pleasure and so from the perspective of carrying out those
functions that biological creatures were meant to, the physical
and perhaps only basis of morality, his own behavior was
exemplary. In the seats of his car parked around forested areas
within Bangkok's outlying roadside parks (the woods therein
avoided because of the bigger probability of the brambles of
"queers" accosting him), in forests far from the city, against
walls of women's toilets in gas stations, in discotheque parking
lots, in hotel rooms, empty upper staircases, in boyfriends' and
husbands' beds when they were out, several times, under banana
and durian trees in one particular father's orchard, once in a
pimp's bedroom when he was out, many times in the villagers own
bedrooms while they slept on living room floors eager to take
advantage of his copulatory pleasure to get a bit of financial
support for their families and fame for the daughters' whose
beauty he, the surrogate husband, would preserve on canvases,
abandoned buildings and tall skeletal structures that were never
quite built after the 1996 financial meltdown, once backstage
with a Russian ballerina after a performance of Swan Lake at the
Thai Cultural Center, several times between two enormous trash
bins at a stadium and once under its bleachers, never in his and
Noppawon's home unless occasionally with Noppawan herself but
very often in his studio, he had released his snake to a mostly
strange and less than angelic array of females who too were
victims of poverty and exploitation. Both them and a smaller
second set as well (a set to which each respective woman behaved
as both friend and lover until invariably insisting that he
obtain a divorce from his wife, a strident and resonating demand
that despite his wishes to the contrary, always caused an
avalanche of debris to fall upon them both in a closure of the
relationship that turned as black and mordant as light sucked
into a black hole and that was as indelible as death) he would
massage as gently as wind since, according to him, the Nawin
massage was more effective at loosening inhibitions and making
the body malleable to sexual positioning than the pryings and
twistings of the Thai variant, listen intensely to their
troubles during pillow talks in which he reflected their
feelings like a psychologist, and kindly ejaculate into them the
venom and bite that were the gifts of his body.

With today perhaps being the exception; throughout his life it
always seemed to him, the exponential adulterer that he was,
that carnal caprices should not at all be repudiated when they
were all. Every rare, sublime thought that managed to get
through the savage millennia did so because of sordid,
procreative energy which manufactured the generations despite
imperfect performances of maladroit sperm missing their targets,
the targets most times missing, and even the walls of the
missing targets sometimes being some other type of wall, a wall
like his own wall, a man's wall.

If from a Christian source, the idea must have originated with
his aunt on his mother's side who had once dabbled in his life
with feigned love back in those early days of Jatupon when he
believed that this bit of extended family, this refined lady of
an exceptional marriage who was blood of his blood (which she
had willingly sold by buckets to a hoary senator with age
blemishes) would at last tug him back from the precipice or at
least intercede when he was foundering in the abyss of family.
Back then there was a belief in deliverers who would reach for
him while uttering charming, mellifluous words which all of the
family members would accede to. Back then there was a belief in
forgiveness, the righting of wrongs, that a time would come when
both mother and son would feel comfortable enough in each
other's presence to almost be able to speak openly about what
was happening to him in this monstrosity called family, that
there would be a time of not having to fear losing any remnant
of the maternal instinct for love which she still possessed and
occasionally demonstrated in brief tacit glances of
commiseration, that a day would finally come for this open
admission of the truth (although now he believed that it
probably never would have occurred even if the parents had not
died so early in that fatal automobile accident, which had led
to his subsequent indentured status as a noodle worker behind
his brothers' food cart and the late evenings/early mornings of
becoming, even more gratuitously, his brother, Kazem's "cheap
date," his "free hole"), and happy endings for this putative,
perennial propinquity called family which he had once thought of
as an everlasting substance that would one day satiate him with
meaning, and like a tsunami drown and bury his tiny, forlorn
existence in its eternal watery mass. His youth had cowered in
the corners of the shadows of family, and he had stayed within
them complacently, cognizant that every cockroach that was not
smashed sooner or later found a more preferable exit, and that
although it would seem forever, this time of the impermanent
first family would just be a brief space of years within one's
lifetime.

Art had been his way of taking umbrage. It had been his way of
committing that monstrous deed of giving a voice to the
miniscule cockroach by inserting a man's vocal cords within it.
How in early boyhood could he have known family to be merely
half-remembered battles, and diminished faces of long known and
scarcely understood combatants that the memories and critical
intelligence of an adult would present to him? He had believed
in the magical restoration of it then, child that he was, as if
self-interest were not a priority in human beings. Integrity was
rare and integrity for his sake rarer yet. Should he have
expected something greater from his aunt? To her he had been
cute, and so not having children of her own, she had dabbled in
a love for him, pampering him for a time with her neediness. She
was, after all, a human being seeking her own happiness as he
was; and unlike him, she probably never had a clue what
happiness was really. However, he did know despite often living
contrary to its precepts.

By his account happiness was seeing meaning in the blowing
branches of a tree on a murky, partly cloudy day that was as
ambiguous in weather as purpose, and expecting nothing greater
from his environment or fellow men than ambiguous and random
happenings on such a gloomy day. To find a bit of pleasure in
what was and not expect anything more: this was seeing innate
value instead of creating ideal scenarios, which were bound to
not happen and lead to disappointment.

The mystery of obtaining happiness was not so confusing but
sexuality, that ever changing river, was. As many times as he
pondered again this recent event, his ruminations churned up
vacuity and uncertainty for he still did not know whether or not
this mono-homosexual experience of masturbating one time to the
image of a male in a toilet of a train on a day of panicking
over having turned forty constituted a thought that was acted
upon, and so the aphorism did nothing for him. If meant to
liberate him from guilt or cure him of sexual depravity this
nostrum had less efficacy than a placebo.

It was not only them, whomever they were, but he himself,
whoever he was, that seemed to meander on the outside. He was
lost like an insect crawling on a seat of a roller coaster ride
which, designed for thrills as it was, lacked purpose. This ride
on and of the world in forty rotations around the sun, which had
changed him both physically and mentally since his birth, seemed
to him now as meaningless as a pail of water being twirled
around forty times in centrifugal force. The Earth had bore him
as another product cursorily begotten on an assembly line. A
product did not transform a factory, he thought, nor did a man
change the world, or even leave any indelible sign of himself
before being dumped in the landfill.

Images of a stern female four with a broad boned body and a
balding and obese zero with one arm taunted him in his,
arguably, depraved imagination. They were salient neither in
nightmares as it was not night, nor daydreams as this word only
had positive connotations, but in a sense, daymares. In them the
couple were walking through the rain toward their home. In his
mind's eye zero was still scrambling for his keys when they, the
husband and wife, arrived at the doorstep. "You are so
disorganized," she reproached. "God, I hope that you did not
lose them again," she excoriated. Forty times the zero quietly
stomached the abuse as he continued to inspect all of his
pockets for the fortieth time. He knew that she had married him
for his purchase of a parcel of land to which she could build
her nest, for union with sperm from the only man who had
exhibited some interest in her, and for a financial provider for
her birdies. He knew that, altogether, she had used his body
because of an instinct to seek happiness in that which would
place her on the throne of maternal monarchy, and so her insults
not only seemed unwarranted but particularly contemptible.
Furthermore, he could not understand why, when she knew the
reactions that getting drunk and shouting her invective as
intense as imprecations would cause, that she continually
insulted him. More times than not he would be provoked to beat
her, pull her around by the hair, and continue to slap their
forty children from time to time for caring about the shallow
smackings of the mother instead of the mental flagellations that
she rendered unto Him. Despite the bruises and black eyes that
he gave them, he knew that she would never take them away, for a
woman, if anything, was a prostitute of a bird. Obeying
instinct, she would do anything for a parcel of land to have and
maintain as her nest. Was this, as some type of a singular
image, he asked himself, the subject for an abstract painting?
It was for someone else, he retorted.

He thought, "Have I, Nawin Biadklang or whoever I am--whatever I
call myself, done anything remarkable within all these forty
years?" He posited this question as if this subject were now a
relevant matter to deliberate, and as if, after having scanned
through a quick shuffling of vapid memories, a self-judgment had
not already been rendered on this matter. Actually, before
posing the question his feelings had already concluded that
although having risen to upper middle class from dire poverty as
an accomplished artist he had not even made one single painting
that was so unique and extraordinary that no one else could have
made it exactly as he had done. Feeling had rendered in him the
decision that he had failed at anything beyond making himself
more affluent than most, and so the question held no purpose. He
was just a man with a brief and puny life, and as with all men
he ate and expelled, sought pleasure and reacted reflexively
against threatening stimuli no differently than any common,
self-preserving cockroach. It was true that in a man there was
self-awareness more keen than in other animals, but from it one
could not help analyzing his own insignificance which he would
then have to repugn by absconding more fully in the professional
and personal domains. Fabricating illusions of grandeur in
ambitions and love, he could keep his life busy and fortified
from encroaching questions.

For all of Nawin's messy colors in art and living life brightly
(his playboy activities, the television commercials, and a month
on a soap opera, which came about from his slight fame as a
renowned artist and an attractive presence) he had not become a
Leonardo Dicaprio let alone a Leonardo Davinci--not that Davinci
would have necessarily known his own greatness. He was
discontent with himself as being so was endemic in mortal, human
creatures who at best could leave no greater legacy than their
own puny thoughts, and at worst found their voices mere echoes
of the environment, and their only means to halfway preserve
themselves was to have offspring partly begotten from the lust
of their loins.

He, in his lifetime, was not as much of a renowned painter as
Montien Boonma or Chamas Kietkong were in theirs. For meaningful
Thai art of international appeal one turned to them and not him.
His works were a familiar leitmotiff of sordid, dejected whores
to which ideas and representation of forms were, for critics and
buyers alike, secondary considerations. This suggested to him a
deficiency in the technical mastery of his craft and made him
yearn for other pursuits. At certain times he had been obsessed
by having celebrity status and at other times he had loathed it,
but overall he had resented its intrusion much more than grading
art survey compositions at Silpakorn University for commercials,
and the daytime melodrama sidetracked the continuum of his life
as an artist by keeping him from scholarship and his own
creative achievements. Thus, he had done what pathetic, impotent
males of the second category often do: he had fathered a child.

It seemed to him that whereas mildly abused individuals added
links to ancestry, homosexuals, from the severity of the abuse
committed on them as children, or from good common sense, became
broken links and thus remained unchained. In that sense, he was
definitely not "queer." At least that was what he told himself.
Then it seemed to him that there was a certain heroism in being
a childless presence, stopping the replication of a damaged
element and accepting fully his impermanence. However, he was
not heroic in that way either. He was a mere womanizer upon whom
his wife had urged a full, unprotected sexual union with her
friend to gain a child. Even in considering all the scores of
women whom he had had protected sex with through the past two
decades of his life he would hardly be a record holder of this
marathon either--not that spilling body fluids to say that one
existed would, he judged, have been all that less significant
than spilling paint.

At a station immediately before the destination of Nongkai the
train stopped and a door opened to three villagers who were
selling their fried rice and pork in Styrofoam containers. "Khao
pat moo. Som sip baht [Pork fried rice. Oranges, ten baht]" they
proclaimed on both sides of the aisle, and like bells their
voices summoned him out of himself. The Laotian was still seated
in front of him as before, but with a furrowed forehead and a
smirking countenance as if puzzled not by what to say but on how
best to say it. The woman, still seated in part on the floor,
was now stretching her arms. Seeing that she was awake, the
Laotian's furrowed field of a forehead became smooth, and the
subject of contemplation he was fixated on seemed to vanish. He
raised his naked foot, and with a profane toe denuded his
partner's bangs and began to massage her forehead. This
continued for some minutes until she bit the toe.

"Bitch! You're really vicious. Look what you've done. It's
probably bleeding now."

Nawin's jaw lowered with his mouth slightly agape. In
disapprobation of his culture he sat stiffly for a moment in
tacit and obdurate silence, but with glances down at what was
beneath him. What was beneath him was beauty.



15

Even if he were to say that it was a new beginning for himself
and, unlike other nocturnal prowlers, that he was now a nascent
creature capable of appreciating the simple pleasures of the day
in a more abstemious lifestyle, there was the immediate past to
repugn the assertion. There was that nurse at the hospital, whom
from earlier exchanges of smiles, looks, and brief
conversations, he was able to obtain her telephone number
shortly before being discharged from the hospital--a woman he
would be calling now had he not thrown away his mobile telephone
or "moh-toh" as Thais (though not him, the inwardly surly,
cultured man that he was and an American Thai at that) called
such devices. Was he not still a glutton for intense thrills?
Was he not always at least nominally enraptured by someone or
something different than the other intrigues that had come
before? The women of the past had proven that he was as had that
which had happened to him less than an hour earlier.

Disagreeable for the source of its arousal and made vulgar and
fetid by the association of having been done in such a filthy
toilet, this experience had been a particularly odd and
abhorrent intimacy with fantasies that he was not accustomed to
entertain. The fact that these fantasies had opened the gates to
his ejaculation in the toilet of a train was for him an
unpleasant reality, not that intentionally trying to avoid
thinking of it was, in his judgment, such a wholesome act either
for it did not make it less part of his own thoughts and
experience to stuff it into the sockets of his brain like one's
dirty socks being shoved by a foot under the bed at the knocking
of his door and he would not be much of a man to cower away from
himself so easily.  It was still disconcerting since it was both
odd and distantly familiar simultaneously, a combination that
made him feel flushed down the toilet portals of ineluctable
memory. Masturbating privately wherever he wished was for him as
inconsequential as scratching the area of his pants that covered
his scrotum when experiencing a particularly strong itch, and
yet this carnal escapade was different. It was deviant more for
him in the sense of diverging from the mainstream than anything
significantly pejorative. Still, it was for him a most sordid
encounter with himself even if, to his satisfaction, performed
in the purest of form--being free from the self-delusion of
love. To him, all sex was making love to oneself but coupled
naturally with a woman it did not seem so sordid, even though it
perhaps was, while being impure enough as to seem as if he were
really making love only to her when the contrary was true. Thus
to him making love to a woman was more sordid as a consequence.

In this morning encounter with a fantasy and a hand had he not,
despite himself, been enraptured by that dark and bearded male
partner of the exquisite, pallid creature beneath him? He had.
It was not possible to repudiate it as much as he might want to,
given the fact that, despite the earlier release, a cool
titillation that had never quite left him was once again
reasserting itself by soaring and tightening his groin and it
was not for the girl--at least not yet, although he hoped for
transference--but for this Laotian boy, Boi himself.

This "sick" experience, he argued, had been in large part from
insomnia, and the insomnia from visceral loss in his life and
from the numb pain of his broken arm. Also in part it had been
from the jerky movements of the train after being "a bit sick"
to his stomach in the wake of having drunk that watery Laotian
beer -with its strange pungent punch like consuming a liquid
version of French cheese which always bit back- that Boi had fed
to him in his bunk. This had to a lesser degree discomfited his
composed mental state as had the acknowledgement of having
turned forty. These factors had made him "sick" or a little
offset from his mental equilibrium and yet it seemed that he was
not over his sickness. He was sick even now.

With women he just wanted to be mildly tipsy and never quite
inebriated, and so he would be slightly infatuated with one
after another. Even though he wanted the continuum of each one's
friendship and to learn to appreciate each as the unique visual,
social, and sexual creature that she was, finding no ultimate
beauty, the quest for it always seemed to facilitate the making
of them all into ephemeral entities in his life when
impermanence was making him dizzy. These fleeting figures were
sunsets which he never quite wanted to catch when cognizant that
there was new light waiting on the outskirts of the horizon.
Thus they were as amorphous and mutable as the pursuit for
beauty itself. He knew; and if, he postulated, all organisms on
the planet were in some respect lovely and loveable, an
excitable reverence for the perfection of their forms (even the
oldest and most decrepit human, or a single cell microorganism
was perfect in contrast to the debris of dark free flowing
elements of space), why then did he judge a given person as
being beautiful or ugly? It was an unjust contrast to something
else more or less visually appealing and it seemed to him both
procrustean and ludicrous when every entity was worthy of
portraits and every organism on the planet held the potential to
excite him in love. It seemed to him that he should be
unendingly rapturous to all beings of the world, and yet if one
were amorous for all clearly the brain would experience
overload. Perhaps the reason one person, two, or three, for a
while, became a man's myopic fixation and were thought more
beautiful than all others was so that the brain would not
experience this overload at recognizing that all forms were
equally luscious. This might well be the meaning of a man's
fixation on one or a single small group of "beautiful" women--a
protective mechanism to stop brain overload. Within one's
vicinity and propinquity, an individual registered a finite
array of physical traits and characteristics not quite like his
own until a next batch would catch his eye.

So that liaisons of sometimes two each day had not become four,
causing all aspects of the man to be extinguished but the
ragings of appetite, Nawin had taught, for many years, art
survey and drawing classes at Silpakorn University, graded
papers in the teaching lounge that was exempt of pretty young
things who were such ugly distractions to a man who was hoping
to seek higher realities than visual and tactile stumblings,
pursued jogging, swimming, art, and scholarship, and each week
loitered near the golden Thai pavilian or "sala" overlooking the
lake at the Bangna campus at Assumption University. There, he
would wait to pick up his teacher wife, watch the stretching of
geese assert a land based prowess after floating toward him and
his bread crumbs, and attempt to once again appreciate simple
pleasures. A journey there once or twice a week, like sports and
art, helped him to find peace of mind by focusing an aspect of
himself less connected to innate appetites and filling
Noppawan's mind with an illusion that she was the only one
despite the many, an illusion both appreciated as indispensable
in congealing and solidifying their relationship.

In loss and tragedy so great that all life seemed a lugubrious
and murky haze he knew that at any second he could fall to
pieces and yet here he came anyway. On this train moving toward
Vientiane Laos, this world capital no different than a country
town, this little bit of Paris with a lot of dirt that was the
sister city of Nongkai which he had seen once before. His aim
was the same: the restoration of self. He was traveling here to
find that life was still good despite poignant loss, to part
from what-ifs, remorse, guilt, and shame, and to find himself in
simple pleasures that he believed were the foundation for
appreciating life. He did not know, but it seemed to him that
higher pleasures were synthetic, built from tenuous material on
a sturdy foundation, and most of the tower had crumbled down and
he was there on its foundation, its base, bruised, lacerated,
bleeding, and literally with a broken right arm in its rubble.
Alone, he wanted to journey to Nongkai so that, undistracted, he
might enter Vientiene to contemplate the song, squawk, and
flutter of his own thoughts. When simultaneous to some similar
song and rustling from the birds themselves it would be
reassurance from nature that the fleeting essence of matter and
the personal loss he was experiencing at Kimberly's suicide, and
the subsequent separation of his wife after beating him
senseless with a frying pan were natural. It would also be
testament that life was bigger than his myopic perspective of
it, beset, as he was, by tragedy. However, on this train, as
everywhere, there were palatable humans who continually
discomfited hi peace of mind like the chocolate fan poochai
(fantastic male) and his vanilla fan pooying, who he supposed
was his girlfriend, seated there in the confined space before
him.

It was his wish to go on a solitary journey where he might be in
the vicinity of itinerant others like himself for reasons like
his own, while staying aloof from them by a peripheral
association of glances. He might sit dreamingly for hours at a
time at a sidewalk restaurant or on the ground before a stupa in
Vientiane, eat vegetable and cheese baguettes (the American
cheese variety of course) and watch Europeans go by on their
rented bicycles. From these glances he would be part of them
without allowing them to disrupt his Buddhist contemplation;
however, knowing which of them were cultured, and which were
merely backpacking hedonists might be hard to determine with
mere glances, and if he felt that only the latter were there, he
would think that he might as well return home for Bangkok was
the prime bivouac for such characters. For what he knew, this
rustic Paris might well be the dernier cri for such lost souls
like his or, conversely, a Mecca for middle-aged men fantasizing
about Laotian men's erections. In either case, or nothing of the
sort, he was going there by train as if he were not able to pay
for a plane ticket as easily as the average man could pay for a
ride on a city bus. Of course this particular car was air
conditioned, and riding in it, despite its coldness, was
certainly more comfortable than the "cattle cars" linked from
behind; but coming by train at all was an attempt toward
simplifying his life and it was as close to the Jatupon whom he
once was that he cared to ever be again.

He knew it without dwelling upon the point for the latter
activity would separate him from others even further: despite an
impoverished and savage childhood, he was a refined man although
hopefully demure enough not to believe it too intensely or allow
it to exude into his interactions beyond a surly air softened in
a warm smile. He could have taken an airplane. Refined men
always did but here he was in this particular car of this
particular train hoping to find balance after falling into the
stone and dust rubble that intense pleasures had brought upon
him. And yet, he told himself, if his own experiences
immediately before, during and after his ejaculation in the
toilet portended stygian events to come that would have him
wallowing in base instinctual drives, so be it. He smiled and
thought how his life was an unpredictable series of unconnected
episodes. It was as if he were at a sanuk packard (amusement
park) and torturous suffering was mixed into the thrill of every
ride. Although seeking and favoring "sanook" in all matters like
any great hedonist, realistically he hoped to learn something
within these vicissitudes.

So the Laotian called his partner a bitch. So she bit his toe,
kissed it, and now had her own foot on his lap. Why should any
of it matter to him? They were not subjects under the dictates
of his sovereignty, and who was he to be didactic, he who looked
at a given moment as an experiment of the convergence of people
and thought? He was sovereign of nothing. The two women of his
life, his major connections in this existence, had in part due
to his own actions, evaporated like all lost essence of family
so what sententious dogma did he have to pontificate? Clearly
the Laotian woman was not bothered by these mere wisps of
vibrating air, so why should he be? He knew that he should not
be so irascible. He knew that he should not be brooding about a
pejorative word used on this woman, a creature who seemed to
flourish in the word and for all he knew might be well suited
and defined by it. Still tension of his own making about how
wrong the Laotian was to have uttered his pugnacious, rude,
chauvinistic, and socially inappropriate word seemed to alter
the air so that it was viscous and palpable. True, as a minute
or two wore on the tension seemed to be diluting slightly in the
strong daylight which was pouring through the windows but still,
as confined with them as he was there within this small space,
breathing seemed to be a more arduous task. Tension seemed to
also sully the floor which was already fetid enough due to
whatever stench the train officer's random spot mopping with
ammonia earlier in the night had not covered.

And there she was with both naked feet resting on the Laotian's
lap so any reaction that he might have in defense of her at this
time, even if it were mere silence, seemed inane.

Escaping them entirely with his mind, he found himself trudging
through a prodigious mire of memories which would have been
better had they stayed in a diminished state, a staid frame of
mind which would have made them more easily accepted if not
appreciated. One particular memory began to percolate within him
and boil over his rim. It began to be the sole activity of
consciousness in a reality so vivid that it was as if he had
fallen through a portal in time. He was with her again and she
was exactly the same. "Kimberly, I should be painting that
expression instead. What's wrong? You've seen that one of
Noppawan a hundred times before." "I am just seeing it in a new
way. You are the world to her. You can see it in her eyes--so
much love for you and you are the one who painted that love so
lovingly." "I'm drawing you now, aren't I, if you would stand
still? Haven't I done plenty of you?" "Still, this painting
makes me wonder what I'm doing with you. She is my friend."
"Whom she chose to give birth to our child--yours, hers, and
mine." "A son... the ultrasound showed it, you know..we'll be
having a son--yours, mine and hers. Maybe your connection to me
will be special for that reason, but you love her and I
shouldn't be doing this." "You are in your fifth month. It's a
little late to go in reverse now, wouldn't you say? As I've said
a hundred times before it was her idea. She knew that I wanted
you and that I was trying to repress it since the two of you
were best friends. She wanted children through you, and this
pregnancy is your gift as a friend to her. She enlarged marriage
to include you in it so we are all married in a sense. There's
nothing to feel regret about." Then this memory, which had
seemed so vivid and concrete, dispersed as if it were sound,
smoke and wind..


16

Thais with a disposition and willingness to scrutinize their own
cultural suppositions were rare but for those who were so
inclined to repugn family and Buddha, if only in outward
aloofness and tacit pondering, little remained sacrosanct from
intellectual dissection except for issues in reference to the
king, for to cease to revere him would make one something other
than Thai. That is what he thought at 8:00 A.M. as he heard the
king's anthem playing at a distance from a passenger's radio.
That was what he thought, and yet had the moment been different
he would have thought differently. He knew that what he was,
what he claimed to be, was merely from being in the particular
situation where he found himself. Now in this car of the train
among these strangers whom he did not particularly like, hearing
that rather bland melody repeated, one more of the daily
repetitions throughout the years, and as always feeling that
strong inhibition which made him not able to even acknowledge to
himself this blandness, his disposition grew a bit peevish and
restless for he kept telling himself that every moment he
remained here was aging him toward his forty-first year. Having
one birthday in a train was bad enough, he told himself. He did
hardly wanted another one. The moments seemed like hours,
unmovable as boulders.

As Nawin heard the anthem he saw that the three food salesmen,
in concert with everyone else, were deferentially erect and
motionless in response, and noticed that there were no more
strident cries or other such tonal annoyances of khao phat moo,
phad thai jae (noodles and vegetables), and kauy-tiaw (noodles)
with some sauce with a Laotian or northern Thai dialect name, at
any rate shrieked beyond recognition. Noting that any delay in
getting off the train would be a brief one and that the
freelance food salesmen would be gone with the slightest forward
thrust of the train, he pulled out sixty baht from his wallet so
that he might quickly buy one container of each for himself and
the two passengers whose space he was confined to. It was only
polite to do so and any effort that he might make to give less
credence to his feelings of disgust toward them would make the
rest of the ride more agreeable. Besides, as feelings were so
interlinked to perception of a given event in a given moment
like attack dogs that were often standing in late evenings by
the doors of banks and randomly barking at the scents and
movements of passers-by and their shadows, they were not
reliable gages for assessing reality and he did not give much
credence to them.

The gambits of feeling, senses, and logic were even fallible
when working together. To trust one exclusively over the others
was a madness equivalent to an artist falling in love with his
subjects, an inebriation of the myopic he had always tried to
avoid in the hope of going beyond the "reality" of one's petty
associations to an exposé of exploitation and tacit desperation
in which the viewers would see the whores residing within
themselves. This Earth was in one respect like a huge amniotic
sac of impermanent quasi-reality in which he seemed to be a six
billionth major cell of some inchoate but never complete
organism that was being tossed therein. In another sense it was
diametrically different and he seemed a complexity of
contradictory feelings, logic, and sensory input like partly
functional gages and gears that he manipulated and was
manipulated by to move and assess movement in this nebulous
terrestrial cloud or fog he found himself in. To some degree he
was part of a cell if not an entire cell in the gestation of the
making of a life and the Earth was merely a cluster of cells if
not an entire organ in the inchoate organism called the
universe; and yet to some degree it was as if he was a probe
slowly feeling its way in a very small acreage within Martian
darkness. One thing that was certain was the intricate and
confusing number of switches and responses in himself. Even with
logic, if a compassionate man had only this, he would continue
to stay stationary in any situation he happened to find himself.
It was feelings of pain that urged a man's extrication so that
he might find situations and quests more worthy of his time. So
he thought while hearing the ending of the anthem.

Inwardly having great humility and reverence toward King Rama
IX, he nonetheless facetiously told himself that this
opportunity to eat a scanty sustenance was provided by the king
himself and that royal cuisine of this nature was not to be
passed by. "khortoht [excuse me]," he said, raising his hand and
motioning to the nearest salesman to come toward him. It seemed
odd to do so, for he was feeling the desire to turn in the
opposite direction toward the Laotian himself, so that he might
say, "Phom tongkarn khun [I want you]" and "Phom gamlang ja pai
gap khun [I will be going with you]." Odder yet, his mind itself
retained the hauntings of Kimberly, who was even more similar to
him than Noppawon in being a little of this and that, and
belonging to no group or family for she was French-American, and
he Thai American, or at any rate an American Thai, and,
unequivocally, both were expatriates of this world.

As if it were not ironic enough to lack superstitions about
ghosts and all else and yet have his mind so discomfited by the
creeking, rattling, and shuffling of her presence in the dark
corridors of his mind, he was possessed by inexplicable,
ineffable desire for this individual before him who was of the
same gender. The rattling chains of the former were feeling,
instead of sound and, understandably, this rattling was from the
stress experienced by remorse; but the latter was a burning
sensation less explicable than the other as if he was possessed,
although there was nothing to possess him but himself. Together
the phantom of that tacit, gentle soul of a woman and the
possessive fantasy of the rough and naughty Laotian were trying
to overtake him. They were mental poltergeists and he was the
source of his own haunting.

He had boarded this train in part because he was trying to flee
Kimberly and yet were he to fly without cause or reason, he knew
that she would go with him to Niamey in Niger just the same as
Nongkai in Thailand or to Vienna the same as Vientiane for she
was an ineluctable memory of myriad of these ineluctable
memories that he would lobotomize in minor whittling of his
brain with a pocket knife if only he could. Many times, marred
and blurred as she often was, Kimberly and those not so far gone
memories of youth which were equally hideous in their own ways,
would detonate like a land mine inside of him when he was tired,
causing him to falter into depression and the unconsciousness of
deep sleep. Still, what could be done but to freefall in sleep,
hit bottom, and awaken rejuvenated with the sun? One could not
dispense with a mind the way he had his telephone. In a sense,
of these apparitions from the subconscious, she was summoned
from nowhere phantomesque, and yet like weeds thrusting from a
rocky landscape without reason after a cool rain. As in that
memory a minute ago which had acted an entire scene upon his
mind, Kimberly, hybrid of weed and flower, was there in his
mind's eye like rife dandelions. Even though now she seemed to
be withering within him once again, and he was at least
cognizant of his pull toward her, he seemed to be falling more
rapidly and with greater force toward this rocky slope covered
in dandelions and fog, compelled to fall into the lap of beauty
and death while the final impact remained suspended from an
incessant retreat.

Even now, he thought, she was more distinct than the smudges
that came from the contrivances of conscious will when
attempting to remember, but that image was diminishing with the
seconds no differently than subsequent attempts to recollect her
consciously garnered less than was exact with the passing days.
As with other hauntings, he felt startled, and spent a minute or
two trying to recollect himself within disconcerted thought but
that was especially hard to do this time since his mind was
crowded by that visceral, recent occurrence that was one more
presence in the haunt of memory.

Strangely, even if done immediately after glancing at her
photograph, or after seeing slides of a painting of her, which
was an impression of her and him both, were he to try to
remember her exactly it would be an act of abject futility. It
would give him nothing but a blur. He could even concentrate on
the specifics of her wearing that turquoise dress that he had
given her, a combination of the color, green, that she liked
most and the ethereal blue aqua vitae lakes of her eyes, and it
would not matter. Attempts to consciously bring her back would
extract nothing but smudges and visceral pangs of loss. The
hauntings of memory hadn't any more reason to be than the screen
door of the shed at his home (exclusively Noppowan's home now
through his default in not exerting his innocence and in not
shifting the blame back on to her, the proposer of their doom)
which opened, closed, and banged around in the winds. But when
she haunted the oblique corridors of his brain there was nothing
opaque about her. Clear as reality, he was often able to
remember not only her, but also a continuum of moments in their
interaction together and, as now, the ensuing shock would cause
him to stand for a minute or two lost in himself while trying to
find a way back to the present moment and analyzing and
reanalyzing this thought process as if hoping to find a switch
to turn it off. So his mind droned on like this, as it always
did after a deep thought of her image, until he was able to find
enough of himself to make the choice to part from her.

Glancing out of the window for a few seconds with his hand still
motioning toward the salesmen, he watched Thailand's vacant
greenery, a pickup truck on a distant road, and a water buffalo
standing in what should have been a modern rice farm. These
images continued to peel and fold back behind the train no
differently than the people and events of his life. This, above
all, was why he had subconsciously chosen to come by train. It
was an instrument for illustrating his impermanence so that he
might accept that this was the natural course of all things even
if human intellect knew that nature was vile and that this
impermanence should be otherwise.

"Sorry, I got carried away," said the Laotian to no one in
particular. It caused the girl to laugh and then look up at
Nawin with a broad smile. As much as her smile could speak, it
seemed to be saying that expletives were the norm. It was as if
that smile were saying that profane and abusive names were
merely a mode of expression, like bantering, that gave
visibility to something as impalpable as a relationship, and
that she enjoyed whatever he wanted to call her as well as
Nawin's intrusion of silence which was meant to be a reproach
against Boi. Thinking of how a smile conveyed language, it
seemed to him that even the walls of the train were speaking if
he would just listen to them. It occurred to him that if
thinking so was childish, animistic, and all things Piaget, life
was more meaningful with this chimera.

"Anyway, it doesn't look like it's hurt," said Nawin in an
attempt to bring closure to the subject of the toe.

"Yes, I think you're right."

"Is Nongkai next?"

"It's the next stop--the last stop. Are we friends now?" he
asked Nawin of the Thais who chuckled good humouredly in reply
as if the earlier retort of surly silence had been from some
other self. It indeed had been, in his opinion, for each minute,
if not mentally connected to its predecessors, could be unique
from all others and unpolluted in that sense. At least that was
what he thought and so he laughed magnanimously. "Why not?" he
said with fresh amusement in being with the Laotian. "Maw ni
khrap" he called out to the salesmen pointing to all three and
handing them each twenty baht. He distributed the food to his
acquaintances and the young woman pulled herself up into his
seat.

"Ambrosia, food of the Gods," said Nawin.

"The Gods must be cheap bastards or starving rice farmers to
consume something like this."

Nawin laughed. His eyes became focused and dilated like those of
a baby intrigued by the newness of life. Meeting an iconoclast
in these parts was a sumptuous treat.

"That is his way of thanking you," said the girl. "You are so
kind."

"Mai pen rai. Yindee torn-rub khrap." ["Think nothing of it.
You're welcome"], he said fully, captured by her mellifluous
sound and how the smile lit up her face right before the
spoonful of rice was placed in between her two rows of teeth.

"Reunions are so nice--you and me and you and my sister, her
Thai toilet friend. She's been talking about you, you know, ever
since she passed you coming and going from the toilet--this
handsome, middle aged man who is obsessed by his image."

"Sister?" He was stunned.

"Oh, yes my sister, not my girlfriend. You thought she was my
girlfriend, didn't you? Well, not really. Are we boyfriends from
chatting and drinking beer together?--not so much but who's to
say not or never. Earlier when she passed you she was wearing a
cap, a man's jacket, and what else?"

"Sunglasses," giggled the woman.

"Yes, sunglasses to hide herself from being noticed when she
isn't as beautiful as she wants as if foreign laborers are
likely to encounter a lot of important friends everywhere they
go. We hardly know a soul here except other Laotians. I bet when
she passed you, you didn't notice her any more than you would
any androgynous clown walking the streets of Bangkok."

"A clown?" interposed the woman.

"A beautiful clown."

"Well," explained the woman, "I was in a hurry to get to the
tracks. I hadn't washed my hair so that explains the cap. They
don't have a station back there so I had to wait in the sun at
the tracks. It was chilly. Do I really need to explain this?"

"Your hair's fine."

"Yes after washing it in the sink and blow drying it, but it is
uncombed now."

"Beautiful, isn't she?" He knew that Boi's meaning was not
fraternal and that that which should not have repulsed him but
did was now being replaced by that which should repulse him but
did not.


17

"Free of connections, free of clutter--unfettered--and happier
for it, I suppose," he thought as if disconnectedness from
others, freedom from circuitous movements around and
preoccupation with people would free his thoughts rather than
free him of thought. Thought was surely the material assessed in
abstraction, but lustfully eating his food with the foreign
acquaintances of that country of backward brethren he did not
consider that issue consciously. To some degree he was like
those who in the monotony of their circuitous movements around
material possessions and a preoccupation with them came to
remote areas like Vientiane to find more to themselves than the
accumulation of money and objects, but his retreat was more from
the loss of people than the dismissal of material possessions,
and his departure was not out of choice but the circumstances
that had brought about the need to extricate himself from
inordinate pain. He did not so much want fairly empty rooms in a
guest house but the totally empty realm of his mind.
He knew that he would not be considering the subject of whether
or not disconnection was propelling him to happiness unless
something were amiss or lacking in his life. What was once the
clogging of his brain with the mauled grammar of students'
redundant essays in art survey classes, women whom he was
involved with, and was obliged to attempt to make happy (such an
inordinate amount of women, as his heart was a sponge of sorrow,
caring deeply or loving adventitiously and incurring feminine
wrath for it all, who were paintings of this life and mattered
to him as well as mitigating those sorrows, the result of
injustices), a futile effort that had ended worse than
imagination had reach. Having students to maintain professional
interaction with as altruism and being a benefactor allowed him
to stretch closer to the ethereal realm of virtue and also gave
him more tentacles for assessing reality, and the somewhat
plagiarized and hastened research and cursory art coinciding
with old themes that had been done to maintain his position at
Silpakorn University had now been replaced with freedom to
ponder vacuity. And vacuity he pondered unceasingly for, in this
train, emptiness rode in him as he was riding in it. Vientiane,
he derided, was not a destination any more than the Buddha's
Lumbini forest. His time might have been better spent had he
stayed in Bangkok seeking prostitutes to draw in the city's
Lumpini Park (p for porn), and yet here he was for some reason
going to that final destination of Nongkai, the sister city of
Vientiane.

He was like an empty wrappers of those fruit filled cookies that
in boredom he had gormandized the previous night for they had
fallen from his bunk during his restless sleep to be, for a
time, caught in the reigning randomness of the fan's winds. And
yet contrary to the social animal that was man, placid
acceptance of his disconnected state was in a sense a spiritual
retreat; and it was, after all, as a spiritual retreat, more or
less, that he, an atheist, was hoping to facilitate by coming to
such a lackluster and lackadaisical city like sleepy Vientiane
where there would be no distractions to cordon off this theme of
vacuity.

