I’m in a rambling mood — please bear with me. Yes, I am big in Japan, though in a different sense than we commonly think of. I’ve only passed through its airports a few times (in one of which I bought the most expensive glass of wine that can be paid for with a single coin).
But now, here, I’m comfortably settled into a cheap room in Thailand. I’m paying too much but my stuff is all spread out and I am, frankly, too lazy to pack it back up. More importantly, they’ve been good to me here. It’s a nice couple who own the place.
I call the husband “Uncle” and the wife “Mama”. She giggles every time. Which, of course, makes me giggle and that isn’t exactly a shitty way to start the day, ya know?
Uncle took care of me — I got sick and was (and I don’t like to admit this) too weak to walk more than ten feet. I was totaled — I was a train wreck in search of tracks.
He rode off on his moped to buy me drugs from the pharmacy. And when I finally admitted that it was time to go to the hospital, he made a call and got me a ride from someone he trusted at the Thai price.
So, yes, it ain’t fancy but I like this place. I like the people. And that’s what it comes down to. You can see the Seven Wonders and take your snapshots, but it’s the people you meet who you’ll really remember.
And there is one person who I definitely remember: a Japanese man is in the room across the hall and and one door down. He’s shouting into his phone. I don’t know his name: to me he is Mr. Across-the-Hall-and-One-Door-Down.
Which must be hell to fit on a business card…
I try everything: earphones with music, white noise, thunder and rain (and I’m pretty sure a whale just floated by, riding a unicorn) but nothing seems to knock out this guy’s shouting.
I want to write.
And then there’s another voice: the woman who sweeps up around here is asking –simply– if he wants his room cleaned. And he’s screaming at her, despite the fact that she’s a really nice person and is just doing her job.
And that’s when my blood comes up. It doesn’t take as long as it used to.
I’m big in Japan. I’m big in Asia. I’m not chiseled or healthy or fit. I’m no warrior. But I can fill a doorway. I usually scratch my head on the way in.
Which is what happens now. I wrap on my sarong because I really do think she’s in danger (it’s faster) and rush out into the hallway.
“Do you need help?”. In typical Thai fashion, she fakes a laugh, waves her hands and says “No, no!” She looks away and then stares back, wide-eyed.
She needs help.
When I was in Central America, I learned that there was a way to carry yourself if you didn’t want trouble. I didn’t like it but that’s how it was. Move with purpose and wear a pissed-off look. Predators seek the easy targets. Bullies too. And that’s what this guy is.
And I really don’t like bullies.
There are moments in life. Sometimes the world shares something beautiful: a sunset, a cool breeze on a hot night, crickets who ease you awake in the early morning or –if you’re lucky– a lover who snuggles next to you on a cold night.
But sometimes the world seems to say “Step up. It’s time to earn your keep“.
So I step into the door. I don’t come into his space. Boundaries are boundaries — there are rules by which we live our lives. I don’t have to fake the “pissed off look” because we have passed that point and moved into “fucking furious” mode. I’ve been listening to this idiot for over an hour and now he’s abusing someone who is just trying to earn her day’s pay.
He and I stare at each other for a moment. He mutters something into the phone that I’m pretty sure is Japanese for either “There’s a big pasty, angry man in my door, wearing a skirt” or “I’ll call you back”.
And then there’s a longer pause as he sizes things up and weighs the ways this scene can roll out. The calculus is easy: there are really only two ways this is going to go.
He’s doing the math and I notice that she is shaking. She’s scared. So I reach out and touch her on the shoulder — two fingers. “It’s okay. You’re safe.”
And that’s the Moment where it changes. It cracks. It flips. He sees that touch and finally understands, groks, that this isn’t a dick-swinging contest between he and I but that his behavior has scared someone. I see it in his eyes. He looks at his feet and then looks at me and says simply “I’m sorry”.
My answer is equally simple because I’m still pissed and it’s just right. “Say it to her“.
He does. And he leaves the next day.
Unfortunately, she leaves too.