My eyes opened wide. It was still pitch black. The world was still sleeping. I was alone in my conscious state. It was peaceful for a moment. The quiet, still air. The frogs still enjoying the aftermath of the midnight rain. The quiet world is one that is difficult to come across. I reveled in it.
He drove the car carefully on the slick streets after the rain. Our friendship was close, however knowing someone’s intricate details of their private lives is an intimacy I don’t have with many people. This would create a new bond that he seemed to be unaware of.
My brain was upset with my peace. It played tricks on me. Someone shuffled across my wooden floor, frighteningly near the head of my bed. My eyes, still opened but working their way back to slumber, shut as tight as they possibly could. My heart began racing and despite the heat of my bedroom, I pulled the comforter, over my blushing earlobes. Fear had frozen me like a slumbering statue.
His home was modest, cluttered, tall, and narrow. Most of it was similar to those homes on display as I walk the streets of Suphan. It was an organization that would be perceived as a chaos to those not privy to the secrets of its order. It was quaint and mysterious. We climbed the stairs. I was awaiting the sounds of another being.
Behind my clenched eyelids, images were flashing. My intruder had multiple faces. The most horrifying would be the one haunting me for forever. He knelt down beside my bed. His mouth opened, his breath rancid. His facial features were obscured with a skin that had once been on fire and on his scarred, abstract face, colorful feathers pierced his skin that would never heal. His breathing was heavy and his one eye that was still useful was open as wide as was possible.
I rounded the corner of one of the stair wells and the person I had been waiting for appeared. At first I did not see her. I only saw interactions. His face lit up, as he explained in Thai who would be rounding the corner after him. This floor of her house was less cluttered, and its purpose was obvious. She was a dressmaker. This was her space. She smiled a gracious smile as I did the best at greeting her properly. She was beautiful, with her hair down and her features shy, but kind. She had a soft wisdom about her. I wanted to stay. I wanted to talk. I wanted to share her. In that moment I needed a mother more than any other in my life. However, language was not our friend and so I clenched my jaw, held back tears and continued up another set of stairs.
My hearing had become acute. I heard every rustle, every bug scurrying, every frog ribbiting, every part of my apartment settling, the air conditioning roaring. It was no longer peaceful. I was in a world of fear. And this man, with his charred skin, would not leave my bedside.
I became his intruder. His room differed from the rest of the house. There was a neatness and order to it that intrigued me just as the organized chaos had. His record and book collection took over much of the wall space. The rest of the stained, metal walls were filled with his artwork, as well as artwork from loved ones. He had dedicated his time to making this room a reflection of himself. I heard Billie Holiday. You could feel the music that was being made on his record player. It had so much texture. His room had captured all of my senses. I was enthralled.
I was holding my breath for long periods of time, thinking if I didn’t even breathe he would leave me once again. However my brain would not allow it. His image was glued to my side. He moved. His arm was reaching in the dark air, that was once peaceful, but was now filled with terror. I wondered what trick my brain would play on me next.
It was no longer Billie Holiday. Now I was listening to the tangent voice of Chet Baker. My hungry eyes browsed his books, feasting on the artists and inspirations of his past. My toes were curling in the lush, rust colored shag carpet below them. I was completely content.
My entire body tensed. My body was preparing for its death as his hand revealed a machete speeding towards my spinal chord. The noise he made wasn’t human. It’s deep, guttural qualities were similar to death itself. I was ready. I looked into his one eye, almost taunting him. I was content and he despised me for it. He wanted fright and discomfort. I wouldn’t allow him that pleasure. I said to him, “Please go away!”
He came in from his balcony, where he was smoking a cigarette.
He told me, “I don’t like expressing myself in words.”
I nodded casually, “I figured.”
He handed me a signed print that was meticulous and fascinating. “There you go.” He said softly. And with that we gathered our things and left the personality splattered room.
In that moment my liking for him grew to admiration and respect. He became one of my many teachers, and I was excited to learn.