Affluent and unfettered by property, which seemed at any rate to
be entirely lost to him with his wife having changed the locks
on the doors, he could go anywhere to become something
different. In that sense he was truly free. He knew that and
reminded himself that he should be grateful for it, but like any
social creature he needed a mind stuffed with clutter to have
the equilibrium that would deliver him from being random
movements of an unstable, empty vessel  lost at sea and unto
itself. Whether he was on a spiritual pilgramage or being
flushed down to Vientiane as defecation in a downward deluge of
his own whims he did not know; but in either case he was free
(free, that is, when not fully wracked in guilt about Kimberly's
death and all that had led to that grotesque spectacle which he
had no power to change) and freedom always felt good. To be
humanized from mechanical actions, not that he had carried out
many of those in the past year of his premature retirement, and
denuded of pretensions by lusting after two or three young
beings who had passed to the toilet, as well as the two seated
before him, was in essence like being found; and they who were
found were encompassed in thought like birds to air. It was
good, even if much of the air was sordid and polluted and
ineluctably so. Nothing was lonelier than the loss of thought
and being compressed into the agenda of the day, the cluttered
interaction of interconnectedness he only in part liked because
of a loathing of it taking him from himself. If he were to work
for a month in a factory like a dirt poor laborer (he was indeed
swarthy as most Thai laborers and once of their class), return
to the sidewalk restaurants which were his inception and, he
posited, probably were his true destiny had he not been so
insolent to repugn them, or even to return to Silpakorn
University, such an experience of once again doing work would
give him a fuller appreciation for what he had; however, even
with this satiated and cloyed sense of leisure that often seemed
perennial, his indolence seemed the preferable course. A flight
into the World Trade Center towers of oneself might be in part a
flight down to a sordid hell but he, an artist, although a
retired one, would hardly repugn it if it were.

While eating with them he stayed silent. Was it so peculiar to
scan each of these acquaintances respectively with circumspect
glances, to do so apprehensively (more apprehensively and yet
more often to the male than the female of this brother and
sister combination as she, whom he barely knew at all, was
nearer and the sexual interest would be more conspicuous), and
to let the erumpent odors of both, imagined or real, send him on
a molecular magic carpet ride away from the mundane and the
tragic of this world? Was it strange to occasionally think of
them as his friends when not really knowing much about them? It
was probably, as he now lacked anyone in his life, a normal
reaction. With his telephone thrown into the trash at the train
station, he even lost the nurse whom despite his brokenness he
was able to inveigle with tender caring questions and full
attention toward the caregiver, a charm that wooed her as all
who felt no one in this world listened to them. Was it so
peculiar that he should feel comfortable in a brother and sister
combination when it was quite apparent to him that they were
intimate beyond sibling love? It was an intimacy that to most
would seem repugnant but for those who were in one way or
another abused, molested and maligned in youth, and whose
thoughts were stuck in that mire of sediment and sentiment still
(sentiment because, tragically, it was rarely all bad and thus
stayed there like sludge slowing the victim's thoughts), they
who were perhaps under a different name than now, who were once
in their own brother's arms, witnessing perversion as he had in
seeing this earlier foot kissing of siblings was a homecoming.
To see that others were so engaged made the taboo subject a
human tendency frequent  in the subconscious though never, or at
least rarely, in deed as this molesting of a woman who happened
to be walking on a sidewalk. With the witnessing of such an
aberration he was freer than he had ever felt before. For a
moment he felt a rush of dopamine and serotonin that almost made
him love the siblings. Was this "love" really for them any more
than he was really "loved" by those who needed someone to listen
to their ideas and truly care for them with no other motive than
this? He supposed it was not "love" in any pure sense of the
word. Still it was good that he was no longer having to
persecute and banish memory and thought, or having to consider
that part of the brain vile which was the trash receptacle of
repressed thought and thus, he theorized, his body was feeling
amorous in celebration with sexual feeling as if he were being
tossed into the air like confetti. Perhaps a celebration, as all
human actions and interconnection, was just the macrocosm of the
innate chemistry within (in this case the party within). But
what did he know for sure of the demented, or at least
aberrational aspect of this brother and sister relationship? How
did he know that his conclusions were warranted? He did not know
anything for sure as little or nothing was known conclusively.

Once in those beginning stages of his molestation he had spoken
to his mother. It was an oblique reference but the pain in his
facial expressions (furrowed eyebrows, sunken eyes, and the
slight and irregular quivers of the lower lip) were easily
interpreted even for someone like his mother who was accustomed
to some amount of pain always embedded into those features. She
understood what was implied and flattened it vehemently by
contending that "nothing had happened" and that he was "crazy."
How was he to know now, twenty years later, with absolute
certainty, that it had happened, as his vague memories recalled
it, for memories were impressions dented onto the clay of the
brain and were so easily defaced. Certainly memories did not
become more real in time. And if he did not know his ability to
know how would he know the relationship of a couple of relative
strangers absolutely. Epistemology was the study of nothing for
nothing could be known absolutely no matter how much the brain
yearned for certainty. He could sense that the Laotian knew that
he liked him as well as the girl. He could also sense that not
only did the Laotian like her as well but that what he liked
most was Nawin knowing that he liked her. It was all amusing to
him. He sensed it but how he sensed it from a smile, a look, and
the length of a look he did not know.

"May I have a sip of your water?"

"Sure," said Nawin as he gave him the container that was on the
seat near his leg. The Laotian drank. "Do you want it?" he asked
his sister in respite from quaffing the water, but without
waiting for a response from her he once more drank voraciously
and then tilted the bottle to her who bent forward toward it. He
fed it unto her in what Nawin, ostensibly a neutral third party,
was inclined to think of as an obscene gesture. It seemed
obscene despite the fact that it was merely the drinking of
water.

"Yes, my sister has been talking about you--well we have,
really. She says that in going and returning from the toilet
that she saw a handsome older man at a mirror. It had to be you,
don't you think?"

"An older man?" Nawin mocked. "Not me then--impossible," he
said facetiously with a contrived chuckle to disguise a sigh.

"Is that so?" asked the Laotian. "Maybe you just look like a
well preserved older type. Anyhow, you were gone much of the
morning. It hasn't given us much of a chance to talk."

Was the obscene truly so, he posited to himself, or was it just
oversensitivity about doing something, or being associated with
others who were doing something not considered the norm? If it
were the latter then  so much oversensitivity over something so
insignificant as the kissing of a toe or the feeding of another
water seemed crazy, but if it were the former why did he not
just excuse himself to the toilet and remain absent until the
train stopped or from some tenuous excuse withdraw to one of the
many newly vacant seats?

Nawin nodded and smiled. Then he stared out of the window so as
to have a pretense to turn to a woman's gentility. He glanced at
her directly with a shy smile. She was no longer eating but
wiping her mouth with a napkin and stuffing her Styrofoam
container between the metallic cup holder and the window.

"Would you like some gum?" he asked the woman as he pulled out a
stick from the pack in his pocket.

The woman smiled with closed lips and a childish, exaggerated
shaking of her head.

"She's not supposed to talk to strange men let alone take things
from them," said the Laotian with a grin. "However, you can send
it this way."

"Sure," said Nawin. He gave the stick of gum to him.

"Thank you, kind sir," he said with a brief gesture of the wai
and a quick denuding of his stick of gum.

With a more solidified judgment that their actions were obscene
Nawin began a slow unwrapping of his own gum; and yet not
wanting to judge precipitously on nominal matters where he could
be mistaken egregiously, he decided that he would remain seated
where he was and not leave them. And if obscene, why would he
want to leave them when the obscene seemed so comfortable to him
despite his moral objections of himself for it being such.

"'Kind sir?'" Nawin mocked with good humored bantering. "I'm not
seventy you know."

"You are such a touchy person. Now 'sir' bothers you. Clearly
you aren't twenty anymore," said the Laotian. "There is nothing
wrong in admitting that. It is an exit we walk through briefly
to join the majority who are thought old by somebody or another.
My sister is twenty-one but that too will pass."

"Yes, age is a state of mind," said Nawin rather unprofoundly,
smiling widely and readjusting his opinion of the Laotian who
seconds ago he had pegged as a pachydermatous brute although
perceived more erotically for it. As this issue was germane to
him, he thought that nothing truer could have been spoken. He
felt an attraction to this Laotian named Boi as a human being,
and this attraction seemed to flush out the tense congestion of
hormones in the traffic jam of his groins.

"As she could not use the sink where you were at, she primped
where she could--at that nasty metal sink in the toilet. Since
she primps for a long time that means that this man was primping
for a longer time and she saw him--you, that is--still at the
sink of the corridor when she was leaving. It had to be you as
you still weren't here when she returned and woke me up."

"Maybe it was. What's the point?"

"No point, my friend. An observation. For the longest time we
kept thinking that you would be back at any moment. My sister
was so disappointed that she had to sleep off the depression.
For me, I was just puzzled--kept thinking that you must be doing
something strange back there but god only knows what. Your name
again is Nawin. Right?"

"Nawin Biadklang."

He felt a chill in the spine of his back and a burning sensation
in his face with this absurd and paranoid fear that the Laotian
knew what he did privately in both thought and action in the
toilet. "He doesn't know a thing, of course" he reminded
himself. It was obvious that the Laotian had found a means to
make him feel intimidated in generalized words, but laughter and
a warm smile, he told himself, would burn away that fog.

He thought about his earlier name and the time he had changed
it. At the age of sixteen a monk who had been concerned about
the tragic implications of the name, Jatupon Biangklang, without
much awareness about the circumstances of his life, had guided
him toward a more fortuitous appellation; but now, as he was
saying it, the fact that he had changed his first name and not
the last seemed a bit surreal and disconcerting as if he had a
different head placed on the his body or the same head placed on
a different body (which, he was not sure). Still it was good
that he had done it even though it had not been done fully.
Unable to lobotomize memory, and being Thai, hardly able to
repudiate the name of even his savage tribe, what other way did
he have to separate himself from Jatupon, a wisp of air that in
his mind still seemed pornographic? "Over two decades ago and
none of it matters now!" he told himself. Still the cliché of
the past not mattering belied reality. If the past, having
founded the present, ceased to matter so would the present to
the future which would mean that all would be immaterial.

"Remember me? Sabai dee mai?" said the woman to both men.

"Khrap. Sabai dee" Nawin said.

"This is Nawin Biadklang, a nice enough Thai, I suppose," said
the Laotian to his sister. "Last night I gave him a beer that
put him to sleep like a baby, but those ferocious socks of his
roared on through the night stinking up the entire train. Still
there isn't much point in detesting a man for his stink
especially when I have to ride with him and he seems a good
enough man even if he is Thai."

"Thank you for the meal, said the woman as she gave him the
prayerful gesture of the wai."

"Mai pen rai" said Nawin with a returned gesture, a broad smile,
and a few seconds of sustained eye contact.

"Don't mind my brother. He likes you or he wouldn't keep talking
to you."

"I like a bit of bantering. It has made the trip less
monotonous." He said this but in considering his time in the
toilet it was a vast understatement.

"He tells it the way he sees it."

"Good. I like that sometimes--all the time really, as long as it
is in limits--not stuck on the bad which is vicious nor on the
good to obtain an advantage. Then I guess it is fine--fine for
me. Did you came in at the last stop."

"Two or three back. Udom Thani. I was working in a women's
garment factory there. Siam Pooying. Have you heard of it?"

"No."

"Maybe your wife has."

Nawin ignored the inquiry.

"He got laid off in his factory so I decided to quit and go back
too."

"Where are you both going?"

"Our father's farm."

"What about you?"

"Taking a break--a vacation--needed some time away"

"A self appointed vacation," interjected the Laotian. "Must be
nice. And what about that ugly brown wife who beat you up? Are
you going without her."

"Yes of course. I rarely go on vacations with ladies who
bludgeon me with iron frying pans."

"Didn't like you drawing nudes?"

"Something like that."

"He claims to be an artist," said the Laotian.

"You saw the slides," said Nawin.

"Yes, I did. Some naked beauties."

"There, you have it then, but whatever you want to think about
me is okay."

"So if I think you are a boyscout--"

"Then I am."

"A southern terrorist with a bomb."

"The government seems to keep them from becoming menaces to the
other provinces but if you want to think that I am one, and that
I've come this far with a bomb, so be it."

"A pervert who shows naked pictures of women to strangers on
trains?"

"Well, that would have a bit more of a foundation in reality
wouldn't it but then would I really be showing slides?"

"Our mother's birthday is next week. If the two of us were not
your distant cousins from the tiny former kingdom of Laos, now a
bankrupt communist state of rural peasants, we might even pay
you to draw her or for that matter my sister."

"No money," the girl laughed as she slumped down in the seat.
"Only rice sometimes."

"Is it expensive to do that?"

"What?"

"Commission a painting."

"Yes. Quite."

"A thousand baht"

"Sometimes times fifty."

"Are you that rich?"

"No, it takes a long time to paint and I don't do it much
anymore."

"So, my sister will be your model and inspiration. Pay us money
to draw her and you can sell it in Bangkok."

"A portrait is nothing. To make it into art is what takes time
and I don't like going through that pain anymore."

"Why have the slides then."

"So they will be with me."

"She would be a beautiful model. This is no common face."

"Yes, but I still have to feel it, or want to feel it."

"You must draw her. You could stay with us while you do it."

"Let me think about it. I've got to go to the bathroom now,
adjust my sling, take some pain killers."

"Sure," said the Laotian.

"Excuse me," he told the woman, took his bag from the upper
suitcase rack, and left but thinking of a nude painting of the
brown and white of the couple the whole time.


18

He was examining his mirrored face privately in the toilet as
the train slowed down and then crept to the station with a jerky
forwardness, as if it too were caught by a backward pull if not
a penchant for backward inclinations. Hardly impervious to
sensation, he did feel this slowing of the train, felt the
thrust of the stop, and heard the jostling of bags and the eager
voices of departing passengers. He was even aware of a few
minutes of silence and then a less vociferous noisiness when
train employees came into the carriage to stuff the linen into
bundles and, through open windows, toss them onto the platform
of the Nongkai train station. Still, hearing it all as he did,
it did not dawn on him that he should leave.

He had come into the toilet to see his reflection via a mirror
and to abscond from these Laotian siblings long enough that they
would dismiss his friendliness and construe his absence to mean
a disinterest in them as potential models even if, as odd as it
seemed to him then, he was interested in them as such and more.
If at moments feeling extremely solitary and purposeless in his
indolent, terrestrial drifting, being dragged in the
vicissitudes of life, and trying to catch his breath from it
all, he told himself that he would rather asphyxiate than
relinquish his undiluted leisure. Lonely despair might in
certain moments make him want to cling to people, places, and
routines instead of breathing them in and out in a natural
context for a changeable world. Specifically, it might make him
inclined to return to that excruciating labor of painting or
sabotage a trip like this one by allowing people to clog up his
brain and distract him from the void; but these were only
desperate caprices and nothing more than this.

It was such a handsome face that was his own, and was now
pleasantly seen to be staring back at him; and yet staring at it
as he was, he was trying to isolate the specific changes a
simple year had made to the contour of his face, and attempt
with blurred memories of himself instead of numbers to somehow
devise a measurement so that he might conceptualize what havoc a
year into the future would do not only to himself but also to
that of every man's face. That was attempted for he was dwelling
incessantly on why for the first time on this physically and
mentally painful day of his fortieth birthday someone had spoken
of him as an older man. Still, to subdue a growing feeling of
aversion and loathing of the day, as disheartened as he was by
this insinuation of him being a middle-aged man, which of course
he was, he tried to recall whether or not on the previous night
he had told the Laotian that this day would be his fortieth
birthday. Had he done so on that evening when the two of them
had beer in their hands, the comment could be dismissed as mere
bantering from a boorish buffoon and yet each time he recalled
or exhumed this fresh corpse of memory it had nothing like this
on it. Thus, to be corrigible to the self he concluded that as
it was impossible for his face to have deteriorated
significantly in just a day it was likely that a year had
changed it ever so slightly and that these slight changes were
exacerbated temporarily due to a lack of sleep. It was true that
his sleep had been rather sporadic and inconsistent the previous
night. This restlessness, however, was not only from lying
stationary when he was unable to preoccupy himself from that
pain and discomfort gained after his wife beat him with a frying
pan, but also from his witnessing that horrific jump from the
balcony and then Kimberly's mangled bloody corpse with missing
arm, contorted neck, multi-lacerated face, and empty eye sockets
along with the broken pieces of the metallic awning being
extracted from the water of the swimming pool.

The fact that the train had stopped was an adventitious
happening like a cloud out there hovering in the sky. It was
something that he knew, but he did not seem to recognize as the
awareness was scant and did not seem particularly associated
with the self, which needed to see personal importance in
matters for them to matter at all or for a given object or
situation to instill a passion within him. Thus, finding no
reason to leave he stayed to contemplate this loss of beauty if
it was indeed lost.

Had his beauty depreciated significantly in one day, or even in
one year, it would be one more comic incident in this tragic
adventure of life. This was what he told himself; and smiling a
little at that thought (the rational voice therein reassuring
him and giving him smug confidence in the friendship of the self
that no circumstance of life, apart from death, would take from
him), he could not see why it mattered that he looked forty, and
yet it did. He wanted to recollect exactly what he looked like
365 days earlier. It was not difficult to remember that birthday
as it had been a particularly odd day spent with Kimberly and
his wife. They had been drinking wine, eating the oddest of
sautéed dishes, as cultured French cuisine demonstrated: with a
bit of oil, wine, and cheese any part of a given creature could
be successfully cooked and consumed with exquisite barbarism and
taste, when he heard this odd proposal of having Kimberly become
a surrogate mother hatch out of his wife's head and thud into
the bread basket. With the proposal made and calmly deliberated
by all, he had gone into the toilet of that restaurant, had
gasped for a moment, teetered for another, and then had stared
onto a reflection of his face for twenty minutes. Satisfied at
seeing the same face as that of his thirty eighth year he had
returned to the table where the topic had not been his age--
only, all so indirectly, his sperm. Sitting there awkwardly, he
had been drawn into suffering, that empathic piercing into
another person's pain that seemed an unwanted obligation
subjected onto one by the gods, if there were gods and he
believed that there were none considering the smashing into
pages and limited scope of man's story book understanding of
things.

At that restaurant he had understood her fully: the requisite
for an end to her neediness would only come from the neediness
of a child of her own. From needing to care for one so needing
to be taken care of she might be able to imagine a baby as
caring exclusively about her since by needing her totally it
would satisfy some of her needs for someone to care about,
someone of her own, or at least allow her to have a distraction
for forgetting her husband's philandering ways. Unlike an ocean,
there was no means to measure the sadness of a wife. If it were
greater or smaller than such a body of water, he did not know--
only that it was large indeed.

Pondering why it was that people would think of him as middle
aged now, when no one had ever done so before and why he might
be considered old by some when at least to himself his
reflection seemed the same youthful glimmer that it always was,
a weariness in his features due to an irregularity of his
sleeping patterns (a weariness that as weary as he was might
have been impossible for him to see) still seemed as the best
explanation.

"Am I really going to waste this trip painting them and then
having to tote the final products back to Bangkok? I cannot
think of anything more disagreeable," he reiterated to himself
with what he hoped would be puissant and cogent reasoning. "What
is the best way to get out of this thing?" he asked himself.
Then it occurred to him that he did not need to devise any
strategy since the train was obviously stopped, and all its
content of beings dispersed like a flatulent gas.

He slapped some water onto his face. "Time to go," he told
himself; but even with this assertion he was in a fusion of
daydreams and faded memories that added color and exact details
to his thoughts--a more poignant fusion than that experienced
in trying to recall the facts of a given situation as they
really were. He thought:

"She's beautiful isn't she?" asked the Laotian.

"Yes, I would say so," said Nawin. "You don't have to persuade
me on that point. It is just the time required to do a painting
--a real one with a theme, a mood, symmetry, perspective, things
like this and I am on vacation. Anyhow..." Her dainty face
looked like the nurse at Siriaj Hospital when he was
recuperating from arm surgery; that same one from whom he had
parried questions about the nature of his arm injury by posing
innocuous questions about her own life in order; the one whom he
listened to intently, and as a consequence was able to make her
believe him to be the kind human that he was instead of the
broken man that he was, or the flirtatious playboy, that he also
was; the same one for whom he had swapped cellular telephone
numbers to no avail.

"Taking a vacation from not working I guess."

"Exactly."

"Good for you. That is the life. So, you think she is pretty."

"Yes."

"Do you want her?"

"Maybe. Maybe I want you."

"What?"

"I mean to model. Not now, but maybe someday when you are in
Bangkok. Both of you I think, although there is no way to know
until some sketches are actually done or for that matter the
beginning of a painting if we even get that far." Then the woman
was there kissing the toe of the foot that rested on the seat
and made up the phallic arch of a bent leg, and Nawin was
looking at them with surprise and envy.

He opened the toilet door and then bent to pick up his bag.

"What are you doing in here? Mister, it's Nongkai. Time to go,"
said a train officer. Then to reproach a fellow officer who was
responsible for the trash he ejaculated, "I thought that you
said you checked the toilet. Why was someone still in here?"

"I did," the man responded. "Maybe he flew in through the
window."

"Flew in through the window? Is that before or after you checked
the toilet?"

"Of course afterwards." Both men laughed.

"I didn't notice that we stopped. I am going now, sorry," said
Nawin as he exited the train and walked out onto the platform.

Then he was out of the tiny train station and walking on a paved
rural road not sure where he was going or what he was going
toward (a left for a couple kilometers would bring him to the
center of Nongkai; to the right, past the border crossing and
the Friendship Bridge, were the rural outskirts of Vientiane;
and between these destinations, finding nothing worth doing and
yet as creature of movement needing to do something, was the
human mind--his at any rate); but he did not care.

The couple were obviously gone, evaporated like wintery early
morning condensation on windows of hill tribe huts. They were
gone as the mucus and saliva that was surely spat on this road
by some of yesterday's passengers. This being so, he tossed his
hands into the air as though now relinquishing his will to fate
and circumstance that could raze elaborate plans as it would
half-hearted good intentions like his own. Then he smiled. He
recognized that he had achieved what he wanted in part. The
primary reason for absconding to the toilet had been to
apprehend such philanthropic tendencies; but sexual feelings and
desire for intimacies or friendship aside, most of his reason
for wanting to continue the association was to help them
financially for he understood too well that to be poor and blown
in different directions by injustices and random fate was an
ineffable wrong.

How the male had caused memories of abuse, desire for love from
the former abuser, and a whole hot stream of perverse fantasies
to percolate through cracks in the surface veneer of
consciousness he did not know. Still there it was--this need for
love, this wish to immerse himself, if not into the arms, into
sex with another being and surrender to this prevailing attitude
that one was nothing without someone. He smiled again for his
own peculiarities did not cease to amaze him and he was pleased
that neediness did not overtake him completely when it could so
easily do so during this difficult period of his life. From
telling himself that sorrow was a universal rather than a
personal issue these waves of neediness hit the sides of his
boat with vehement force but did not capsize it. His need for
love, his neediness, was not so great and from this fact that he
was secure in the poundings, he found the inundations somewhat
titillating. It was a macabre period in his life but one to be
survived intact as the distinct individual that he was.

He avoided a pack of Tuk Tuk taxi drivers who were vying
hungrily for his patronage and walked along the edge of the road
as a cool breeze of the north pressed itself into him. He
enjoyed this sensation with the appreciative response to simple
pleasures that a small child entertained, the feel of tall and
rich, verdant weeds poking the edges of his toes in his leather
sandals, and the redolence of the morning air that increased
with the rising temperatures of the fire of the sun, though that
would be, by noon, over-baked and the air would have nothing in
it but dry intensity, and empty space where thought would not
grow but was confined like a climbing vine. Despite wistful
tendencies to the contrary, he was relieved to be rid of the
clutter of recent acquaintances from his thoughts. And if, he
postulated, this were true of the Laotian, the nurse, and all of
the myriad others, was it not true of Noppawan and Kimberly as
well? Did he not want to get rid of all clutter? And while
thinking this he inadvertently stepped on a dog, which made him
stumble.

Before he gained his balance, the creature cried out and ran to
the road but rather than begin immediate howls of imprecations
it whined pitifully. "Hoop park, hoop park! nyiab," (shut your
mouth, quiet) he told the dog with a softness that belied his
harsh choice of words. As he bent down toward the creature he
noticed its loss of fur, that its skin, seen through the
multiple spots of barrenness, was flaking, and that its eyes
were still and sunken.

"Sawadee and bonjour to you, Indonchinese pooch," said Nawin
with a laugh and a quick nodding bow with his head which was
then replaced with a stiffness in both movement and expression.
He could not be amused by another's suffering. He could not be
happy when cognizant of so much suffering in the world. The
sensitive boy was within and no flippant levity on his part
could shake him loose. Just because manhood had piled hard
layers onto him did not mean that boyhood had been peeled away.
"Poor thing!" he said while reluctantly patting the head of the
filthy creature as though adverse to petting it fully while less
reluctant sensitivities absorbed its sadness like a sponge. Bent
as he now was to it he was emotionally and thus physically
paralyzed; and if it were to take an hour or two for the
creature to become disillusioned with him and to roam elsewhere,
he knew that he would wait with it until such a time came. But
for now, here it was fixated on him and wavering ambivalently
between hope and belief that humans were the good, the god, the
sustenance, and the deliverer--its cries as supplications of
prayer. He kept thinking that as there was no god, god was an
obligation to all humans who were in their own way, able to
imagine such an abstraction and climb into its costume. It was
their moral duty to ameliorate the suffering of smaller
creatures, and to man himself; but the dilemma was not of one
suffering creature on the precipice of life but an uncountable
number of them and help of one was unjust. Furthermore, it
seemed absurd to cease his own plans and prioritize a dog by
getting it tranquilized, and put in a cage for a ride back to
Bangkok, a long-term solution (as opposed to offering it food
merely to delay the creature's hunger and ease his own
conscience), but an impossible one, when in a sense he did not
even have a home to take it to. To walk a long way to seek food
of which he had none (not even one of his fruit filled cookies)
was not much of a solution either; and yet all there was, was
the suffering of the moment that he could take pains to counter
no matter how many insects he trod on, or how many micro-
organisms his immune system killed while he was doing so.

Telling the dog to stay, he went a kilometer or two through
serpentine gravel and dirt roads until he found a raan aharn
(outdoor restaurant under a canopy) to obtain some meat to
assuage its hunger; however when he returned with the food, the
dog was not to be found. His were merely good intentions that
came to no avail in an intransigent world of changes. Had there
been an obscure god whose oblique influence was in urging humans
of means to help the weak and vulnerable, beneficence would have
been a frequent activity instead of the rarity that it was. In
this situation his attempt had not only been futile but it had
exacerbated misery since now, somewhere, there was a dog that
had been humbled by a god (a god who earlier had stepped on one
of its feet and a tail) only to be reproached with a
monosyllabic, "stay," and abandoned to stray away disillusioned.

This dog, suffering from malnutrition and lack of grooming, was
prey to parasites. They laid siege on and within him. As all
that were at a disadvantage, were neither the strongest nor the
fittest, and had a vulnerability exuding from them that made
their brief lives ambulatory carcasses that would fall with a
brief amount of time, he believed he was like this. And it
seemed to him that despite being immured in talents and wealth,
that his vulnerabilities would bring him down like a sick hound;
and so he suffered for the dog in that spot he had found him in.
He was bent as though seated on the ground but with his buttocks
never quite reaching the dirt and he stayed this way numb and
thoughtless staring into nothingness.


19

The worn, gaunt dog had left him a half hour earlier and yet as
if compelled to attend to it still, he remained in the same spot
within the same squatted posture as before while his thoughts
remained apprehended in remote, dark cells of his opaque mind.
His actions (or a lack of, which in this perspective would be
equally inexorable) were even peculiar to him, so more with a
general feeling of apprehension rather than any specific
isolated thoughts, he felt that he might be, rather than
questioned whether he was, on the verge of a nervous breakdown,
even though nothing like this had ever happened to him before--
not that such a history had to be a prerequisite for frayed
nerves in the incessant Heraclitus nightmare of shifting ground
under his feet, or within the stress of life's chaotic
disturbances, to make him impervious to the impact of tragedy.

Kimberly who, to her demise had been of tragic course his wife's
friend and his special intimate, had plunged to an unequivocal
death, despite that which he had power to imagine. Although he
might envisage himself reaching out and blocking her from
running to the balcony, thoughts of this nature, myriad natural
but immaterial and inconsequential wishes, were an enormous
amount of energy expended in futility all because of the
sentiment of the human heart and the belief that human will,
which could alter the jungles of the world by repudiating the
natural forces and the limitations of man, could also alter
death. And as for Noppawan: apart from being his wife and best
friend, she had also been his attempt at creating the reality of
a caring family to replace that which, except for certain times
of resurfaced memories that were not easily extracted and were
as brief and spurious as a child's nightmare, now (buried under
layers of more immediate past the same as dirt) for the most
part seemed to have never been, and as the former family--a
family which the child within him once believed would continue
forever--had been nothing but a civil war of sadists, should
never have been. She, as his new family, had lasted longer than
the first, and yet the longevity of caring rather than the
brevity of cruelty had made her no more real than the first.

Each day, feeling as if being drowned in the cold numbness
within that seemed to come from without, humans clung to the
material: money, property, friends, spouses, families and
positions. For in this spinning world where people and things
could quickly emerge elsewhere or vanish from the planet
outright, mankind's entire quest was for less ethereal realms in
which to claim a firm reality. Thus with obdurate will a man's
evaporating substance was patted as firm and solid as possible.
For Nawin, however, the most plausible of the ethereal which he
had taken bit by bit and pressed into this substance of
"reality" was like a glacier that was fast breaking apart to the
point of being sheathes of floating ice, and he was witnessing
its enormous shards from afar. These enormous fragments were in
a prodigious fog; and they included a vague recurrent thought
that the dog was there with him, was coming to him, or would be
there with him. The thought was circuitous but stalking, and
whenever it reached that pentacle of the brain that was the true
self which judged the merits of his own thoughts and actions as
well as the intentions of the extraneous beings whom he
interacted with, he almost believed that he was still with that
creature--the dog with its small clusters of ochre fur, he with
his ochre wisps of obsessive thought, both cognate in that
sense; the emaciated dog, an innocent that from its starvation
was prey to disease, he having been the prey of four sadists and
one sodomite in a family which decimated if not entirely
obliterated the joy of his youth, and would have a reverberating
effect throughout his life, both cognate in that sense as well.

Artist of nude portraits of ladies of the night, a professional
womanizer, a celebrated genius, a rags to riches story: was not
the life of this indolent playboy prince of paupers enviable to
those males who appreciated the esoteric field of art and knew
of his name? And yet his was a damaged container, a broken jar,
and with time there could be no other course for his wanton
licentiousness but to spill from not just a few cracks but every
crack, and in so doing spell his doom: so he felt and perhaps
half pondered in a new modicum of nebulous thought. He feared
that he and the dog were innocents that existed to be
slaughtered and it would not be just a partial slaughtering of
innocence from within to exist in the world, which all creatures
had to do to survive, but a devouring of the gentle, the weak,
the disadvantaged, and the maimed.

The catatonic was between an edge of sward and pavement leading
away from the train station, between sluggish and futile
conscious thought with its maelstrom of subconscious feelings,
the disconnected randomness of fleeting images underneath, and
complete inaction, and perpetually bent toward something when,
except for insects, weeds, and dirt, there was nothing there. To
him the tactile and the visual, the palpable, had to be there,
only lost temporarily in the weeds like a dislodged contact
lens, and yet nothing was there. His numbness made intake from
the senses seem surreal and incredulous, since that which was
recorded by the senses was adventitious and distant from a self
that in his case was slipping away in its own right. The senses
were becoming faulty instruments for receiving signals while
this abstract form of sympathy, adhesive to nothing that was
concrete, seemed burdensome and unshakable. This state of
feeling deep sadness not only for the dog that had left him but
the entire world was like being paralyzed by the pallets of a
tranquilizer gun even though there was nothing halcyon or
pleasant in being shot with sympathy unless, in more lucid
seconds, it was in considering the fact that he should be
grateful that it was not empathy. Nothing--not even the dog, the
catalyst that it was--seemed the direct cause of the pathos
which did nothing for anyone and made him in better moments look
like a young tree with sagging boughs after a tempest, and in
worse ones a defecating homeless transient or the distraught
middle aged man that he was. Apart from this fulsome feeling,
his was the full numbness of a shadow dragged about by some
colossal and incomprehensible figure.

Dogging him no differently than the persistent fly that for
whatever reason continually returned to that same puddle of oily
sweat on his right temple only to sometimes be shaken away all
so mildly with a brief thrust of his head, there was a
persistent, distorted, and grotesque memory or daydream that
posed as fact. He kept thinking, if it were indeed thought to be
cognizant of so little, that he (as adventitious as he was at
that moment) was around fourteen years old, swatting at flies,
and pushing a cart of grilled pork down unknown streets in
Bangkok. Scores of sparsely furred dogs began to follow. The
further he went the more there were. And the more there were the
more security there was for them in the communal mob, and the
more aggressive were continually standing upon hind legs trying
to attack the cart and rob its booty. Through this time of being
chased by this desperate canine mob with its ineluctable barking
of mute voices that howled the essence of the void which
epitomized the planet, there was a background wall of a standing
rack or trellis on which used shoes hung like vines for
pedestrian purchasers; an occasional bloody limb dangled from
one of the ragged sports shoes, and a gecko hung on one of the
shoes' tongues. The gecko was many of one, omniscient and
omnipresent, looking into his eyes knowingly. "The world has
damaged you thus and thus you will be," it conveyed tacitly with
those eyes and then by it or from subconscious thought he knew
that it was a dent or crack in an item that gave it its feature
even if the ungainly shape would lead it to be easily dropped
from a maladroit grasp and break asunder into myriad fragments.
Yes, he felt alone, with his cracked past he was doomed. He had
hoped for interaction with the dog as benefactors did with the
poor when needing nothing from them unless in a minute way to
lesson injustice, to do something virtuous which might make one
a bit more than merely another avaricious creature seeking more
than mere survival and pleasures greater than comfort as means
for its betterment, as well as to feel grounded in reality (one
physical body making an impact on another); and yet before he
could do anything to help it, the dog had vanished, like the
flame of a candle in a puff of wind, and now all that was
tactile, all that he could touch, was the air which was as
ghostly as his thought. Whether his inaction came about from a
brain so active in its meaningful albeit subliminal cogitation,
or from an idiot who was foolish enough to stoop down to a
presence that was no more, like revisiting the rubble of one's
childhood home and expecting the pieces to reassemble
themselves, he did not know or even ponder. He did not decry or
rationalize it, but experience it and pass through it as one did
any fog.

Ostensibly, he was bent toward that which he must have still
imagined as the presence of the dog, and for his part would not
have known any other reason for his squatted and sedentary
posture, if any at all, than for its sake. More saliently,
however, this positioning of himself in such a way was, in part,
because of a deep melancholy over all those who were gone from
his life and regret for all the experiences that they had given
him--experiences that had accumulated and embedded carvings onto
the walls of his brain until there were reliefs of inexpugnable,
defunct memories, aggravating the past so that it was alive in
him still. Most of all, he was in this posture because
subconsciously he was still bent over the rubble of childhood,
expecting the pieces to reassemble themselves. If there were
gentle and sublime moments in the distant past, tiny shards of
some shiny splendor in the rubble, to him it would almost seem
impossible that they would not be eventually restored somehow.
And to him any fragment of that which was love, that mutual
delight in being in the presence of those whom one was familiar
with, had to be salvaged but not knowing how this was to be
done, he conceptualized the shards as having the innate power to
reassemble themselves, as if those rare occurrences of some degree
of familial harmony had power to resurrect and reshape anew a
distant, unhappy past that had ended decades ago. Despite
knowing that everything moved ineluctably forward with its
tattered past being dragged behind, it was only natural to have
moments of being mesmerized by those shards and fixated with
fixing the unfixable.

For at this moment he was remembering, all so dimly, a time of
awful sweetness in the bitter, a darkness tinged opaquely in
light. It was a dinner in which he had been so nervous among his
family and their sadistic barraging of him, the youngest, with
disparagement that he had dropped a plate of food in the
kitchen, had found himself threatened with a belt, since
fumbling a plate like fumbling a ball would, to the pleasure of
all the rival team, exact a penalty, had seen Kazem, the
molester, impede their father from swinging his belt, and then
had witnessed Kazem's custodial role of cleaning up the mess at
the game's closure. No, there had not been any closures for,
back then, it had been one game stretched out over the years
with pauses in the action each night in the respite of sleep
that was sometimes interrupted by a different game entirely.
Had there been nothing but pain from this former family, it
might have been easier for him to move forward with his own life
than it was. His life would have been that of defying the
members with every impulse. However, in doing so he would have
found himself merely an irate puppet moving against the pull of
the strings instead of conducting actions in support of the
rational principles of man himself.

From a distance the waters of the canals flowing into the Chao
Phraya River in Bangkok often seemed a pure bronze with sun and
blue sky peering into the whole, but close up the diluted
pollutants reeked of one identifiable odor. In the same way were
the thoughts of a man's mind as they flowed into the
consciousness that judged their merit. Once accepted they were
part of a web of thought that often seemed brilliant in beauty
and intricacy but when looked at closely was merely a refinement
of man's sordid cravings. Would it have been better to look
inside himself less than he did? Would he have not appreciated
life more to feel and examine himself less? He had posed the
question myriad times but the alternative in exaggerated form
was one of choosing to be as unaware as an insect, and this was
hardly the preferable route for a semi-rational creature.

Was kindness toward an animal or a human being possible without
first feeling the suffering in the other and then wanting to
appease if not extinguish it with his own actions, pursued not
so much out of benevolence per se as from imagining any efforts
as appeasement of his own suffering? He would have postulated
that question brazenly had he been in his right mind but as he
was somewhere in left field, stuck in sediment and sentiment,
there was still merely unrefined thought and it consisted solely
of raw feeling for feeling was all that he was capable of. By
feeling so much, he exacerbated more by feeling a repugnance
toward this effeminate trait of inordinate feeling.

When the thought of the dog was not present there was merely a
trail of vacuity in his mind like the swaths of trodden weeds in
a forest; however, when it came with regularity it vexed him and
seemed to make an enormous rut or trench in his brain with its
periodic passing, into which all his other embryonic thoughts,
as nascent and inchoate as they were, fell. This was the source
of his numb but all pervasive headache.

