My name is Max. So what else do you need to know? Stuff about my family or where I’m from? None of that matters. Not when you cross the Pacific and set yourself free. Not when you’re searching for something greater, something more surreal. And yes I admit, something more dangerous.
Getting here wasn’t the easiest, and my parents were all over me right up until the moment I left the house, and my old life behind. But it was well worth it. Well worth it out here, for the smell of Eastern world tobacco, cheap booze, and a nightlife that often incorporates the sand and the sea. Worth it because I could finally hear myself think, on this side of the world.
I woke up in my hotel room that I had already paid three weeks in advance. That’s the way you do it over here. Walk in with all your gear and a serious stare and tell the guy you want to pay in advance. Money talks.
I woke up and had nothing really to do, as usual. I threw a shirt on and combed my hair and brushed my teeth and went downstairs into the hotel lobby that was more of a screened in porch. Already 75 degrees at 9am, the steady sun was reflecting off the bamboo and wood floors and other decorations about the lobby.
“Morning,” I said to the guy behind the front desk. His name is Jin and we had become friends over the past few weeks. A simple relationship, really.
“Hey, my friend, how iz it going?” His broken English was warm and friendly.
“Just another day in paradise,” I said and laughed a little bit.
Jin went behind the counter and whipped out two mugs for us and brewed both of us some black tea and I sat down with him and we talked for a bit. I sipped away and chatted with him about sweet nothings, mostly enjoying this exotic blend. You can’t get this shit back home. It was bold yet sweet, boasting hints of cinnamon and ginger.
I thanked him for the tea and told him I must be going, that I had things to do. I didn’t really, but he understood, and we both went on our merry way.
I walked out of the hotel and got some breakfast (brunch really) at a food stand and sat on a bench and watched the daily mid-morning hustle in Surat Thani.
Around 3pm I found myself drunk again. I was wooing with some backpacker chick who was doing three countries in three months or something like that. Her name: Laticia. I had never met a Laticia before and she had a heavy accent that was a mix of French and German.
“I’m Swiss,” she said.
“Oh, very nice. Never been.” I leaned in a little closer at the table we were sharing.
“It is a b-o-o-t-i-ful country. And I am not just talkin’ about ze Alps.”
“Of course, I know what you mean.” I didn’t really.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
This caught me a little off-guard. “Well, people say similar things about America,” I paused to take the last drag of my cigarette. “People think America is all about New York City or Los Angeles or the Alamo or some shit. Well it’s not. You know what America’s about?” I was trying to lead her on, and doing a pretty damn good job.
“What’s dat?” she asked inquisitively.
“It’s about my neighbor, and the guy down the street who mows his lawn every two weeks without fail. It’s about the open road, cornfields, and Levi’s on a Saturday morning. It’s about getting McDonald’s and not feeling bad about it, and Blink-182 still on the radio. You know what I mean?”
Her stare was blank for a moment. And then she burst out into laughter. Obviously, I had said something funny.
“Finish your beer,” I said. “Let’s get out of here.”
We cheers’d and finished our beers that I couldn’t pronounce the name of, and walked down the road back to the hotel.
Laticia was a very cool girl. She definitely had some style, too. I let her walk a half step in front of me so I could check out her khaki shorts, V-neck T-shirt, and several items of jewelry and a small tattoo on her ankle that boasted something in French.
It was interesting, as I was drunk, and she not so much (I could tell), that our paths had met. Thinking about all the time in the world leading up to us meeting in a crowded market in southern Thailand seemed weird. It seemed impossible. What were all the events that made her go to that exact spot in the market today, to cross paths with me?
And what did I look like, to her? Did I look American or just like another guy?
I wasn’t about to ask her all this. Not in Thailand. Nobody can understand what you’re saying down here, but I can damn well understand myself down here. And that’s the way it is for a backpacker, mostly. You have to figure out all of the little intricacies of the place you’re visiting, and in turn you’ll realize things about yourself. For better or for worse.
At least I could stare at this girls ass and nobody was going to say a word about it. Pretty awesome country.
Around 6pm, me and Laticia were lying next to each other, we had gotten more street food, better this time, and were currently pent up in my room, in between the sheets, holding each other. This was always the time you learn things about people, things you may or may not want to know.
The white linen was draped around our bodies; our faces faced the balcony, watching the sun go down. Laticia wiggled her toes. I laid and watched the sun go down over the vast horizon of the Gulf.
“I really like you,” Laticia blurted out.
“What? Really?” I flipped over to my left side, faced her, hand on my chin.
She put a hand through my hair, I watched her eyes as she did it. “Zer is something about you, like, I don’t know…”
I sort of chuckled, I was very flattered.
“Is it that I’m American?” I asked half jokingly.
“No, not dat. It has to do more with your person.” I didn’t know what she meant by this.
“My person? You mean my persona?”
“Eh, I have never heard of dis before, ‘persona?’”
And I didn’t know how to explain it. I went on to tell her how it’s kind of like personality, except it’s different in a way. I could tell she didn’t know what I was talking about, but that in time she might.
I realized that it didn’t matter much, anyway. That cultural differences were, perhaps, overrated. The view in my bedroom, and outside of my bedroom, was good enough for now.