Closing Time

August 26th, 2016, 1am

I am aware of the increasingly potential absurdity of the aging anglo male out with mates on a rainy season Bangkok night. It wasn’t the plan. I’d had enough of corporate socializing; that faux environment that I am not good at; deciphering the genuine from the shallow network. I had plotted a long walk to a used bookstore, along interesting streets and soi. I’d take Diado Moriyama’s advice about photographing like a stray dog. Or more obscurely, like the main character in Kunzang Chosen’s brilliant languid parable Dawa: The Story of a Stray Dog in Bhutan. The kilometres of walking; not the used books at the end. And, if energy matched ambition, at dawn, another walk to capture more scenes.

I haven’t even looked at the hotel pool, I thought, as I returned to drop off my conference materials and to change.

At one end of the pool a head with glasses, arms waving in my direction. Have a drink. Over there. We’ll be out in a moment. Three or was it four Corona’s later, the genuinely offered dinner invitation has gone from hesitation to acceptance.

We’re off; the hotel has recommended a decent Thai restaurant. Workmanlike, I suppose. Easy enough conversation, especially considering my lack of familiarity with the other three men, and our mixed background. The Australian is enjoyably sociable. The Germans on their phones are not so accessible. Uber, technology - somehow a theme and engaging enough chat.

There is a plan to introduce the newest German addition to their nighttime ritual. It is surprisingly organized, considering it is just a social night. A tells me more of the plan; we are going to have a beer at one place and then another beer at a second place and then at a third open air bar sit near the street and listen to the music.

Our first one beer finished, having shown remarkable restraint, I think, or perhaps just following some pre-defined algorithm A has in his head to limit damage and see the plan at least further along, we head down and out onto the streets.

When does it start? I might normally be bored. But the superficial chatter is - more than amiable. I’m enjoying the moment. Just beers and the hubbub. The Germans have been coming and going on their phones all evening. Who are they calling all this time?

Now we are joined. How has all this happened? Of course it is not chance; but some of it, is it synchronicity? We talk. A bit. The usual. From? How is this different? Does she like to drink? Not really; scrunched face. Pretty smile. I guess her age incorrectly. She underestimates mine but not by much and it would make sense for it to be a ploy. I recall the ridiculousness of the whole scene. But she is much older than she looks; we’re close enough it might be fair game, a drink in a bar. She tells me she likes to sing. She is swaying a bit in rhythm to the music.

The others want to leave for the bar with the live music. I guess I’m not paying attention. A repeats what one of them has said; there is sand at every beach.

The live band further into the narrow street is doing a decent cover job. How much time goes by? An hour? There are a couple of pool tables. A woman plays much better than an already quite good Chinese man. Like she could drive a stiletto through your heart. How does all this end. I haven’t even thought it through. The others are distracted, I think.

Andy nudges me. How much is the alcohol making me forget and how much is it just being? Why do I want to document it now, a day later? The bar is full. I hadn’t noticed a couple of tables away. She is singing along to the band. Somehow the tables are in close enough proximity. Somehow I’ve taken leave of my loose affiliation, although maybe I’m coming back.

We’re dancing. I haven’t danced in ages. It must be awkward. I’m not thinking to be self-concious although I probably should be. I don’t think there are a lot more drinks. Later I start to imagine I was enjoying myself more than her. But there are a couple of dangerous photos; everyone is enjoying themselves. It is, I am completely in disbelief, dawn when we walk out. I know where the motorcycle drivers are, and she is pleased.

A plane to catch. Packing to be done.

I should be thinking about a scrap of paper; an email; a message - someway. Its a gentle walk to the bike stand.

Its a visceral almost physical feeling of absence. Completely, utterly ridiculous. Like other times when the intensity has been the same. No longer completely driven by these urges; yet none the less imaging easily overcoming the impracticalities of it all.

S - black jeans, stripped shirt. Maybe I am imaging. S knows it’s better just to part. Sitting side-saddle on the pillion as the bike drives off, facing slightly forward, her back to me. I linger. She turns and waves.

ps I’m on flickr - “who uses Flickr anymore?” said the young doctor. With hundreds of photos, some good and published, others probably better filtered. And on instagram. Maybe there is synchronicity.

pps “You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti

Craig and David Wade said thanks.

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Peter Morgan

Lots of travel, still trying to capture the moments with photos, every so often inspired to take the roughly written notes and put them on air.

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