So here he continued to remain alone in this posture of a
defecating dog, within this strange catatonic trance, and with a
numb aching in his head. Still it was more comfortable than not
for him to sit here for the retinue of weeds and his own shadow
mingling restfully within them would not abandon him as long as
he stayed where he was--at least this was how he felt. If now, a
few hundred yards from the train station and in the open air, he
was feeling lost, forlorn, and numb through the lack of purpose
that epitomized his life, it was reassuring to think that the
sky above him was an everlasting awning raised there to shield
him instead of the receptacle that it often was for the
urination of some obtuse god. Likewise, it was certainly
pleasant to smell redolent fresh air after twelve hours of the
rank agglomeration of repugnant orders in the train to which the
fetid toilets were the main source, and it was more pleasant to
think this than reside at the bottom of a god's urinal. Such was
his state of mind and it was as peculiar as a stone cognizant of
life growing from it, a bird trying to fly while feeling the
memory of the ground tug hard at its talons, or an ambulatory
man with a continual sensation of being paralyzed.

Much of what he saw around him was obscured in a thin veil of
single memory. It was as if there were a faint light of a small
excerpt of a movie, a scene repeatedly projected onto the blank
walls of the brain and his intake of the outside world via his
senses, in which Kimberly, most often kept free of the impact of
the awning to the swimming pool, fell again and again
torturously. Now, as with every moment since her death, it
seemed that he continued to see concrete images of the world
(the hospital room and the big Hualamphong train station in
Bangkok, the Laotian siblings and the food hawkers, his mirrored
face in the toilet and the big hole in the urinal leading to the
train tracks, the rice fields and the wild grasslands, the water
buffalo and the starving dog at Nongkai train station) through
this single drak-filtered reel of translucent visual images. For
many days now he questioned whether or not it was normal to
grieve in this way but now with the collapse of thought there
were no more questions.

It was certainly not normal to stay sedentary in this posture or
to grovel for deliverance or resurrection from some unknown
force that he imagined to be the caretaker of this field of
broken dreams. To that he sensed or understood but not enough to
be motivated out of his catatonic state for he had lost
sovereignty and restraint of himself. A lack of a history of
mental illness meant nothing for, had he been able to consider
it, entire foundations of long established cities had fallen
under enough visceral shifting of plates so why not his own? And
as if this were not enough there was forty: the stiff broad
shouldered female with the erect arms making her autocratic
pronouncements to a tacit and obese zero of a man who stood
beside her, and this couple had been his birthday present gained
alone in the jolting movements of a train. Youth had recoiled or
found itself resupinate from a collision with this single word.

He was startled by a driver beeping his horn and gesturing for
him to also come into his blue three wheeled tuk-tuk taxi. The
tuk-tuk was driving by with the last of a small group of
foreigners who had straggled out of the train station later than
he, but from the same train that he had. From the appearance of
their wet and tangled hair when the tuk-tuk was slowly passing
him by he assumed subconsciously that they had taken showers in
the train station restrooms and, like him, were now probably on
their way to Vientiane. Foreigners that they were, he was as
foreign as they and then some not because of an American
passport, which he had although having it, he neither lived in
America nor from it traveled there, but because, even though not
always feeling a connection to the world, he felt more that he
was a citizen of it than a citizen of any specific country. In
accordance with the mandates of travel guidebooks to see as many
sites as possible regardless whether or not such brief exposure
was in fact true experience, they would no doubt sightsee by day
and then in evenings release their communal and sexual yearnings
by drinking "Beerlaos" with their kind, eating western meals,
frequenting nightclubs, and returning with partners to hotel
rooms that were some of the most nominal within world capitals--
that or some such agenda--before going to Luang Prabang and the
Plain of Jars. As material as the tuk-tuk and its passengers
were, in his mind that which sped away from him wavered between
the palpable and impalpable like an incongruous quark. The
vehicle sparkled iridescently, stopped, and started as if
blinking though not of the irregularity of the visible but of
the inconsistency of the real and the material.

His entire array of thoughts, despondent and almost unknown to
him, seemed emaciated and aloof like the white water buffalo
that an hour earlier, from the train, he had seen standing
dumbly and staring back at him bewilderedly along the tracks. So
numb he was in his own despondent realm with such minimal
awareness of the prowess of his internal and external faculties
that rational scrutiny of action and motivation was not readily
possible. Recognition of himself was a witnessing from afar as
on a distant bank on the Laos side of the Mekong River. It was
merely a stranger seen acting out his peculiar extemporaneous
role from at a distance.

Within a nebulous understanding of where he was at and what he
was doing and the abnormality of it all, the catatonic was able
to recognize the fact that this perennial squatting would seem
to others as though he were a homeless and disoriented beggar
trying to defecate along the road. No matter the gentility of
his intentions in waiting there in this odd manner, by the
experiences of squatting in traditional Asian toilets a witness
to his execrable posture would ineluctably link it to excrement.
Had it garnered the cynosure of security guards at that present
moment it would not have been much of a surprise, not that had
he lost his mind and found himself instinctively performing more
natural toilet activities in the open his actions would have
been innately vile for primitive actions of primate forefathers
had led to the present. Civilization and all that was refined
was constructed on the backs of those barbarous corpses.

Understanding immediate happenings based upon those further in
the past, scheming about probabilities of the future based on
past events, and floating on hopes while dragging along the
weighty past, the present "reality" was only seen in glimpses.
Crazed action was merely ceasing to glance at or assess the
material world around his physical presence. As for posturing as
if to defecate along the road, surely any restful position was
no better or worse than others if blood circulated well enough
through one's limbs. And as for actually formulating an
actuality about something by unequivocally defecating along the
side of the road, it would not have been all that different than
the elimination that dropped daily out of the open holes of the
floor based Asian stools in the toilets of Thailand's trains. It
was true that, unlike a man squatting toward the ground in the
open air, under the weight and impact of a moving train exhaust
of this nature, was desiccated and blown asunder as a vapor, and
many times in the twelve hours of confinement he had watched the
freedom of his own stream fall upon a metal rail and imagined or
witnessed--he was not sure which--it vaporize instantaneously
before him. Sedate as waves of an ocean hitting the shore, so
the stream of urine falling onto the hot metal relaxed and
rejuvenated him for to see, and what was more, to accept the
temporary in the natural order was a respite from human will
which tended to oppose it and believe it could thwart what was
Heraclitean in all things.

If he did not think his behavior odd, he certainly felt its
peculiarity nonetheless, and thus he found himself disconcerted
and spinning ever so slowly in a thick and viscous void. If
there were hot flares of blood rushing into his face warning him
that his vastly peculiar and mortified state was on the
precipice of insanity they were not cogent enough to motivate
him to stand and walk on; but then why would they and why would
he reject this petrifaction within for, despite his wealth, he
was no better than a disconnected, homeless transient himself;
and if feeling was raw material to be refined into thought, what
he was mining within his lethargy might only be ostensibly
inconsequential.

If, when impeded from performing services or playing his meager
role in the production of goods to be sold to insatiable
consumers he found himself unemployed and eventually reduced to
a beggar who did not even have two baht to pay for the use of a
public toilet, there would be less urgency for refined means in
conducting natural tendencies. He would do his natural business
on the streets; and with frequency and in the company of others
of the same meager resources, that which was once base would
become the norm. When the individual was desensitized further in
compounded experience these natural activities and the natural
means of doing them would become reflexive actions once again
which would evoke little or no thought. Eating and eliminating
wastes were necessary functions so the human mind refused to
consider them abhorrent and animalistic. That which was judged
was how he did them, but even this changed when deprived of the
tools of so called refinement. Prisoners with no utensils other
than bolted bowls would not find them humiliating after some
time. So he thought most dimly--he was actually thinking and was
aware that there was a vague he from behind who was monitoring
these thoughts. He smiled. The smile was in part because such an
entertaining idea, even though he did not register its content
beyond recognizing it as amusing, had brushed against him
lightly; but mostly he smiled for knowing that thought was now
turned on and from it self-awareness was forming.

Leary of the peculiar, a security guard and one of the train
officers who witnessed and scrutinized the man in this posture
of one defecating with pants still up, made occasional orbits
around him like Mars in its closest rendezvous with the sun.
Whether the odd one was insane by having been overcharged with
an excess of dopamine, or lethargic as of those who had been
smashed by bereavement, they would not have known. Separately,
they suspected the individual as chemically dependent and
entertained the idea of seeking police involvement, but now
lacking evidence for any conclusion they continued to observe
him from a distance. Then a second security guard appeared out
of nowhere, materializing with the sounds of his portable
transmitter and receiver in nebulous static blaring from his
hip. Less wary, he meandered sinuously until he made his way
close to Nawin who was thinking: "Those foreigners in the tuk-
tuk must be in Laos by now--going to Vientiane as I am." He
smiled at the guard, staring at him with deliberate eye contact
in order to project lucidity, which was after all a director's
projection, a concoction, when man was a strand of knotted
strands of chemical impulses, feeling, thoughts flowing down and
dashing upon the banks of memory. "Sawadee khrap," he said with
a wai. "Sorry, I guess I got lost in my thoughts. I Just broke
up with my wife. A lot to think over."

"You broke up with her or she broke up with you?"

"Maybe the other way around. Anyway the better half is gone."

"Where are you going?"

"Well, I am debating that actually. Nongkai has a Buddhist
sculptural garden, doesn't it? Vientiane too."

"I guess so. I've never been to either one. Never stepped into
Laos."

"You never wanted too?"

"Not really."

"Why is that?"

"I don't know. Too much trouble to do it I guess. No passport.
No particular wish to see people who are poorer than here."

"I see. Well, I need to make a left I guess and then walk
straight ahead for a while. Will Vientiane be to the left or the
right?"

"Right."

"Can I walk there?"

"To the border yes, but you will need a taxi to get anywhere
else."

"I'll walk for a while and follow what looks good. Thank you."

He began walking. He was almost at the juncture when he heard
the beep of another tuk-tuk.

"Are you Nawin?"

"Yes."

"Somebody left this at the train station. The officers have been
asking people they happened to see if its for them. You slipped
by so one of them said to bring it to you. Are you Nawin
Biadklang?"

"Yes."

Nawin took the sheet of paper. It was the telephone number of
someone called Wichian. In parenthesis it said "Boi."


20

As another inconsequential member of this species riding the
promptings of caprices toward that which was most pleasant, a
pleasure in its own right, as with the activities that were
deemed as pleasant, most of his choices could not be anything
other than irrational. And of these irrational and erratic
choices, he thought further, most were often made from
antithetical impulses to which one was not measurably any more
pleasant or worthy of being followed than its alternatives. He
was seated at a table in a restaurant of a guest house,
wondering obtusely why he was there. It was, he mentally noted
to himself, a most peculiar feeling to have come somewhere, to
know oneself to have done so, and yet to remain clueless about
the aim. It almost felt as if, while in reverie, he had been
snatched from his idiocy at the train station and placed here in
the city of cognizance without his consent when in fact he had
walked three kilometers before tiring and then succumbing to
being swallowed in that blue cockroach shaped vehicle, the tuk-
tuk, which had then driven him further into the center of
Nongkhai.

And so, restless, he stirred the foam back and forth in his hot
Cappuccino, hoping without knowing why to soil all parts of the
inner embankment of the cup, and only taking occasional sips as
he became increasingly pensive. He thought to himself that had
he cared to do so, which of course he had not, the money that he
was spending on the coffee alone could have bought two or three
meals for those who scarcely ate anything on a given day. He
began to think about how peculiar the world was with its
interdependent members that made up units of one entire whole;
and that interaction of one species with another was merely for
the need to gain sustenance outside the unit, that the frenzied
propagation of a species to ensure its continuum was kept in
check by voracious predators; and that individual persons,
considering it an enjoyable sport, incessantly tried not only to
sustain themselves but also to thrive by hording avariciously or
seeking pleasures gluttonously at the sake of others within the
unit, striving for even more so as to think of themselves as
successful in partaking of the good. He thought of how this
showed life for what it was: not that of laudable creations
overseen by a creator, or at least forlorn entities of a godless
universe interacting with benevolent energy, but of comestible
viands seeking to elude predators. The whole thing seemed an
ineffective and barbaric system of incongruous, animate bits
seeking some means to barely coexist, and as such life was not
so laudable--neither of god nor of goodness--even though in
every culture, and every religion, he supposed, common
practitioners believed in both to create a pleasant perspective
of themselves and their place in the world. Even Buddha, who did
not believe in god became such as a statuette more rife than a
crucifix. The morning stimulant was not so hot that he had to
barely sip it, and yet he did for cognizance of the rife and
innate selfishness of man seemed to constrict his throat. It was
a constriction as slight as his compunction; and the subject was
forgotten entirely as he poured maple syrup on his pancakes.

Eating a bit of one pancake, he looked out onto the traffic with
its lethal confetti of exhaust fumes which, when moving closer
to the buildings, diffused and nominally enveloped pedestrians
on a nearby sidewalk. He once more pondered that he did not know
exactly why or from what impulse had led him here. The
inexplicable nature of it all was like that subway ride to the
Hualamphong train station. There, clearly for him, it had been a
wombed departure from the travail of interconnectedness with
those strangers within seeming to him as a family of distant and
tacit, insular beings who were cognate in their desire to arrive
in a train which would take them from all that was painful--such
had been his need to flee from suffering that the faces of
strangers, no matter how happy or bland their expressions,
seemed comrades of exile; and yet there, most opaquely, he had
chosen to sit down. It had been next to a boisterous woman
holding a cellular telephone talking of some poor soul's
uneventful dating experiences. He could not have known anything
of her beyond this and yet of the two vacant seats available he
had chosen to be next to her instead of sitting beside a middle
aged woman whose face was sunk toward a book; and the reason for
sitting in one seat over another was as inexplicable as now. And
so, assuming that all was not destined and man had choice about
all matters, he had chosen to check into this guest house in the
center of Nongkai instead of going straight into Vientiane. To
some degree it had been because of the weight of the backpack.
It had become increasingly heavy against his shoulders with
every kilometer of that long walk. Confusion also had had its
bearing. Not knowing what to do or where to go, with each
possibility seeming equally insipid, he had selected a place to
rest and think out some contrived purpose for himself. If not
able to formulate a plan and purpose for his travels, here at
least he had a place to rest physically when swimming
frantically against this mental eddy. For all his disconcerted
strokes, his itinerant meandering, he told himself that even
though he did not know when it would happen he was certain that
he would wash ashore eventually and when he did he would have
contrived something to do, some urgent matter to pursue, some
purpose for himself.

He pulled out that sheet of paper from his shirt pocket. He
glanced at the name and the telephone number and recalled the
faces of the Laotian and his sister as they rode next to him.
Was he really to end an uneventful retirement for the sake of
these people? Was he, for the sake of seeming a compassionate
human being to himself and not merely another selfish being on
the planet, to pay them for a miniscule part in posing for some
portrait that he was neither inspired to draw nor inclined to
tote back to Bangkok? Where would he even obtain paint and
canvas? In Laos? Well no doubt they had both within the capital
city. If prehistoric man could find ways to dye a cave,
Laotians, people of a very similar linguistic and cultural
distinction to Thais, could not do less. He could do sketches of
them. It would not take long or be much of a burden to carry
around and he could leave the family a couple of hundred
dollars, which would mean the world to them and be a negligible
and hardly noticed loss to himself. It might even restore him to
himself; but then did he want to be restored? A restoration of a
thoughtful pornographic artist from a third world country was
not such a gift to civilization. He would never equal the great
artists of the world and of prostitute painters he was one of
myriad in contemporary Southeast Asian art alone. The sister was
beautiful by his standards of beauty--youth unblemished with
skin the pallor of fresh snow; a background of dirt and poverty,
a subject he could relate to, and yet unlike those of a swarthy
complexion, not appearing as such, with hair that was long and
dark as the void, subdued eyes neither scintillating of
inexperience nor petrified as ancient granite, absent of bra,
nipples that pointed and teased their way toward every curve to
which the imagination slid down like a hand to remote and sodden
reservoirs. But it was not her beauty that called unto him, but
an intrigue with the perverse so that he might know if his
suspicions were warranted, and more saliently, to know the
economic deprivations and desperation that made siblings into
lovers, if indeed they were that. He folded the paper and
stuffed it into his wallet against a condom.

Maybe he had diverged into the center of Nongkai and had checked
into this guest house to divert and check, if not totally
restrain, an inordinate curiosity about the perverse. This trip,
the best he understood it, was meant to have a spiritual
element--at least to the extent an atheist whose wont of thinking
had denuded god from a vast being cloaked in the sacrosanct was
capable of. Being bereft of agenda or aim did not necessarily
mean being bereft of an overarching theme founded in malaise; so
if not sidetracked, he had (for lack of a better term) a
spiritual theme that if pursued with aim could easily surpass
the agenda of a monk. After all, and of course he would never
openly disclose this most secret assertion, a monk was merely a
poor man seeking education, food, and an end to loneliness, and
all other nakedness under a saffron robe and a sacrosanct Buddha
was not even the physical substance of a needy monk. Nawin told
himself that his time here, if not perverted and aptly spent on
the spiritual, would allow him to step out of the egocentric,
crumbling tower that he was in. If nothing else he could watch
ants use twigs as bridges and freeways and in so doing become
aware of the existence of a tiny fraction of the 90 percent of
all life that was smaller than a chicken's egg. He could then
appreciate a cognizant activity and social order other than that
of his own or his own dominant species. If he could lean against
a stupa and be in awe of the sun baking his face like a brick or
appreciate the titillation of wind caressing his head like that
of a Cambodian child-beggar patted by a foreigner, he would at
last be alive.

Still that had not been his main reason for taking a room. It
seemed to him that there was no main reason at all--only the
pull of some tremendous gravitational force, that ineluctable
void which had influenced him to take his wife's best friend for
a mistress and bearer of a child and all for reasons that were
only in small part to fill the barren heart of a wife of a
fallow womb--a void that had prompted his subtle rejections of
Kimberly as his main wife, for how could he have left Noppawan
behind or renew himself from the philanderer that he was--a void
that had been a catalyst of the ensuing consequences.

To have a child! Regardless of their education or the
significance of ideas that bred in their heads, women needed
those replications of their physical beings to feel complete.
This was exacerbated in marriages, since in thought, if not in
deed, marriages were with philandering men who were replicating
creatures no different than them albeit ones obsessed by
impulses for pleasure in wet disgorging with the multitude. It
was no wonder that with the void as immense as the universe
itself and the final surrender to it inevitable in death, one
sometimes had delusions of it as the lap of a long lost
grandmother and found herself/himself plummeting into that lap
from one's balcony.

Long ago Nawin, who at birth was labeled Jatupon, had been a
teenager caught in currents and countercurrents of his own. Back
then, he had needed his new Bangkok friend, Noppawan,
desperately; and so by taking her, at the age of fourteen, to
meet his osseous, ochre friends, the dead corpses at the Siriaj
Hospital Anatomical Museum, he in a sense had thrown up his arms
to indicate a need for love. She by embracing him despite his
wish to seem intrepid before death had shown an understanding of
what boys could not say in words. So like a blossoming bud she
had opened her arms to him and let him fall into the petals of
her embrace. So, while surrounded by the shelves of these dead
beings basking in formalin, he had cried in her embrace
remembering, an hour earlier, Kazem's use of his body, a type of
interactive gesture or embrace which he had sometimes called a
"sport" and at other times a "cheap date."

Twenty five years later at certain moments of weakness, he still
needed love even though the neediness in the content of the word
abhorred him. Were couples who stayed together for forty or
fifty years to be so commended? The neediness of people in
mutual dependency was worse than newlyweds addicted to the
pleasure-highs of being in proximity to their spouses, the
extensions of themselves; it all was like the monstrosity of a
one right legged man and a one left legged woman walking
together and it sickened him.

Nawin got up and went to the coin operated telephone. He dialed
his home telephone number numerous times and then his wife's
mobile telephone number. He did this in the hope of expressing
something--admiration, sentiment, respect, gratitude, he was
not sure what, but certainly not love, as he had a pure aversion
to that word--he did not know what to say, and it did not
matter. There was merely that recording telling him that the
numbers were disconnected. And so he felt disconcerted as if he
were now walking through the gravitational force of a different
planet. He went back to the table and drank the rest of his
orange juice. It was to be expected, he told himself, as nothing
was permanent. He took a deep breath and then breathed out
fully. He felt disheartened, but not all that desperate. If a
wonderful person,  one who had gone out of his life, and who was
so salient in such a critical time at his youth, had gone for
good reason, he had no reason to question it. He had been blest
to have her save him from the abyss as well as providing him
with the ensuing friendship of marriage years later. She now had
his money, his child, and her independence and he would bequeath
these things unto her unconditionally; and so, he told himself
that he must release her, exhaling her and breathing in others
like respiration. He stuffed the five baht coin into his pocket.
No, if he had loved Kimberly and Noppawan at certain times this
was enough love for him in a lifetime. If he had experienced one
malevolent family early in his life, this should have been
enough of an augury for him that long ago he, Nawin Biadklang,
should have forsworn a second round of it and vowed to maintain
a single and original life thereafter. He was an artist:
compassion, ideas, exposure to new people, licentious impulses,
and the inspiration of dead geniuses on canvass must override
this anti-Heraclital wish to cling to stable objects.

In the petty routines of man it was rare that one was impacted
profoundly by some being other than one if the volumes of dead
sages, and yet she had done this for him. Even though this
incident had happened long ago he still admired and even loved
her for it. He told himself that with time he would become even
more professional and accomplished at compassionate portrayals
of life in his paintings and his interactions, even if it were
to take thirty years, when his testosterone levels had finally
plummeted. And for those who never had anyone there, for them,
he, at least in theory, wanted to be there the way Noppawan had
been there for him in his youth. Maybe, he told himself, he
would visit the Laotians. He was not sure.

Thus, here he was sitting in the restaurant of a guest house
watching a pirated DVD on a big screen television and eating his
pancakes with maple syrup. For whatever inexplicable reason, he
had chosen to check into a guest house in the center of Nongkai
and here he--Nawin, Jatupon, or whatever label he gave himself
--was baffled by his choice. He could merely speculate and eat
his pancakes the same as any Western foreigner, but with the
voracious enthusiasm as he had when, long ago, devouring them in
America as a four year old child.

He was eating pancakes rather than the French Toast that he was
more inclined to order for the sound of the French in the toast
made him feel queasy. When he finished eating and was bored with
the movie he plunked money, faces of the king, under a salt and
pepper shaker and without saying "check bin [bill, please]" or
waiting for the waitress to pick up his money or bring back the
change, he left the guest house as irresolute as when he came.

A cloud came and past; followed by others, darker and more
voluminous. On the sidewalk, near Soi 43 where he happened to be
passing, lightning refracted from the pavement and his sad
solitary figure on this King's birthday/Father's Day was lit in
flashes of eerie spotlight. There were strong winds animating
the inanimate, which gave the already animate that sense of
flutter making him, for a time, feel an elated sense of being
that surpassed reality but this, like the lightning and the
cloud that had been the precursor of the storm, were illusory
and passed as well. His loneliness was weighty but the winds
made the gravity of it all insignificant. Then there were sheets
of rain pouring from the sky, he had tried to escape under an
awning, but a hole in the center caused this miniature waterfall
and made those under the awning cluster closer together to avoid
it. He went into a shop. A rack was full of postcards with
photographic images of Nongkhai's Buddhist sculpture garden and
the Friendship Bridge between Nongkhai, Thailand and Vientiane,
Laos. He could write to Noppawan, he told himself. He bought
several postcards but he could not think of several friends to
send them to--he had acquaintances by the droves but friends?
Minus Kimberly, there was only Noppawan. He returned to his
table at the guest house and ordered another cup of Cappuccino
and a croissant. He took out a pen from his wet pockets but it
would not write. He laughed. No, neither rain nor lugubrious
tragedy would wash away the gloss that covered his cracks for he
never ceased to be amused by the incredible, the ironic, and the
peculiar of everyday experiences.

Looking out the window and thinking how peculiar such a rain was
in December he turned toward the movie and in so doing noticed a
young man in tight wholly jeans and jacket waiting at the door.
He did not know why but he knew what he was there for and
without thinking he raised his hand and snapped his fingers
augustly, but it did not get the man's attention. "What on Earth
was I thinking? What a relief," he thought. He chuckled at his
droll existence of near misses and the twisting turns of fate. A
woman seated at a nearby table pulled out a laminated photograph
of King Rama IX. "What a simpleton," he thought, and smiled at
her as if she were a child carrying around a doll. His heart was
palpitating less, his blood seemed to be cooling, and his
thoughts seemed to be less obsessed by the sexual and the
peculiar. Then someone sat next to him. Unlike himself or the
one in the denim jacket who both had a golden brown complexion,
his was a muddier, more turgid tone. He was also more muscular
just as he remembered was his brother, Kazem.

"Sawadee khrap," he said.

"Yes, what can I do for you?" asked Nawin.

"Just thought I'd come here and talk with you. You looked
lonely. Thought I'd cheer you up if you needed cheering. You
snapped your fingers but the other guy didn't hear you. I've
heard and have come."

"What will you do to cheer me up?" asked Nawin with a sheepish
grin.

"Better not say in words but I snap. You do what is pleasant for
me and it will please you."

"Free?"

"Give me a 500 baht gift afterwards if you want."

Nawin paid the bill and led him to his room.


21

He listened to the frequent gusts assail the window panes. They
were a hybrid of breath and force. They were muddled
articulations in brawn. In that respect, he told himself [at
that second he was thinking of his own childhood as a reference,
since the centripetal domain of his myopic existence was all
there was], the howling in the denigration of night was
figuratively no different from the diatribe of human speech, and
yet being literally both it felt entirely strange. He listened
intently for whatever else there was for him to do as a unit in
this barren room of post-sensual darkness inside his own head;
scatter and drift with the wind? The gusts of this peculiar
storm in the middle of the dry season seemed to be attempts at
conveying meaning, ineffable sounds from without transforming to
thought that smote recriminations within, and this he listened
to as well even as he smiled wryly to think how superstitious he
was to attempt to augur some cosmological significance to his
petty existence from adventitious happenings. Smell equally
condemned him: sweat evaporating from chafed skin of bodies reft
from a union of friction; underwear tainted by residual liquids
and reeking that odor sweetly; and, for him, immured in a poorly
ventilated room of a guest house, it was nighttime and there was
the saccharine stench of rotting male flesh everywhere.

Circumspect, he was unable to trust that there was safety in
falling asleep [he could not feel otherwise with his wallet
there in the top drawer of the bed-stand near that body], and
thus there were long minutes of darkness made darker yet by
being awake with eyes closed; mind somewhat assuaged by what it
could repudiate from illuminating visual sensory input; thought,
nature, and a connection to both seeming more acute despite the
fact that he felt tired; and all of this a less pessimistic
perspective garnered in certain seconds only to be lost in
others. For his was an episteme of concurrent antitheses where,
from the impact of human will, bits of knowledge like a mixture
of adulterated pollutants that comprised the canals in Bangkok,
were thrust into composite waves and counter-waves of ferment;
but when will sped elsewhere it all reverted to its stagnant
origin as waves of cogitation and cognition like waves of water
resumed their former states.

All that he could know absolutely of himself within his droll,
droning thoughts was that the perspectives he was trading
shifted from variations of mood like different or seemingly
different selves kaleidoscopically making it so he hardly knew a
consistent self at all. All that he could know outside himself
was that right now, perceived with gravity but variable nuances
of optimism and humor, he was definitely in this room and, as
much as he might wish to extricate himself, he was not alone.

Stretched out stiffly on the bed like a cadaver (Why so rigid?
Why at all negative? he asked himself), he did not have to see
the objects of the room again to feel a cold, surreal, and alien
remoteness in their presence nor did he have to be deceased and
within a state of rigor mortis to be so inert. Yet! (fuck!), he
thought in Thai for that expletive implied how intimately
disconnection could be felt; and as life, more than thought, was
allowing oneself to be besmirched by the saturations of feeling,
validating it with action, which then was the catalyst for more
feeling, he asked himself whether or not after the massage that
he had rendered like a slave to another's sense of pleasure and
this being riveted for such a lengthy and hellish twenty minute
duration which had just ceased a few moments ago, he were really
living life. He was, he told himself, and what was more, by this
one intimate act with the man and the void he was connecting
himself atavistically to that antediluvian period of early self
in which he had been sodomized so hard as to rupture childhood
irreparably and to be condemned to this morbid repressed pain
his atheist's soul, his all-too human, mind--a mind which even
early on had been a refuge to a harmonious and familiar voice
within.

This pain was for so many years seldom thought of, but now that
it was thawed like a creek, it flowed it's bane as microbes and
water. Pain, once necessitated, was now necessitating the
diminished memories of the diminutive boy whom he had once been--
diminutive as the creature had been banished and repudiated all
of these years from the belief that only a man's appetites and
actions within the present moment were real. Back then he had
not bothered to postulate that a present bereft of foundation
was like a cleft chunk of a planet floating aimlessly as an
asteroid; and that if fully connected to himself; the boy might
not be a diminished fictional character any longer while the man
might become more than a tailless lizard with a regenerative
head. Thus, this being bedraggled and besmirched in painful
intimate sport was for him a homecoming.

There were so many voices of the past in the wind. They were
distinct in themselves and yet, swallowed and digested by the
wind, they were part of its reeking breath: brothers, parents,
extended family, evanescent friends of youth, distant cold bits
of memory less than specter and dust; Noppawan and Kimberly, his
only two portions of love, which, as a self-contained being, he
never needed but delighted in ravenously as one who lacked and
was in love with those who engendered such lovable feelings (the
feelings of being in love being that which were loved most); so
many female models, so many desperate, delectable whores with
defunct eyes of hopelessness, dead embers with a slight wistful
glow for possible deliverance for which men roved like the
dimmest of spotlights; so many relationships; so many desperate
others no different than the whores (was there a male or female
who got involved, let alone married, to worsen one's lot or to
become best friends with the self, brazenly riding through
loneliness on a solitary raft? No, never!). There was snoring.
There was putrid breath, sweeping the side of his face. There
was effluvium from the individual lying next to him and this was
a type of wind as well.

No matter whether it was done as perpetrator or willing victim,
no matter what the particular genders involved were, or the
positions of riding or being ridden, the sexual union of two
people was in his conclusion a mallet lunging its mass
forcefully into dark, dank, and constricted space, a club
forcing entrance into narrow passages not designed for its
presence, and an overpowering of a being to devour but also to
inflict servitude and pain while obtaining that apogee of
pleasure, the brevity of orgasm, which could be gained in no
other way. A mélange of croquet and billiards, polo and
wrestling, this sport and aggression performed in the
heterosexual role could cause the conception of a child more
readily than it could cause venereal disease, but deviant
sexuality was conjoined for sexual desire of every kind was
definitely a crude and barbarous means of getting a specie to
interact physically so that under an obsessive and specious
sense of rapture and intimacy and a wish for extension of self
by annexation of another being or being annexed by him,
different apertures would be explored at various times and from
human curiosity and experimentation, pregnancy might ensue.

Yes, he told himself, by being amenable to pleasurable
promptings in an intimacy with a male half his age, and finding
himself himself suddenly middle aged and needing to become
enmeshed and invigorated in his beauty, he was living life as
animals were meant to live it. Infidelities of every kind within
this godless universe gave men, even gentry like himself who
were cloyed by leisure, a rapturous respite from their roles as
automatons and thus they were an essential sport of man. For the
naive this conduct led to some months of being in love but for a
worldly adulterer like himself it was minutes of indispensable
intoxication. He continued to listen to the howling wind. It
seemed to inveigle and beckon him and he found himself wistfully
and sequaciously summoned to its cryptic codes. Did the wind not
entice him to make his naked form denuded further so that he
might become as amorphous as it, to be amalgamated with wind,
and to slip into it wholly? It did; and yet it seemed such a
grotesque hybrid of breath and force with these continual
elated, muddled, and ineffable articulations in brawn. Yes, he
reiterated, in that respect the howling was figuratively no
different than the aspersions and diatribe of human speech. By
that, although perhaps not consciously thinking it, he was
nonetheless meaning that war called family which happened so
briefly in the history of a life as if it had never been, though
undoubtedly had occurred for, he assessed, there was an expanse
or large swath of charred, fallow, and contaminated brain
therein where, to the present day, little grew but a sense of
desertification. Living in the centripetal domain of a myopic
existence as everyone did he supposed that his hapless childhood
would always be his point of reference, his vantage point, and
also the multi-pointed obstacle of his life. Generalizations,
skewed and concocted from the sordid past that were their
antecedent, extruded from his fissures in an incessant cursive
lava flow of amicable contempt. The howling was as
undecipherable as the cries of a forlorn child. It was eerie as
though a million such children with their muffled cries were
being slammed into the windows with each new gust.

Lying there, a cohabitant of the darkness of this relatively
unfamiliar room, the howling then seemed more fierce than
before. It literally was brawn and breath. As such it was worse
than the acerbity of humans (not that his father excoriating him
for retreating to his "cage," that cage he willingly absconded
to as a casualty of a sadistic sport in which he needed to shoot
and denigrate before being shot and denigrated himself, and once
hit to seek the prey more aggressively in the hope of being seen
as the master of disparaging wit, or the father being as rustic
and ungrammatical as a wild boar, did not howl yet in memory)
and made the evening seem all the more surreal and peculiar if
such a thing were possible.

"Where am I?" he asked himself absurdly, as if it could be
anything other than that same room at the guest house in
Nongkhai. "What happened to me?" he asked with feigned innocence
which caused him to chortle and spray saliva that was like the
froth of a wave upon a breaker, the cluster of rocks that was
his smile. He had to admit, despite himself, that this being
violated, by his own volition, had been quite a ride. It had
been an internal roller coaster physically; but more it had been
a ride into an abyss within, not merely from the physical
sensation of this odd womanly role he found himself in or the
pleasure of being free of aberration as creatures of variation
loved aberration if social constraints were slackened (and
slackened they were not only in Bang-cock but to some degree in
the whole of Thailand as the Lord Buddha did not envisage gods,
rules, and the dogma of coercion), but most saliently in these
years as a womanizer overturned with this stranger's slight push
of his body toward the bed.

Even with eyes closed and sedulous efforts made to concentrate
on the wind to avoid thinking of the raw, anal soreness and all
that transpired which was as confusing for the libertine as it
was liberating, he knew. He listened intently. He listened
scrupulously. How superstitious he was to equate the wind with a
specter and yet he did it nonetheless. The smells of the room
did not seem as acrid as a fully evaporated area over a recent
urine-saturated pavement near a park or stadium in Bangkok or as
repugnant as a room littered with his brothers fetid socks and
other equally if not more reprehensible articles of attire
peeled off the bodies of these anathemas but still, as small as
the room was, nothing was impervious to it. If the curtains and
the carpet were all permeated by a redoubling of these male
odors, he would not have been surprised--not that surprise, or
any other human emotion could have been registered all that
readily in his impassive state. His was a naked mind, like that
of his body, except that his body was wrapped loosely in a used
mildewed towel and his mind in a bawdy numbness which he labeled
the void.

He sneezed and opened his eyes. He rubbed his nose against his
shoulder, careful not to make any more precipitous movements
against the broken arm in the sling, since it was hurting worse
than before, as of course it would from the earlier sport. There
was no point in closing his eyes again. He would not be able to
rest any more than before. With a mind needing debouchment more
than his body needed to relieve itself in the toilet he stayed
where he was, which was where there were windows. The
circumfluence of the fetid, enervated air beneath the incessant
creaking of the ceiling fan; creaking as if it were not only
grating against the torpor and stagnancy of the air itself but
against the melee of all, for all was restrained in the time and
space of what now was and in a circulation and deciduous draping
of those same odors caught to which the windows were permanently
sealed to keep out the rain.


22

Gained as an unintentional wooer of women by dint of an
opalesque smile, a mellifluous voice, a successful name, and a
handsome albeit swarthy and sodden appearance which made him,
for them at least, a semi-deluctable presence, and years of
venial sensual licentiousness, a recompense for empathic
suffering in his thoughtful studies of prostitutes and
injustices of the world at large, it was his inveterate
perspective of himself as delusionary as it may have been. It
was disconcerting to think of it as gone; and yet, he told
himself, as emasculated and denuded as he now felt, were he to
continue to mature this way, to climb the precipice of old age,
while still acting callow enough to be obsessed by the exquisite
release of his body (love making out of the tension of repressed
urges towards the many and, as a cumulative exhortation of
fantasies vented on a specific one, an act of adultery when
making love to her, as it was love of himself, his own
gratification), partaking of blithe experiences with female
strangers under societal approbation and with youthful lewdness,
needing to restrain his behavior very little, scrutinizing it no
more than this, and having nothing to show for his life other
than wanton appetites dragging him into every damp and unseemly
hole open to him would he not eventually become more obscene
than the hole he was at this moment in time? Would it not be
worse than now to end his life no more master of the self than
that and to have made sexuality the sole subject of study and
preoccupation as he had done for decades? He was not sure,
although to feel better about himself he averred it silently as
if he were so. He told himself that there was nothing to feel
guilty about. It was the clay of life. Human will might choose
to misrepresent it as ethereal as a cloud but it was not so.
From the first regenerative microbe it was an experiment, and so
of course there would be experimentation now. If obscene, was it
not even more obscene that this, which was an inception of all,
was all there was?

The carnal scholar that he was, did he not seek to understand
life pedantically, partaking of it mostly with prostitute models
instead of those of affluent means? Whatever small, favorable
outcome it did for them financially he knew all too clearly that
it was exploiting the exploited whatever august and sententious
aim he might entertain. By seeking the omniscience of a god and
showing the injustices of life as they really were (or as
accurate an account as one could do within his tiny scope of
experience and knowledge) his was to know both the parts of the
exploiter and the exploited. What other reason did he have to
enjoy them than to enlarge his study to the perpetrators of
exploitation themselves when there was such a smorgasbord for
free, or at least as free as women got? So many years of praised
debauchery had embedded that self perspective of himself as a
wooer of women ("Naughty Nawin" as articles often called him);
and it had seemed as impregnable as granite when really it was a
thin outline of a self that could easily be smudged and erased.

