Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sometimes, Vientiane

Vientiane often tries me. Vientiane often bores me. Vientiane often makes me ache for so many other places I'd rather be, and I often wonder where that rather would specifically be if things had worked out differently.

But, sometimes?

Sometimes, Vientiane can yield a soft, cool night that starts with a random rooftop dance party.

Sometimes, you can climb the stairs, zig-zagging upwards through a tunnel of muffled distant, now close and clear, social sounds, and find a corner from which to watch the lights of Thailand glitter snaking on the surface of the river. You lean over the railing and you lean into the conversations around you and you learn new names. A stutter step slow start of music and sparse movement quickly turns into a crowd of clapping laughing stomping dancing under the stars, and for the next few hours you're lost in it. The party ends and then it's zig-zagging back down those stairs making plans for the next stop. You get there and the next stop is inexplicably closed, no matter, something else. Now you're flagging down fancy trucks and finagling your way into hitching rides in the back, the wind in your face saying remember? and telling your cheeks and closed eyes the memories of Texas summers on the way to rodeos, or to the creek to swim off a weekend. You're hopping the tailgate and thanking the strangers for the ride, kawp chai'ing, sincerely and windblown, their refusal of money or Beer Lao. Now the night is heading into that dingy club draped in spider webbed green lights woven through with dubious dub step. You're yelling the words and wringing yourself out and feeling yourself sweat still more. Moving moving moving. Forgetting forgetting forgetting. In this place you feel and see the tattered edges of a grime you don't want to touch, but more than that you're in a place where you just want to keep chasing that head thrown back rapture of feeling music go through you in the dark. Early morning comes and closes the club; now everyone's piling into the tuk tuk of So, who knows exactly where you live since he's taken you home so many times before. Those three wheels strain under the five of you; you shift weight to help out, but mostly you're huddling in a puppy pile of twisted legs and arms to stay warm. One by one people drop off into the night and back to their homes, and then you find your way to yours, walking through the tile path palm tree tunnel up to the first door on the right at the top of the stairs. You get a hot shower and a 5 a.m. bedtime. You have sore feet and a sweet deep exhaustion that helps you, finally, to catch some real sleep. It comes quickly, and when it does, it's dreamless and unbroken.

Sometimes, I can live here and forget how I got here, or what's happening there where I am not, and haven't been for so long. Maybe sometimes will be more often, or at least it will keep being sometimes often enough that I can make it through to June and whatever happens next.

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