Endings

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time

Limits, Jorge Luis Borges

It turned out, the stories you told yourself spanned several lives, the tram that you would take to the terminus, the fried fish you were going to eat by the bayside, on a sunny day, the stairs you were saving for a more inspired time.  You haven’t seen the museum exhibits, you didn’t read your meditations under the gnarled baobab, you didn’t say hi to the stranger working behind the counter at the fresh fruit stand.

And those ice cream flavors that made your mouth water – still just pastel hues and the sweet smell of butter, nothing more.  There, you were going to take your daughter on a clear day, there, you were going to take the ferry on a free day, ultimately an imaginary day free of the crush of life’s minutiae, a day that does not exist.

It has crowded you, it has covered the stuff of life, the underlying strata on which kids and babies joy.  For you, the bell rang sooner, the tram arrived and has already left.

the Ending is Also Pretty Amazing..

Now I’m hunched over a typewriter
I guess you’d call that paintin’ in a cave
And there’s a word I can’t remember
And a feeling I cannot escape
And now my ashtray’s overflowing
I’m still staring at a clean white page
Oh, and morning’s at my window
And she is sending me to bed again

Another Travelin’ Song, Bright Eyes

Anger of a Boy

No, his mom said, with a note of finality.

He was furious at the image of her saying it, the intransigence with which she said it.  He yelled and screamed, but her face was resolute and tight.

I hate you!  He said.

Later, when he was much older, he would come to know that she was not angry with him, as he had assumed.

But for now he slunk downstairs, quietly so she wouldn’t hear.  As he passed her room, he saw her through the crack in the door.

She sat at the edge of her bed.  The bed was high, so her legs dangled off the edge of it, as a child’s would.  Rounding her back, she was slumped over, clutching a book in her hands.  In the defenselessness of that look, she looked vulnerable, both a young girl, and an old woman.

His eyes welled up as he descended the stairs.

.

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

Aeschylus

I Am A Thief

It was on the 55th floor of the Fortune Apartment.  Units D and C faced each other, and my balcony looked into the maid’s room of the unit across from me.

Two maids bunked there, and occasionally when I took my evening tea outside, I saw them winding down after a 12-hour day, supine in exhaustion.  Maids in Hong Kong have six day weeks, 12 hour days (sometimes longer), and responsibilities ranging from food preparation to childcare, to everything in between depending on the vagaries of their employer.  All this, while having no private space to themselves except the shoebox closets beyond a slide-out door, that fit only a single bed and a bag of luggage, or two.  Sometimes households with kids employed two maids, and so they have to bunk.

The lives of the real hustlers in Hong Kong are fascinating.  The bankers who work 18-20 hour days.  The maids who worked for them, with the same hours.  The 60-year olds who worked 12 hour days collecting the trash, via stairwell, floor by floor, in 30+ level buildings.  The older storekeeps who close up their shops at 9 or 10pm, long after the regular office workers have gone home.  Hong Kong was and is and will be, a city imbued with a Southern Chinese ethic of immigrant hustle.

Try to imagine that life.  To do it every day for years without breaking down, because every Sunday you get to send your paycheck via wire back to the Philippines or Indonesia.

The only way to sustain that kind of life is with patterns of work and relief.  For young bankers, probably related to alcohol and parties and weekend getaways.  For the maids, though, what?

One night, I noticed one of the maids, she had this big open smile, this smile of pure delight as she looked down at her phone.  It looked like her fatigue fell away in a moment of release – a small, private moment that is yours alone, where after serving someone else for the majority of your life, you return to a small space that reminds you of who you are.  However small.

I quickly went back into my apartment.  It felt like I had stolen something.

2013-01-24_18-26-01_HDR (2).jpg

I Have This Tattooed In My Heart.

Laugh out the meager penance of their days
Who dare not share with us the breath released,
The substance drilled and spent beyond repair
For golden, or the shadow of gold hair.

Distinctly praise the years, whose volatile
Blamed bleeding hands extend and thresh the height
The imagination spans beyond despair,
Outpacing bargain, vocable and prayer.

For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen, Hart Crane

Young in LA (Part I)

Paradise

I was young in LA once.  I lived by the beach and lived a lifestyle that was as close to stereotypes as stereotypes go.  It was a paradise by any other measure.

