Rented a motorbike yesterday. It took some getting used to: heavy metal between my legs and the quick, eager thrust of the engine. Drove across the one road of the island. My backpack is lighter because I finished the heavy book —Unnecessary Errors, Caleb Crain — and swapped it out for the lighter hardback —The Tenth of December, George Saunders, finally — and it skips gently on my spine at every pothole.
The places where “town” is are the stretches where it’s paved, but all dirt and stones between then and there. Pulled over once to get gas. A couple asleep on a raised, wooden platform, beside a cement-floored garage defined by three sloping sheets of corrugated tin. Baby in a pink harness attached to the rafters. Swing, swing. Smile. The man is benign, pours gas into my machine from a labelless soda bottle. 55 baht, please. Overcharging. My fault for letting him see the pack of 100 baht notes in my wallet as I rifled for change.
Later, the elegant roosters. An albino monkey tied to a pole in somebody’s yard, circling nervously. A young, lumbering cow — oil black with sweat — heaves himself forward to stand — I think to walk out onto the road, so I swerve — but, no, he’s just getting out of the way of a noisy tuk-tuk, packed tight as a sock drawer with laughing men. They’re laughing at me, for startling.
Even later, by the beach, two young girls in head scarves lean against each other, atop a motorbike, snacking quietly, an after school thing, watching the idle sunbathers. They have the privacy of youth, and I remember it exactly: I was 15 and would go walking to my friend’s place, right next to our high school, and spend second period lying on her never-used bed, staring at the ceiling and fingering potato chips. We girls and these girls. Then I stepped on a pile of broken beer bottles, swept up to the base of a palm tree, and bloodlessly punctured one of my bare, stupid feet.
What else did I see?
The airless bodegas, white and empty, the markets, rows and rows of sandals, priced cheap for forgetful tourists.
Skipped dinner again, too hot to eat. Nevermind, changed my mind. Green curry with rice and slim cut cucumbers, fried with two chilis and a handful of blackened peanuts.
I want to remember everything exactly.