Lying on his half of the bed, the thunder, lightning, and wind
from outside seemed to diffuse into that porous and amorphous
outline of a defunct self. For half an hour he was cognizant of
nothing but the storm and the faint, subdued murmurs and
indistinct featureless shapes of early, distant memories set in
a rather subconscious mental fog, scampering away at a distance
as though seeking to allude him. Without thinking so, he felt
that large amalgamations of his character, the daily sensory
input of a constant, non-threatening environment, and his fond
attachments to others gained from shared pleasant experiences
together, which together he called himself fell from him
annually. He was deciduous, but unlike a tree, he suffered a
loss of most of the trunk of his entire being: the full love of
a child for his mother that would never come again; the family
that damaged and then vanished almost as quickly as one was
conceived, gestated, and delivered as a member into its cell of
sordid and clandestine activities; an infatuation with a girl
that once seemed garish, all-consuming, and eternal as the sun;
and the full pleasure of feeling those awesome gusts of wind hit
against his face as a boy would, smelling the pile of winter
leaves that he once jumped into as they began to suffocate him,
and appreciating the significance of the simple delights of the
ordinary as a child's mind did, and to which no vacation to
Vientiane as an adult had the hope of restoring. He was merely
what he sensed from the storm and for some time he stayed this
way soughing skidding around with it in his mind like a severed
and desiccated old leaf.

Manhood, this summation of himself as masculine force and
presence, had nothing tangible in it and could vanish quicker
than the toppling of a house of cards. With so many years of
incessant layers of thought it had seemed ossified so how could
he have known that this perspective--one that was endemic to
such a profession of contemplative decadence and decadent
contemplation and had seemed myriad as the shore's self-
flagellation of waves--would be so evanescent? As his nose was
beginning to itch he rubbed it with the back of his hand. From
the gesture he found himself returning to a self which,
regrettably, could not be discarded entirely. How strange, he
thought, to be washed up on new shores. He thought this as if
there were something so new in it, and as if sodomy, and in his
case fraternal incest at that, were totally unknown to him. It
was not so strange a shore as he wanted to believe, he had to
admit, and he would only be alone and marooned there if he saw
himself as such. The fecund, dark soil of a less familiar shore
could only be foreign, ominous, and grave if he stated to
himself that it was such.

"So, I am with a man! What of it!" he thought; but guilt
continued to reverberate, as those eerie lamenting calls to
worship that, from a nearby mosque, thrice a day rolled off of
the black sheen of the waters of the canal and trespassed into
his Bangkok estate bypassing a wall and gate meant to fortify
him from possible theft, and more generally to barricade him
from the ignorance and poverty that were his past. If this
perspective of himself as an inadvertent wooer of women and
debonair presence, were a wall to memory meant to keep himself
from considering the peculiarity of his perverted and twisted
past and the walls of his estate were meant to fortify himself
from poverty and misery both of them failed unequivocally.

Guilt, like the wind that he was now listening to, wailed on.
Self flagellation like thunder and lightning piercing the room,
did so under the aegis of his closed eyes. And there, correcting
examinations in her favorite seat in the living room with eyes
perusing paper behind thick glasses, and fighting back parts of
the disheveled hair that obstructed the process, was a spectral
and indistinct image of his wife. He judged that she was no
different from the rest, already well into diminishing to the
state of former friends and family like his deceased girlfriend,
his infant son, and his paternal obligations.

There they would become part of a blotch of nebulous memory that
might have its pull like a poltergeist against the organization
of his thoughts but would nonetheless seem to have never been.

If he were to accept the defining components of marriage as the
masses defined it, he was never married at all. The signing of a
marriage certificate long ago had been done as a lifelong pledge
to prioritize one individual and one bond above others and not
as a renunciation of social interaction or forfeiting the
ownership of his genitalia; and what was true throughout the
marriage was surely no less true now. Noppawan, the
anthropologist and professor whom he gained such delight in,
which was love, once said that there had to be a reason that
jealousy was such an embedded instinct. She said that it no
doubt had its origin in primordial man. Perhaps, she said,
female Australopithecus africans needed to ensure that the
providers did not abandon them and their prodigy and their
primordial male counterparts wanted to ensure that those
offspring whom they were providing for were really their own.

Did ideas and attitudes of cognizant beings ever evolve at all?
he wondered, for sexual fidelity was still thought of as such an
important factor to marriage when really it should be a contract
of a union of best friends. Facile measurements of this nature
would legitimize the most indifferent partners as well as
relationships where obtaining monetary or social status was the
objective. Contracts of faithfulness and appeasing a partner's
jealous propensities by suffocating the self unlovingly could
exist just as the facile measurements of what a marriage really
was could materialize (all had the right to measure, define, and
live as they judged apposite in obtaining some degree of
happiness) but, he thought, that surely did not mean that he had
to subscribe to it himself. All who signed marriage certificates
did not have to do so with the same motivation and none ever
signed documents to which there was a likelihood of their
present state remaining as it was or worsening. As an aberration
of a liberal man who from being fragmented by pain was able to
design himself anew, why should it matter what the masses
believed? By the momentum of one free to be dissolute he, a
libertine, had a short time earlier worn away one more
restriction; but as it was one of consenting adults; was it all
that necessary to build dams and reroute the currents of a river
that ran both ways? He thought not, when the damn was such an
unnatural barrier.

He wondered what Noppawan was doing at this moment. Awakened by
the baby, was she warming the bottle of milk and combing that
thicket of long hair as he had seen her do before. Was she even
able to sleep very well nowadays with the infant's hourly
crying? Was she able to sleep at all with Kimberly's passing?
Did she think of him at all? Did she feel regret over breaking
his arm with the frying pan, changing the locks, tossing his
clothes onto the drive, and refusing to answer the telephone?
Despite making him culpable she had in fact arranged it all.
Kimberly's post-partum depression was no doubt exacerbated by
those two months of shared motherhood and espousal husbandry
that barren Noppawan had conceived, but none could have foreseen
the denouement. The world abounded in spills and mess and yet it
was miraculous that, at least for many, it came together so well
before finally going awry, dissipating as dew, life, the decent
and debauched of it.

He opened his eyes. Everything was there as before including
that body. He sat up; embraced the mesa of his legs within the
multifarious sands of the desert of his mind; admired those
various shades of color in the sand, perspectives made so by the
variations of mood; and looked down. Consternated, he stared at
a mattress cover dappled like a constellation from his soiling,
and he laughed nervously. "But then why should it not be so with
the extent of it," he thought. He was meaning the twenty minutes
or longer of being sodomized, that roller coaster within which
eventually prompted bowel movements in a futile attempt to
excrete the intruder. Not knowing what he could do as he could
hardly remove the mattress cover then and there, he pulled down
a package of cigarettes from the mantle of the bed. He put a
cigarette into his mouth but not able to find the lighter from
the groping of his hand on the mantle, and seeing that it was
not on the bed stand, he just let the fireless cigarette dangle
in his mouth.

Experience (he smiled again, for as much as this ceaseless
analysis of the intricacies of his life might seem morbid to
others were they to have them their head, he found postulating
potential reasons for his actions beyond the superficial an
amusement park where the variation and length of the rides was
infinite--it had always amused him to do so; and prior to this
whole Kimberly affair he was in action if not thought as shallow
and concave as the next person, and more hedonistic than most),
there was nothing ugly or disdainful in a given experience but
what the mind associated as positive or negative from social
conditioning or from paranoid fears of possible ramifications
from a little pain. Did some anal pain presage that he would
ineluctably contract a disease from this man? No, it did not,
nor had each of his myriad raptures of vaginal penetration in
his sordid past indicated that the ecstasy he was experiencing
in his groins would transcend into a meaningful companionship
beyond sexual gymnastics.

Having forgotten to close the curtains there was a warped,
oblong silver bar of refracted light on the floor in front of
the bed. It was light from an adjacent street lamp that was
molded and cast down onto the darkness of the floor. There was a
slight sway of a mirror hanging on the wall with reflections of
blurred and severed shapes seeming to appear, disappear, and
reappear within its sway. What they were he did not know for
sure. One was possibly a part of a corner of a wall and a bit of
a footstool; another was possibly matte flanks of bed and flesh;
less dubiously it seemed that there was a partial foot or
severing of that foot, but whatever was being reflected was done
so as a rearranging mélange. A cactus, a telephone, and a
postcard in which he had only written, "Dear Noppadon, I am here
in Nongkai thinking of you and everything. I want--" were yoked
together on the bed stand. With every reopening of his eyes they
seemed to command the turning of his face toward them not so
much from the fact that his wallet was there in one of its
drawers but more to suggest that his life was barren and he
needed to contact someone. The inanimate which could not copy
and transmit impressions of the world or one's relation to it,
were to him, at that moment, capable of an empathy and directive
that bypassed words. At least it seemed to be so of the items on
the bed-stand, and he waited for them to mandate who he was to
contact (the beautiful nurse at Siriaj Hospital, his swarthy
wife with intellect as thick as the lenses of her glasses, or
the sodomy division of the local police office--"hello Mr.
Policeman. I would like to report the fact that a stray dog is
stuck in my crevasse. You will sir. Thank you, sir. You are such
a nice man. I will prepare a nice treat for you and your partner
when you come"). He gasped in a muted chuckle.

"What are you doing?" asked a gecko that was crawling on the
wall near the bedstand.

"Sitting here. Fornicating. Experimenting."

It engulfed him with glassy eyes that were unmoving oceans, even
stagnant universes, and he knew that everything lacked purpose
beyond being an object tossed out for pure animation. To not go
forward was completely meaningless.

"Huh? What are you doing?" asked the man.

"Wanting to smoke but I can't find my lighter," said Nawin.


23

There were consecutive sneezes to which a forth was as
incomplete as muffled sound. Then there was the wiping of his
nose on his arm, a few seconds of an intolerable facial itch,
which he scratched incessantly (such a plethora of pleasures
there were in discomfort, or acclimating to this life as one was
compelled to do, just an adequate amount concocted within an
entity to keep it, in most circumstances, from cutting its
throat or kimberlying downward) and his cigarette, still
dangling loosely in his mouth, lit and allowed to disperse death
unto him inexplicably. "Are you happy?" the intimate stranger
asked him, but before any potential response could be uttered
Nawin sensed his cigarette being extracted from him and, a
second later, saw it wedged in the other's mouth for his long
inhalation.

Nawin laughed at the filching during his elongated interjection
of reproach. As he was most often his own adventitious source
positing potential truths to the intense contemplative domain of
his multi-tiered mind, which, at top levels, sought life's
riddled viands voraciously; at first he did not register the
question as coming from any interlocutor other than himself. He
was preoccupied with trying to find an exact correlation between
burning cigarette phalluses and the afterglow of sexual
relations, conceptualizing it the way he would were he to
transpose it to canvas with traditional gender substitutes,
wondering if the masses of men really felt that pleasurable
corporeal sensation + union with another was happiness, and if
it really was so why he did not ever feel it.

Why, he asked himself in a bout of hubris, had this insolent
creature, who a couple minutes earlier had been buried in sleep,
reassembled his parts and spoken to him? He had not granted him
permission to do so. It was merely this one's part to transport
him home to the abuse that was the foundation of childhood. This
he had done fully; and as it was concluded action subsequent
cohabitation, to his mind, would be superfluous. By those
painful, pleasurable thrusts of intimacy edifices, property,
prosperity, verility, invincibility, relationships and stature,
all that one made of a life by repudiating everything that one
once was, were now seen as the sandcastles that they were and he
himself as the ravaged spoils of dirt there to be bulldozed by
others' wills as before, to sense the suppressed cries of
childhood as before. He did not know how, after these ravaging
trespasses of bodily entanglement he could maintain an amicable
conversation with the invited violator and yet he did not know
how he could avoid an attempt? He could not ask him to leave
when he had, by desire if not volition, asked him to come here.

Was it not a standard belief, and a rational one at that, that
conversation was the means to further intimacies, that sexual
relations with strangers were inverted intimacy and sexual
relations with men were perverted or at least distorted,
inverted intimacy?; and yet even in heterosexual relationships,
he said to himself, the normal sequence of mental divulging
leading to the ribald, the carnal, and the bestial seemed its
own desultory and discomfiting mess. Was it really unnatural for
men to be together in this way? More than he might fear that it
was, he feared that it was not. What could be more natural than
competitive fencing and impaling another man with one's
vibrating, titillating sword with a vibrant force far greater
than women could take? Was it not vile for a married man to
profane his relationship with his wife in such a way? Yes, he
conceded, it was. Did he have compunction about his action? For
what good it did anyone, yes he did; and yet this action was as
natural as condoning or sanctioning killing itself; it was
natural for the immune system to kill microorganisms, for a
child, despite sentimental attachments, to grow up and out of
all which he once thought of as dear, and for family to
evaporate like morning dew.

Talk of love belied the innate desire to experience a workout,
to at last turn off thought and respond as an animal should by
instinct, to be released from desire tickling incessantly like
the crawl of a line of ants on one's skin, and to release a
surfeit into a hole with the instrument of urination, an
intimate and exquisite release. Likewise, thoughts repudiating
the naked truth that killing was as ineluctable and natural in a
being as its own breath, contravened any degree of understanding
of the life that the fates circumscribed man to have.

And as for being with a woman and begetting children with her,
whether it be action that was virtuous or not, it was natural
without equivocation; and yet when a marriage certificate, an
artificial piece of paper, was signed, it became an instrument
for self-deceit by fostering an illusion of permanence while a
means to sanctify what was natural by saying that without
legitimacy in ink and paper this carnal and emotional bond was
debauchery. Thus by refining nature it contravened it.
In his case, he only had nominal passion for Noppawan. To him
they were two intellects clinging to each other, after family
had dissipated from their lives like dispersing smoke from a
conflagration. What could be more of an unnatural contrivance
than this? And if not only the sport of man on man, but all
unions of naked intimacy were illicit and vulgar without paper
and ink contrived unions of prehistory predating and leading to
both, the present generation would make vile bastards of all. At
least that was what he thought or was thinking at the time.
He might have thought of himself as self-contained despite at
times feeling distraught over this incessant reign of
impermanence deluging him; he might have thought of love as
neediness and that, personally, it was emotional bonding that,
like teddy bears, he himself was beyond as he was beyond
Buddhist statuettes, jasmine rosaries, and the intervention of a
Buddha god theistically; and yet he loved Noppawan nonetheless.
What else could it be but love?

Unable to share experiences that he found himself in, even when
certain that they would be pleasurable to a given person now
lost to him the mind conjured its ersatz. On the train ride here
she, of course, was not with him and yet, hauntingly, she was;
and if he had gone in a second or third class carriage she would
have particularly enjoyed this train ride with him more than she
had: windows down, redolent smells grafted in the hard breeze
and wafting the aisle of the car. When he was glancing at post
cards so that he could send one to her, oddly in an eerie way,
she was there with him urging him to find one for herself that
more accurately depicted the history of Nongkai. Every time he
thought of going straight into Vientiane she expostulated that
it would be better to bypass the city as much as possible so
that they might spend more time in the Plain of Jars. She was
the plausible what might have been. and as he could not give to
reality he would give to the hollow mirages that replicated
therein. This, if not the entirety of the neediness called love,
epitomized the good that was there.

He continued to think: ...and with solidity breaking into
smaller and smaller pieces like bits and sub-bits of glaciers
and then rearranging, the conclusiveness of conclusions
controverted, and impermanence rife in all, was it not natural
to need someone--even that he should be here--

"So, what is it?"

"Huh?"

"Yes or no?"

"Yes or no what? Am I happy? Is that what you asked?"

"Yes."

"Don't worry. I'm okay," responded Nawin indifferently.

"You didn't enjoy it?" asked the stranger. His voice was groggy
in partial sleep.

"I guess I did," admitted Nawin "--as much as one can in that
position. It was different."

"Different good, or different bad?"

"Different. I don't know. Why do you ask?" There was silence in
which both men did not know what to say, and in it Nawin
reproached himself for making the situation more awkward than it
had to be, and then reproached himself for finding anything
awkward in it at all. As though it were justified to be cautious
upon finishing intimacies with a stranger he did not approve of
or to be apathetic with an undertone of supercilious, sneering
antipathy, any more than to partake of the carnal episode
itself. Still he could not conceptualize anything innately wrong
in activity with another man. Beings were attracted elements,
compounds that enjoyed times of coupling as double compound
entities; and cathartic releases of physical desire toward one
or the other gender, like medicine to illness, restored one
toward a more logical inquiry of thought. But, he told himself,
he had gained no such release. His paramour had him spellbound
and made him no more than a galley slave rowing the master's
carnal euphoria. Perhaps, he thought, moral dilemmas were not on
moral grounds at all. Perhaps they could be reduced to such
basic factors as sexual frustration. He forced himself to
reciprocate a feigned interest in enjoyment although he was not
able to extricate himself from the phlegmatic tone that spewed
from his mouth bearing his thoughts. "What about you?" he asked.

"I love you. Do you love me too?" Nawin looked away and did not
say anything. Whether this question was an artifice contrived
for monetary gain or a real neediness he did not know. It did
occur to him that having this man really interested in him (a
suitor of sorts) might be more disadvantageous for him
economically than a brief tryst--not that the prodigal son
needed to retrench his life with fewer mistresses and zero
misters, and he was still contemplating the addition of a nurse
at Siriaj Hospital to his intimate menagerie. Worse, he thought,
if the neediness of this other party was one of emotional rather
than financial deficiencies, he himself, a married man, might be
dogged if not stalked by this undesirable, desired being, this
being who might desperately need to register himself into a
companion's brain. What was worse than to be with someone who
needed to be needed, who needed another person to be wistful and
yearn for him, and who needed to etch himself personally and as
indelibly as one could onto the adventitious, impermanent putty
of the human mind? It was not easy to be compassionate and
extract oneself from such parasites. He could not believe
anything that was linked to such an amorphous word as love,
which only had one consistent thread within it and that was
what all love was, a neediness within projected onto that which
was without.

"Are you in pain? Did I tear you up?"

"Did you what? Did you tear me up?...Well...since you ask
sitting is a bit painful but as much as I can tell, I guess that
I am not torn up, as you call it. By the way, I am not used to
this sort of thing and...to tell the truth...it is rather
embarrassing to say this...with the action and all I think...I
think I soiled the bed sheet."

"Soiled?"

"Soiled. What other word do you want me to use?"

The paramour laughed mildly. At first Nawin appreciated that the
dry laughter was so terse and restrained. Then the fact that he
had laughed at all seemed as inordinate insolence. "Maybe you
should get up and I'll remove the sheet," he said irascibly.

"No, I'm going back to sleep. If it didn't bother me the first
time I can sleep on it again. Leave it for the maids. It makes
something new in their days."

"You're going to go back to sleep?"

"Soon. I did you long and hard but if there's no blood you
aren't torn up."

"Okay, good; now can we talk about something else?"

"If you want. What were you staring at when I woke up?"

"I don't know--a post card I didn't finish writing; the
telephone; a gecko crawling above the bed stand; the corners of
the room which are filthy--the room must be infested with
insects." Nawin smiled abashedly, chuckled, and then stared
directly into the face of the paramour with a baffled
expression. "You keep grinning. Why?"

"I'm happy."

"Happy?"

"The happiest. The happiest I've ever been."

"Well, good for you...I mean if you were happy before you've got
more of it. If you weren't I guess you have less of
it...unhappiness that is, negated negatives."

The paramour laughed. "You're a comedian. I love that; I love
you," he said as his fingers slid into the elastic of Nawin's
underwear. Nawin laughed incredulously careful not to release a
cynical laugh out of fear that, although unlikely, the paramour
could possibly mean that which he said.

"Don't you think it is a bit early to feel that way. It's
certainly too early in the morning to say a lot of nothing."

"It's not nothing," he said, snapping the elastic--he himself
wearing nothing but his grin. "No, that's not how I think. You
just have to do things. If there is a good feeling ride it
fully, you just have to throw yourself into it and live it. If
you stand back and pick things apart because you don't know 100
percent you might as well be dead because what you're living
isn't life."

"Is that so?" Nawin said. It was cogent enough to him who would
have had the need and thus the gullibility to believe such
things were it not for the countenance, the melodramatic tone of
he who promulgated this holy maxim, and the circumstances that
went contrary to the putative sentiments.


24

Sensing that a bit of enlightenment could accompany a binge of
debauchery and provide him with not only wind but ablution into
the cellar of his musty mind, he was given a reason for
intimacy, not that this reason or any other would have to
prevail in creatures so prone to irrational caprices as he now
concluded that he was. So a man would seek less alien
companionship with another man after a girlfriend had jumped
from the eleventh story of a university building and a wife who
had subsequently broken his arm with an iron frying pan now kept
him locked out of their home--this attributing of men as less
illogical and more steady presences, rightly or wrongly, and
identifying solely with them was reasonable enough; but to
succumb spellbound to the brevity of frenzy, knowing well such
intimacies to be spectacles as brief and garish as the puffs of
aerosol he and a college roommate used to spray and light so
that they might experience an inferno of the air, to know and
yet to do it nonetheless, was inane.

Now seated and stationary on this bed in this room and in this
mind, groping for contours of objects in dark and curtailed
space among antithetical thoughts and caprices, putative reality
seemed nothing but the most tangible of the intangibles. As a
result he became even more reticent, pondering what the right
combinations were to live life fully: inward versus outward
explorations; feeling versus logic; work versus leisure; silent
reverie versus boisterous revelry; digressions into the future
and the past; savoring the present moment as in lying on a bench
at Wat Arun watching clouds overhead, sensing the breath enter
and leave his frame, and feeling a sense of awe that he was even
cognizant of all this; conversely, doing and having agenda and
purpose about the affairs of man, interaction which allowed one
to avoid the intrusiveness of too many unwanted, distracting
thoughts, all of which confirmed his inconsequence even in the
here and now. There had to be a harmony of these incongruous
elements but he did not know how or to what degree.

"And I suppose you will always be there for me," Nawin asked
with a sardonic smile on his face. He now wanted levity and the
substance of sound, even his own, to dispel, or at least
obfuscate the longevity that was in each and every minute to
distract him from the realization of the hours until sunrise,
and to preoccupy him during the time, still unknown, until
departure of this intimate stranger.

He, the womanizer he once was, reproached himself for being here
with this man in a chagrin of manhood, a mortification and yet a
mortification of what he could not say. Perhaps there was no
reason for mortification at all, he countered in a retort of
thought. Perhaps this was a cleansing and a freeing of himself
from a false sense of what manhood should be. Still, he had all
these explosions of intimacy in the knowledge he would feel this
vacuity afterwards, and that upon feeling it any moment could
make him a perpetrator of indifference who rudely discarded this
delusion rather than built a multi-story make-believe castle
upon it; intimacy bedazzled him for a time before his return to
a more subdued and substantive state; this time in an effeminate
role of mute intercourse not to his liking but which he needed
nonetheless; exacerbated sexual tension abated but not entirely
extinguished in post-sexual melancholy. To know such matters and
yet to interact this way regardless like any biologically
programmed automaton thwarted by early childhood experience was
an inane life.

So he concluded and re-concluded, with his thoughts becoming
increasingly redundant, twisted, and plaited. To gain some
solace and respite he hummed the melody of Beethoven's Ninth
Symphony. Thinking as he did so that the whirlwind he would
create by repeating it thrice therein should clear away all
dross he instead found that the debris remained even as it
dragged circuitously although less tediously in music.

"And I know that you will always be there for me," Nawin
remembered himself saying facetiously. It occurred to him that
this lover, this sprawled figure so near to him, was like a dog
he had seen recently near Gaysorn Department Store lying on its
back at the base of a Brahma statue, its genitalia an oblation
to that deity. At that time, while he was chuckling at a deity
aptly profaned and pondering how our pantheistic awe of nature
had been overtaken by these artificial weeds of dogma, false
stories and tradition, as with the alleged bones of the Buddha
that were enshrined in a temple near the Silpakorn University
branch in Nakhon Pathom, he was re-entering Gaysorn intent on
purchasing a 38,000 baht watch so as to have it shine opulently
upon his handsome albeit dark dirt-brown skin.

Shopping was only adjunct to the instinct that prompted the
switching on of one's breath. Of course he would do it naturally
for man's energy was not to be self-contained, but instead was
continually changing in changeable containers, and in desperate
moments he would barter what he had for intimacy--barter with
what he had. And if he knew not what he hoped to gain from a
spiritual journey already thwarted in activity similar to the
perversity of his youth, all he needed to do was to look at the
obvious. From it, there could be no other interpretation but
that he wanted to be taken back to a feeling of ravaged youth
when he had perverse hopes that the physical penetration would
stop while at the same time he would be recognized as
permanently married to his brother. Being taken back home to a
foundation of dilapidated innocence, but an ingenuous foundation
nonetheless, he sought a return to himself that was the ends and
not the means.

In this guest house in the city of Nongkhai, this was what he
had to have, and it was now his. Whether he would have to pay
for it with money or time remained to be seen. It seemed to him
that there were just these two payments, each a type of direct
or indirect pleasure. If the stranger asked for money, then it
would be proof that a contract of brief employment had taken
place in which he was hiring him not to be his master but a
slave. If this were true, the nature of the relationship would
be unambiguous enough: it would be that of hiring someone to do
a bit of drudgery which they would not want to do or would not
think pleasurable enough to do if the pecuniary rewards were not
there,  and after receiving the sum, departing from his life
like a pizza delivery boy. This, Nawin thought, would be best
for his own purposes. However, if no money was transferred he
might be thought of by this one as a female surrogate who by one
intimacy made an implied contract of continual intimacies as the
sole favored supplier of pleasure.

The intimate stranger looked irritated. Then he smiled bitterly.
"Sure, something like that. I like being kind to the elderly."
It was a delayed response to Nawin's flippant comment of "I'm
sure you will always be there for me."

"Elderly?"

"Khrap" he said with a wai. "Can you tell me your age. I mean
how old are you honestly?"

"Thirty something." Honesty did not always come out despite
being summoned.

"Elderly, as I said. How old do you think I am?"

"I'd hate to know."

"Seventeen."

"Seventeen, really? Hmm." He pursed his lips thoughtfully.
"Single, and barefoot free. I am married, you know."

"Married? Well, married men have to get it too."

"I suppose so." Nawin sniggered mutedly while feeling both
amusement and aversion at being in this guest house and in this
company, this effeminate role to which he found himself in, and
of becoming so old despite feeling youthful physically even with
all this distorted emotional stretching over the past month. He
sensed that the stranger knew that he was trying to sabotage the
possibility of their intimacy becoming a relationship and he
felt compunction over it. Still, to sabotage and extricate
himself from debauchery thick, viscous, and onerous to his
spiritual pursuit (although he did not believe in the spirit)
seemed the wisest course of action, and so he could hardly
disabuse himself of such an idea.


25

At first the word "elderly" seemed, if not ludicrous,
exaggerated and distorted, an irascible utterance of the
intimate stranger that a playmate twice his age would not be a
more gullible victim of scheme and schemer. But then he
questioned his judgment on this matter as well for as he could
not think of anything that he knew absolutely, how could he
trust his own conjecture about one whom he was not familiar with
beyond some scant words and vacuous physical intimacies and had
no intention to try to know by speech or the intercourse of
minds, beyond that which was thrust upon him? Considering the
fact that every morning when a man slipped on his pants, usually
after one sordid nocturnal adventure or another, he also put on
a belief that he really did exist and was himself and not
someone else (in his case that which he called Nawin, this free
and thus debauched libertine-artist, not that he was so hard-
pressed for entertainment that this issue of absolute knowledge
that he existed, this epistemological speculation more
comfortably set in humor than horror and resembling a confounded
baby playing with his fingers, should be much of a subject of
speculation) he then thought how little he knew with absolute
certainty and how frightening this really was. He smiled at his
friend with that strange, contemplative longing that introverts
projected to belie their disdain for the outside world,
withdrew, and looked away.

Then that which was thought to be mendacious and absurd seemed
to be true in the perennial mutating, albeit perhaps, in terms
of truth, non-evolving thoughts of the mind. Even if the
exaggerations of the youth were noted and culled from memory and
perception one truth would be irrefutable: Nawin was undoubtedly
forty which made him marginally but undeniably a middle aged
man; and if not old now he soon would be, just as he already was
within the perception of his definition of youth. Loss of what
he once was, just as loss of who he once was when with others
who once were, was the inexorable forward movement of it all,
toward what aim no intellect could even begin to guess and to
which, apart from death, he knew of no escape. Nine seemed an
insurmountable age to one who was five, and of a forty year old
boy an inordinate amount of humanity would think of as near the
precipice of old age and death; but, he told himself, he did not
live by others perception of him, or if he did, he did
unwittingly and it was as ineluctable as day meets night, there
was surely solace to be found in not having one strand of grey
hair on his head or elsewhere and in being without a single
wrinkle. In the judgment of the mirror skewed by that which he
wanted to see there was a collaborative work of biographical
fiction not so far from reality and given credibility from the
obvious fact of feeling physically no different than he ever
had. According to this collaborative fiction, little had changed
over the past twenty years except the increasing amount of
people who came and went from his life so vertiginously.

Body conceived and mounted on the barren rock of the planet;
mind peopled like speckled icing on a rich boy's birthday cake
so as to have meaning; meaning that was stripped and denuded in
change; and for all his consternation in this dizzy state it did
nothing to redeem or resurrect them to his life once again. All
came and went leaving only diminished, diminutive copies of
themselves clustered there in the brain as furtive shadows
digressing the reality of the present into that which once was.
And even if Kimberly were to de-decompose with cremated remains
reassembling to allow her to rise from the dead with all
continuing as before there would be the knowledge that she had
chosen death to separate herself from him ineluctably, and this
alone would thwart what they had into perfunctory roles of
financial provider and taker. How she could jump like that as if
he had never been there for her or any of his entourage of
women, he did not know. He may have wanted to be thought of as a
nonchalant playboy to the outside world, as newspaper articles
smudged him as being, but if one were to examine the portraits
of those women whom he both played and portrayed it would be
clear that solemn grey empathy, the only real love there was,
sullied the reds and oranges of his passions into the pain of
empathy--not that with each day of adulthood he did not find
bits of his sensitivity chafed and weathered away in time like
an image of a face sculpted in a mountain.

Despite both women having concocted the plan and being
signatories to this document agreeing to surrogate motherhood,
he was an adulterer according to both, not so much for the other
women that he had been with, but by being the natural father and
husband of one and the legal husband of the other. Thus they
provided him with evidence that "adultery" was just a perception
like everything else and from it that a homosexual encounter
was, as his brother had called their activity together, cheap
dates more aligned to sport. Relationships of this nature were
not acts of adultery any more than masturbation in the shower
was adultery with water. At least, he told himself so to feel
less guilty and the words were a successful analgesic. And as
for Kimberly and his wife whom he as philanderer nonetheless had
many years of shared friendship, how could he be domesticated
and exclusive to either one when exploration of the study of the
sadness and rapture of human existence still beckoned him? These
were tenable arguments that passed successfully through the
scrutiny of his mind permeating all regions and though he had
not isolated it completely his beliefs were: 1. that he was born
the sole owner of his penis and twenty years after his birth,
when he signed a marriage certificate that was deliberately
spilled ink on paper meant, as strange as it was that spilled
ink meant anything, to show enduring friendship toward Noppawan
and a wish to have a shared life together, he had not sold his
anatomy to her; 2. that conversation with a female friend at a
coffee shop (in the past this usually being a student or
colleague at Silpakorn University on those rare semesters when
he was not on a sabbatical) could be much more intimate than
half hours of ecstasy which were not intimacy but a delusion of
intimacy in which, when innate hungers were subdued, the man
would at least in thought return to his wife and then the
following day be able to pursue real intimacy with her; 3. that
sex was exercise and just as he did not need permission from his
wife to exercise at a fitness center he could think of no reason
he would need permission to exercise his penis and be exorcized
of his primitive hungers that would take over his higher
thoughts and agenda if not released; 4. that a man was
programmed to, as the Bible declared, "be fruitful and multiply"
and so one could not oppose his basic biological urges; 5. as it
would take so much energy to restrain instinct, this coerced
restraint was a wasted resource that might be used more
constructively, and 6. that the only reason a woman got angry at
a man for his nocturnal adventures was because in antediluvian
times a woman was scared that she would lose her hunter, for
clearly back then women were not physically capable of hunting,
nor were they able to even gather fruit from trees or berries
from vines if they had to take care of their babies, and thus
they became angry and jealous of a man's other sexual encounters
because they were threats of losing their economic provider.
Humans in these 30,000 years did not change so if it was true in
earlier times, it would have to be true now no matter what
memory-bugaboos of the past spooked him to cling to another by a
more common and domesticated lifestyle--bugaboos that made him
now see outlines of ominous forms in the corners of both the
room of the guest house and in its amorphous darkness.

He might question whether the mirrored image of himself that he
saw daily was real or refracted light made into a roseate image
of the mind, but at the very least his face, unlike many middle
aged men he knew, did not look like a squished shammy that he
used to burnish the shine of his Mercedes Benz GL sports utility
vehicle, that same vehicle which he had abandoned in the drive a
few weeks ago for that emergency taxi ride to the hospital.

He thought of how he had importuned her, this stoic wife of his,
to drive him to the hospital, of her obdurate refusals even when
she had been the perpetrator of his broken arm and spintered
clavical, and how it was from guilt his silent recriminations
had mutated to hate in that taxi ride to Siriaj Hospital, that
hospital that in youth they had gone to be with the abused dead
of the anatomical museum.

Then he tried to channel his thoughts from hate filled
digressions to how in the vicissitudes of life among so many
shammy faced people a face like his maintained a fairly stable
look. He smiled, amused by himself and the peculiarity of being
here within this sordid black adventure in a guest house in
Nongkhai. Then he sank himself in the depths of sullen night and
sullied denouement.

He wanted to sleep off whatever time lapsed until the stranger
left. His wallet was in a drawer of a night table near his side
of the bed. He was a light sleeper when circumstances dictated,
so any noise would awaken him unless it were that accompanying a
fatal blow, but this was not America. The opulence of Bangkok
might entice poor school girls in uniform to become whores of
old Chinese-Thais and straight men to be serpentine prostitutes,
but few were the Buddhists who would kill their servants of
their pleasures. Still, even with the probability of being snug
and secure in his den of decadence, the croaking of those
incessant frogs outside ensured that no sleep was possible for a
city dweller who deemed traffic to be a purr when hearing the
harangue of the jungles.

At one moment, he wanted the creaking ceiling fan that was
turning incessantly to peel with the plaster so that the
metallic arms might fall and embrace them both mincing them and
this scene into pulp. At another moment, however, he thought
about how good it was to be here with the distraction of another
being on such a day as Father's Day, a day that diced people
like him in the wistful sentiment of early family. That family
had never been more than bits of stinking scraps of sweetness
tossed out to his scoffed, kicked, and abused existence; but
starved, emaciated dog that he at that time was, he had been
given enough that was kind to keep the hateful experiences of
childhood embedded in his head while reminding him that he was
born one of a countless litter of dogs trashing the sidewalks of
time. Dysfunctional families might be more prevalent in Thailand
than most people believed but their members could ignore this
fact unless they belonged to extreme cases, and under the "good
deeds beget good deeds" philosophy of the Buddhists a wretch
like him must have done something monstrous indeed to know
nothing but the breaking of family. With virtually everyone
paying homage to fathers and all genuflecting to majesty there
was such loneliness for members of extreme cases on such a day.

Telling himself that he should not treat the intimate stranger
with indifference, he half-slapped, half-clasped, the foot of
his companion as though shaking hands with him. It was a gesture
no less awkward than any of his other tepid nonsexual attempts
to relate to him and came from a nervousness at parting from his
masculine ways and returning to effeminate ones, and from
thrusting his will to allowing himself to be a pawn to the will
of another. Then he returned to the freedom of darkness and
silence.

If by this encounter he profaned his wife, if she were still
anything other than proscribed by legal document alone, so be
it. If his actions were adulterous, it seemed to him that, as
they were undertaken in sport, they were mildly so (his brain,
being a large circular mass had thoughts that went around in
circuitous orbits as if nothing were ever resolved) and thus his
private parts were not to be circumscribed to pacify the jealous
instincts of women who long ago in antediluvian pre-history
feared the loss of a provider. If ethical, he told himself, a
man should be mildly self-restrained allowing some movement of
the libertine, without allowing all actions and thought to
degenerate to appetite alone. This was logical restraint.


26

To be male: to have this perennial sexual appetite and its
feasting for pleasure, dominance, and self-preservation; and the
release of such the surfeit of tension through the explosion of
liquid shrapnel; a discharge all the stronger and more accurate
for the apparatus not having been used for some time; potent and
inimical fertilizing springs like long suppressed geysers shot
out potential life through nature's hand and bidding but as such
arsenal all the same; live weaponry shot from a missile launcher
that could not be said to be possessed or manipulated by any
other force than that of the given man himself, a being who with
enough experimentation was eventually cognizant of sexual
relations as an illusion of intimacy and yet was pressured
beyond restraint nonetheless by urges and promptings of appetite
and titillation and for personal sensation that might awaken a
sense that he could be more than the tedium of whatever
redundant tasks he was assigned as work that provided him with
sustenance, or free of monetary bondage altogether, to break
from the vacuity of his shell (earlier, both of them had stepped
into the room only to sit down on edges of the bed in an awkward
state where words were nascent, catatonic wisps of air,
stillborn fetuses of pneumatic thought, decomposing on lips; and
at this time, before a removal of articles of clothing in which
all was removed except the fear of the unknown euphemized as
moral conscience, he would have been disingenuous had he told
him to leave... now, however even with not having had any sexual
satisfaction of his own from this encounter he could tell him to
go and mean it as with him gone he would be free to go himself
and how difficult could it be just to state what was really in
the foremost part of one's mind, to unfold and spread out one's
will upon the second of its mental conception as one would in
deliberately casting his reflection onto waters and with the
sincerity and tackless artlessness of a child?... and if this
potential utterance of candor were done, articulate albeit
lacking an adult's sophistication for subtle and separate,
antithetical layers of that which was said, logically meant, and
yearned for, this triple entendre of politeness and deceit, he
would find it liberating to be such a simpleton but he was
unable to say that which he meant so all that he could do was to
lie and prevaricate...he could attest that as it was Father's Day
he needed to leave and see his own family (who would believe
that someone of forty would not have one), that shortly there
would be a reunion in which he and his wife would surprise his
father, (dead as he was) by showing him their infant grandson...
but then for such words to be plausible, he would have to be
here in Nongkhai with a wife instead of as a single, solitary
traveler; he would have to be in a more domestic setting than a
guest house for foreigners and their whores; and in a coupling
other than wet, fetid nakedness with another male...to be
hypocritical enough to even say such a thing, how could he be
thought of as anything but a middle aged man who did not know
whether to fire or be fired upon, or if an experience was to be
enjoyed or feared, a child ignorant and uncomfortable in self
and the world at large, which, questioning everything as he did,
he supposed that in actuality he was); attractions made all the
more so by the magnetic pull of some vague feeling that was a
composite of odors, sights, voices, attention, and interaction
which seemed to emit and reek of the diminished, mostly
forgotten blur of early family; to be so possessed by that which
was long ago that it should be the conduit and thrust of
succulent sexual truculence, and yet not know the specific
memories that were behind it all.

