Road tripping… day four? Five? Oh well, irrelevant. I am back to my peripatetic exiseance, in which I don’t know where I’m going or why. Usually, however, the meaning emerges on its own.
Right now I am visiting with a friend. We like to talk over the peculiarities of the world with our morning coffees and evening beers. We are like cheese and chalk – one, a retired Louisiana oil man who approaches life with absolute confidence, and myself, a hobo Australian ex-lawyer, still a teenage runaway at heart. We mesh in perfect complementarity.
After months of staying in one place as the covid raged, confined to one province, the road has reached out again and grabbed at my heart. There is this voice which says to me, just keep moving forward. Don’t look back. And sure enough, my plans to turn back north have subtly shifted south. Tomorrow, I will go to visit a new friend – a friend of a friend – who is yet further south; and so on, and so on.
There is a seductive ease in being the person who is always leaving.
I remember one of my Muslim friends telling me, ‘a guest is a gift from Allah’, and certainly history and culture has a place for the wanderer, for the pilgrim, for the mystic. I have never felt more at home than when homeless.
This means, I think, that I have slain the demon. Before, I lived my life in eternal fear of homelessness, of destitution. Of finding myself alone in the world and unable, any longer, to fight.
I fear it no longer. I have walked into the maw of the beast and remain unharmed.
* * *
In lighter news, this is not what I told the class of 13 year olds whom I taught yesterday. This was the altruistic part of my south-facing mission – an invitation to guest teach in a public school, far out in the flat farming communities of Issan. I did nothing magical or especially pedagogical; I was simply there to be an approachable foreign person with whom they could converse in their hard-learnt English. I was not there to teach them English, so much as to help them find their own confidence: to prove to each student that they absolutely can speak in English and be understood.
We talked about what they liked to do; their hobbies and aspirations. I learnt that Thai thirteen year olds are avid gamers, even equipped only with a phone; and that in this part of the world, the imported cultural influences are overwhelmingly Japanese and Korean. Take that, Hollywood: these kids don’t care about you. They care about anime and k-pop. They are not even looking your direction.
* * *
Today, I had moment of vulnerability. PTSD is a nasty beastie which can appear when you least expect it, like the effects of a paralytic, numbing venom spreading from your sternum to all extremities of your body. You go cold all over and feel like you need to vomit.
But today was also a good day: not only was I surrounded by friends, but I had the best support animal you could ever ask for. Jackie is a gigantically muscled pitbull with the smile of a Staffy and the gentleness of a saint. I put my head against his massive shoulder and he was warm, and solid, and felt like safety.
Soon, the coldness left me and I was back – back in the present, back in this place of safety and satiety.
* * *
When we got back to the house from buying ice cream, I decided that my motorcycle tyres were toast. I read the manufacture date – 2016 – and knew that my instincts had been correct: the harder rubber in the middle of the dual compound tyre was not performing correctly. It had gone hard, and begun to perish. As much as the impending expense pained me, I knew that any further attempts at proper cornering would be a dance with disaster. I began phoning around Issan, on the hunt for Rosso IIs.