There was an easy grace, a rhythm, to my life then.  I woke up to the sound of waves crashing the beach, and salted mist coming in through the windows.  I loved 10 am, which was when the full heat of the day hadn’t started yet; it was just warmth at first, and the breeze was delightfully mixed with both the coolness that had penetrated the earth during the night, and warm air, just beginning to rise from the asphalt.  It felt of the earth.

Gentle breezes blew through the window, making the drapes flit lightly, and the smell of the restaurant below – waffles, omelettes, burgers, and pancakes – was heaven.  The smell of barbecues came in every weekend, and neighbours would invite us over for extra burgers or mojitos.  We lived without shoes, and walked down to the beach to play volleyball or surf.

The homes along the beach rest on narrow plots of land overlooking the sea, and flashed their popsicle painted colours, periwinkle to lavender, as we rode our bikes by them.  We swerved next to skateboarders and frisbees and people walking their dogs.  Everyone had mild drawls and burnished skin.

I would lay with her when the moon was mellow and the water was high, and we would wake up to the sound of idle gulls outside and leaves brushing each other, like the sound of our skin. 

But at times, all of it – the sand and sun and our young love – filled me with nostalgia for a place that I felt like I would never know.  Every day the world was bright.  I was young and it should have made me happy with hope, but I had a creeping feeling I was being blinded.

To me, it felt like a land of waiting, a land you reach at the end of a journey, facing the water and its foaming, dark secrets.  The sea stretched on forever in one direction.  Was there something on the other side?

Surfing, I would paddle out past the line and look back at the homes.  From out on the water, they looked narrow and huddled against something.  Then at night, the crash of the surf began to sound like it was reiterating something, a hypnotic message.

I felt like a fugitive.  A feeling that there was something left undone, like I had left a light on somewhere and fled.  I was hoping the sea would help me forget, but it was never silent, and the town itself had a finality about it, like it was the end of the world. 

And I felt like if I stayed, I would have grown complacent and old and in my young mind, that was equivalent to death.  This was not my place.  At least, not yet. 

 

C360_2014-01-12-10-19-09-351 (2).jpg

The Prince

Siem Reap

The waters had just receded to the sound of the lakes exhaling, and the earth crawled with sprouts and sinews.

He woke suddenly, because in his mind’s eye he had seen a vision so clear and tremendous it paralyzed him.  It was not of him, the way it had descended so quickly and expanded to fill his chamber.

He saw cathedrals rising on the backs of elephants, fueled by lotuses that drew in energy from the muck around them, crystallizing sharply into spires that filled themselves in against the darkness and rooted themselves deep beneath the earth.  He saw towering mountains rise from sandstone, scoured from the base of the pedestals supporting the celestial thrones along the whole breadth of the universe.  He saw the million prayers of his million subjects rise in a granite column to the skies, bringing down a shower of radiance and searing vigor on the forests, which uprooted themselves in gnarled tumult and wrought heavy serpentine trunks around the galleries.  He saw the million backs and arms of his strongest warriors forge a lineage unifying the heavens and the earth, and saw the very matter of the skies collect day by day in cerulean pools that trapped the brilliance of stars and captured the beating heart of the moon.  He saw the nymphs alight and step into the city he had built, and the Protector himself occupy the lintels and pilasters.

He saw time churn its infinite, depthless configurations.  He saw the Destroyer, in command of his enemies, visit annihilation on the empire, and his subjects crumble before them. He saw reawakening and peace, and a northern prophet sanctify the kingdom so that smiles forever creased the stones.  He saw bloodshed and sorrow, and heard the last voice speak his language, and saw the dowagers perish and their children leave the land.

The stones subsumed the souls of a hundred generations. All time would pass despite them, but every morning took an eternity to rise.  Time, a continuous tapestry woven into the immortal mind, a colossal mind that contained the million forms of god.  The imperial city vanished into a single dot in the consciousness of the divine, this eternal mind, a mind whose cardinal points delimited the boundaries of the universe.  It was a mind that now filled him so tremendously he woke with the thought that it might kill him but he had not a choice to make.  He did not know whether it was this mind or his own that heard the rooster crow.