In this present circumstance of not only failing to satisfy
himself but existing as an obsequious and passive body there to
be manipulated by another what he had done, this effeminate role
that he had engaged in, was of this male instinct and yet a
clear aberration of it. Only months earlier he had been a
sequacious adherent of it as an incorrigible womanizer, and yet
now his actions were more impotent than a misfiring and his
manhood was debunked by being sodomized.

Still, by becoming something less than a man did it not allow
him to reemerge as a human being? Such was to be hoped for when
witnessing that the limited self in art and in life could not
change the world for the better and that, in the race to make a
success of himself before his short time on the planet expired
(money and fame sought and pursued relentlessly after a youth
debased in poverty and abuse), his sensitivities hardened so
that now he could bypass a beggar on an overpass without giving
a baht or feeling much more than an instant of empathy or
compunction.

It was his hope with this sojourn to the sister cities of
Nongkai and Vientiane to resurrect himself. He thought about how
different he was from the boy who would extricate trapped
insects from a window sill. He was losing bits of his humanity
all the time with every assertive darting walk through the
crowded sidewalks of Bangkok.

In certain ways it seemed that in the deviation from normal
instinctual male drives he was becoming free of pretensions of
being anything more masculine than a mere man, a vulnerable,
needy creature who often articulated a wish for an extension of
manhood and an introvert's desperate need for at least a minimal
physical connection to fellow man, although in his case now it
was an encounter with a male who looked like his brother, Kazem
at 18 when he was 14. Just as that which was past was
ineluctable memory and stored in him still, and this storage of
the replicas to the incidents of his life could never be made
right as it was all distant and unalterable and as feral as
brothers running along the banks and sand bars of the Chao
Phraya River, he would always be under impulses to avoid the
painful past by clogging his mind in amusements or urgencies of
interaction with other beings. And for whatever activities he
might devise as distractions from his thoughts, fears of the
vacuous nature of existence would always be man's ineluctable
truth, and without agenda vacuous truth was his in excess.

If his thoughts were a quagmire what else would they be
especially in this room and in this uncomfortable company whom
he would not part with so easily?.. could not part, or part
assertively, as doing so would be rude not only to the stranger
but to himself as well since, like it or not, this surrogate
brother, this lover, was a distraction from being without family
on Father's Day and to some degree he needed him or he would not
have had him here.

He existed in memories as all of his experiences in the days of
his life were nothing other than past incidents; and so for
those who reproached a man for living in the past (as that
beautiful nurse at Siriaj Hospital had done after overhearing
him talk in his sleep--a woman who despite this scolding might
heal his brokenness yet were her number saved on a sheet of
paper instead of into a telephone that did not have the
possibility of being retrieved from the trash receptacle at the
train station) they at least meant well by their errant
intrusions on such bitter sweet memories. If only mandates to
turn off memory like tap water were so simple then he would not
be seeking to rehabilitate recalcitrant corpses that refused to
decompose.

Here confined to this room as long as the intimate stranger
remained on the bed, there was at least thick textured darkness
and silence that for him provided an inscrutable sense of
comfort, a vast open sky and sea where a solitary man could find
some liberty in his ruminations like a child enamored by the
flexible manipulations of his body while at the same time
obscuring how constricted he was within both the room and the
company. Thus it was the only blanket that he had. Still he knew
that he could not stay despondent forever and judged that it was
time to once again speak. He asked, "What is your name again?"

"Boi."

"Boi?"

"It's a nickname."

"Yes, of course it's a nickname. It's just that when I was
coming here I met someone on the train who was also calling
himself that. I guess it is often used around here."

"Maybe."

"You're from here?"

"Where else would I be from?"

"Couldn't you be from somewhere else?" Nawin chuckled more
warmly than a snicker but what came out was still a fusion of
both.

"Poor people don't change to better locations. They remain
trapped where they are. What is Bangkok like?"

"You've never seen it?"

"No except clips from television news."

"Polluted, congested, opulent and slummy; a mess [thinking but
not saying, "all making it rife for nights not unlike this one"]
but mess with promise."

"You don't like it there?"

"It has its moments. You surely know someone besides me who
lives there."

"Why would I?"

"Okay, why would you?"

"What do you do there?"

"Nothing really...live, be."

"You dress fancy, live in a city and you don't do anything."

"Hard to explain, but essentially that's right."

"You a rich businessman?"

"Artist."

"Artist?"

Nawin laughed and gesticulated an artist drawing something.

"From a background of rich businessmen. Noodle workers. Dirt
poverty. But if you work hard, have talents, use them
commercially and invest wisely Bangok or any other large city
can liberate a man." He resented even having to divulge this and
kept asking himself why the man did not leave and why when the
communication of bodies, the illusion of intimacy, had passed,
he and this man or any two people were compelled to forage for
scraps of words to assemble a bridge of ideas that would link
them, two distant and alien islands. Words merely verified the
fact that their intimacy was a mirage.

The activity had ceased, the pleasure had been brought to him
and had been his alone. All that there now was, was anti-
climactic small talk. He told himself that a good guest would
show his gratitude by getting dressed quickly and making a swift
departure so as to not inconvenience Him. He told himself that
all he needed to release from his lips were two basic words:
please go.

He thought of the pejorative word, 'elderly,' that the intimate
stranger had used against him and resented his presence even
more. As bantering as the intent of this word might have been it
seemed particularly offensive on a day after his own birthday
and a Father's Day at that. True, he was much older than the
teenager (he glanced at the face; it was a perfect fusion of boy
and man; smoking its cigarette and creating a synthetic fog of
smoke onto his life). Only by contrast to the other one's youth
would he think of himself as old and then he was not merely old
but old as the hills and with so many memories to be excavated
therein. It was merely feeling and perception and it meant
nothing. It was a mere feeling like all feelings, mirages
really. Even family could seem for a time like "solid ground"
until one witnessed it become a series of vapors. It was he who
had chosen to be with someone so young so if he felt old to be
near him. It was a problem of his own making and he told himself
that he could not blame anyone other than himself for the boy
had not materialized in this dark room on his own.

And of this being used for his sperm and disposed of, he had
unwittingly bastardized his own offspring unto the world, one
more illusionary human form, a piece of himself, which he might
never see again. But as Buddhists say the world is an
impermanent place.

After Kimberly's suicide, and the loss of "stable" human
presences he judged that being reminded of his age was
particularly impudent and ruthless. At worst, he was middle aged
and even that should never have occurred nor should it ever
occur to anyone of such a youthful profession. A person like
him, a womanizer and painter of uniformed school girl
prostitutes and pathetic tramps, an artist with conscience about
the exploitation of those he was exploiting, should stay young
forever. How flawed nature was in this and every other respect.

"Still you can't exactly be rich, I guess, to stay in places
like this."

"I suppose not," he said while thinking a contrary idea
altogether. One could, for behind fenced areas of expensive
Malaysian beach resorts, on lounge chairs of grassy acreage, in
the shade of palm trees, there with waiters beckoning him with
cocktails, parachute rides at various intervals in the day from
fast moving boats as exhilarating as being born, luxurious rooms
and ensuing business class flights back home with champagne on
his tray, he, the retired artist, had tried affluent ways before
and they were all stale to him. A guest house or even a night
under the stars with the base of a stupa as his pillow would be
preferable.

"Maybe you just like guest houses in foreign areas or
something." Nawin did not say anything so the youth continued.
"If you are trying to hook up with a foreigner why did you
choose me?"

"Why you? I don't know--to see what it would be like not that I
care to...what did you say?.. hook up with someone?"

"Yes."

"Well, I don't. Besides, it is really best to give oneself to a
discipline of study, the sciences or the arts, which will always
be there--smart men give themselves to knowledge at least in
some small way--building stability around ideas instead of
changing people. People can just twirl around their feet like
empty bags blowing in the breeze, amusing for some minutes,
gone, and forgotten."

"So, for you I am an empty bag blowing in the breeze?" the boy
asked and laughed. Nawin did not say anything and then they fell
into silence as thick as the lifeless darkness which governed
them.

"Someday I'll go there."

"Huh?"

"To Bangkok."

"Then go," said Nawin indifferently. He was meaning more the boy
exiting to his home than a departure from Nongkhai that could
link the youth to him as inextricably as blood sucking ticks or
bacteria and the ensuing infection gained from a water monitor's
mouth (these crocodilian reptiles, frequent inhabitants at the
Nakhon Pathom campus at Silpakorn University).

"Who would I stay with. I don't know anyone there except you."

"Do you live with your parents?"

"Yeah."

"What do they do?"

"Mother's a nurse, father's paralyzed. The story goes that
soldier's thought he was one of a group of drug smugglers coming
across the boarder and shot. He's been that way since I was
young."

"You don't like it--staying with them?"

"Working part time at the Seven [Thai for 7-11] and then taking
care of him so that she can go to work? Hardly."

"You won't stay there forever. Everything passes." He was half
thinking about the strawberry and jasmine garden at his mother
and father's home that he loved so much in his boyhood, of
hawking jasmine rosaries in streets within stalled traffic and
strawberry drinks in transparent plastic cups from sidewalks. He
was thinking of the words mother and home that a child thinks of
as permanent as the sun.


27

Despite, if not because of, the wind and rain and this room
being on the third floor of the guest house, he could
nonetheless hear, he supposed, the growls, vicious howling, and
snarling with hissing rolls of saliva (perhaps imagined; after
all, his aim had initially been to drive to the sea, to see and
hear the harmonic continuum of wave upon wave slamming its froth
against the shore, and yet it had been an aim that could not be
achieved with one arm in both cast and sling nor even
facilitated via train or bus to Phuket, Pattaya, or Cha-am with
all tickets sold out for the holiday) of two dogs in the parking
lot: noise that they directed at each other or perhaps really
toward darkness itself. Novel and urgent utterances to them, it
was part of myriad redundant and inconsequential skirmishes in
the existence of canines that would continue perennially to the
specie's extinction. Malnourished strays with furless spots that
they probably were, they, for being in ineluctable misery and
unable to understand the fates that they were subjected to,
could merely rail against shadowy form and the paucity of
distinguishable matter in darkness and project their antipathy
against members of their kind that were most vulnerable to the
insulting tones of their wordless vitriol, soft targets from
which to measure having an impact of their latent screams. These
other animals were microcosms that were composed of the same
appetites and temperaments as man whose larger but negligible
intelligence was scarcely able to break the force of most waves
that inundated the tenuous levee of rationality which was
supposed to deliver one from innate, instinctual chaos.

The paramour blew his clouds of smoke into the darkness like
mist floating above a noxious lake and this lethal haze hid the
nocturnal snake that was attached to his form, making obscure
all that Nawin had been able to see in the darkness. And yet if
nothing really existed more than mere supposition that it was
so, surely emotions should not even be accredited with the
supposition of reality. If he had more will, he told himself, it
would not seem so disconcerting that he, injured and aloof in
tragedy, had chosen this ersatz of taking a man over a woman to
this particular venue. Was it really an ersatz at all? In terms
of intimacy and reproduction, it was; and yet in terms of this
bit of wrestling, this sport, it was pleasure and pain that was
distinct from all others to which he might as well ride or be
ridden and learn to enjoy its inconsequential levity the way one
preferred male rivals in matches without scrutinizing whether or
not it was fair to exclude women from such sport. It was
pleasure and pain which made him feel more alive in his
numbness.

And if from this manhood he was so easily toppled so be it. Who
was to say that such a tenuous, artificial structure of shoddy
construction was worthy of being had if it continually needed to
be propped up with extra 2x4s of heterosexual experiences as
reinforcement, and that one would not become more of a human
being to be less of a man? This, he told himself, this was
merely a borrowing of youth and beauty to compensate for the
years of a slight diminishing of both, and this wearing it for a
time, was not homosexual overall, any more than, from time to
time, wearing a costume in bed to accentuate an aspect of the
self heretofore surreptitious was complete madness (how august
he was in the pointed crown; how apposite it was by the catalyst
of obdurate orbs of arrogance and a slight pushing of a given
woman's head downward that she should fall to his feet before
subtly raising from the kow-towing gesture to become his subject
in an osculating worship of his body).

Then there was the sudden screeching of one of those animals in
pain; and although its movements were neither seen nor heard,
from its receding and diminishing cries, its scampering could be
perceived through the imaginative compensations of the mind
which concocted the plausible the best that it could when
lacking sensory indicators to address the uncertainties of
reality by prompting understanding and action, if not
verisimilitude, that had a higher probability of being right. On
the bed he was experiencing a slight bout of melancholy as
though reproaching himself for his infidelity, not that his
adulterous adventures had bothered him all that much in times
past. And while recognizing the absurdity of a belated attempt
to be circumspect now when this untoward, alien exchange had
come and gone with whatever fodder and fuel had been essential
in the incendiary night he still felt a wariness that dark
instinctual craving should pull him toward an insidious
happening. In ways it was to him as though this sexual encounter
had not yet occurred and were it to happen would be of
importance to the world at large, so he inanely felt, concerning
an interaction that had already taken place.

He listened but did not hear anything outside but the occasional
howling of traffic and wind. He concluded that this particular
union in another species of animal had been cleft into fractious
bits. To him it was another reminder of the passing away of
life's myriad social interactions and the respective parties so
engaged. Salient and engrossing society of the moment would
always be replaced with the eternal purity of silence were it
not for the desperate need to seek meaning and ascribe
significance to the interactions of man. When existing on a cold
planet in the grandeur of the black but light-speckled universe
with its surfeit of random stars and a plethora of void, what
could humans do but cling to each other for warmth and
attribute, meaning and merit in this desperate coagulation? Thus
there was the noise of clanging men, boisterous merry making,
and adhesion of like to like not that he, an artist, or he, a
man in grief, saw himself cognate with anyone or anything.

For a loner, interruptions of the human mind, noisy as it was,
were less of harangue than all the interaction exuded in doing a
job and fulfilling one's minor role in society (in his case that
of a prurient artist or an artist of prurience and when not on
sabbatical, an overburdened Silpakorn University art survey
lecturer at that, roles which had surely been replaced by
younger and less effete male artists than himself) were only
bearable in short durations. As the shallow and gregarious
needed a similar extension of themselves and could only stay
inward briefly, so rich inward men and they who were plagued by
grief could only make outward connections briefly especially
when needing to be left alone to pick up the pieces of their
lives. But he too was a being of his species and needed humans
especially now. So he thought, for the man who had leisure and
money to experience it all including the sense of ennui that was
its corollary thought inordinately.

He was just thinking that despite the incessant competition for
resources and self-worth within the societies of man and dog, a
being needed to interact with its kind more than just for the
snippets of time that were the totality of his particular
interactions. How strange, he thought, that in tragic loss of
significant others and an inveterate routine of pleasant
association that such a person needed to interact more and yet
interacted less. He told himself that after he completed his
spiritual retreat (a retreat that would begin once the
licentious one had ended) he would work part-time as it was
dangerous not to do so with the identity, purpose, and sanity of
man as tenuous as it was; that his actions here had no moral
value, positive or negative, beyond any which he by his own
volition, ascribed to them; and that it was no "sicker" being
engaged in this liaison than choosing to sit next to the
beautiful and thin rather than the fat and ugly on a BTS sky-
train--one reminding him of vigor and the other weakness and
infirmity. Physical intercourse when the mental bridges between
the distant islands of man had all collapsed was best alloted to
one in this imperfect world.

"If a man isn't functioning as one he shouldn't live. He
shouldn't make anyone else live that way," said the youth.

Nawin coughed. "That's not a cigarette is it?"

The young man passed it over to his senior who smoked the
cannabis, inhaling it fully. "Maybe that was what I needed too.
Shouldn't live? Isn't that a bit harsh."

"I'm bad, aren't I."

"No. I think that anyone would feel that way; and if you tell
yourself you are bad you will be finding yourself in a deeper
fog. You'll be lost in guilt wrestling with yourself. Far better
to feel hateful sometimes, appropriate times, and then refine
the feeling into thought and understanding."

"What thought?"

"I don't know. It will come. Just accept your feelings as
natural, not good but natural, and you'll see things clearer. He
passed the joint to his friend."

"One day I'll go there."

"Where?"

"Bangkok. Will you take me?"

"No," said Nawin and the two resumed their silence. To really
learn of a being instead of using one to smother the void in
amusing noise was an edifying and exhausting endeavor of pure
sadness not to be pursued by a man in grief, and he just wanted
the intimate stranger to leave.

"She is unhappy--my mother. Lives dazed in a television when she
isn't working or taking care of him" said the boy. It was
superfluous knowledge that sprayed out with his spit into the
cloud with no reaction. "I need to go," the intimate stranger
said, and the words, cold as a BTS sky-train, traveled up the
rails of his spinal cord in unexpected alarm. Reverberating
hollow, the words almost seemed to ache as they battered the
inner layers of the walls of his brain. Dogs with furless sores
littering the sidewalks now did the same to his thoughts,
deformed children begging in the streets pressed against his
mind with weighty themes of injustice as had happened in the
early days of arriving in Bangkok with his brothers, and he
could imagine fruit, meat, and noodle workers at their carts
disassembling their concocted makeshift restaurants and
returning home weary and with stiff, aching limbs. He had
yearned for these words so many times during and immediately
after the pain ridden intercourse which had been a violation he
had invited upon himself as a solitary old man might invite a
society of gangsters and thieves into his home so as to hear
human voices reminding him of family--voices other than his own.


28

The unseasonable thunder and lightning continued relentlessly.
For a few minutes the paramour's naked physique, as his own,
kept rematerializing more and more saliently before reverting
subdued into passive darkness.

"You've never been there before, Really?"

"No, just seen glimpses of it from TV news. I want to go.
Someday. Someday I will, someone will take me. Tell me what it
is like."

"Hard to say. Each has his own reaction to it I suppose. I can't
explain myself let alone ten million others. And when you live
somewhere your habits are embedded in it There is nothing
romantic or visceral: just day to day life."

"Don't you like it?"

"It has its moments, I guess."

It was a snippet of conversation copied and recopied and from it
blurred in inaccuracies. It played repeatedly like a redundant
song to a mind in or moving toward the void. It was a void
created from fear of the loss of physical contact with this
nameless intimacy whom he could barely speak with unless in
semi-imagined, quasi-remembered dialogues of the mind.

"And you don't have an opinion?"

"Well, for me it's like walking through noxious clouds of car
and bus exhausts and the more you walk through it the dirtier
you become in everything and although you know it is not good,
or know that it doesn't feel particularly good, externally, at
least, it seems real and you find yourself doing more and more
filthy acts to be in the heart of understanding life, becoming a
true libertine. And even though enlightenment is found to be
mostly endarkenment you know that you aren't pretending to live
ideals taught to you out of bias and fear but the good and bad
of what it really is, and appreciating it the best you can
despite its imperfections. You feel the pulse of life and that
from touching it, it has extended and altered you and, again,
even though it isn't what you want from yourself--not idyllic or
pure and it isn't what you really want to be--you know that you
are not cowering within, making moral judgments on what you fear
and don't understand.

Forgotten lines were filled in by imagination, the script
amended for the insertion of earlier stifled thought, and there
was true communion in place of circumspect utterances called
conversation. It is that which is good for the fecundity of an
artist's oeuvre, not nature and beauty. What else should he say:
a modern world capital with the same poverty as its surrounding
area and yet, condensed, it looks like it is more impoverished.
When you can see them, I suppose, it would seem that on every
block there are skyscrapers, malls, and dogs to the left and
temples, dogs, and ghettos to the right, sidewalk restaurants
and hawkers everywhere, but with world commerce and movement of
a lot of people...fashion with smelly socks, so to speak... it
is opulent and slummy... and if you don't harm anyone it is
morally uninhibited and free...all making it rife for nights not
unlike this one.

"Rife for nights not unlike this one? I don't know what you
mean."

"I don't either, nothing, mai pen rai."

It reeled once again across his mind at the instant of watching
the intimate stranger pick up his scattered clothes and go into
the toilet.

"Go?," he asked loudly toward the closed door. "So soon? It
won't be light for another two hours."

"Before she comes back," rejoined a somewhat muffled voice.

"Your mother?"

"My mother."

"And if you do not return right away."

"Then she'd pay for someone to take care of him until she
returns from work."

"I see. You should not let that happen."

Then there he was again: fourteen or fifteen years old, holding
hands with Noppawan in the anatomical museum. It was a day like
many of that first summer together in which, extant among
preserved, contorted bodies, the two oddities procured a brief
but diurnal retreat away from the war of family and the
indentured servitude that for him was inlaid and inextricable in
the design allotted to impoverished sons and orphans. And there
she was disappearing behind shelves of canisters containing
fetal abnormalities and bloated testicles as though sickened by
it all and yet returning to him from the toilet nonetheless with
a ring braided in strands of her hair. On his finger as material
branding in her being and then in gold her rings wedded him in
empathy and friendship which they believed would last with the
longevity of their symbolic tokens.

They had cared about each other so fully then: a strong feeling
of euphoria beat and saturated them like a hard rain and a
singular perception of the other as the extension, the
heretofore missing half of the whole, possessed them. Was it
love? He hesitated to use this word for to him it was delight in
another and, for a while, even his mother found delight in her
ambulatory dolls. Had they just given themselves over to the
curator, stepped into a joint formalin filled glass casket, and
drowned themselves there; wouldn't they have thought this
engrossing form of felicity in another as perennial as eternity?
Had they died together, neither of them would have known the
dissolution of second families or the temporary nature of all
human actions.

He returned from the bathroom fully clothed.

"Your belt is over here," Nawin said, pointing to the shelf."

"Okay," the intimate stranger said while taking it and sliding
it around his waist like the way he might a girl's arm. To go,
to leave, to not come again; could his sanity tolerate any more
ruptures and departures? Still, wasn't it this which he wanted?
It was and it wasn't.

Earlier he had thought about saying, "I'm not used to this sort
of thing. I'm married so maybe we should just be together this
one time" which might have caused him to say, "So I'm the bad
one. You brought me up here mister." And paradoxically, as much
as he feared losing him at this moment in time, he wanted to say
it now but it was impossible to say such a thing with him so
eager to go. As unperceivable as it was from his stolid,
phlegmatic expressions, his thoughts were in a panic. He told
himself that life was ever emerging stories on the skyscraper of
man in a downtown that was modernizing and changing faces; he
told himself that to feel so disconcerted by a being whose
proper name he had not even cared to learn was absurd. He said
these things to himself but he felt he was rolling toward the
precipice of disconnectedness. He told himself that as taxing as
it was in his state of mourning to converse with another being
he could have tolerated conversation and interlocutor for a time
and that had he made him feel less like an imposter, perhaps he
could have had a cherished companion from which to ride out some
delicate hours. It seemed to him that other people did not think
so much. They socialized and made friends without noticing it as
clinging to others for meaning that it was. They obeyed feelings
and socialized naturally but for him he analyzed it and such
unsavory behavior filled him with repugnance. It was far worse
than his effeminate role in this intercourse of bodies which was
pursued to gain intimacy when the intercourse of minds seemed so
futile and perilous.

"I'll need money for taxi and everything."

"A taxi shouldn't be more than a hundred baht. However I've
never seen a charge for everything."

"Well it isn't free."

"As it's everything, I wouldn't think it would be. How much?"

"Three thousand."

"You're out of your mind."

Nawin's eyes hardened against all screams of dogs and men,
hustlers who sold their youth for as long as it lasted no
different than any other marketable product, and against all
life forms floundering helplessly like fish in nets.

"Don't look at me that way. Its for my father. Of anything I
get, half will go to him and half so that I can leave. If you
have it why shouldn't you give it to me. I let you escape your
pathetic middle aged life for a while. Now you can help me."

"Well consumer beware, but it's certainly cheaper than being a
benefactor providing college education to every creature who
needs it."

"You didn't mean it."

Nawin heard him. He was silent for he did not know.

"See. And yet I am bad for needing."

"And I for having and not giving it away. Here." He pulled out
his wallet from the drawer."

"Here's five thousand, ten times the going rate and my business
card. Maybe my earlier offer lasted as long as my sympathy;
maybe this time it is done so that I won't feel insincere in my
earlier offer; maybe I will want to forget you as soon as you
leave here; who wants to pay for sex or even give large
quantities of money to a needy stranger when coerced to do so?
Still, take the card. It has my address on it. Send me a
detailed letter explaining logically where you want to study and
why it is important for me to help you and maybe I will see the
fairness in doing so. Besides it is more sincere than doing it
out of feeling sad for you."

The intimate stranger flicked the card as though he were a
primitive sensing music in the mundane but not knowing what to
do with it.

"No, I won't contact you for that but I'll keep the card" which
was short for "...because you're a good fuck and pay for it."
Nawin then read his thoughts and the intimate stranger saw that
he understood: he could set him up in Bangkok. It was the least
he could do. He understood and said nothing for the boy reminded
him of his brother and it was for this reason that he brought
him here.

Nawin pulled out a hand full of raisins from a bag, slowly
chewed each, and waited for belated exuberance and thanks until
it occurred to him a minute later that it would not be
forthcoming. "Want some," he asked but it did not garner a
response. The youth picked up his bag and left as though he had
never been, a testament to the insignificance of interaction.

As Nawin continued to eat the raisins, one at a time, it
occurred to him that the real reason eating animals was wrong
had nothing to do with maintaining the sanctity of life. The
society of dogs was to them reality, and the world in an
environment of oblique human presences. And as all creatures
were myopic with similar perceptions and concluding sentiments
their reality and world was in the social interaction of their
species. As he would not wish to be the protein fueling their
hegemony, why should it be thought that the innate value of
pigs, cows, and chickens was to be domesticated so as to be easy
viands of human consumption.

The society of man was no more real than that of dogs, he told
himself. Society was a delusion of respective animals needing a
greater external meaning for their lives; and yet, the Buddhist
introvert that he was, he yearned for the return of this human
presence until his head ached, he wished for the viand of his
phallus, and he wanted the pain of being sodomized.


29

When perceived in terms of his proclivity for avoiding social
interaction and for his loss, negligence, and failure at roles
which he had once ascribed to himself--artist, womanizer,
lecturer and that most ephemeral role of paternal ersatz who
sometimes changed diapers so Noppawan could sleep--he, a god
was relegated to an irrelevance equivalent to nothing. He knew
this for it could not be otherwise with the world valuing action
as much as it did, action which apposite, was too finite and
inadequate a means for appraising an individual of his scope.
And their interaction, he thought to himself in another strange
supercilious thrust of validation beyond his grief, was pursued
so fervently to evade an alarming and discombobulating sense of
their own irrelevance for human creatures would have no sense of
being alive at all were it not for witnessing the mobility of
their shadows intermingling with other moving adumbrations. But
cremated, the deceased did not cast shadows; and as exempt of
people and roles as he was, his was definitely a figurative
extinction. A retiree from the art of doing, a demigod who chose
the reality of being marooned in his own thoughts, he stayed
steadfast in the immobility of his empty shell, a state dearth
of role and impetus. He, who was nonetheless human in his
godhood, remained intrepid in trudging into this rather
unbearable and disconcerting sense of the inconsequence of
being. To look at nature, to melt into true being under a cloud
by relinquishing one's grandiose claim as an integral being in
the temporary and changeable interactions of man, to be exempt
of role and its alleged significance on a small corner of
contemporary society at best, and as a divine particle revere
life as opposed to absconding from it through interaction, only
a god would tolerate such torturous but exquisite enlightenment.
His mission, the purpose of His trip, was to further Himself as
deity by no longer needing to be confirmed by others as a
presence on the planet, to no longer need to gain approbation
through social interaction, and to find himself fully able to
separate from craven mortals whose only sense of being came from
doing and whose viscous neediness precipitated even more
interactive clinging and all the concocted meaning therein.
Deemed by serendipity and evolvement gained from his education
to the status of demigod and no further than this, he could
never succeed completely in self contained intellectual
asceticism, for how could he retreat into the thickets of fecund
solitude without becoming more and more desperate to rest his
head on the pillow case of human flesh as he ran around in
sinuous stretches circuitously lost in reason and emotion.
Still, he would travel inward and explore what was there for as
long as it was bearable. At least so he said in silent thought,
with only partial belief.

The gecko, barely visible in the smoky fog of marijuana,
reaffixed itself on a portion of wall above the night stand. It
remained there above the clutter of archaic connections: a
telephone that kept ringing--at least inside his head--and a
post card on which he had merely written "Dear Noppawan, I hope
that you've been well despite everything that happened" before
striking two lines through the sentiment and tossing it back
onto the night stand. And this diminutive animal deemed him to
fall into the doom of those opaque, glassy domed eyes and he did
fall as Kimberly had fallen through the metal and plastic awning
of the swimming pool to be an eyeless corpse; he fell as any man
would through tenuous self image at the loss of women of the
present to the molestation of the past. Truth, if it existed,
was a state that was sedentary; but movement was meaning and
this man sought it. It was his emulation of the universe and it
went straight forward even if sentiment caused it to bend and
deviate slightly toward that which was past. So, he thought,
avowing a new position entirely.

"No, that's not entirely true," said the gecko.

"No?" asked Nawin as he once more inhaled the smoke of his
marijuana.

The gecko shook his head plaintively. Nawin understood: he had
done fellatio, he had swallowed, and had subsequently allowed
himself to be sodomized so that he might feign belief that,
without anything to grasp in his empty hands, there was a
permanent entity in the impermanence permeating his life and yet
if humans did not have the delusion of sexual intimacies there
would be no contemplation at all for an understanding of true
being was brought forth in copulative intermingling. Despite the
revelation, he felt rather lithe in his fog until the gecko
metamorphosed into a man pointing at his genitalia. "You smoke
me here. Me don't want smoke. You do. Foreign smoke, Foreign
pays. Foreign give more money. Me seventeen. Me tell. You go to
police."

He collected his thoughts the best that he could in his state of
dreaminess and brief hallucinations in the dark, blowing
mustiness of the confines of the empty room. He considered how
quickly odd, erratic ideas could spill out onto all regions of
the brain like paint from leaking tubes, mix grotesquely,
amalgamate in beings, and spread their diminutive warped
presence in insurrections begetting hegemonies of the mind. With
this recent association and its disconnection pressing so fully
onto his mind he could not stay here, the venue and embodiment
of their activity together. It made his head ache worse than his
buttocks, arm, and clavicle. The fact that one's DNA, one's
sacrosanct blueprint, was disseminated randomly in ejaculations
seemed to him inordinately peculiar; that it was emitted from an
instrument of urination which when erect was a pistol of a
sadist forcing his pleasure and will onto others a sickening but
laughable peculiarity; still it made him so amorous that he
could not restrain himself any longer and thus he masturbated
and then took a shower.

Considering that if he were to check out formally he would have
to confront smirking faces and laughter at the front desk once
one of the housekeeping crew reported the soiled disarray of his
sheets, he decided that he would not check out at all. He had
paid for three days, so it was of no consequence. Abandoning the
key on the bed, he left through the fire exit to avoid speaking
to night attendants and all things human, and went out into the
dark streets of Nongkai. Telephone booths seemed to call her
name out to him and to a limited degree he wanted to enter one
to converse with her, and would have done so (momentarily if she
were to hang up on him or if for longer, it would be to engage
with her with, hostilely or civilly, with the neediness of love
or the indifference of a stranger, he could not predict) but for
the aching reminder of the multiple bone fractures she had
rendered unto him. With enough vibrations the china cabinet of a
woman's heart would break and its varied fragments could not be
organized let alone mended into some whole, such was the
integrity of a man when ripped apart beyond suture.

It was later than he thought and for a few moments the emerging
bristle of morning light was fused into a dark mound of cloud
before attempting to surmount it in the struggle of a morning
freeing itself to be born. The view was a layered mélange of
golden crème and whisked effervescent void that was as succulent
as taffy. He wanted to loiter in time and stare at it without
blinking in the hope that constancy would keep it there
unchanged. It was the same type of thought that had prompted him
to stop painting altogether a few years ago, and now he could
hardly remember the feel of a paint brush in his hand.

He got into a tuk-tuk and asked the driver to take him to the
Buddhist Sculpture Garden. The first movements of the three
wheeled vehicle made him shudder and utter equivalent
interjections.

"Yes, it's cold!" said the driver who was wearing a jacket and
shorts, "That odd rain in winter! I met you before, didn't I?"
yelled the mirrored mouth through wind and the roar of the
motor.

"I'm from Bangkok. I wouldn't think so," yelled Nawin even
louder.

"Sure I have. At the train station. The train officer had me
give you a message."

"Oh that's right. The telephone number."

"Did you make the call?"

"No. I'm an artist, so people always give me their numbers
hoping I'll pay them to model. I guess that's what it's about. I
don't know. Anyhow, thanks again." It was close enough to the
truth without the tedium of details for one who was a stranger
to him and needed no more than a stranger's cordial trifle.

"No problem," said the driver. "You looked sick when I saw you
there squatting on the ground."

"Train sickness I guess. Sickness of everything generally"
offered Nawin with a feigned chuckle.

Near the sculpture garden was a 7-11 and he bought some coffee,
milk, and a box of corn flakes, sat down amidst purposeful and
less temporary form, and ate the cereal from the box as he had
when he was five years old in America. To be here in so much
empty space among stone carvings and to be the only one around
appealed to him. If nothing else having been abused gave him
this: the desire to pour color on paper and entertain himself
alone, self-contained, in any empty space he could find.
However, this solitary behavior was only pleasant for a few
hours and then self-containment seemed particularly vacuous and
the blessing a curse. He read a book on Etruscan art for a few
hours before his already aching buttocks began to hurt from the
position on the ground. He got up, swallowed some pain killers
for his arm with no assistance but his saliva, and waited for a
bus to take him back to Nongkhai. A kiosk selling soft drinks,
Buddha statuettes, and cotton candy was already open. In front
of it at one table was a typical jasmine rosary salesman who
also sold balloons, some of which he blew up and shaped into
replicas of Hindu and Buddha emblems, and others he inflated
with helium.

"How many helium balloons would it take to float a lightweight
piece of metal into a different county or country for that
matter?"

"I don't understand you. Do you want some balloons?"

"Yes. I would think six should suffice."

Nawin bought them, removed the stifling wedding ring from his
hand, tied it with the six strings, and released the gestalt of
colored rubber, metal, and diamonds into the airy realms of the
unfettered and the lost.


30

Within this ambivalence how was he to know that his obdurate
stance would not crack and that he would not relent, allowing
neediness to surge over him like lava, incinerate him and heave
residuals homeward? If he relented by calling her at a pay
telephone booth and by a miracle fortuitous, dull, or moribund,
he was made to believe that some type of reconciliation was
possible as economic provider or more, it would be better that
it were done there where he could buy a ticket immediately than
to experience a breakdown of His integrity while stuck
uncomfortably in Vientiane. Thus, as the sun pulled ever tighter
over the hand of the world, memory seemed to encompass him
tighter than the burdensome wedding band ever had, and having
played in the wounds of old intimacies it now seemed like the
desperation of an old man opening his door to strangers.
Preferring to allow the possibility of being murdered than to
continue in the meaningless domicile of his empty shell, he told
the tuk-tuk driver to take him to the train station instead of
the border.

It was a cold ride to this area where a day earlier his debased
posture had no doubt alarmed train officials that here was
someone, who if not a southern terrorist, was suffering from a
nervous breakdown on government premises (and yet were it not
so, and to most Euro-American foreigners it would not be with
the day's temperature for them equivalent to a balmy spring day,
still by Thai accounts as well as his own, it was a frigid
morning with moments of impaling breeze that made the dogs in
the corners of parapets surrounding temples shiver and his blood
run cold; but then, as he had already ventured out without
anywhere in particular to return to, the peripatetic libertine
continued with the journey, tolerating the blowing inundation of
wind like one holding his breath until arriving at the train
station.)

There was only one ccurse, the forward course in which a
supernova would eventually devour the Earth like a piece of
kindling wood, and so he walked to the junction that was on the
border--the right side of the road an entry point to Thailand,
the left, eventually, to Laos (specifically, he kicked a rock
repeatedly for several hundred yards until losing it, skidded
and etched lines into the mud with his feet, eventually moving
west to the intersection that was the border--the right an entry
into a land not of his birth and inhabited predominately by
philistines who suffered from a lethargy no different from other
denizens of warm societies under the mesmerizing intensity of
the sun--the left an entry into an altogether insular and
comatose nation). Obtaining a Laotian visa for a thousand baht;
another payment albeit a nominal one, he stood on a small bus
like a Siamese twin conjoined to eighty or more bodies, all
going in the same direction, each having his or her own
objective as he did albeit the others surely with more clarity
than he had. He took a bus ride with myriad others across the
Friendship Bridge of the Mekong river, filled out his entry card
at this extended checkpoint, his passport eventually being
stamped in a line of waiting and moving but seemingly going
nowhere, he paid a new monetary charge, the cryptic exit fee
then shared a tuk-tuk for a forty minute ride to the city,
sometimes witnessing exaggerated gestures and hearing jocular
comments about how cold it was from Laotians and Thais, some in
both shorts and hooded jackets, though not from westerners who
didn't seem to suffer any distress outside of blowing strands of
disheveled hair. He bypassed fields and water buffalo, feeling
the exhilaration of the wind, cold as it was, and suffuse with a
sense of regeneration he sensed the present immerse him whole
into its prodigious depths and believed he was traversing into
something new which would whitewash his negative memories in
amnesia. Arriving in the city of Vientiane, that little bit of
Paris with a lot of dirt that wind occasionally scraped and
twirled as if it were a field, he observed a department store
(arguably more than a hybrid of store and barn with its outlying
outdoor market), morning monks with emaciated frail bodies
seeking alms in tawny saffron robes soiled in Laotian dust,
businessmen receiving the laying on of hands and the wai in the
hope of making their lives propitious, two school girls in blue
uniforms on a bicycle, more motorcycles than cars but more of
both with each moment of the waking morning, and a man pulling a
food cart on the side of the street. Nawin looked directly into
the man's incarnadined, sun burnt face and his furrows of coarse
wrinkling skin, and the old man, though abashed, grinned and
nodded once as if grateful that the younger man not only
acknowledged his existence but saw his worth in it. Neither
sunrise nor sunset was as beautiful as this.

