I’m turning into a real Picasso with the oatmeal; boiling down hunks of apple and ginger to mix, with a little cinnamon, into the oats. Some lemon to go with tea because we both have colds and the Fisherman’s Friend is only doing us partial service. On days when it’s squalling the kitchen window leaks and we catch the dribbles for dishwater.
We met a boy in town, the manager of a busy restaurant. It was an open air place; row after row of dutiful ceiling fans, bamboo slatting to be lowered if it rained. JoJo had worked there for three years and nothing got done unless he was around. He took me to his home one afternoon, a rose-hued room in a multi-colored shack filled with other families, all asleep on the floors of their living rooms with wet towels over their faces, clearly observed through open doorways as we made our way up the stairs.
Inside his place, the floors were aqua-tiled and there was a chandelier made from multicolored plastic hanging where the light would shine through it. His father was asleep on a blue couch and then, as we rounded a corner, his aunt was shepherding away a cluster of cousins. There were two rooms and twelve people, and this was where JoJo came from. Later, he confessed to having decorated the entire place himself and that he loved interior design. He wanted to move to a place where he could be hired as a professional in the field and where he could be gay. (He had a boyfriend and they were in love.) Pending this dream, he just wanted to live alone: himself, in a little place, on the shore.
I favored a cafe with a second floor and mediocre food, but a good breeze and a view of the pool hall across the street. There, the Tom Yum would come in a redolent ochre broth, full-sized prawns cracking and bobbing in its silted depths, heads and tails still frustratingly attached. I would sip coconuts and write things; being watched suspiciously by the groups of powerful elderly men that inhabited other tables, always having just finished their meals, lingering over empty plates and juices.
The shoreline by the boat was piled with garbage. I thought it was washing in from the sea, but then realized it was the opposite. Windows were unclamped and slimy buckets were thrust forward, torrents of muck erupting from tilted rims. Egg shells, coconut husks, vegetables ends, toilet paper, plastic bits, and worse — all stacking themselves up against the innocent rock. Heaving ourselves over from the edge of the water, we’d traverse mountains of this fragrant household rubble, immediately messing our dresses and emerging coated in a heinous filth.
The result was that we made quite an impression around town, attracting hollers and creating traffic jams, even after we’d judiciously traded our jean shorts for long pants and plainer t-shirts.