A man reads my arm. “Once you are real, you can’t become unreal. It lasts for always.”
He says bluntly, “That’s not true. I’m unreal everyday.”
I smile trying to hold back my frustration. I wasn’t sure why he felt the need to tell me this.
“See, you’re being unreal right now.” He says. “That smile isn’t true.” He continues.
Frustrated that he was correct, and even more frustrated that as his waitress I was not allowed to be frustrated with him and even more that he knew this,
I simply moved forward, “Would you like something to drink with your meal?”
He giggled and paid and walked away.
I walked over to a table of two, a mother and her preteen son. The mother was talking on her phone and the son was on facebook on his phone. He found his cyber self more important than the boy in his knee length shorts and backwards baseball cap sitting in front of me. I asked, “Are you all finished?” He didn’t respond or move. I took his empty plated irritated at technology and discouraged at those who find it more interesting than the world around them.
My father and I go out for Thai food. The restaurant has the gold and red colors that are so prominent in the country I have come to adore with even more fervor since leaving. My dad enjoys going to practice the couple of phrases that he learned. I enjoy it because it reminds me of everything. I hear a couple sentences in Thai, only understanding a couple of words but those words recover memories. I take a couple of bites of gang kiaw gai.
The taste is familiar, reminding me of the geckos that would accompany us for dinner and the fluorescent lighting of the restaurant and the large picture of the owner’s 12 year old son in his graduation outfit because the restaurant was a home. It reminded me of Sultry nights drinking iced beer, listening to the plethora of noises in Suphan Buri. Watching tuks tuks and begging elephants and food carts selling sausages and nuts and sea food that I never was brave enough to try. Enjoying the company of my farang friends while we put off thinking about life when we go back home. Instead we enjoy our whiskey and singha while taking in our surroundings and laughing at the misunderstandings of the day. Remembering the air conditioned days in the classroom and office falling in love with my students. Of course the bad memories have seemed to be erased. The beautiful wats and the ancient ruins I could never completely understand the significance of replaces them. The wonderfully complex, creative people living gorgeous, simple lives that we simply can’t grasp. The crazy nights in Bangkok. The city that seems to make you feel so small yet invincible.
A family eats behind my dad and I. One son has his earphones in as though the conversation he is having with his family is not stimulating enough. The other is more overt with his boredom playing games on his phone not paying any attention to what is being said.
“That’s why I don’t want to have children.” I say stubbornly to my father, not really knowing what I want.
He smiles. Genuinely. “You have control over what they think of as important, Taylee.” He says. “Why do you think you find it more important to have a conversation? Mamma and I raised you that way.” He put emphasis on the M’s in the word “Mamma.” I love the way he says it. “You just can’t give your children that many choices. And the choices you do give them, make sure their options you like. Eventually they’ll learn how to do it on their own.” He continues. As I listen to him the illusions of my childhood disappear and he becomes less of a superhero and more of a person. I cherish his honesty.
My grandmother’s house is filled with the past. My parents and the friends of the lives they had when I was far from existence, have adopted me for a night. I listen. I observe. I admire. I contribute. Wine and pasta cover the table outside. My Italian roots are celebrated. Bruno is a name to be proud of. It is nearly seven and still light and warm. It is Spring. Nobody is apathetic. Nobody is bored.