It had been a similar acknowledgement three years ago that had
been the catalyst of his self declared quasi-retirement. He had
gone on sabbatical from Silpakorn University to get a doctoral
degree before realizing that scholarly pursuits were inimical to
creativity (not that he was attempting to create anything at
that time) and that these simultaneous states of mind if not
joint ventures would be deleterious to each other. They were
wasted years if measured in action and accomplishment but
constructive in terms of disassembling pretensions and so it did
not matter.

Now he was able to repudiate the grandeur of self unflinchingly.
Extirpating himself of those institutions and beings that
facilitated the feeding of his instinctual neediness, departing
from his nation and the circumscribed roles which he had there,
and having relieved himself of hungers for food and sex earlier
this morning, he was now able to appreciate of the sfumato of
society and nature and could just be...Just be! What a romantic he
was: at least so he chided himself. Unfathomable suffering
existed under the most lush of lives. It was beneath every
superficial, jovial exterior, and to think that in a land
probably without much of that exterior layer he would experience
any enlightenment beyond encounters with deeper veins of
suffering than any he had experienced heretofore seemed
preposterous. Just this morning after the prostitute had given
Nawin an indignant look and then had gone away leaving him there
alone in his pile of clothes, he could not, for some minutes,
even fasten the buttons on his shirt so overcome was he with
suffering. It had seemed so acute and pervasive in all beings
and all matters that he, a forty year old man, did not know what
to do other than murmur ever so quietly, "meh" (mother). He had
wanted the resurrection of that woman who had not only looked
away as the abusers did their dastardly deeds but made him out
to be the culprit who had instigated it all. He had called out
for her like a child hoping that she would lead him back to
beginnings of chasing balls and butterflies. He had yearned for
a state of innocence in which he would be ignorant of sexual
jostling from instinctual hungers and but not of the love that
was the conception of all animal life. He had wanted this
resurrected "meh" to end the suffering which permeated the lives
of all things and to make knowledge and understanding more than
vicarious suffering. Perhaps he was too sensitive for this world
but here he was and so, to use an Americanism, he needed to see
things through "rose colored filters." Thus his first impression
of Vientiane Laos was that of an intricate tapestry of life. All
he had to do to appreciate it was to simply open his eyes by
abjuring agenda and accomplishment and melting into  true being.


31

Everywhere he went there seemed to be metallic signs on poles to
power lines. Each sign was in the international language of
pictorial symbols and each illustration the same: a sinuous
electrical current striking a stick figure that fell back as
though electrocuted. He could have detoured to an area along a
different stretch of road and walked elsewhere where there were
not these signs of warning were it not for his proclivity to
continue walking on such a narrow sidewalk in which a stumbling
foot could cost him his life. There was a definite morbid
curiosity and courting of death in his actions, his feelings
elated by travel to someplace new, but his thoughts were macabre
and fixated on the vicissitudes and impermanence of one's life,
the attempts to belie those with money, property, family, and
notoriety as if one could solidify one's effluvial existence to
a statue's, despite the permanent inevitability of one's demise.
Knowing this, and rich enough that he did not need to work
another day in his life, nor as corollary become obtuse to this
truth by engagements in mundane routine, he was not sure what to
do with himself. Other men were also used for sperm and as
economic providers to family but they saw their sons who grew
with the years and whose growth would measure how far they had
degenerated into the years, mirrors to see aging, ghastly, and
lackluster reflections of themselves (for him, he would never
see his son again, or at least that was Noppawan claimed on that
day she battered him with an iron frying pan, not that he
necessarily wanted to see his time on the planet in the hour
glass of a changing boy). Likewise, they had their roles as
procurers of meat so that their women might enjoy playing with
live dolls (for him whose investments made money unto themselves
he could be of no personal use to family even if allowed back
into it, and when was a man included in the joys of child
rearing anyway?).

His cheek inadvertently brushed against an extended vine of
green bananas dangling above the sidewalk near a French colonial
building used by a Laotian government ministry. Although a
normal, reflexive reaction would have been to feel startled
especially after having noticed the signs and fearing the next
touch of the unknown to be his ineluctable death, he just
smiled. If fate, the God of all Atheists, had deemed it a pole
of a power line instead of bananas that his cheek had touched,
him electrocuted, stricken down to sear the ground with his
incinerating fall it would be of no major significance to anyone
but himself if even that; furthermore, he thought, continuing to
synthesize more ideas to remain stimulated and happily self-
contained in his own company, this second of consciousness being
irrevocably extinguished might be a rather pleasant experience
despite its brevity. In it he would be on an enlightened transit
before the void swallowed him entirely, an omniscient second of
wisdom in which egregious Buddha-gods and heaven-and-hell
aberrations of the ideas of the Buddha, who surely was not a
buddhist, would be known to not exist. To know something with
absolute certainty beyond the realm of supposition (like the
amount of love a bludgeoning spouse once had toward him, the
degree of selfishness and altruism that constituted emotion and
cognition, and so much else unknown to him) would be
particularly refreshing after a lifetime spent in the glimmers
of truth. It would be as refreshing as those times that as
children, he and his pauper brothers stripped to their underwear
and from piers dove into the Chao Phraya River to escape the
blistering heat of April.

The surprise of bananas brushing against his cheek made him
smile wryly--smile at witnessing a banana tree in the heart of a
city, smile wryly as the surprised encounter was imbued in the
rustic as well as the bucolic, and thus was both repulsive and
quaint. Understanding it to be both made him postulate that in a
broader sense every given entity or event was rarely one
attribute exclusively but the polarity of two antithetical
thoughts. Even the calcifying antipathy and repugnance toward
sex, which were now steadily building up inside his mind were at
times stymied in ethereal fantasies of burnishing the silky
leather of human flesh and a hunger for beauty that suddenly
came over him like a consuming and growing flame before being
subdued and partially extinguished in the gravity of his all-
too-human thought, which wanted reality even more than fantasy
the best it could find it. Glancing at clothed buttocks, covered
thighs, and other appendages of a female here and a male there,
it was as though his constitution could mutate from solid to
vapor at random despite human will. This was what he gleaned
from his cheek brushing against a bunch of unripe bananas while
journeying onward with sights and sounds satiating
consciousness, sketching impressions of the mind that one could
only appreciate in foreign travel.

Closer to the market there were numerous people in a row like
sequacious ants, all seeking bits of a distant morsel, but
unlike ants these people sought for themselves and, even here,
with their wallets as feelers. A few minutes later he was among
them, eventually buying a dangling earring for a left lobe, a
solid gold necklace to adorn his swarthy complexion so that the
deep dirt and poverty that he once was remained hidden from
himself and from anyone whom he encountered, and a pocket
pc/cellular telephone, which he needed but had no occasion to
use. In the outdoor market he watched someone seated on a small
couch at a kiosk under a huge umbrella, get a tattoo. He wanted
an eagle tattooed on his biceps and to other regions as well to
demonstrate that he was as an apostate, Nawin of Thais, but the
conditions here did not look urbane or sterile, and he backed
away until he was in a parking lot filled with tuk-tuks.

A conventional two seater took him to a temple with his
traveler's guide gospel in one hand and suitcase in the other.
It was a temple, outside of which a sign informed readers that
the building, which appeared more like an attic and junkyard
than a museum and temple, once housed the Emerald Buddha. He
stayed inside wandering around various sized wooden and stone
buddhas dating back to early periods in history and as such
often having parts of arms and faces missing from their
dilapidated forms. There, relaxed, he melted into true being.

It was good to be there unfettered of obligations to others, and
with no whore to distract him from keeping the deeper self
company of his ruminations. He was synthesizing some peculiar
notion he only half grasped (something to the effect of "a
person comes into the world for no apparent reason; perspectives
mutate in changeable physical existence; a person's ideas change
due to the changes around him, changing so as to withhold some
level of verisimilitude to which sanity is entirely
dependent..." ) when the women of his life suddenly came upon
him unexpectedly. Others might have thought exhibitions of
buddhas would be of interest to all foreigners and especially to
someone like Kimberly who was an accomplished amateur sculptor
herself, and yet he knew that Noppawan would have enjoyed it
more. Unable to share the experience with her, what could the
mind do other than impose a facimile? Many times he almost
believed that he was really pointing out smaller statuettes
hidden behind the larger and more salient ones and that she was
going to them, thoroughly examining each one that he pointed out
to her like a collector of religious antiquities. How odd that
he was so close to releasing words from his lips as if she were
really there. No, neither homosexual encounter nor this sending
of a wedding ring into oblivion had freed him from memories.

Another tuk-tuk outside the gate of the museum; another blue
cockroach driver eager for twenty baht (this one specified that
he wanted Thai baht and not Laotian kip)--and, once agreed upon,
a quick trip to the communist history museum. Inside there was
an archaeological exhibit which he skimmed briefly. Noppawan
knew so many inordinate details for it to be of interest to her,
and for Kimberly it had always been amusement parks, French
wine, and Debussy and Ravel performances at the Thai Cultural
Center. But in one corner on the second floor, near the
staircase, there was an assortment of traditional clothing that
he knew she would have enjoyed seeing and he wanted to take her
in his arms, behind that particular exhibit, and impart a
visceral kiss, which if unable to pump the air of life back into
her would at least convey how dear she was to him before the
return to the great beyond which was in fact cessation and
vacuity. She was not alive so what could the mind do but
resurrect her or something like her briefly? It could do nothing
else. Traditional instruments were in one far corner but most of
the museum seemed to be a diatribe without words, a deprecatory
pronouncement against Siam, French, and American imperialists in
photographic images, uniforms, and guns. The museum was more of
an anti-imperialist manifesto than a communist one and
partitioned walls made court rooms for evidence and indictment.
Being a Thai-American with a girlfriend who had been French, his
was a triple indictment--at least so he postulated to himself
humorously.

He could have gone to the States, the land of his birth. Not
knowing anyone there would not have deterred him. In boyhood,
each day before fulfilling his indenture as a poor son he would
wake up early and leave the house so that for a half an hour,
diluted under a cloud in some empty area along the river, he
could become little more than the nonstop movements of serving
food. Loneliness was not something that he was so desperate to
lose. He could have gone there and procured a second set of x-
rays and a second opinion from an orthopedic surgeon in Los
Angeles or elsewhere. A second set of x-rays was rarely taken in
Thailand, and so if he had to have a practical reason for
returning to the United States this could be one. He had plenty
of accessible money for his travels. Not all of his money was in
joint accounts for he was too knowledgeable of the changeable
tectonics of family to believe that joint ventures of any kind
were lifelong. He might have gone there to travel for a period
of months without having to work at all. To melt into the
prodigious Grand Canyon, and to have it melt into him would be
well worth any expense he incurred and it had always seemed to
him that if he went far enough and long enough he would be out
of the pale of memory. That too would be a practical benefit.
However, it was a haughty land of religious zealots who believed
its hegemony was a mandate to dictate world affairs, its growing
military bases police boxes, its wars an extension of democracy
and human rights, and its intolerance morality itself. It was
foundering in its debt as a dying empire and the entire country
sickened him.

But then, he thought, he himself was a reprobate and any moral
pronouncements that he made would be hypocritical and
ridiculous. Was he not living the disreputable life of the great
Artist, Caravaggio? Maybe he just wished to be compared and
contrasted to the man so that his work would seem to have some
international and everlasting significance. Still, compare he
would! As Nawin he was poor no longer, although under his former
name, Jatupon, he had been that and more. He had not killed
anyone--at least not deliberately; and it did not seem
particularly Caravaggio-like to not have the intention. He was
not a homosexual fleeing murder but a bisexual fleeing
interconnectedness. These were mere incidentals that could be
argued in various ways and they did not delineate a man. Both
men had given beauty to the world and this alone surely
disproved them as having disreputable natures, but then, how was
he to know?


32

The drab stones of the stupa were probably erected in the
nineteenth century and through the prodigious span of years, he
thought, the unadorned city surrounded it in languid increments
like the moss that had annexed its crevices. The encroachment no
doubt diminished the distinct identity of the monument, making
it less remote and secluded, like human life. That was what he
thought, and it was a more concrete and definitive explanation
than any other he could provide himself with. Of his own life,
he did not know why he wanted to slip away unto himself as he
did, to be forgotten personally as well as publicly, to be
altogether expunged like the public persona of artistic
decadence which he once maintained, and to be further ensconced
under the blanket of himself if that were possible without
suffocating to annihilation and oblivion. It was as mysterious
as the primordial desire of sex, communion, and connection which
had driven him spellbound into contact with the flesh of the
paramour hours ago.

A block away, a part of the main street abutted this once silent
area, fomenting it with traffic along a stretch of businesses
catering to foreigners. There were guest houses and Internet
cafes. Men were unloading a shipment of supplies to one of the
closed bars. There were foreigners on bicycles, or coming in and
out of souvenir shops, baguette restaurants, hotel rooms, and
apparently Vientiane's only convenience store, or worse its only
supermarket. A couple held hands whistling as they passed the
monument for a side street in which, according to a sign, a
guest house was located. It was noise which he disliked, as
distant and muted as it was, but as inclined as he was to
romanticize the quaint rusticity around him, he did not yet
despise it. In the new environment, positive but neither overly
elated or ebullient, he felt that the energy exuded around him
belied the gravity of the consequences of action, as if the
strutting movements of youth were not dances in a graveyard,
when in fact the whole Earth was nothing but a necropolis, and
any laughter which he heard seemed to scoff at his new
disfigurement. Often tourists would come to the stupa posing for
pictures at its base. They seemed to come only in pairs to
compound the quasi-reality of the experience of foreign travel
into something more solid, for as pairs the dopamine was doubled
for these mundane presences, leaving him alone in deprivation
within the capsule of the rocket of the mind. They came to this
nameless rock, but as it was less of an attraction than That
Louang; the few who came did not stay for long.  The stupa was
the same one pictured in his guide book, the same one he had
thought of wistfully when he was on the train, and sexual
inclinations had not been the entirety of his yearnings there-at
least so he wanted to believe. In leaning against this
particular stone relic towering above him, it was not that he
was seeking to be a non-worldly aspirant feigning ignorance of a
world of suffering masses kimberlying downward from one type of
post-partum depression or another to which the gods were of
complete indifference, or admitting as much, but that this deity
or deities designated greater plans that entailed human
suffering and tragedy. He did not want false repudiations of the
human condition of suffering but acceptance of it so as to be
transmuted into it so deeply that he could imagine the
experiences of others more richly and would cease to take his
allocation of suffering personally.

He was seated in the bit of grass that was there, his head
leaning against this towering icon more uncomfortably than he
thought it would, head remaining against hard stone, neck
aching, and having to slap and decimate a second set of fire
ants that got onto his book and into his sandals stinging his
feet. He did not like this flawed design of species competing to
sustain themselves and using him as the ammunition available to
them so he scattered a piece of bread for some pigeons at his
feet to perform an expiation. Thinking about this world of
species, each trying to exist comfortably at the expense of
others, he knew that there was no spirit in a being and nothing
spiritual--just recognition of contentment in simple pleasures,
the foundation for all tenuous others, which were not subject to
life's vicissitudes. This was the only spiritual journey that a
realist and atheist might undertake.

There was a puddle of water from the previous night's inundation
of rain at one of his feet. He was inclined to seek his
reflection a second time within it, and would have done so
(especially since he had not even bothered to go into the
bathroom to shave in front of a mirror, or take a shower, in his
need to make a swift exit from the guest house) were it not so
turbid, with a dark taffeta sheen no more able to reflect a gray
hair, a wrinkle, or the doleful intensity of a sagging, aged
countenance any more than seeing his diaphanous reflection in
car windows. Whether or not he had gotten visibly older over
these past twenty four hours, which had entailed a fortieth
birthday on the train and a half catharsis/half reopening of
the wounds of his abused youth by the intimate encounter with
the paramour--a paramour who looked like his brother Kazem, or
at least how he remembered Kazem so many years ago--was wasted
speculation. One would not have aged significantly in such a
brief time unless the paramour were God and he Moses. Still, he
wanted a mirror nonetheless, for he knew that tragedy and grief
had maimed and distorted him over the past few weeks. Obviously
he was now taciturn, and disliked the cloying exuberance of
youth that clawed against the concentrated walls of his
deliberation, although deliberating what he could not say, as he
sat there leaning his head against the stupa with eyes resting
on the clouds, if indeed he was in a state of rest. And if he
were so prison pent, he thought, a touch of those electrical
poles would open up whatever portal Kimberly had gone into with
him, with her disappearing into it and it disappearing into the
oblivion of itself.

He was ruminating that love was not an actuality, but merely
humans finding no exterior meaning and seeking solace and
artificial meaning in each others company, when he was suddenly
accosted by a Caucasian woman.  She was middle aged, had sinuous
black hair, and seemed attractive as best he could tell, as she
was wearing a round brimmed white hat and dark sunglasses that
covered some of her face.

"Pardonnez_moi pours vous faire savent le Francais?" she asked.

"J'ai étudié là pendant un certain temps. C'a été il y a des
années," he said, "but you are safer in the international
language. I was only in Paris for six months."

"Oh, then you are fluent, as French is the international
language," she said with a laugh.

"No, the language of fucking is," he thought, startled by how
close the words were to his lips. Had he spoken them he would
have been truthful. His brief time under a scholarship grant had
been more of sexual rendezvous than anything more substantive.
It had been his language of choice as no one there seemed to
want to speak in English. And had he spoken those words he would
have released a belligerent inner burst of misogyny from a long
dormant maternal source aggravated nowadays by his wife having
beaten him with a skillet.

"What did you study there?  French?"

"No, fucking," he thought but he held tightly to the reins of
the tongue, his restive beast. He did not want to disparage
another person for his own proclivities toward freeing himself
of any female captors. He vented a sigh of relief for having
managed to stay quiet and thought how close the words were to
his lips before dissipating like everything else, and in this
case leaving him defenseless against his good looks.

"Painting."

"Painting?"

"A grant.... It was a grant from your country--a cultural
exchange with accomplished artists... I was one of the
applicants who won." His words were slow and laborious as he
wished not to divulge anything.

"How wonderful!  A famous artist of this area.  Are you
Laotian?"

"I'm American," he said. It was the second most offensive word
that he could think of.

"Are you here on vacation?"

"Yes," he said curtly, not bothering to reciprocate, and the two
strangers fell into silence.

"I'm here with my sister," she spoke at last with less certainty
than before." We were trying to find a royal palace. We saw a
sign but got lost in some backstreets and did not know where we
were going."

"Oh," he said. "Well, did you ask around?"

"Yes, but I guess Thai would be better than English."

"Yes, I suppose it would, but you don't speak it do you?"

"No but you do, don't you? It certainly would be great to go
with someone who knows his way around, or even if you don' t;
two women traveling together begin to argue if they are alone
too much."

"You argue?" he tried to restrain his smile. He knew how his
gentle and probing eyes of sustained interest and a luminous
smile made women love him, and so he looked away.

"How old is your sister?"

"Forty. She's older."

"No sisters sixteen years old or younger?" It was the vilest set
of words beyond 'fuck' and 'American' that could be spoken to a
French damsel, and he was startled to hear them spill out of his
mouth. It was a slap against women for losing their beauty with
increasing years, and a shallow and blatant disregard of the
inner worth of a being. It was chauvinistic and repugnant, and
it got him what he wanted.

"No, no younger sister. I've got to go!" As she was leaving him,
she suddenly stopped and turned toward him abruptly. "You are
ugly and pathetic. You know why?  You went to America and
America took over your thoughts. You are Asian and yet just like
those war criminals. Why don't you just leave here and go back
to America or better just go to hell." Then there was perennial
solitude once again.

Irritated by the stings of the ants that had crawled up his
legs, and feeling a sense of compunction for having been so
rude, he felt that he was now lost and wandering through the
miasma and malaise of himself. It was so unbearable that he
wanted to move away from the stupa and out of his inner self.
If he made a left to Main Street and then another left, he would
be on the road that went near the Morning Market and toward the
Arco de Triomph replica, Patuxay. To the right, he would be
where he was--that plaintive temple museum that seemed to still
be in mourning over the loss of the Emerald Buddha. Eventually,
further in that direction would lead to government buildings,
which were in the French colonial architecture, and then to the
river; at least that was what the map indicated.

By the time the time the Patuxay monument was clearly visible,
it had begun to rain heavily and he dashed toward it for
shelter. Once there, he shook the water from his hair and
clothes, and stared down at some flowers growing in a square pot
at his feet. Feeling less fettered by the dampness, he then
looked up at the deviant kinnari and Ramakien giants that were
shaped intricately into the arched doorway, and scraped the mud
off of his sandals. He remembered when he was five years old in
America the faux pas of wiping his feet on a neighbor's doormat
that had gotten him into trouble. He had believed then that that
was what doormats were for. He again postulated that perhaps
there really was no love--just people who having no extrinsic
value in the universe at large clung to each other for meaning.
Then he suddenly heard in a Thai-Laotian dialect, "It's  the
Thai artist. Do you remember me."


33

The Laotian made the prayerful gesture of the wai which Nawin
reciprocated. Then he said, "In the train, man. Remember?" He
was trying to pierce through the fixed, glazed expression to pry
into another mind and loosen the memories therein. His words
could only be insolent if they were contemptuous, which they
were not, and flagrant if he considered the age of the
interlocutor, which he may not have done, and overall, the
informality of it made Nawin feel equal instead of superior
which was equivalent to a sense of being young once again. He
remembered and smiled at his acquaintance and found himself
amused at the fluctuation of demeanor in a given moment of time.

"Yes."

"I gave you a beer."

"Gave?" Nawin sneered playfully before a more cordial tone
replaced it to patch over a stretch of silence. "I suppose you
did in a way."

"Did or didn't?"

"Okay, you did."

"So here you are."

"Yes."

"You're a bit wet."

"Yes, I am."

"Are you cold?"

"No."

"You look tired. Are you tired?"

"Not really."

Boi guffawed at the lucid and hesitant utterances of the
withdrawn, distrustful being and looked amused as though it were
a game to him. "Well, I suppose you'll dry quickly enough when
you're back inside. Do you have a hotel room?"

"Not yet."

He was ambivalent whether or not the Laotian meant to say, "Dee"
[good] in response. As the Laotian scrutinized the Thai, so
Nawin did him. It seemed to him that a word had percolated from
the Laotian's thoughts and yet the mouth bore nothing. The
pursed lips seemed to incarcerate sound and the only thing to
materialize was an imagined utterance and his own irritation at
not even knowing such an insignificant item in the social sphere
of man with absolute certainty. It was odd but useful, he
thought, that the mind was able to distinguish that which was
and was not real, especially when both were unreal in the
objective measurement of passing time, and that the mind noticed
distinct positive attributes in each, rarely confusing the two.
In this case, however, he hardly knew whether it was a twitch of
lips or a suppressed word. If the latter, he did not really know
the word that it would have been but he still strongly believed
the unspoken word if it were such to be "dee".

"My sister mentioned you many times. I said that you would
probably never call and might not even cross the border." Nawin
wondered if certain words were being withheld while others
selectively released, but if so he could not see that this was
different from anyone else, man or woman. And of a woman, her
love might be proclaimed but never the whore within her that
yearned to improve her situation in life as the most virtuous
married status and money in one sense or another. Was he not
missing life by analyzing everything, or was he giving weight
and meaning to fleeting experience by the anchor of his
ruminations? To live life fully, how much should be spent in the
inward exploration of thought and outward action without being
macabre or flippant and in both cases superfluous? This he
hardly knew and also pondered.

"I almost returned to Bangkok this morning." He did not know why
he was saying this. Like a model who would soon allow herself to
be denuded there was something inside him wishing to strip off
inner layers and be known to others as though knowledge of
himself was not enough--as though even the palpable sense of
himself in movement and thought was diminished and not
reaffirmed by human interaction. Rocks moldered away and would
do so all the more quickly if not reinforced by sediment; so, he
said to himself, he could not be exempt of the same fate.

"You only arrived in Nongkai a day ago. Why were you thinking of
returning?"

"I don't know" he said, and from the prevarication seconds of
silence ensued with the discomfort of it, like the sweat,
humidity, and filth of the open air clinging to his skin. As
discourse was the only tangible means to gain an outline of
another and the projected intertwined adumbration, the thick
shadow of relationship that was the two, it was impossible to
stay silent, refusing to disclose bits of himself; and as the
present was at times a prototype for what would follow, an
extension of the present that could be the pattern of his whole
life. Needing to part the silence he said, "To see my wife if
you must know."

"I must. The one who broke your arm?"

"And clavical. The same." The emphatic must enticed him and he
smiled begrudgingly.

"You know what I think?"

"No, why would I?"

"That she doesn't exist."

"A le nah [huh]?"

"She doesn't exist."

His smile dissipated. Then he tilted his head down and his taut
countenance became empty like the void in his head. "That's more
or less what I decided and so I wandered here," he said
dolefully.

For, oddly enough, he, as rich as he was, had come to this place
of all places like an impecunious, malnourished refugee seeking
any parlous state that might save him from starvation. Since
Kimberly's death he could not find even scant viands or morsels
of hope anywhere; and as all humanity competed for this
resource, a prodigious amount was needed to feed their
ambulatory corpses for the continuation of their hauntings,
which would end in final stumbles. If there were a search light
piercing a sliver of darkness for his sake in the solidity of
his grief, the one hard substance in the random and furious
changes of his life, how would he who was buried alive inside
himself see it? And why would anyone else, busy in his or her
solipsistic role, find enough humanity to save him?

If any light came to him now or had emanated heretofore, he was
not aware of it. The border leading back to Thailand seemed a
dark and opaque one-way journey sealed off to retrospective
deviants. Thus, he was stranded in this swamp of Vientiane,
Laos, without any chance of return. He was here in front of the
Patuxay monument, this Archo de Triomphe created from money that
the Americans had alloted for an airport.

"Lost?" There was only one object, himself, that was the meaning
of this word, for the Laotian's eyes seemed to be peering into
him with murky beams of light.

"Not entirely lost, no. Detached, I think, which makes me less
lost really. Who knows? It feels different though--different
from how I see it... not that you need to know that," he said
condescendingly with a chuckle, believing that his ideas would
not readily permeate into the obtuse mind of the laborer. Then
he countered this claim by doubting if intelligence was innate.
It was in part the result of human will for transcendence, and
in part provided by education fueled by money like everything
else. The Laotian seemed to be sagacious enough to know his
situation or perhaps this loneliness was so inordinate that he
wanted to believe him as such. To be known was a vulnerability
to be exploited especially when man's feelings wanted to avow
friendship with he who saw him denuded, but to shy away from
people was rather weak and craven.

"You should express yourself freely to your friends."

"Friends?" Nawin laughed. The laugh was mild with mild sarcasm,
but it shook his body, reawakening the dull pain of his broken
limb and this acute sense of falling from a precipice into an
all engulfing abyss.

"What?" retorted the Laotian irascibly. "Are you laughing at
me?"

"Well, yes, I'm sorry, but we don't hardly know each other."

"That could change."

"Why should it?" He was critical and cautious, but then he did
not know what else he could be. There were less mendacious
illusions like a marriage that lasted for some years and
deliberate fraudulent ploys by calculating self-centered beings
wanting to improve the circumstances of their lives more
expeditiously. Both, with any real touch, would fall like a wall
of sand so one had to be careful of what he leaned on, who he
associated with, and what he believed if he believed in anything
at all. It was a world of impermanence, a world where men
married women for solidity and a sense of completion as an
adult, and women had their babies (or in the case of Noppawan, a
friend's baby) as though grounding oneself in the mundane would
make the continual shifting of the ground stable and themselves
as everlasting monuments. But, he countered, what did he know?
Artists might be introverted and anti-social by nature or just
inclined to justify their enmity towards the world at large.

"Why shouldn't it?" said the Laotian [meaning why shouldn't
their acquaintance become closer]. Nawin could not think of any
reason to oppose this particular friendliness any more than to
favor it, and so he stood there neutral to the dictates of fate.
If he had been more of a non-anthropomorphic deist or
anthropomorphic atheist, he would have believed in the
significance of this coincidence of finding him here and it
would have pressed into his mind with as much religious fervor
as the secular could hold. Still as lonely as he was, although
adverse to admit it, he just felt its significance without
giving it credence.

"Do you still have my number in case you need it? You might when
traveling in Laos."

"I Threw it away," Nawin admited regretfully. And as he said
this, ashamed of his own conduct, compunction bit into him like
a rabid dog, and he felt friendlier towards the Laotian for
accrediting him with a liberty that would not entail obligations
to paint him or his family. Such moral obligations done to feel
the injustice of the world and to allot money (in his case to
pay them to model for a painting he did not care to draw out of
a sense of pity).

"And yet we are here together. How strange. Sit down. Neither of
us will be going anywhere in the rain." Nawin sat down on the
wet bench next to the Laotian who wrote his telephone number out
for him once again. Around them both was the mesmerizing sound
of rain, now a more steady, less vehement pounding in the
muddied inundation that surrounded Patuxay. With each new minute
it was more like a lake instead of the elongated puddles he had
seen minutes earlier.

There in the arch of the monument to the French replica, within
the overarching sounds of the falling rain, he heard the sotto
voce of a rotating squeak of a bicycle, the swishing of a boy's
saturated sandals, and the solitary howl of a roaming stray dog.
He watched the oval ripples reverberating around patches of
random grass, the bathing of pigeons, the crawling of a worm at
his feet, and that dog reaching out with two stretched paws to
the solid overflow in the trash bin. It all seemed to him quite
beautiful, sad, and fleeting.

Aimless as a transient, his was a melting of self into life and
a conscious recording of that which imbued his senses. At this
moment his life felt more replete in purpose since he was in the
present moment, casting away the hopes and anxieties of the self
entirely. Nawin breathed out, smiled and stretched as much as he
could without touching the Laotian, content and relaxed in the
inconsequence of existence. If there was meaning, he thought, it
lay in the montage of what fell into one's senses and it did not
need to be any more profound than this. He was thankful for
money which was needed to provide for him in this transmutation
as a homeless transient and observer of life but without stigma
and free of onerous thoughts of what was needed for survival.

"It's me. In the train? Remember? I sat next to you I was--"

Nawin smiled warmly. "You were on the floor at my feet."

"That is not the best way of being remembered but yes, it was
me. Please sit down." Nawin sat down on the damp bench.

"It is hard to find a comfortable position on a train, isn't
it?"

"I didn't sleep well the night before."

"Why?"

"Financial worries, change, the thought of returning here. The
two of you had a good time of it the night before. Sleepers and
my brother's beer from what I heard."

"His beer? I wouldn't call it a gift. I gave him money
afterwards."

"It didn't hurt you, did it?--I mean giving him something."

"No, I guess it didn't."

"It helped him. It helped us both to get back. What was left he
gave to our parents. He would not have felt good about coming
back if he had nothing to give."

"I understand. I didn't mind, really. It was a wonder that you
slept at all."

"Why?"

"I think my feet were stinking. I even wanted to walk away from
me." He lifted the pants legs on the foot that rested on his
left leg and sniffed his sock. "Better now." She laughed and
then he continued more somberly to reduce the chance of awkward
silence. "Is there anything to see in this monument?"

"You can go to the top and look out over the city."

"Is it a nice view?"

"I don't know. I've never gone in. It would have to be better
than from the ground. The stairs go to different levels outside
but they might be rather slippery in the rain."

"Maybe not then." He had enough broken bones without taking on
more risks. If only she had flaxen hair like Kimberly's, he
thought, then he would not hesitate a moment. He would swoop her
up in one hand and carry her up to the highest cloud.

"Will you go north to Luang Prabong?"

"I don't know. I am not really here to sightsee. Just here to
simplify existence, relax--"

"Drink beer?"

"Wine preferably." Peace of mind was often facilitated this way.
A Singha, a Leo, a Budweiser, a Heineken, and especially that
most odious Beer Laos which he had drunk the other night which
reminded him of his Barbarous brothers and father. He imagined
them with cans in hands as they tried to stomp on his diminutive
being while that which was maternal and good pretended it was
not happening to him. Thus, in most situations, he eschewed the
elixir of farmers and laborers.

"So, why are you sitting here?"

She tossed him an apple from the bag and bit into one herself.
Then she smiled. "The Morning Market."

Maybe she had gone there but that did not explain why she was
here. Maybe she was soliciting but then, he thought, in one way
or another we all were. To do anything was to seek something
from it discontentedly unless one lost himself in the present
moment. She was a whore. They all were. But then when did he
object to whores. They had been the holy light in his paintings,
the instruments of his success. As the male beast was not any
better than the female there was nothing for him to say. He just
silently bit into her apple as though it were her nipple.

"Don't your parents grow any apples?"

"No, it's a rice farm. Only that."

"Are you staying with them now?"

"Yes, I didn't feel like I should continue to work in the
factory when my brother lost his job."

"What will you do back here?"

"I don't know."

"Maybe we should go someplace else to talk. There must be a
coffee shop around here."

"There isn't."

"Anywhere?"

"None that I have seen. This is Laos. But we can sit over
there."

"There? You will get wet."

"I want to get wet."

They sat down at a bench in the rain away from the crowd that
was cuddled in the arch.

"I've been thinking about hiring a personal secretary."

"Really?

"What would you want one to do?"

"Right now not so much," he said as he bit into the stiff and
the sweet, "as I haven't been doing anything really. But I'll
paint again. There will be phone calls from galleries, bids that
need to be recorded, negotiating prices so everyone makes some
profit, messages from students if I give classes--but the only
thing is that getting a visa for that might be difficult." An
umbrella salesman came by. "Yes, two," said Nawin.

"One is enough."

"What is your name?"

"Porn."

"You have a beautiful smile," he said right before feeling his
pockets in a rather desparate floundering. "Oh no," he said, "I
think I left my wallet in the hotel. I need to go back."

"I'll go with you."

"Okay," he said and they ran hand in hand in the downpour. And
when they were in the room at the Paris-Laotian Hotel they
removed each other's wet clothes, he kissing those lips that had
fostered such smiles and their bodies coupled in comfort and
unified motion--

The daydream had come over him like the flash of Garuda passing,
leaving him here with this Laotian male. Overall he did not want
to speak with him. He did not want to be sociable for the sake
of being nice with those who were envisaging some use for him.
Human entities by their own solipsistic notions, tried to come
in, take up root, to fill the space within others brains and
grow within the fertile soil of money; and yet they existed in
the world too, they were sentenced to this earthly prison the
same as he, they too sought meaning and hope in others when
there was nothing else to gain personal meaning from, and it was
not as if he were pressed for time and was unable to socialize
because of some great task that awaited his attention. Was it
such an imposition to provide a bit solace to others ever so
minutely in human discourse even though the need for money
drooled out of their eyes more than even their mouths as was the
case with this one?


34

The gods had been misers and humidity like an over-packed
storehouse continued to overflow onto the mortals of the deep--
at least so the atheistic artist envisaged it for his own
amusement while wondering why one had to personify abstraction
to be amused. He ignored the answer seated next to him, the
answer that this was all there was, that no idea could be
personable, that being smiled upon incredulously was better than
being banished in his brain. He looked up at a few dark clouds
that seemed to shove out of the amalgamated unit to hover as
separate entities beneath the mass. There was for him amity to
be found in the effectual independence of this part of the sky
that sought its own distinction. Within it there was a
reflection of his own earlier struggles to extricate himself
from poverty, conformity, and obscurity as if the cessation of
all three would bring unto him happiness, whatever that was.
Colors as vivid as those of the first crayon marks in boyhood
had transmuted his black and white existence by allowing his
transcendence into imagination; happiness was merely a contrast
to the misery that preceded it. It was the type of pleasure
gained at being saved from a near drowning, and in his case it
was, in his ineffable sense of loss while wandering like a mute
in foreign lands, a respite, which would make drifting,
befriending clouds, and the wordless discourse of being raped in
male sport, the only bearable intimacies.

At the jerk of his arm to avoid a persistent fly that seemed to
want to go into a crevice of his cast sharp pain flared through
his arm, and the whole of his right torso. He tried to suppress
the pain to retain a phlegmatic countenance before the Laotian
and he tried to suppress too, the misogynist thoughts that came
upon him when reminded that his brokenness had come about
because of women. In trying to separate himself from the brute
impulses which were his protective aversion to pain, he realized
that logic alone could not cull such feelings completely for
despite his intention, women were already becoming for him an
equal source of derision as men and, as they were women,
surpassing them.

"What are the chances of meeting like this?" asked the Laotian
as smoke propelled by a gust of wind came upon them in a gaseous
fog. It was smoke from chicken and pork grilled at the hands of
a sidewalk restaurant worker who, stiff and decrepit as the
monument itself and a reminder, prescient and otherwise, of the
type of man Nawin might have been had opportunity and success
not come upon him (and the Jatupon he would one day be if only
in thought within the last moments of his life), stood at the
other side of the arched entry. It was smoke that he imagined to
one day be his own cremated smell as if living in a city, the
most advanced odorless furnaces in a temple would not be
available at his expiration--smoke that should have been of
Kimberly's cremation according to her wishes had her parents not
ordered the encoffining and refrigeration of her remains on a
flight to Orleans--smoke of his mind.

The whole insoluble subject of human relations was baffling to
him. Pursued as extensive involvements, these joint, often
waning shadows of mutable beings mystified and overwhelmed him.
Pursued as shallow engagements in small talk with strangers,
concepts, at least for now, eluded him as he tried
unsuccessfully to exhume words from his mind to talk with
someone whom he had no inclination to know. Nawin shrugged his
shoulders.