He woke to the chirping of the crickets, and summoned his minister.  Bring me the shells of the turtles that support the mighty stand of the earth.  Bring me the stones from the kilns at the beginning of the world.  Flatten the mountains and bring me their substance, bring me the ocean in buckets, and every hue and mineral contained in all the galleries of the universe.  Wake the armies and the priests, the slaves, the farmers, and the merchants, and have them build me moats and ramparts filled with the shapes of all creation, and bear them, and where there is a voice summon it to cry, and where there is life awaken it to build our city.

Today we are convening the deities for all eternity, and setting before them an expression of the universe, for today we are performing the intention of god.

 

 

DSC02752 (2).JPG

Bangkok, Thailand

Page 3, Diary of a Sex Worker:

Tonight is a breezy night. The smell of lemongrass and thick curry comes in through my window. The air is thick with it. I am tired, it has been a long day, but I do not work tomorrow.

I have rubbed fresh lime between my toes. I will take my time with this. Outside the city is sweltering. I prefer this hour, when most of the city is in slumber. It feels manageable.

When I am in my bath I do not think about what happened during the day. I do not remember much at all of the past, because I actively try to forget. I imagine my customers do not remember either, and in that way sometimes I can think that it did not transpire at all.

Do we have a duty to preserve our memories? I do not remember any of my customers except the bad ones, who I remember like sharp cramps. The others I remember as one whole man.

They are together one whole man. It is a nervous and lonely, an adolescent and desperate, a helpless and curious, a guarded and cold, a distant and lying man. Together, I can feel this whole man wilt beneath my fingers when I wash him. I feel this whole man look curiously at me, and sometimes I let him see, because both this whole man and I have a short memory and we will not see each other again. I smell this whole man when he walks in and sometimes his eyes are full of fear, sometimes full of a loneliness that is so deep I am scared to touch him.

He lies to me with great confidence. I have never told the whole truth to this man, but I have told more truths than lies, though this whole man does not know it.

This whole man still surprises me. I have shared true moments of happiness with this man. The whole man and I rarely speak each other’s language, but between two people what really needs to be said? I think it is little.

Sometimes I have played with the whole man’s hair. And sometimes I marvel at the whole man’s body. It holds a man’s strength. Other times I have said nothing to this man, and he has said nothing at all to me. In spending time with this man, night after night, because night after night he comes, I have learned more and more about this man, and the many men have become one whole man, man himself, and sometimes I feel love for this whole man, not the individual men who make him up, but the whole man. Tonight is one of those times.

But much of the other times I feel disgust and repulsion and absolute hate toward the whole man. Because of this, I try every day to forget this man, and this is what limits me. I know. I give good service, but I do not give great service. Other customers buy the other girls apartments and cars. I know the whole man has an ego that can be caressed and controlled. I make them think they are special, I convince them of their power and benevolence. To them this is their worth. I cannot do this. They bring too much of themselves with them. It is too much – humanity.

If I did this too, there would be no more of me, because this last part is the part that supports the rest of me. I know that if I cross this line then my hopes will fade also. I will not know if they are real or if they are the lie I tell myself. This is my last part and I know it is not very strong.

In bits and pieces I have felt real happiness, rare as each moment is, and they have been fragments that make up a whole, adding up to a one whole happiness. Maybe that is another lie, but it is one that I tell myself.

It has been my experience that sometimes imagined affection feels real, and imagined joy feels real, and all these lies the whole man and I tell each other, they add up to a picture of if not truth, then at least a picture of a life.

Despite what some of my lady customers and even some of the men say, I am peaceful with this picture.

I do not know what I do not know, but I interpret what I see, and the lies and truths together have made that one whole man, just like they make my life, my one whole life. And in this life I have the money I have saved, and the house I bought back from the bank for my parents, and soon I will have enough to open a restaurant, clean and well-designed.

I will serve drinks made from vanilla and fresh dragonfruit. We will grind fresh curry paste every morning from kaffir lime leaves and garlic, and we will squeeze coconut milk into it.

I have no companion yet. Outside, I feel the spirit houses are awake. I will drink a glass of orange yogurt when I get out of the bath. The soap is like silk.

basin.jpg

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