My Guide My Soul My Shepherd

The moon is my guide my soul my shepherd.

The air was thin and cold, my heart was big and bold, when I packed my bags to leave my home.

I followed the spring, a brush and tumble with love, and wet with the taste, thought it was all and it was all enough.

Staking it all, I lost it all, and I took what I could to hit the road, dreaming about the warm lights and hearths of home.  There the lights would glow, just like the moon I know, my guide my soul my shepherd.

Under the torrid sun, and endless din of work, I lost my youth but gained a place, for I shared bread with princes, merchants, and rogues.

My bags grew heavy as I grew old, my legs grew weak and slow.  I paused a while, and it was quiet dark, and cold.

I emptied my bags by the light of the moon, my guide my soul my shepherd.

To whom do I owe these memories of laughter, love, and life?  To whom do I owe the ones of shame, regret, and bile?

Do I need these things, these things that compose the measure of my being?  These stories of evil and schemery, these stories of strength and hope?

I took them out and chose, and chose to leave some there, under the light of the moon, next to my glowing home, by the side of a snowy road.

I chose to explore, under the light of the moon, my guide my soul my shepherd.

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

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

Promises

I promised you everything, didn’t I. With the boldness and certainty of youth, I promised you the world.

Things will be different, I said.

I remember the apartment well.

The cramped walls, the pitching carpet, the one window that let in the bark of dogs and random shouts of strangers, and the wash of tires over the street. The window that looked out onto a single lamp, glowing in adagio, bristling sounds coming from the transformer.

I remember it well because I was always looking out the window.

I lived outside that window then, in the future, where everything would be not as it was.

That future never came, but that’s not the reason we didn’t.

In those moments, you were happy and content. And I wasn’t.
lamp

A Playbook For Awakening a Soul

Sitting in darkness helps.  Far from the bruit and wail of the noisy world.

Be still and silent.

These are different things, and the source of all struggle.

Cultivate the cool black loam of the night, imagination’s soil.  Dig deep, because you must summon something out of nothing.

You must focus to hear the slightest crackling.

These are the seeds of your soul.

It will emerge – a glint, a ghost.  In silence, the faintest whisper.  A cool breath.  A wisp, stirring.

Seize it.

Be cast with doubt, fear, even imagine a sigh from the world and it will retreat back into the endless where from whence it came, into endlessness, into your imagination again.

Once seized, the seedling of a soul is raw, ginger, a vulnerable young tuber – ugly, timid, unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

And for that reason worth more than anything in your world.

Sondering

We are creatures of the night.
To us no other time of day
is as bright as the darkness
that sets our heart aflame.

To us the night is a canvas
where the truth lays raw
on a living, breathing plain.

A place of all conviction,
the seed of dreams and life,
before it all gets shattered
by the creeping light of day.

 

Night2

 

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