I’ve been finding a good rhythm, back in my space. I start by writing morning pages at the table under the white flowering tree, a cup of coffee, warm against my palm. Whispery Bible pages and the most beautiful words.
(“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1: 27-29)
Then into my little studio working on World Whisperer 4 at a new gifted desk that is big enough for notebooks and papers, for sprawling out. Sometimes I grab my jar of stones and rattle it. The jar of stones reminds me that this is not all there is, that I have been in many forests and on many seashores, that I have friends around the world who know my name and have seen me under many skies. Writing can be so scary that you have to reassure yourself of strange things like that.
And just like you can hold stones in your hands, you can also hold the different people you have been: the daughter, the young friend, the crazy dancer in the city, the potter, the piper, the painter, the young wife and mother of one tiny baby, the dolphin lover, the cyclist, the student, the fool, the fool, the fool. I pour the stones into my hands and remember how small I am, that the words are just little words, and then I put them back in the jar and begin to write again.
I have dabbled with dictation for a while, and am back to the keyboard. I need the quiet to be able to write. My own voice distracts me. It makes me happy, returning to the keyboard. I feel that it is a familiar space, one that I have fought for over many long years. I do listen to music while I write, so that I can move. I need to move while I write, dancing or rocking back and forth. I’m sure it would look quite comical from the outside. And you might laugh at my collection of songs, which includes weird remixes of indie songs and a Chopin playlist that makes me cry.
And for a week I’ve shut myself away in a cheap Airbnb room in Bangkok, living a very Bangkok life of work and street food. It’s a little three room apartment, a bed, a couch, and a kitchenette (which I thought had a burner but turns out to only have a microwave, so I’ve been making microwaved eggs in the morning. I told this to my sister and said “It reminds me of Grandma, at the very same moment that she said, “Does it remind you of Grandma?”
Maybe when I said a very Bangkok life you imagined Khao San road or the Grand Palace, or worse, the party life on Sukhumvit, but the majority of Bangkok is not like that. When I think of Bangkok, I think of small apartments crammed with belongings, of people jogging or doing aerobics in public parks in the hot evenings, people coming out of their offices to pick up street food in the middle of the day, heading back with every finger holding a bag of iced coffee for their office friends, people lined up patiently in the alleyways in the evenings, waiting for a motorbike taxi. I think of the smell of coconut curries, of fried bugs in bags, of tiny intricate desserts. I think of the dividing economic line of AC and non AC, of the skytrain, of friendly distance. Street markets where you can buy colored contacts, jasmine offerings, or fish for your evening meal.
I find that in Northern Thailand, people speak Thai to me, expecting me to understand and respond, so I do. But when I speak Thai here, people nearly choke on their own saliva. It has taken me three times of going to the fruit man for him to believe that I speak Thai, rather than pointing from fruit to fruit, telling me the names of the fruits. Yesterday, though, he told the motorbike taxi guys around him that I spoke great Thai. With a lot of awe. (PS, if you are a foreigner, people will say this no matter how much Thai you speak, so it’s not really something you can judge your progress by. Though it is a little gold star.)
I also overheard boy in 7-11 asked his father what kind of person I was as he pointed to me. That was funny. I’m not sure either, I was interested in what his father’s answer would be, but he only answered “foreigner.” It’s nice when people call me something other than foreigner. At the second hand shoe stall in Chatuchak market, the owners remember me and call me the respectful word for “teacher,” which is cool. And at home in Pai people call me by a version of my name.
I like to envision myself in other people’s lives, so it’s fun to live this life for a while. I write until my fingers can’t move anymore, and then I go out and get my papaya salad from the street for lunch. Write a few more hours and get some rice and stir fried vegetables for dinner. (That was surprisingly hard to translate- the Thai word for the different dishes you can buy to go with rice is “with rice,” which makes so much sense to me, easy and you don’t have to describe exactly what you ate, but it doesn’t make sense in English.)
The papaya salad lady has been the most friendly. Turns out she’s from Chiang Rai, in the North also. Maybe people from Bangkok are a little more reserved? I wouldn’t blame them, big cities are massively overstimulating, with advertisements blaring from every possible surface.
Also, my rooms are decorated to look like hipster Japanese decor, so I can also make believe that I live in Japan. Except I imagine Japanese apartments have more buttons, at least on the toilets. This one is pretty simple.
I went out only (past getting lunch) a couple times so far. I went to Chatuchak market to buy used Birkenstocks from the amazing used Birkenstock place there (pretty much the only place I buy shoes) and then to the mall to go to Kinokinuya, the giant bookstore, which is a treat like no other. Surrounded by books: art books, design books, poetry books, comic books. They have a piano music section and a Chinese book section. You don’t know how much you’ll miss being surrounded by books until you have no libraries or large bookstores in your life. It’s been ten years for me, so trip to a big bookstore is as exciting as a helicopter ride.
The same mall has one of the largest art stores I’ve ever seen in Thailand. Since I’ve moved here, we’ve gotten quite an impressive art store in Chiang Mai. It’s not big but it has everything. Everything I need (nearly, I still have to order ink) and lots more. But there is no beating this Bangkok art store for the pretty way they arrange their pens. I’m a girl of simple pleasures. Let me look at a pen store and some art books and I’m happy. I left without buying anything other than two new black fineliners (an addiction). I don’t need any more art supplies. I need to use the ones I have.
So that was my artist date for the week. Maybe I’ll make it to a gallery or something while I’m here, but I’m really focused on this book. And my face is a tiny bit disfigured right now, because it turns out that I can injure myself even alone in a couple of rooms without anything else here. I woke up one morning and ran straight into the glass door that separates the kitchen from the living room, crunching my nose and gashing it open. I lay there bleeding and couldn’t get up for quite a while, feeling like I was going to faint. If it broke, it broke straight, which is good, but I’m going to have a scar. Like a cage fighter. Although, unlike a cage fighter, it was only one punch to take me down. I told my friend Ro that I’ve ruled out MMA as a possible career choice. I’m a bit too much of a wimp. Anyhow! Back to Aria and Demon’s Arrow, book 4 of World Whisperer.
I will finish this book. I will.
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