"One in a billion," said the Laotian answering his own question.

"Is that a fact?" asked Nawin diffidently for even those limited
words had to be found and forcefully educed from him and as such
they fell upon each other in a stutter.

"Yes, one in a billion."

"One in a billion, okay," said Nawin and the Laotian laughed.

"You act like you've just seen light after being pulled out of a
box."

"I've been alone a lot in recent days."

"Why?"

"I don't know. I need to get away from people."

"Maybe you just need to get away from the old people."

"Maybe. Anyhow..."

"Anyhow, one in a billion."

Nawin laughed. "If you want to see it that way: manipulation of
all natural forces to ensure our reunion." He spoke flippantly
with a smile. Arrogant and jocular, his was more than contempt
of the concept of pre-destiny in relationships, it was also
derision for the human vulnerabilities of needing companionship
altogether as though he were beyond it. But he too was born of
the herd. He, even more than most, had to climb onto the backs
of laborers to get his physical needs taken care of so as to
have the leisure to see ethereal beauty. Why, he chastised
himself, was he trying to repel human contact? Such behavior, he
thought, was as unnatural as was the proclamation of a self-
declared retirement in a still robust and virile being.

Society equated the worth of a man with doing and most
specifically involvement in the generation of a commercial
product for what other purpose did man have on the planet than
to work toward making the world a more comfortable place? He
remembered Noppawan's initial reaction to his retirement. It had
been favorable enough for to her. It meant a cessation of these
perennial sessions with nude models. And yet with the days,
weeks, months, and years of Buddhist melting in which he
wandered back from a park or stadium for dinner or more
frequently walked around his acreage and sat in lawn chairs to
dispense with the hours, often without a book in his hands, what
could be said to him? He was reticent for not having any
terrestrial concerns to impart and so he was a cockroach on her
plate, an ant in her salt shaker. He remained such except in
fulfilling what she importuned from him most: studding her
friend, Kimberly, so that the three might have a baby.

Surely his success had not been her only motivation for marrying
him. When in adolescence that which was barely alive in him fell
into her life, onto her shoulders, she closed him in her arms at
that freakish friendship hall, the anatomical museum at Siriaj
Hospital, and years later at their marriage, the girlish pathos
for a troubled friend was within her still. However, as even
more time went by so her life became inextricable with her sense
of his success and it could not be any more comfortably
extracted than that of her teeth.

"Are you waiting here for someone?"

"If someone comes, yes."

"And if no one does?"

Boi smiled. "Then I would eventually leave, wouldn't I?"

"I suppose so."

A couple of workers began to sweep water out of both sides of
the arched entry. As Nawin watched these automatons and their
redundant strokes he remembered one time when he went into the
stadium to jog and dabble in studies toward a Ph.D. which he had
no real interest to complete. There he saw a group of workers
cutting down a small tree, sawing large portions into more
manageable pieces, and carrying those pieces to a pile. The
workers looked like an entire family with the variety of their
ages and sexes. Two of the adults who were moving the pieces
cajoled a small boy into believing that he was instrumental in
removing the branches for as each was being lifted he would hold
onto a bit of the center and they would praise his efforts. They
were determining his fate by brainwashing him with positive
reinforcement but at least, Nawin thought then, he would be
content with his station in life. Who was to say that the boy
when grown would not feel sorry for people like himself who did
not know what to do with all the days of their lives.

A sales mendicant came by with a dozen or more umbrellas in his
hand. "Do you want one?" Nawin asked.

"All of them. Then I can stand out here all day and have
something to sell." The voice was not earnest and it engendered
no sympathy.

"Two umbrellas please--any color, I don't care."

"100 baht," said the salesman. Nawin paid the money and handed
one to the Laotian.


"I think you are selling something already."

The Laotian grinned. "Really? Are you wanting to buy?" He was.
Ashamed of himself, Nawin looked down at the green sheen of
water that now surrounded the monument. Its reflection seemed to
sway and careen in the harmonious bombardment of the pellets of
rain. More fluid than reality itself, the reflection would for a
time seem permanently unsteady before evaporating entirely.

"No, maybe not," he said vaguely.

The Laotian chuckled. "No, Man, I'm here just because I got
caught in the rain like you did."

Maybe it was true. Maybe the perverse fabrications of the mind
when imparted by speech altered the intentions of the other
party, distorting the fabric of probable outcome.

"Where is your sister?"

"On the farm planting, cleaning, cooking, getting water from the
well, I don't know, I don't care, but she's probably thinking of
you. Do you like her?"

"I don't know her. I don't think I have any real opinion." He
paused thoughtfully and then said,
"How do you mean?"

"I mean for a painting--of a country girl, rural life.

"I'm not sure."

"What about me?"

"For what?"

"For whatever."

"Whatever?"

"Whatever. A friend, maybe if you need one. I think that you do.
You seem lonely."

"Who isn't? I'm okay with it."

"For a painting then. Will you draw me?"

"Okay, but remember commissioning a painting takes large sums of
money. I don't think that's what you want. You just model and
I'll get a gallery in Nongkhai to buy it when its done if art
supplies can be bought here."

"It's the capitol. We have. Now tell me how."

"How what?"

"How would you paint me?"

"How do you want to be painted?

"If you were to choose."

"Nude?" He phrased it as a question for had it been a statement
it would have shown him as possessor of perverse inclinations he
did not want him to know. It would have compelled him to be
perceived as having the interests of an artist and natural
proclivities of a man but with one or the other designated as
the main ingredient. Judged favorably or otherwise, it would
have been a predominant issue, altering roles and distorting the
potential outcome of the interaction.

"I'm okay with it," he said. He was mocking Nawin's circumspect
neutrality with a smile.

"I'm just kidding. What about your sister? I mean would she care
to pose nude if you and your
family don't have any objections to it?"

"Try. My sister, me, the water buffalo, and the chickens: you
can draw us all nude if you like as long as my parents see
something else instead. You don't need to pay us anything. Just
come and stay for a while. Laotian hospitality."

"I don't know."

"Is traveling alone so much fun?"

"No, maybe not."

"There's so much road construction when it doesn't rain, dust in
the air instead of smog, a small capitol instead of a very large
one, but still a city. You've probably never even visited rural
areas in Thailand, have you?"

"Not much."

"What happened to your wedding ring?"

"It was raptured from my finger, so to speak."

"Did you lose it?"

"It lost me."

"I think that you need company right now."

"Sure, what the hell," said Nawin. "Maybe I'd like to see you
nude."

"I know you do," retorted the Laotian.

His discombobulated and desultory mind made his eyes alternate
in momentary gazes between the rain and the flooded land beneath
until, for variety, he looked at those who were within the
arched entry of the monument as he was. He supposed that he
should begin to see more of a commonality with those in his
proximity than he did for he was feeling loneliness impale him
albeit the loneliness of being in communion with another when
not wishing to be so rather than that of a lone traveler to
Laos, needing the company of others. It was the only salient
loneliness that he knew, and the sudden recognition of this
oddity or perhaps the coldness of being so wet made him shudder
and want to believe in them as cognate beings which they
undoubtedly were in the strict physical sense. But demigods and
men all had heads and faces, torsos and limbs. Regular men even
had feelings and thoughts in some proportional quantity even if
it were a degraded quality that was at the dictates of their
myopic needs and agenda at the time. So, although similar in
that sense, he thought scornfully, there was little that was so
remarkable in it.


35

List written for him; 5000 baht  relinquished to him (2000 would
not be enough, at least so the Laotian had claimed, as though he
would know something about this matter; and the equivalent in
kip, he said, would be confusing, which was undoubtedly true);
the departure executed with the figure of the Laotian at a
vanishing point around the Morning Market where supposedly he
would obtain paint, brushes, canvasses, a sketch pad, charcoal
pencils, an easel, and other material items so vital for
painters obsessed in depicting the inner world that was
demotically and mistakingly referred to as the "soul" and was
inconsequential to the world at large. As body, the material
produced  inner consciousness, "soul," perceived in the glint of
the human eye, so base materials like those that the Laotian
claimed that he would obtain produced "art" of  an equally
perishable substance, art of a relative, dubious quality that
should not come from him, no not him, and especially now.

A man penetrating the virulence in the licentious might be
thought of as sagacious when young but for an older man as he,
to continue to draw these incessant, dirty pictures with their
redundant themes, was foolish in its like of discernment even
if, and by his painting he proved, that this was all there was.
And yet he had agreed to paint him but the reason for doing so
no facade of innocence could belie. He should be sitting next to
that famous Phra Thuat Luang Stupa constructed in the year 1565
for the wisdom that might emanate from its gold and simplicity
instead of hoping for--did he dare to admit it himself?--a
ménage a trois.

But what was there to be wise about? That even a homeless dog
needed recognition and extension, that ants summoned each other
to carry a moth carcass up a tree, that creative inspiration was
sexual, and philosophical ruminations were the morbid ponderings
of the inconsequential and the brief, and that one wanted to
live life fully and yet if rides, interaction (professional and
personal), and reflections were the only ingredients he was not
sure of the appropriate mixture.

If the unlikely happened as it sometimes did, and the Laotian
were to return to this monument  there would be the logistical
problem of them getting the material to his parent's home; but
no, there would be no chance of him buying the material and
returning with it. He was no doubt running off with the money.
Why wouldn't he be especially when it was so obvious that he
wanted him to do so for otherwise he would have gone with him to
obtain the supplies or would have obtained them by himself had
he known where to go. By saying, "Well, if you want it that bad
you can get it and I'll go up here" (meaning inside the copied
French monument) both had made a contract that the fraud or
casual, personal, embezzlement  was permissible and that the
Laotian could take the gratuity and do what he wanted with it.

If nothing else, giving this tiny bit of money had been a
nominal act of redistribution for a principle of equity, and the
Laotian merely an initial vehicle for transport. The money would
be injected into their economy and so if the Laotian were to
spend it on booze and women or seeds for the next crop it would
be of no concern for him--at least so he told himself.

With all the whores he had drawn and played with by going into
with a mental microscope and a condom a bit like a marine
biologist scuba diving with an underwater camera in his hand he
knew the ocean of human suffering inside and out, and drawing it
he fed off of it symbiotically. If those around the monument now
had jobs in 7-11 stores like those in Thailand (almost no
convenience stores here, no nothing for sure) wouldn't they be
happy? To forfeit 4000 baht, a hundred dollars, borrowed from
various sources to pay the owner in the event of stealing
something, an impossibility with video monitored stores,
breaking something, as though a carton of milk had such a price,
or running away, which of course they could do as modern day
slaves with the power to walk away but no predominant will to do
so, to work 14 hours a day for a mere five dollars, 170 baht; to
be paid only if the acting manager liked his or her job
performance and signed a document in Thai attesting this fact,
they would be elated to gain such an opportunity.

Still seated on the now half-vacant bench of the monument, he
was foundering inside himself in a melancholy that contaminated
his bounty as an oil spill a lagoon. He loathed the inner
vulnerabilities of the human creature that needed the ersatz of
others for companionship (or at least confirmation when beyond
the need of extension, and when thinking himself beyond
confirmation still needing sexual contact to feel grounded in
reality especially when spending so much time in his own head),
and yet was amused by it  all the same.

The relative silence was interrupted by plaintive, orphic sounds
of a flute played by  a uniformed high school student who sat
stiffly on the steps leading into the monument. Sometimes
stridently off key the music was made all the more euphonious
for the errors.  Truer than inadequate words at reflecting
thought, the tune was pure feeling like a Moslem call to worship
and it seemed to slither onto the athiest's soul comfortably
enough as though that which was desolate and discordant in
mortal man who lost everything and everyone Heraculutously
including innocence and the various stages of development that
trod upon it  was a ubiquitous leitmotiff, a black light one had
to bask in for his own good, human bondage not  executed onto
him alone but done uniformly and impersonally to all.

It seemed to him odd that unlike Bangkok, this Communist bastion
seemed to be conspicuously absent of overt beggars.  He had
expected the same maimed, exploited mendicants whom gangsters,
eager for profit that could be coerced by sympathy,  mutilated
by cutting off limbs and  tortured by subjecting these
dysfunctional amputees of body and mind to the hopelessness of
begging on the streets. Still in smaller quantities there was no
paucity of human misery here: separately older men without
vocation and with glazed eyes gazed onto rain that, for the most
part, they probably did not consciously register; salesmen stood
aimlessly behind fruit and noodle carts that were instruments of
servitude and sustenance they were invisibly chained to; and
hack tradesmen from shoe repairmen to homemade broom salesmen
sought refuge from the rain not only for themselves but for that
which they were peddling.  It occurred to him that in some ways
he had  wanted to see unprecedented misery and that this was why
he had come here instead of picking up his airline ticket and
flying into San Francisco as he had planned.  Perhaps this was
why he had forfeited a return to a country of which he
entertained a vague childish memory not of love in family but of
hope that there was such a thing. The early times of stripping
to his underwear and diving off piers into the Chao Phraya river
with his brothers had proven the concept of family to be ever so
brief.

Friendship--an act to seek out one like himself for confirmation
of his ideas and behavior as correct or having some consistency
in the world at large--this was that which he had hoped for when
he bought the ticket to Nongkhai. He believed that here he would
witness unprecedented suffering and  in that sponge of his heart
he would absorb it and burst like the clouds above. It was his
belief that it would be better to die of a heart attack with
eyes wide open instead of bit by bit by withdrawing into his
shell of pachydermatous affluence and indifference as he moved
about in this world of suffering. He  watched the dark billowing
clouds not from above but below reflected in the turgid green
sheen of the expanding puddles that in this perennial rain
formed of the ground a lake.  He listened for reflections in the
deluge and the inundation of water he stared into. It croaked
surreally with no visible evidence of that which produced the
sound, as if the water itself were transforming into toads--but
then this was a reflection too, another distortion of the mind.

No, he did not expect him to return nor did he want him to but
that was from wanting him to so badly. If he did not return
there would be but the self, he and his thoughts droning on
unnoticed to others like scrapings on the wall of a cell of
solitary confinement, graffiti under a rock, thought under the
rock of the skull that closed him off like the tomb did Christ.
No, there was not a chance in the world of seeing him again and
it was as he wished it to be--at least that which was rational
in him wished it to be.

And again, if instead of using the money for more constructive
purposes the Laotian were to buy beers and whores with it, the
money would be in circulation in this communist bastion of basic
sustenance and mild deprivation instead of being an
inconsequential part of an astronomical sum in his savings back
home, a vehicle for some degree of equity in this world where
one would be better off to pluck out his eyes to stay ignorant
about such matters. Loss of this money would be an invisible
extraction from his savings, an easy riddance.

This rational element schemed was as pretentious an affectation
as the clothes he wore--or any clothes for that matter. This boy,
the Laotian, whom he mentally labeled as Boi 1 (to make a
distinction with the other) was another self delusion, another
lie. Both were bodies and he had an inexorable yearning to see
this Boi 1 naked, to devour and be devoured in wetness, unity,
and sensation with him.

He could say all he wanted as justification for giving him that
money.  He could claim the pretension that from giving it he
hoped it would expiate him of the gross insensitivity of being
affluent in this world of suffering and doing nothing about it,
but really he wanted him to return, he wanted the paint ordered
and delivered, he wanted an excuse to draw him and record his
beauty and his nakedness, to shut out the world in bliss with
him, to be in a ménage a trois with him and his sister in a
euphoria of gluttonous devouring.


36

If the Laotian were to return with the supplies or a receipt for
them, a scenario he could hardly imagine, it would further
solidify a contract begotten of seemingly inconsequential words
and bits of paper currency, the substance of contracts; they
would be in this union and its ensuing obligation of him to
paint one or another of the members of this rural Lao family
even though the subjects and themes this would pertain to were
yet unknown to him. He would stay with them until he completed
his task, rural, sodden and destitute as they were, no doubt
sleeping on the planks of a wooden shack if not on a dirt floor
once again, drinking boiled tea colored tap water or worse mixed
with lemon juice, eating once a day as they did, consuming rice
with fish sauce or salt sometimes mixed with an ant egg curry
and a few boiled vegetables purchased cheaply as they were on
the verge of rotting, somtam, chicken, noodles, boiled eggs,
sticky rice and mangos of the more wealthy almost as exotic as
French cuisine, and out of respect to them ostentatious,
flickering gold would no longer adorn his brown skin to replace
his slave collar of plaited noodles and in lieu of the yellow
plastic wrist band of mindless King Rama myrmidons who also wore
yellow T-shirts with royal insignias on Mondays and Fridays the
thousand dollar wrist watch would have to be deposited obscurely
into his luggage. But were this stranger to desert him, should
he in his loneliness be desperate enough to conceptualize it as
such, there would be the continuation of this freedom from
others, expectations of him just as he wanted, despite any
neediness to the contrary, an uncompromised, unadulterated self
in surfeit, in which even the painting of internal and external
worlds was perceived not as expression but as a blurring or
smudging of the true self by form and colors; and there would be
more of the same unbearable loneliness, and emptiness. He
thought this as he heard thunder in the distance of the passing
storm and in an undercurrent of thought recalled explanations of
thunder and lightning posed by adults, those pleasant lies of
childhood that after all this time he had for the most part
forgotten, memories unused that without imagining the way they
once were, fell apart with pieces scattered in disarray and
sometimes lost entirely, unable to be found again, void
recollections of the mind.

If left alone he would be a cactus flowering obscurely touched
by nothing except the ravaging sandstorms within, an ascetic
monk whose insights would languish within the intact internal
life of a temporary being, a fetus barely alive in a dead
woman's body--if this were really what he wanted. If the
Laotian did not return he might continue to have the pleasant
company of his thoughts provided he held reign over their
restive movements and they were directed mostly toward some
external aim instead of a constant churning of old redundant
ideas and ghosts of memory haunting him with their illusionary
palpability as though that which had been could be grasped
still. Alone here in Laos, a foreign land, there was plenty that
was novel to explore and by being a sole traveler, his will, his
uncompromised agenda, would be exactly as he wished it to be.
And if in this solitary journey he were to become unbearably
lonely, wishing to do god knows what with this family and unable
to do so, his consolation would be that he had given money to
those who no doubt needed it. But apart from putting into
practice an egalitarian principal which gave him some
satisfaction (pleasure always being the positive reinforcement
of an action never to be pursued unto itself but giving personal
meaning to virtuous action) there was nothing so personal in it.

No, he sought only to draw his base nakedness and feel that
erect body against his own. He wanted to be intoxicated by the
molecular exchange of kissing a man like yearning for a bite
from a water monitor, an animal that was rife at the Silpakorn
University campus in Nakkon Pathom, and to ride and be ridden to
launch his sensations out of his mundane, incarcerating,
gravity-bound subjugation.

There was more of the distant thunder. It was like a homeless
bottle collector pushing an unwieldy cart away from him or, if
it could be transmuted to sound, that of a man repudiating his
own impecunious past. Hadn't that faded memory of a mother once
told him that thunder was a diamond falling from some goddess
when struggling in the heavens against a diminutive monster?--he
could not remember any of the specifics; hadn't some uncle in
the United States of America, the country of his birth, once
told him that thunder was the sound of Thai monkeys angrily
tossing coconuts from coconut trees in the hope of getting to
the bananas? He remembered that in his naivity and love of his
nativity he had fused the two stories together. He smiled
ruefully as all variety of family was now gone from him, its
ephemeral nature expedited by circumstance and choice. It
occurred to him how quickly the child within could penetrate the
veneer of a man, and by resurfacing, claim hegemony over adult
thoughts. It might give way to them altogether were it not for
the need to make a living in a role that in some minute way was
a propulsion of human existence--not that seated on park benches
or the equivalent for the past three or more years of his self-
proclaimed retirement, tolerating his wife's looks of disrespect
and thus bonding all the more with Kimberly in due course, he
had performed many roles over the past few years...he had merely
fathered a son. But of 6 billion people on the planet, how would
he know that his assumptions of self were applicable to them? He
could not even prove the dominant child trapped in the veneer of
manhood for himself, let alone others, when from one minute to
the next he was a different being entirely thinking different
thoughts or seemed so as any object in variant angles of light.
Maybe this assumption just related to those whose childhood,
despite some sublime moments, was overall harrowing, or maybe it
was merely his own idiosyncrasies.

Nawin was gazing out to a sidewalk that was across the
bifurcated street that veered into many directions around the
Arc de Triomphe replica, and he was ready to move toward it. He
was just about ready to stand up and walk away. As the Laotian
would not be returning there was no need to sit here further.
Furthermore, he was hungry and wanted the steam of coffee to
make him into a new man. Then he suddenly felt a tap on his
shoulder, human warmth, the sense of belonging to this sorry
specie. The Laotian handed him a receipt. "It should be
delivered by tomorrow afternoon."

"All of it?"

"I think so."

"To your home?"

"Yes unless you want me to have him deliver it to a hotel room.
You don't have one?"

"No. I was thinking about checking into the Paris Laos Hotel. I
saw it earlier in passing. Any change?"

"No."

"It came to 5000 even?"

"Its on the receipt."

"That doesn't mean much."

The Laotian smiled. "I didn't write the receipt. Did you go up
into the monument."

"No, just stayed here. What's up there?"

"I don't know. What's up there? Poor people trying to sell their
trinkets, souvenirs if you want to call it that. Junk for
westerners to remember their trip to Laos. All of it is the same
as in Thailand. Nothing that would interest you unless you want
a little better view of the city."

"I see. Then I guess not."

"You don't want to be a spectator of poverty?"

"No, I've seen plenty of that and I guess I'll be seeing more if
I stay with you."

"Of course. Let's do it."


37

A third person, an older man with a handkerchief on his head,
trudged hurriedly by. Had it been Bangkok, this individual would
have needed to shove through umbrellad cell phone using laggards
jamming pedestrian movements, but here in this village of the
national capital there was nothing to curtail his movements so,
even as decrepit as he was, he disappeared as dirt down the
makeshift gutter that was the declivity of the entirety of road.
Then there was a forth, a monstrosity of four animated legs
walking toward them, a bodiless unit of Siamese twins under a
sole umbrella that in passing was shown to be of separate
beings, male and female counterparts, much younger than he was,
and, in a state of subdued happiness, much more naïve than he
could ever recall being.

Even happiness like this will not last, he thought solemnly with
a sense of sympathy for these distinct individuals beginning to
prevail over a bit of jealousy at the innocence of youth which
had glimpsed him with his cynical countenance and he them before
receding behind him, the memory relegated to the region of the
brain where all inconsequential sensory input was assigned. Then
despite his intention he vaguely recalled that ingenuous sense
of a belief in euphoric, all-pervasive love emanating from the
attraction of two beings, that feeling he could not entirely
repudiate, a feeling he once had toward his brother. After this
particular perversion (all sexual acts a perverse blend of
imagination and the tactile and so the more usual of them also
perverse but not a perversion in the usual meaning of the word,
or so he justified it to himself), he had not felt it since. But
then as one who had perpetual notoriety as a womanizer, a
provocative offense and humiliation to any wife, he had to admit
that he did not know of the longevity that might be maintained
in a relationship--he who thought that marriage to an
anthropologist whose features were buried under thick glasses
would be beyond the atavistic jealousy of troglodytic females
waiting anxiously for the hunter to arrive with his meat, baby's
bone marrow, and bananas, and his penis that should only be
hers, he who did not know that every woman was also a woman in
instinct and reaction.

Then, again, there was just the two of them continuing to walk
silently on a stretch of vacant sidewalk cleansed of the litter
of dogs, each under separate umbrella aegis, each in his own
direct or askance manner watching the energy of the pellets of
rain reverberate in oblique and diminished circular ripples in
puddles near their feet. Still independent, he had ample
opportunities to say that he had changed his mind and that upon
consideration he had decided that he should not forfeit his
travels for the laborious task of painting rural life, which had
not been part of his agenda but that which he, the Laotian, had
imposed upon him and he himself had accepted to seem amiable to
him and less anti-social to himself. That was a cluster of words
that if spoken would have made the contract of earlier
utterances void, allowing immediate freedom from obligation. The
words came to his mouth and languished there until death. He
could not open the prison gates and release them. No, he yearned
for him too much.

He was not part of the four legged monstrosity under a sole
umbrella, nor hand in hand at this early stage of their
acquaintance (not that with a male he would have found that
acceptable at any stage, for to be seen to be free to be queer
would allow the public to pigeonhole him, exacerbating that
which was in him as it had before to the painter of prostitute
studies) and yet he was wishing for the implausible nonetheless.
If holding hands belied the existence of two separate entities,
belief in such a fusion, a more plausible delusion in
heterosexual relationships where one might have proof of a
merger on a sheet of paper and a baby byproduct as the burden of
bouncing on bedroom mattresses, was vastly less credible than
one of naked sportsmen at a bit of wrestling.

For in this plain of existence where all was an illusion, one
could only use logic to maneuver himself into the most plausible
of situations. He did not know what he was thinking as he walked
beside him past the morning market and the Paris Laos hotel
which he had passed before. They would not become nude sportsman
at a bit of wrestling for the victory of pleasure rather than
the pleasure of victory, which was the norm for the clothed
players. As far as he knew, this was a brother and sister whom
he met on a train and whose only interest in him was platonic.
They just wanted to earn a little money by becoming models. That
was a rather innocuous wish, which he was in part fulfilling
because he was not absolutely sure that doing nothing all the
years of his life was any more constructive than the motions of
birds in flight, tires of vehicles rolling, and sorry herds
(even outdoor custodian sweepers pulling plastic trash barrels
on wheels toward a destination) consumed in roles and agenda
which gave artificial meaning to their lives.

No, he wanted him. He wanted to be in the Laos Paris hotel with
him. There were so many irrepressible whims that came over a man
blinding him within a blizzard of heat and titillation. Overhead
the sky seemed to be clearing. Various lower clouds which seemed
to have the outline of vultures within them were eager to move
ahead of the dissipating mass. Like individuals shoving through
the crowds to swoop in the descent of agenda, so were the lower
clouds and so it seemed to him now was the Laotian. He seemed
eager to take him someplace.

"Is your home very far out there?"

"Rather. No. I don't know. It depends on what you mean. We'll
try to get there before darkness overtakes us." But what if
darkness and rusticity was what he wanted. Surely murders
happened in communist countries, and if so, it seemed to him
that they would occur most frequently in rural desolation when
military police or some such comrades were not watching. His
gold should have come off neck and wrist before he crossed the
border. It should have come off his earlobe before he got on the
train. For a man to turn forty and yet to continue to try to
appear half that age was absurd. An earring in a young man was a
symbol of rebellion against the world, and an expression of
latent homosexual impulses yearning for an opportunity to exude;
it was somewhat acceptable in one who was experimental and
lacking self-knowledge yet bold in his attempts to gain it--one
who, dissatisfied with the world, had not yet made his own
world.

"And what would you get from it: a painting or money?"

"Why not both?"

"Why not the moon. Life doesn't work that way."

"If you think the painting is good and you can sell it, pay the
models. If not, don't. Draw a little something for my mother to
make her happy--it being her birthday and all. Besides, for
cooking and washing your dirty underwear that seems like the
decent thing to do."

Nawin smiled. To merge into a family, to have a home when he
except in extraneous matters of documents averring him as
proprietor, was homeless, was that which he sought and wanted to
hear. But then there were the bodies and the odors that exuded
from them, questions as to whether one loved the bodies or the
molecules that they emitted, quandries and riddles for a man,
that like it or not, stank in multiple forms of neediness fetid
as his brothers strewn socks, the scent of monsters that
fluttered all about in his brain.


38

Friend, acquaintance: he was not quite sure which word he should
categorize him under, or if the relationship were more than
superficially amiable. For what he knew, walking as he did
beside him when less flooded pavement permitted, and behind him
when situations warranted, he was being led into outlying areas
for ostensible reasons that belied the plan of shooting,
stabbing, or bludgeoning him to death, which he would have
invited upon himself. As touching poles warning of imminent
electrocution had been a temptation earlier, so now, he
concluded, he was stroking death from a more gregarious angle
and no one would be to blame but himself if his early demise
were to occur because of it. A gilded collar on a dog of burnt
umber was still a dog and a collar. Absurdly in coming here,
gold still hung from his neck, dangled from a right earlobe and
as the thousand dollar Swiss watch that adorned his wrist. Like
a billboard flaunting opulence and reminding others of
inequalities the culprit would be the billboard itself rather
than the man who brought it down. And all to undo the dog by
flaunting a glittering symbol of savoir-vivre. Now that he
considered it, it was a wonder that he had gotten through the
previous night intact only having to pay a thousand baht salary,
penitence for his soiree with an underage male who had been the
stranger of his strange, intimate encounter. He did not know
this individual whom he was walking with, but then he obviously
did not know the childhood friend whom he had married and who
had bludgeoned him with an iron skillet. People were such
amorphous blobs that changed shape with the years and when
confronted with the brevity of their own lives. That did not
totally displease him. It made them more the pitiful mysteries
that were the subject of his art and empathy. From humanism to
materialism, their digressions and mutations were simply a need
for permanence and significance. His wife, a scholar, had
maternal instinct as her quest for permanence, her art and if
for years now she had been building her empty nest, he had never
blamed her but handed over money for these perennial renovations
that gave her happiness in the midst of her sadness.

Friend or acquaintance, potential lover or murderer, it did not
matter as the situation of enjoying the company of another was
pleasant and merely being with someone irrepressible to one in
such a somber state of mind. If crimes did occur in this
communist country it seemed to him that they would happen in
bucolic surroundings far from the scrutiny of the officers
sitting in tiny police boxes on every corner of this village
capital, and that if his demise were to occur at human hands it
would be no different from the Pyrrhic viruses and cancer that
killed incidentally, or even the immune system which was a
killer in its own right. It seemed to him that there was little
point in concerning oneself with the inevitable and the
ineluctable; and it was indeed ineluctable for a man continually
slipping and falling under the weight of retrogressive memories
to seek companionship at some stage of despair within his self
containment rather than to tolerate one more minute in solitude
and thought. It occurred to him that he was in a state of
needing to be befriended by a serial killer and he laughed.

"What's funny?"

"Nothing." He smiled.

"What?"

"Just the crazy thoughts in one's head. That's all," he
responded evasively.

The two men closed their umbrellas, and each jumped respectively
onto a large rock that nudged out of a turbid, fetid pool on a
sunken area of sidewalk, and then made a second and broader leap
to drier pavement. Straws in small bags of coca cola that each
had in his right hand jiggled with phallic looseness as did
their singular and murky reflections in passing over the
inundated sidewalk. He could now see at a distance the bald
muddied area of the bus terminal with its dilapidated secondhand
buses that, according to the travel guide, had been given by the
Japanese government to the retarded capital as a gesture of
friendship, buses that would take them outside  Vientiane albeit
for him without any good reason for except for this sharp
prodding feeling of needing to be with someone. It seemed that
he was receding into an earlier Thailand and an earlier self,
and that after so many weeks of travail (so many years really),
that he was now happy that he was dirty, poor, and free as a
seven year old boy in the company of brothers at a pier.

Then they saw two dogs and themselves. Two dogs dogged by
cravings and two men suddenly in rapt attention around the
copulating beasts. It was the mating of common four legged
creatures and yet they did not seem to mind: sexuality was the
mounting of another form for pure pleasure (conquest of pleasure
and the pleasure of conquest) that would be exempt of suffering
and thought, the forced intimate exchange with a female, the
forced intrusion and annexation of a cave, a feminine domain by
which in sexual contact, the male animal, having nothing and
bereft of all, asserted a declaration of ownership against a
weaker mortal, a fertile being of obdurate will from which there
was an exciting possibility of fertilized union and untoward
pregnancy; and even from outside in witnessing another species
and the action performed by it, it was a ubiquitous reminder of
real life denuded of brand name pretense and mesmerizing for
this fact alone. This bitch was still alarmed by the swelling
and gyrating of the body part still extended into and locked
within her, and she continued to jerk in various futile
positions in the hope of extricating herself from this peculiar
alien fusion, which before ejaculation, insemination, and
probable gestation--with a new alien hijacking her body--was
impossible. It reminded him of those that he had seen in a more
willing communion a few weeks earlier on Pinklao Street. Cars
and motorcycles had swerved around them, those varmints that had
been using their instruments of vile urination for pleasure, and
in so doing inadvertently achieving for themselves nominal
immortality amongst tortuous shoppers like him who had come out
of Central Department store off an opulent cloud of various
exits to the bathos of the gritty and the pornographic. For him
it had been amusing and, while going to the parking garage,
there had been a sheepish grin on his face. Like any male he had
gazed at the exhibitionists and the duality of rapture beyond
that of any female counterpart leaving the mall; like any
artistic mutant of a man who from his own abused childhood
pursued brothel studies as though he were an astrophysicist on
the verge of a singular theory. He had gazed at the varmints and
their apotheosized obscenity, vile and natural, until its
completion, far longer than other men exiting the mall.

And yes, he who had an affinity for dogs left to reproduce in
Bangkok streets and obviously elsewhere in Southeast Asia so
gratuitously, an affinity for them that perished with the
overseers' knowledge and without the least compunction, would
wish to see them in drooling rapture rather than in grueling
rupture. Both scenes, then and now, reminded him that
instinctual cravings were such a compulsion in man and dog that
for it, this frenzy, this euphoric escape, they would risk
death. Such was the insanity of it all--all this programming to
replicate beings with no purpose beyond replication itself,
unless it were the animation of inanimate elements that they
neither saw nor wanted to see, as they each, in separate
moments, lowered their umbrellas to jump onto a rock when the
rain was a mere sprinkle and continued their destined walk, this
movement toward open body bags, coffins, and urns that waited
patiently for them in their myopic and only half-believed sense
immortality.

"Nice, isn't it?--one of the best sites that we in Laos pride
ourselves on, and show to all our rich travelers--dogs doing
it."

"Well, its rife in life. I couldn't expect anything better--here
or elsewhere."

"Good, then its impossible to disappoint you. There's not much
here, I must admit. La Prabang is better. Maybe I'll take you to
a few temples and stupas in Vientiane--La Prabang even--before
you return to Bangkok."

"It's okay, I don't mind. Seeing sites--it's not what I'm
after."

"What are you after if you don't mind telling me? Why did you
want to come Vientiene, anyway?"

"That's Complicated," he said ineffably for how could the wish
to escape inordinate grief be expressed? He merely stood there
not from bravery but from the confusion of a mute animal, numbly
feeling this hot iron branding of the forehead, this
incommunicable set of feelings, and these memories fading to
abstractions with every new day, but there at this distance
beckoning him nonetheless. The number he was, the more he could
function, not that bereft of agenda, he needed to do anything
apart from engaging in a departure that he hoped would bring him
peace of mind.

The Laotian kissed him on the cheek taking in the sides of the
lips and transferring his molecules therein.

"My new brother," he said ironically. "He keeps wanting to sweep
up a pile of dirt that blew away long ago. Forget your past. You
are a guest in my home and I usher new beginnings for you."

He tried to thank him but the words would not come out. How
could he thank someone for this betrayal of his intention.
Although an invitation to the possibility of fraternity, family,
and a consistency of human presence which for sanity he was
deemed to need, his body yearned not for true intimacy but true
illusion. He wanted him as his lover, the lever for the fuel of
his testosterone, dopamine, adrenalin, and serotonin which would
be extinguished at ejaculation like the falling of a bottle
rocket. Thus he stayed silent.

He sensed that this imparted kiss was deliberate in its
ambiguity; that his stare was a spotlight; and that his grin was
one of gaining satisfaction from not disclosing all that he
knew. He sensed, although he was not quite sure how, that his
thoughts were being discerned: that this friend knew of his
womanly sensitivity, knew of the desperate scraping on the walls
of the cells of his brain, of the outlines of faces of family
and friends lost to him--an action like art to compensate for
diminishing memories, of his unsteady scaffolding on the verge
of imploding from the loss of entire foundations of youth, of
this resistance of selfish impulses that compelled lesser men to
father child laborers and others sons that would be extensions
of themselves at their demise, of the perception he had of women
as obsessed to have a nest in which to breed birdies that once
grown would in the best of circumstances cause the second
dissolution of family, of this conviction that the male entity
was always being used by women, and even more, of nature itself,
which coerced a man in the lure of replete pleasure and the
barely manageable impulses that were its precursor. Just as on
the train he believed that the Laotian ad his sister knew of his
attraction toward him, so now he was reading his deeper
thoughts. Maybe it was the sagacity to notice the slightest
expressions in a countenance that was under the influence of
mood. Maybe when a man was not given an opportunity to learn
from books, his scholarly pursuits were merely to gain the skill
to accurately judge the essence of a man for his own use. Nawin
on impulse, wanting to do rather than think, and yearning for a
contract with another being rather than the circumspect
reticence and insular freedom of being alone was willing to risk
opprobrium rather than having to play more of this game of the
straight and narrow, opened and tilted his umbrella over the
Laotian and kissed him fervently. He was not sure after these
brief seconds were complete if the lips of the other party had
at any point pressed into his own reciprocally or were just that
of a victimized passive agent compelled into action by the rape
forced upon them. Aloof and disconcerted, amused and perplexed,
the Laotian smiled at him wryly. In so doing it made this
fraternal role seem feigned.

"You don't mind?" he asked him.

"I don't mind anything," the Laotian said

"Here's a hotel room. We could stay together until morning."

"You and I together?"

"If you want?"

"I want. I really want. But another day. I want to get you
home."


39

Except for brief durations, he had not slept much the previous
night. He had been preoccupied by belated concerns over his
actions with the intimate stranger and an obsession to purge the
travail of abused childhood by placing himself in similar
scenarios so as to anoint the visceral wounds with seething
pleasure. He had been besieged with worries about the possible
theft of his wallet from the drawer of the night stand in the
room of the guest house, and yet now he would willingly give
away the money he had and the bands of gold that he wore which
separated him from others of the swarthy, befouled herd, for an
opportunity to sleep. He had this strange, recurrent idea that
everything he had with him and all of his material possessions,
assets, and estates in Bangkok were irrelevant. The idea
resonated with a drowsy philosophical truthfulness that belied
an organism's necessity to thrive at the expense of common
laborers. It seemed to him (not that as tired as he was he could
trust his ideas) as though, in a world of poverty where the true
crime lay in the paucity of theft, such possessions were not his
to begin with. If in being taken into the country he ended up
murdered, his throat slit and that which he had taken from him,
in some ways it would be a justified hypercorrection.

