I left the city. It’s been a while and I thought it was time to get away. And, WOW, did I get me some Away. I got ALL of the Away. I went into the Away store and I was like, ‘Hey, I need to get Away’, and they were like, ‘Ok, but we’re quite low on stock as there’s been a spike in Away-getting recently, can you wait for a few days while we order you some in?‘ and I was like, ‘Oh. Right. Thanks for your assistance. I’ll wait over here’.
I went to Koh Chang, an island East of Bangkok and near the border with Cambodia. It’s the second largest in Thailand, or so a woman told me furiously one afternoon, and then she pointed to a plastic chair and made me sit down until a taxi came but it never did. While I was sitting down, her 5 year old son looked at me and said, in perfect English, she looks like a man. I smiled in what I fancied was an aloof manner but really I wanted to skud maguggin the little bastard.
That happened by White Sands Beach, which was full of rubbish and choppy waters with bad secrets that made swimming inadvisable due to the risk of getting carried away. Nobody wants to get carried away on holiday, right?, and certainly not by hostile undercurrents – that’s not what it’s about. It’s about R&R: rastas and ragdolls, rambutan and raddishes, roses and red wine. Or something. There was a red flag and a shed-load of accommodation on the beach, and I stayed in a ramshackle room above the sea whose balcony jutted out over rocks. When the tide came in at night the sound of the waves against stone was so loud it was as if the sea was in the same room, the hissing and sighing and crashing filling up the space with no room left for thoughts. It was the best night’s sleep I think I’ve ever had.
Apart from that night I stayed on a half-deserted beach with accommodation and beach restaurants but no people or 7-11s or Tesco Lotusi. It was a shock to the system. The 7-11 situation in the Big Kok is eye-rolling. It’s like some kind of culty food church. They’re EVERYWHERE. One on the corner, and another opposite. And don’t worry if you leave and realise you forgot to buy something, there’s one more just up the street, and another across the road from that as well. They’re the most convenient of convenience stores. They sell sour milk and Chunky Kit Kats and a variety of crisps with fishy flavours. Phone credit, face cream, prayer candles, and assorted tamarind. If you need an emergency pot noodle, or pizza toastie or edible seaweed, or just to stand in aircon for a while to cool down, your local 7-11s have got you covered. They’re the fifth emergency service.
On my holiday it rained every day, and I sailed in a sea storm and imagined I was a pirate and a sea witch, and I was attacked by dogs twice but didn’t get bitten. I snorkelled and swam and sunlounged. I walked along the beach and picked up shells and held them for a while and then dropped them again. I drank beer and ate often and watched films at night and read books by day. I daydreamed, looked toward the horizon, gazed into the middle distance, listened to the sound of the sea and watched storms roll in and swam in the rain. And then suddenly it was over, and before I knew it I was back at work, teaching and having a birthday and leaving my twenties behind forever.
And I’m 30 now. I live in Bangkok. I started my own roller derby team and I’m a teacher of English. It is inconceivable to me that I’ll age another decade. I can’t imagine myself at 40. There’s no hiding, you HAVE to be a grown up at 40, and at 39 and 38 and maybe 37. But 7 years is long enough, isn’t it? To play roller derby again, and to have bad ideas, to be silly and mess around and to SKATE and maybe even to write again, like I promise myself every year?; and to be brave and daring, and to travel and see the places I never honestly thought I’d see with my own human eyes; and to try and be a better person, and to be – finally, eventually – mind-peaceful and gracious, open and honest and courageous. To rediscover curiosity, creativity, and another noun beginning with ‘c’ that would complete this rhetorical device but that didn’t roll off the fingers at the exact moment I wanted it to and thus leaves that sentence open, hanging, incomplete. Alliteration. Rule of three. Chris Bachelder’s Bear vs Shark. Read it, it’s wonderful and weird and clever.
It’s likely that what I’ll ACTUALLY do in those 7 years is eat cornflakes from the box and get unproductively lost on the internet for hours. But that’s OK too, right?