His sensory impressions did not seem to be fully registered,
making every few minutes of "reality" shift around on their own
Teutonic plates. The sensory input which made its way to the
printmaker of the mind to be copied and filed in memory for
future reference (ideas and situations unclear to be sketched in
artfully, deceitfully, self-delusively, and credulously with his
own fabrications) were, in this state, the faintest of
reproductions and made him have difficulty seeing and
understanding let alone embellishing, believing, and
categorizing content. His consciousness awry, at certain seconds
the world seemed to have become an ethereal haze and he sensed
himself on a slippery precipice of the declension of the
foundation of self, which one only feels in the asphyxiation of
loneliness. Twice he stumbled as he walked. The second time he
did so the Laotian laughed.

"You all right, old man?" he asked.

"Yeah I'm fine. Tired but okay--except for that comment."

"You don't like it?"

"No, not particularly. I mean for my taste its all right--unique
(of course, when reconsidered and taken less personally he who
mentally referred to King Bhumibol in English as "King Booby"--
he who has become affluent by exploiting the inner worlds, the
souls, of prostitutes in his nude "studies"--would hardly be
one to espouse etiquette).

"But not respectful?"

"No, not respectful." East Asian society, in public so
deferential of age, in private hearts expressed a more human
reaction. It was the same repulsion for mental and physical
deterioration, lack of stamina, and loss of beauty, essences of
life that vanished with the years.

"Not a thing to do to a guy who is still sensitive about having
turned forty, of having experienced his birthday all alone on a
train."

"A birthday boy? Why didn't you tell us?"

"I don't know. Didn't I?" he spoke indifferently. "I don't
remember. At any rate you gave me a beer on the train. That was
like a gift I suppose. I could go for some coffee now. They have
that here?"

"Where?"

"Laos. Vientiane."

"We're not jungle monkeys," said the Laotian. Nawin smiled
warmly. Of course they were but how pleasant that they were
endeavoring to be more.

"Forty, are you? So young," continued the Laotian. "And if we
had known we would have made you a cake. We would have, you
know?"

"Would you have? And how would you have made one in a train?"

"I don't know. There were stops. I could have scraped together
something. Kemiga and I used to make mud pies when we did the
baby thing together."

"Your sister's name?"

"Yes. You liked her, didn't you?"

"She's pretty. Do you do the baby thing with her now?"

"The baby thing?" he scoffed, turned red in embarassment, and
became reticent with face looking downward as if the breeding
dogs that they had seen in passing were still before them.

"Playing around upon occasion, sure, but no baby things. We've
outgrown that. Anyhow we better hurry. Its getting late."

At first the conversation brought Nawin reassurance. The
relationship was amicable enough and he was content to be in
company that kept him sheltered from being denigrated and
reviled in his own thoughts, which rained down upon him. Then he
thought of the abrupt petulant shift of the conversation to a
tacit moodiness and the Laotian suddenly seemed grotesque and
alien to him; the scenario of leaving the city limits with him
vastly peculiar; that peculiarity seeming as if it were
happening to someone else or viewed from a staticy television
broadcast; and although acknowledging that all strangers
remained such, unless communicated with and entrusted to be
more, he wanted to flee the unknown cravenly and return home on
that train which had taken him here.

It was the obdurate will of man that feigned reality to begin
with and the weathering forces of drowsiness that loosened the
elements allowing their essence to scatter like an empty shell
smashed and falling through a fist. This was the quintessential
truth of or lack of reality. And yet as he was beckoned to
return home by ghosts of the past, corpses now resuscitated and
moving to the foreground of his brain as if alive and relevant
after so much time and so many changes, he was still gravitating
forward toward the Laotian.

Conclusions about the world had subtly assembled in the back of
his brain in the course of his life, conclusions repudiated at
other times for the need to think positively and to make the
world his home for lack of a choice of another, slipped through
barriers of his mind to the forefront of his brain. His thoughts
were in anarchy; and if drowsiness allowed tiny viral thoughts
to enlarge and escape the subconscious, the weary consciousness
of the mind exaggerated the extent of the mutation, the brain
looking at individual thoughts as mirrors from an amusement
park. He saw sparse motorcyclists, drivers, and pedestrians as
their true figurative form of human vultures, and yet he did not
mind for, as insular as he now was, to have his corpse clawed,
scraped off, and devoured by beasts would be a most welcome act
of intimacy.

He did not understand the reasons why he continued on this
journey with the Laotian (this train stranger's lure of him, or
the vulnerability that made him succumb to his will and agenda
as if social contracts were always done in weakness and human
relationships always pursued with the objective of attainment in
mind), and yet he walked with him all the same. Was it simply
for cock sweet on the sweetened cock vine? he posited
derisively. Maybe there was the hunger for the sensual and the
molecular in the attraction but for it to be only this would be
a vast oversimplification. In part he was invigorated as much as
a sleep deprived man could be by having crossed over the border,
with his life just hours earlier seeming closed off to him now;
in part it was to be with someone who could look beyond the
playboy contrivances of art and life to see the soul of the
atheist, the abused child beneath the man--yes, that was the
lure over him but as with all things, such firey hungers came
from within and were not ignited by extraneous forces without.
Early childhood experiences were the arsonist, and the tower of
his manhood would burn to a final implosion hoping for one who
could fan ebullient flames or put him out entirely.

And of this second Boi, the Thai from Nongkai who claimed that
he had come into the restaurant of the guesthouse because of the
heavy rain, this unknown boy who already seemed as a passing
dream, a wet dream, an evaporated being or residual abstraction
oozing out of the furthest corners of memory, would he, Nawin,
really have paid for his education? Overall he believed that if
a letter, an email, or a phone call were to come to him
resurrecting the abstraction into a living being once more, he
would help him. But without sleep he hardly knew anything about
himself for sure--he was like some piece of discarded trash
bobbing superficially on weltering waves. He surely would help
him as he had done for ladies of the night and other women whom
he drew, rode, and drew once more but that fact alone did not
speak well of him. Doing something pleasant for that which
brought him pleasure seemed only a means to keep the pleasure
coming. No, he retracted, his motives were not as bad as this.
He might not be the greatest altruist or philanthropist in the
world but as a man who knew it all, had suffered it all, and
could easily imagine the travails of the inner lives of others,
it was his obligation to correct injustices where and when he
saw them. Only a lunatic sought injustices to paint or rectify,
but if one alleviated the suffering that came before him and his
adumbration, his life would have true worth. But what phone
calls would he receive? He had thrown his telephone into the
large trash can at the Hualamphong train station, so it was not
as if he would get any telephone calls. Address? He was
homeless. Deeds that he owned were merely paper, joint property
due to hid marriage license, or so he assumed, not that
attempting the eviction of wife and son had ever entered his
mind. To think of them ensconced eased his mind. Email? As an
artist and lecturer, he had allowed one of his students to
maintain these secretarial duties. Now his account at Silpakorn
University, home of the Silpakorn University Swamp Monster, the
roving land and water monitor, had email galore to which he
would never be able to get through all alone even if he cared to
try.

What did he know? He hardly knew anything--just that he was
walking with the Laotian, that a bus depot of some sort was
before them, that the possibility of an amorous interlude had
fallen behind some moments earlier like a handkerchief from his
back pocket, and that from nigh to nay that which could be
dissolved into location had become nothing. As all things in the
course of time weakened, diffused, and were absorbed by the next
behemoth event, so was rapacious emotion, more illusory and
immaterial than anything else, and instinctual hungers that were
corporeal delusions of intimacy to, more times than not, foster
pregnancy, would be all the more fleeting. Now the nearest hotel
was blocks behind them, and here they were.

It was like a fallow pasture for the grazing of these mountable
but crippled mammoths. They were used busses that were
supercilious hand-me-downs from Japan to a world capital bereft
of so much. Often there needed to be multiple attempts at the
ignition key to get them started, but once revived, these
monsters constantly exuded and spewed their noxious and
intoxicating flatulence.

He entered deep into the underbelly of one that would take him
to the poverty and destitution of the masses out of city limits
and illusions. If Bangkok was an opulent deception of rural life
he hardly knew what would lie before him away from the
antiquated, rustic capital of Vientiane; but he knew that it
would be rife in life, and something far truer and more
pervasive than his impoverished existence as the son of a
sidewalk restaurant proprietor in Ayutthaya. He did not know of
any reason for what he was doing; but at least he was living
life by actually doing something. And whether or not he would
find it more of a positive experience than a negative one, as
encounters with women opening up their reeking legs for him, was
yet unknown.

It was an adventure to which the outcome was uncertain; but as
it was an adventure; at least it had the pleasantry of this
component, which was sought most ardently by those who could not
rest in their own company, if nothing more substantial. But then
with so much that was deceased around him, meaningful
relationships decomposing on the mound of earlier rot, he would
have to be truly pachydermatous to not feel an impact from that
which might seem extraneous. And when the inside was shaken with
all in rubble, of course he would have to leave his domicile. He
had mistakenly believed that during most of his time in Laos he
would be sitting in some park or another reading a volume of
essays on Buddhism or art, and when glancing up at the sky he
would hear nothing within and without but the gentle rustling of
pages turned by the fingers of the wind. Instead he heard
evacuation sirens within the city of the mind.

And here he was exiting Vientiane. It was hard to believe that
he had actually been in the capital. The city had monuments and
a few signs in English elucidating Laotian history, but signs of
international commerce or even signs in Laotian prompting
capitalism on a local level, seemed scarce. These people were
not competing but sustaining themselves and thus there was
little thriving on the backs of others. There were no elite
artists--no arts at all outside that which impoverished
students sold along the river to French tourists.

Standing in this crowded bus of upright mangled bodies twisted
around each other, he tried to free his mind as best he could.
He contorted his head toward a window and angled it diagonally
to look up at the gargantuan sky clogged in floating masses of
clouds. It seemed to him that all futile prayers ended in the
ethereal bellies of these livid beasts. Still, they looked thick
and real whereas he and those around him seemed, in his sleep
deprived state, to be disappearing like vapor.

Why not one more stifled yearning? If he got what he
instinctually craved, he would be but inflamed instinct with all
the days of his life subject to hedonistic impulses, continually
needing others, he would  be forever incomplete. It was good
that the hotels were behind him and that that inexplicable
feeling for the desideratum had died down to a few burning
cinders.

"He's bound to stop for a beer somewhere between two bus routes,
slit your throat as a fruit vendor would a watermelon from his
chilled glass cart, mince you into pieces, dump you from the
Friendship bridge, and watch you, in pieces, float down the
Mekong river," said a gecko. The reptile was hanging from a rail
on the bus, its form grotesquely large for a gecko and
resembling a Silpakorn swamp monster in miniature, with a head
like a four legged dinosaur, a tongue like a snake, and a body
like an alligator, but a gecko it was nonetheless. "It's your
destiny and you cannot escape it. Why look so frightened? Don't
you like that which circumvents etiquette?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe? Exploiter of whores, splattering their filth on canvas
in your colors, your rebellion against this land where naïve
belief in the goodness of the Chakri dynasty is supreme, belief
that Taksin the Great after his wars with the Burmese had
suddenly gone mad, that the bludgeoning of his body and the
execution of his son in Cambodia had been done at orders other
than that first Chakri, Rama I and that Rama IX did not arise by
the assassination of his brother, the Eighth, belief that
father, the abuser, knows best. You are drawn to those who do
something avante garde. Why be afraid. It's ineluctable?"

"Ineluctable?"

"Ineluctable as day meets night. And you want it to happen--this
ruining of you at other hands. Admit it."

"I do; but I don't know why."

"The smearing of paint, the smearing of blood, there's no
difference. The murder of a rich man to get his gold, the
impaling of a whore with your cock, its all mixing to get the
most poignant colors on the palette. He will get you drunk.
People of that type always like to drink and to do so at their
friend's expense. He will notice your gold and stay silent about
it as though it does not interest him at all. People of that
type always do."

"And the means of doing it?"

"A rusty pocket knife with a dull edg,e but with enough muscle
and unflinching will even the dullest object can puncture
another. But I wouldn't give it any concern; it's no different
than the wallowing explorations of the pig-like whores you are
so fond of, all for the thrill of exploitation and impaling. He
will be intimate with your blood and as he does so he will never
forget you."

"Sit down. Over there," said this Boi. A woman had just left
the back row of seats. Feeling enervated, Nawin obeyed.


40

They had gotten off one bus to wait along the road for another
which, he assumed, would take them to other hamlets or rural
scatterings possibly more remote than this--assumed, for what
did he know waiting perennially, or seemingly so as he was, and
shaking his head from time to time to keep himself on top of the
internal waves and not be overtaken, not be absorbed by them-
waves which came upon him voraciously like inundating tongues,
polysemous tsunamis of a muted, mutating language cryptic to
him, not of volition and thus adventitious in a sense, but still
of his own making. The gecko/water monitor-hybrid was still
whispering from the tips of the tallest of weeds, "He's brought
you out here to kill you," even though it seemed to him that if
the Laotian were to do this he would have done it by now; that,
barely glancing at him, as preoccupied as the younger man now
was with this new pastime of murmuring into his telephone while
scratching and pinching his crotch, activities pursued almost as
fervently as playing with his blades, that his intent was
innocuous, or as innocuous as it could be for one more of the
naked and purposeless human animals for which manipulating the
environment to serve one's sense of pleasure and to repudiate by
acquisition that which he was, was always a salient motive. So
he thought, and wearing a gold chain and a thousand dollar watch
as he was, so he needed to believe; and thus he justified his
actions to his nebulous and somewhat effervescent self  that was
surreally disconnected like a half severed limb.

Looking at him from the dense, weeded patch where he stood a
couple yards behind--it was, surely, this first Boi, the one in
the train, and not the other; or maybe they were manifestations
of the same: the wounded and the wounding--he sought an
objective appraisal of him, this migrant laborer who skid around
like a leaf; this individual who had given him a beer in the
train but now often wielded a knife, this peculiar man whom he
had seen touching his sister's feet and from a mere glance had
interpreted or misinterpreted a look of lust toward her, a
desperate and impoverished predilection that he knew too well,
this intimate stranger of his mind whom he believed (but did not
know) to have noted his own homosexual proclivity, which he had
mentioned in oblique jocular sagacity, an individual with an
appearance like his brother of long ago, or what he remembered
of him, who could well have been soliciting himself at the
Patuxai or just sitting there insouciantly as though accepting
his and humanity's own naked, futile state, which acquisitive
attempts even by the most affluent ultimately belied, this male
who perhaps had little or no sexual interest in him ( a fact
which would have negated his own feelings quickly had the
teasing not exacerbated them), and was using him somehow
although he did not know exactly how or care all that much for
he wanted to be of use so as to discover something useful in
himself.

No, the Laotian was not one whom he could objectively surmise
when yearning for intimacy with and salvation for him. Already
there was a taste of loose molecules of him in his mouth and the
smell of him, or an emission of him, which was not him really,
rolling in his nose--or more logically, he contravened, the
memory of the smell and taste of others mixed with his smell
which by his imaginative reveries he ascribed to him; and he
wanted to deliver him the way he did of 7-11 clerks and food
cart restaurateurs in his worthless good wishes but with
slightly more personal emphasis and effort. It was no major
hardship to forsake his retirement for a brief time, to paint
the family not in time-consuming and arduous "art," if his could
be called such, but as quick smears that magically conveyed a
superficial essence, and to pay them a few thousand baht for
sitting still and posing before him--creatures of movement
expanding with time but made silent and inert deserved
compensation, although what he would do with the final products,
he did not know. Dragged to Bangkok to be stuffed in a closet of
a home he had yet to possess in his new life as a sole bachelor,
they would never see the light of day (they could not be known
for it would depreciate his own commercial worth). Still, it was
irrelevant.

A bus came...a seat where he could be sleeping and from a nap
recovering, understanding what he was doing more rationally; but
then it went by and they continued to wait as though it had not
come at all. The telephone was now folded and put into a pocket
and the Laotian was once again opening and closing the blades of
his knife as before without even looking at the bus that was now
disappearing into the distance.

He could jump the blade wielder if he so pleased, take away the
knife under the impulse of the moment (maybe escalating or
degenerating into making love to him in the sodden grasses like
a pleasure-seeking wild boar if attitude could be wrenched from
him with no more difficulty than the knife), and demand an
answer for this long wait. But then he would have to be rather
certain that his own thinking was clear, and he knew that it was
not; that the wait was inordinate instead of seeming such--he
was not sure exactly how long they had been waiting; or if he
was in fact being threatened in some way instead of entertaining
the possibility of being threatened (anything was possible). To
jump him aggressively or to even outwardly accuse him of
something only to find his own reasoning egregiously and
mortifyingly false would make him the miscreant. It was his
judgment that there was more of a probability that his own need
for sleep was making him suspicious, if not paranoid. He decided
the Laotian's behavior was not indicative that he himself was
the desideratum, the target of execution--but, even of this,
what did he know with the reasoning ability he had sloshing
around in drowsiness and drowsiness speaking so incessantly with
its reptilian voice murmuring that he, Nawin, would be stabbed
(to use the exact word in Reptilian, impaled) and that he wanted
it that way; and perhaps he did want it that way, he speculated
about his wish to be impaled intimately, his natural death wish
that would be unnatural if not opposed strongly by a zeal to
live. The extent of his zeal to live (surely the more pervasive
and predominate it was the more healthy the human psyche) he was
uncertain of in such an exhausted state with inordinate muck,
the black dust and fabric of the brain, in all sectors animated
and taking on primitive life like a mass of prions rising from
nothing recalcitrantly, clogging his mind with their movements,
his will, his sensibility lost to them that were no more than
adumbrations of forgotten aspects of his life...lost.

Lost...how much more, especially when in this sleep deprived
state, could he tolerate this standing idly at the edge of the
highway and, in each sound of an emerging truck, anticipating,
or coercing a feigned anticipation of, the emergence of a bus
futilely, but in thought expecting that it would never come most
perspicaciously? How much more could he tolerate all this: these
prodigious moments of fighting the pull of sleep; people rift
from him; increasing age transporting him further and further
from the sensitive child whom he once was, a sheen of innocence
that he once had and could have maintained to some degree had
there not been a need to survive on the streets and to rise
above them economically; his naïve wish to be loved; and his
hunger to use others for sexual gratification, all of which
compelled him to mutate--a groping primate of sorts dangling on
a limb to avoid putting his feet directly on the sordid ground,
as if that which he garnered from the earth, his money, were
clean. Lost, it was a part of him that he could not keep, a
ragamuffin whom he wanted to reject and reclaim simultaneously
and yet could do neither one well.

But, in accepting the mutation--there was little choice but to
accept it and as he had always flaunted himself in the livery of
his manhood there was no point in reversing the trend now--how
was he to know that the man he now was was the man he was meant
to be? Who was to say that one was meant to be anything at all
but atoms attracted to each other loosely and reverberating off
each other in temporary mass, an agglomeration less solid, less
real, than a rock, and more equivalent to a gas? Who was to say
that man evolved personally let alone socially? He just let the
old foundation crumble and sordid experiences caulk into and
harden over the holes stinking like excrement.

Perhaps one did not evolve any more than the word "love" had
substance beyond its four letter content and the amount of time
and energy expended to gain this concocted abstraction which by
being believed, managed, as a corollary, to patch the void and
perpetuate the species--a species of monetary, intellectual, and
physical disparity whose only ablution would come in a rain of
nuclear bombs.

The postcard which he had picked up for her in Nongkhai he had
forgotten in his room at the guesthouse.  A maid had no doubt
thrown it into the trash by now; but then it matched the
telephone and life which he had thrown, as well, into the trash
receptacle at the train station--yes, two negatives were better
than one because the odd was never harmonious and even. What did
he want of that telephone anyhow, as possessing it would not
bring women back, not even the cute nurse at Siriaj Hospital,
for the wound had been reopened and a reopening a vile hole he
must fall through.

At this time she, Noppawan, was no doubt there in their home
with his child, and so he could return to Vientiane, find a
decent hotel--the few that there were--and give her a call.
Better, he could boldly return to her who had been the salvation
of his youth; but now they were not the same as before--their
relations would be like returning to an empty house after it had
been repossessed by the bank. He, the Nawin of ten years hence,
would just be another variation of this thing that he called
self, constructed substantially of recent memories, and erected
broadly on distant general impressions of largely diminished and
forgotten accounts. His true self was the self of the moment and
it would only be real for a time if his colors did not blur into
the colors of everything else--but then one did not live without
interacting and diluting. Was not his sojourn here, this
atheist's retreat, futile if he did not interact with others and
mix himself in them, hoping to learn and be enhanced beyond his
musty, circumscribed domain?

Why, he asked himself, was he here? If he had gone to Chiangmai,
he could have been hang-gliding, or Pattaya, para-skiing, action
where, for a time, being isolated, diluted, vanishing, not even
a professional selfless entity, a cog in the social-economic
apparatus, ceased to matter. Who could blame those who dissolved
themselves fully into the mindless purity of action, the
substance of the expanding universe? In the brevity of
motorcycle rides and the attendance of  football games he did it
on a regular basis himself...but then he would always return to
that unfathomable, pensive self that others muffled gregariously
with the noise of companions--a pensive, mellifluous dirge
sought after and found most fully, for him, in broad empty
spaces.

Now, to not be all alone, separated from this mad world he meant
to separate himself from, to not hear so clearly the inner voice
which, in a change of attitude, he now did not want to hear
fully, to not think of himself as an affluent but still aimless
drifter or a delinquent parent in a fatherhood that had come
about from this game of massage and ejaculation concocted by two
women yearning for a child, to not be a broken aching man with a
broken throbbing arm and clavicle, the gifts of a wife who
despised him, to be free of that recurrent guilt-ridden memory
of a girlfriend suffering from postpartum depression who leaped
from a balcony to elude him, that nightmare of a mutilated
corpse always fresh in his thoughts, and to stand in the eternal
compass of love without a diminutive man-made version that was
broken fragments in his hands, would be his ultimate rapture.

Nawin--of course the word was a name change, a mere alteration
of a label from that hapless creature, "Jatupon," fleeing the
past of noodle servitude to his brothers and whoredom to one of
them--no, not a sex slave per se, as he had been with him from
volition with all that serotonin, adrenalin, testosterone,
dopamine, naivety, inexperience, youthful trust of feelings, and
all the rest making him madly in love (mandates and mastery by
chemistry, so hardly slavery in the traditional sense of the
word which would imply an external factor); and it was done
because a Buddhist monk had advised it to be done. So why, with
women let alone anyone else, should he want to feel this
spurious emotion of "love" once again? A time and a half had
been more than enough.

"So you're not groveling back to your wife, wounded and wanting
her tender mercies. I had you all wrong--good for you," he
daydreamed the Laotian as saying and himself providing the
response of, "No, with any violent altercation or, at least a
conclusion in my mind that neither party is any good to the
other--the wife to the husband and the husband to the wife, my
allegiance changes."

"To a different sex than what you are involved in?"

"Why would you think that?"

"I have my reasons. Come on, all pent up in your head with no
one to talk to, wouldn't you like to confess to one person?"

"Not really."

"All right. So be it; if you want to stagnate that way. It's
entirely up to you."

"Well, if you have to know, it can change or be for none at all.
I'm not afraid."

"Of what? Me?"

"Of disengagement. Of saying my goodbyes."

"But you followed me here" he laughed incredulously. "Why's that
Pree [older brother] Nawin?"

"Yes."

And he remembered that in the last year or two she, Noppawan,
would mutely convey that most indifferent of yeses to him, her
retired, worthless husband who no longer had the stamina to
pussy-hunt beyond the domain of his two women, and did not even
have the virility to raise a paintbrush as, he concluded, his
paintings did not have either enlightened vision or the titian
colors of the Greats, and that he was a commercial whore more
than an artist--wives of course always wanting money and
possessions, always buying and making plans for the renovations
of their nests (empty with infertility as they might be), and
the buyers of his canvases whom he catered to needing their
luscious prostitutes to exude testosterone throughout their
stiff cadaverous bodies to transport them from the mundane. And
when he tried to share the poignancy of the seemingly blasé and
inconsequential of a given day of his leisure and meditation at
the zoo, various parks, and at park benches (the patterns of
clouds, the black diamond sparkle of shadows of leaves on the
ground, the lofty fan of bold pigeons perching on his table to
steal his Styrofoam container of rice, wind carrying the smell
of rejuvenating blades of grass--that same perennial and eternal
smell he remembered from 35 years ago) often she, Noppawan,
would continue to make dinner in silence, mutely conveying that
most indifferent of yeses to him, pony tail nodding
indifferently against the nape of her neck in affirmation of
nothing.

He needed to urinate and obviously so did the younger man who
was no longer looking at the road but toward the land with
forest behind them, and a pasture with free roaming emaciated
water buffalo at a distance. Unzipping his pants, the Laotian
aimed the release of the arch of his liquids to nature and to
the exhibition of all passing cars.

"How long are we going to wait out here?" complained Nawin in
his somniloquy. That which he was hearing did not seem to come
from himself at all but an invisible presence with the
utterances of his own voice projected like an actor off screen,
and the Laotian an alien performance put in front of his face,
so as to be more real than any real being, a surreal and
magnificent presence, magni-real in a sense. To be able to stare
at him justifiably, words had to supply a pretext, and so the
complaint spilled out of a mouth of a man who wanted to see
another male's nakedness.

"Until it comes. Glad to know that you aren't dumb and mute
after all," he said--he who went under the nickname of Boi.
Whether this one was really Boi 1 or Boi 2 would depend on
perspective; but, in either case, he judged that it did not
matter.  If there was something that mattered it was that these
traumas he had experienced in Bangkok were making him transfixed
by boys.

"I speak occasionally; but there isn't much sense in rattling
nonsense so that everything seems less empty, is there? Besides,
I like to think and be quiet."

"Why?"

"I don't know. It makes me feel alive."

"To not say anything to anyone?"

"Yes. To not be in the commotion of others too much. It's a
trade off--which voice seems most important at a given time. But
I know that it comes from affliction, early pain and reticence I
never overcame. Seeking color in darkness. What are you doing?"
Nawin smirked.

"What it looks like."

"Yeah, well I mean, out here?"

"Looks like I'm  shutting it down with some wanks. Do you need
to piss?"

"Yes."

"Then pull it out. Who's stopping you? There's no five star
hotel around the corner where you can do your nasty business.
Look around you. What you see is the entire country--nothing."

Nawin smiled painfully. Space and nature and Jatupon whose only
essence could be found here and, in part, within this
impecunious stranger, were the only allure. .

As the two men admitted by action that they were no different
than  beasts of early man urinating freely without repressions,
restraints, and repercussions, neither of them feeling that they
had been a detriment to environment and morality, each regained
manhood.  It was restored unto them in the flooding of their
small respective areas to the demise of a few insects and
vegetation. As they did this Nawin wondered how it came to be
that a shirt removed in casual situations meant nothing while
two penises dangling out in the open were such an ignominy and
he felt a further sense of exhilaration as though in this petty,
untoward action he were being launched to a different side of
the galaxy. Superfluously, the Laotian multi-jerked himself once
more.  Was it to interrupt the last trickle?  Was it to
interrupt this spiritual retreat of him who did not believe in a
spirit?

"I wish one of those straw hat milk maidens from one of the
dairy farms would come by for a bit of my wet sausage," he said.

Nawin smiled awkwardly at the words that gave proof to an
impalpable conjecture and made him assess how trite human
interaction was. Unworthy of the god of the human animal, still
it was exhilarating. Relinquishing the mind and plunging into
human interactions, it was as if he were at last experiencing a
bit of life, here across the boarder, and no longer needing to
atone for his sexual liaison in Nongkhai and elsewhere. Caught
in the predicament of opposing thoughts and emotions, he said
nothing.  Perhaps, he thought, this was the real source of his
reticence.

"Do you hear me, Mute?"

"Yeah man, I hear you. You want a milk maiden to milk you. What
do you want me to do about it?"

"That's right. What do I want you to do about it?" he chuckled.

Nawin waited in brief silence for an answer that was not
immediately forthcoming. How titillated he was by so little; and
for a moment he dwelt on the fact that such petty and banal
interactions brought ribald pleasure, and the ambiguity of
motives a sense of suspense to life's limited beings.

Now he was yearning for permission to become the animal that he
was--permission to follow the mandates of initial impulses which
were essential to salubrious man free of the conflicting venues
of attempts at self restraint. As coupling had to be done as
that, a couple, he needed him to pointedly say that he wanted
sexual relations with him, although mentally he hoped to have
nothing of the sort. His feelings and refined feelings, thought,
were moving around each other in contrary motions, pulling him
tautly while twisting him into knots that he recognized as the
essence of civilized man, and this too he wanted no part of.

"I'm not all that particular--A police woman in her communist
uniform making rural rounds; a coca cola driver pulling off the
edge of the road, coming to stretch his legs and finding himself
hungry before he remounts his beast and drives away. That would
be fine. Then I can't think of anything more that would be
needed and so wouldn't have to do a thing--just watch it go
down. You think you can do that?"

Nawin wondered of the ambiguity of language. Was it such because
it was inadequate in conveying intentions, that the motivations
of a man were multifaceted theses and antitheses, or that to
keep motivation and the inner workings of the mind safe, replies
were obfuscated? In any case it seemed dubious that the grunts
of language were really the best attribute of man.

And he imagined, daydreamed, or dreamed that a man shaped like a
zero was being sodomized in the weeds by the stiff broad boned
four of a female; that on this most garish of days, Father's
Day, King Booby's birthday, when all were supposed to dress in
yellow attire to commemorate him (dare he mock the kingly puppet
god of the military who nodded silently in the earliest of days
when they knocked off his brother, and from it was deified on
the condition of staying perennially silent? It was the first
time he had done so even in his thoughts, but recent tragedies
and experiences had unctioned his mind and under garish cynosure
made all normal ways of behaving known as the artificiality of
man-made-rules that they were), he and this second stranger were
interlocked in a naked embrace on sodden Laotian earth bereft of
yellow flags, were coupled together fetid and wild as stray
dogs--a product of nature and uninhibited will denuded of
pretense. And he dreamed that he was in communion with a reptile
("Listen," he imagined himself saying to the indeterminate
specie, "If one doesn't hold onto his own breath why should he
hold onto people? Why should he be afraid that more will not
flow in? No specific one is needed, although it might seem as
though he were; interaction is needed (be it with a person or
dog), an outside stimulus to dilute the intensity of one single
group of accumulating thoughts foundering one to extremes, but
this is all. And if I can dismiss a wife after she broke a
clavicle and an arm with a frying pan, I can do it of a
stranger--this stranger." "No you can't," said the creature,
"for she was the stitching of the wound that could be undone in
time. But the train acquaintance is a resemblance of the wound
itself, the wounder, and wounding, the trinity, and it possesses
you--the erect cock, the blade that will pierce your death
intimately." "He's not even playing with his knife any longer.
He's no danger to me. He knows me now." "When your guard is down
he will strike, and then you will have your intimacy.").

Then a second bus passed them by but the Laotian seemed as
wholly impervious to the sensation as before. It was a bus (the
right one?--that he did not know--but a bus nonetheless) so
raised head and attention askance would only have been natural.

"Why didn't we get on that one?"

"It's not the right one," he said.

Nawin finally admitted to himself that there might not be a
right one, and suddenly, at least in feelings, he ceased caring
all that much. All that he wanted was to lie in the stink of the
earth. Now there was a butterfly fluttering about his feet. If
he were to lie down it would fan away the sweat that was
collecting at his brow, there would be beauty in the sordid, and
there, without compunction he would plunge into dreams thumping
as the voices of frogs at a distance.

"Come here," he told the Laotian. Boi came over to him. "So
young," he said as he touched a wisp of hair that stuck out over
the boy's ear and was salient in his sense of beauty. "You
remind me of someone I once knew. It's like the world recycles
the same stuff. What do you want from life? I mean not what is
real and before you but what you really want."

"What point is there in that? I'm here. My sister's here. When
the crops are bad we get jobs elsewhere for as long as we can
and then we return. I guess when I was younger I wanted to be a
pilot for what it's worth now."

"A pilot?"

"Once upon a time."

"Once upon a time," repeated Nawin thinking of a time when
family was an eternal concept in a young boy's mind and one's
life was rife in possibilities. He felt sadness, the eternal
sadness, reflected in this one who called himself Boi and he
knew that he loved him. He tried to kiss him but the Laotian
feigned a laugh and pulled away.

"Quit that, you joker. Save your kisses for beautiful Laotian
women. I know what you want. You wouldn't be much of a man if
you didn't. Thais with money are no different than other sex
tourists that come to this country for a piece of Laotian pussy.
All those paintings--you must be a real ladies man. Well, it
looks like we will be here for a while.  We might as well be
comfortable as we wait. Let's cross over there and sit down." He
pointed to a small shack and an awning at a distance. "You buy
the drinks and we'll motion for the bus to stop when it gets
here."

"You mean we have been waiting on the wrong side?"

The Laotian laughed.  "Well, not exactly.  There's a different
way. There always is. It's sort of like a bus." Nawin felt ill
at ease but did not say anything as the two crossed this
infrequently traversed highway where a dead possum lay before
them on the edge of the road.

"People deny that they are going to die by looking forward to a
new day that brings them closer to death. It's most ironic,"
said the gecko-monitor as it rode on one of his pant legs. It
was a non-sequitur that he could not place in the context of
what was happening but then, as such, it seemed no different
from anything else. And although he was not terribly alarmed, he
questioned whether or not the man crossing the road with him was
in fact the Laotian, but as everything changed anyway he could
not see that being accompanied by someone else really mattered.

They sat at a second table behind two middle aged men. "Sabaidee
mai?" he heard the acquaintance say to them and they
reciprocated with the same greeting. If sabaidee was their
sawadee he was not sure how he would understand these Laotians
in all this shifting of semantics. He understood the
acquaintance to say, "He's the Thai I told you about" to which
one of the strangers said a word like benefactor in something to
the effect of, "Does she like your benefactor."  "I'm her
brother," the Laotian responded.  "She'll do as she is told."
Then, as though conscious of him, there was a lot of small talk
in which the acquaintance asked about where they worked and
lived. Then the conversation changed to that of a football game
at the university and, to him, it all seemed staged on his
behalf. The acquaintance said, "Drink, you are on vacation.
Loosen up" and so he drank two shots of whiskey that appeared in
tandem before him. As both head and body heated up, and the
stationary environment began to wobble, he tried to reassure
himself that although everything changed it did so one moment at
a time.  He then noticed a bald spot on his acquaintance's
scalp. It seemed to be floating hurriedly in the ethereal like a
satellite and the biological structure of Nawin cringed at this
defective counterpart. The train acquaintance, if he were such,
now seemed older than before, and the liquid blueprint, which he
was subconsciously yearning for, a less viably transferable
product. This Boi asked them other questions in the Laotian
tongue that he could not comprehend at all on the fourth shot of
whiskey and their furrowed faces answered him although the
substance of this he could not determine firmly.

And as they imbibed beer ever more gluttonously and he quaffed
more  shots of whiskey, becoming the sensation of an entity
aflame, the substance of fire, he became conscious that he would
be the one who would pay for all these drinks. Thus his hand
began to flounder into various pockets for his wallet until
finding it in his shirt pocket but with nothing inside its dark
brown lining.

"My money--there's nothing there," said Nawin.

"Is that a fact?" said the Laotian.

"All of my money is gone."

"You are my friend. I am concerned for you and I am keeping your
wallet so that you don't lose it. Also we have to pay these guys
to take us to the farm. No more busses going that way this
late." Then to the owner who was now attempting to refill the
glass from a whiskey bottle he said, "No, enough. Nothing more
for him." The gecko, sitting on his shoulder, imparted a long
melodramatic look of consternation and worried skepticism which
also seemed staged.  The reptile was stirring the puddle of his
eyes, watching the ripples and it continued to do this until
they were outside and the truck was turned on. Bored, it too
needed to make more from the rock of the planet.

One of these drunk companions deliberately skidding the vehicle
on dirt roads to provoke reactions within the clouds of dust;
wet patches where the pickup labored more than once to get
itself out of a rut; then, after this long journey of front seat
revelry, back seat asphyxiation, the arrival at a shack stilted
like a cabin; and inside an extended family eating som tam,
mangos, and sticky rice on a barren floor. Was it merely this he
had unwittingly yearned for all this time--a gift of a surprised
and welcoming smile from her whom he had met once before on the
train? Through all the expended energy of his own version of
spirituality and standard decadence it was just this expression
that he had wanted all along--an expression which could make and
remake a diminutive man.  Alacritous, she served to him his
share placed on a banana leaf that was on a bamboo placemat.
The rest of the family was nice enough.  Why wouldn't they be
with a rich man of humble sensitivities there to be exploited, a
man who was spinning out of his mind while the food was making
him sick.  Boi put him on a scattered blanket inside a dark
bedroom.  There he heard the continual barking of dogs through
the window. Here in this cockroach infested room, to think of
something not so painful, not so dreadful, he imagined the women
cooking insect curry and roasted frog and the males smoking in
the main room.  The barking of dogs  was mordant to his thumping
head, and it took a half hour before he was asleep--the
cascading of sleep only interrupted when the pallid sister
poured him tea, squeezing a lemon exclusively into his glass,
serving unto him while he was lying there.

"You don't have to do that," he said.

"I want to," she said as she tilted a glass toward him.

"You've come here to see us and now you are sick because of us."

"Not so sick. And certainly not because of you. It's my own
foolishness in drinking."

"I think this will help. Mother's remedy."

"Thank you. I shouldn't be taking someone's room. Whose
is it?"

"It's mine. It does not matter."

"Where will you sleep?"

"I'll find a place?"

"Where?"

"Where you want me to."

"Where I want you to?"

"Yes."

Helping him off with his clothes after the tea was drunk
there was a kiss and a reciprocal denuding--he was being set up
as nothing was this easy, but he did not care.  "All for you,"
he imagined the Laotian saying to him as he noticed her lower
body slightly distended.  Still, he did not care for he needed
a release. Feeling the body, entering it, ravaging it, he groped
for the end of impermanence and acquisition of human flesh, and
for family to cover his nakedness.





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