Monday, April 14, 2014

George Saunders: Ex Ayn Rand Guy

... They worked four weeks on and two weeks off and in the down time would be shuttled in helicopters to the nearest city, 40 minutes away, and then from there fly to Singapore.

“I’d been kind of an Ayn Rand guy before that,” he said. “And then you go to Asia and you see people who are genuinely poor and genuinely suffering and hadn’t gotten there by whining.” While on a break in Singapore, walking back to his hotel in the middle of the night, he stopped by an excavation site and “saw these shadows scuttling around in the hole. And then I realized the shadows were old women, working the night shift. Oh, I thought, Ayn Rand doesn’t quite account for this."

Saunders, George (2013-01-03). Tenth of December (Introduction: p. 2). BLOOMSBURY PUBLISHING. Kindle Edition.



Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Truth of The Beauty of A Bloom Is That It Fades

In the Kamigata area they have a sort of tiered lunchbox they use for a single day when flower viewing. Upon returning, they throw them away, trampling them underfoot. The end is important in all things.
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.

Kata, Phuket, after midnight...

Late decision in the tuk-tuk back from Patong: he would go back to the Luv-You Bar again after all. He asked the driver to drop him off at the bottom of the strip near his Kata Beach hotel (the hotel that wasn’t the hotel he thought he was making his booking at, but hey, it was a rushed job, for a spontaneous mid-week golf holiday [being single rocks] and the hotel was just next-door to the other). This meant three nights in a row now he would be talking to Noo. He knows the Rule of Three, hey fuck he wrote the rule, but he was powerless to stop himself (which is what the Ro3 is all about). It was late for this part of Phuket Island, about 1am, and he didn't really expect her to be still there, to have waited for him, even though she said she would. But if she was there, and not bar-fined, he would take her to his room for another 4am session. He wanted to hold her again, to look into her eyes as they made love. Maybe he could make her cum this time.

He could grab a few hours kip before his airport taxi came at 7am. He would sleep all weekend.

She was there, he saw her at the back, in one of the small yellow lounge chairs near the billiard table where he had played ten indifferent games of pool with her, or with Gap, the bar-manager who punched the air every-time Bruce made an error - it’s cultural, not rude, he had reasoned. She was squeezed in the chair with a Thai man about, how can you really tell, 30. He looked, let’s not kid, like a Thai hit-man - long-hair, deep eyes, thin lips, sprouts of a goatee, sun-lined face, and a dark shirt, in jeans and with shiny black boots. She did not notice Bruce as he stepped up to the bar, she was talking and laughing with the Thai man, yep, her boyfriend obviously, the one she said she didn’t have on the previous two nights. He paused. He tried to stop himself moving forward, to halt completely. He should have left quietly before she saw him, but what may have been merely tragedy slipped into farce when he found he could not leave and, despite a flash of awareness of his breaking all the laws he often had admonished others about, approached her chair.

Hoping against the hollow sense of his own human frailty, against everything he thought he knew well enough to overcome, his head spinning with the Thai music from the karaoke-player, he stepped closer, small steps. Eventually her eyes looked away from the man she was cuddling, they unglazed (she liked rum shooters) long enough for her to see him. She must have been trying to place him and then, presumably it clicked and she stood up, a bit shaky, from the chair from the hit-man, paused for balance, and then came towards him. He took her all in: triangular face, petite, a loosely crocheted top over a pink bra, belt-sized jeans shorts, bronzed skin (getting fairer, she hoped, with that skin bleacher she was shooting up each night in the bathroom) and he couldn’t move, couldn’t turn away away. And his face froze just below a smile and he said, Hello, and kicking himself later he added, I just came to say goodbye…

Which is not what he had really intended to say at all. The boyfriend, professionally slippery, had already slipped away, and Bruce saw too that no-one else in the bar was looking at him (he would imagine their bursts of laughter when he tried to sleep later), but their faces were down, away, focussed on other, suddenly fascinating, things.

Noo came right up to Bruce and put her arms around his neck and looked up. A very sad, what-have-I-done face, a look somewhere between feigned apology and feigned pity, a look that said I thought you were one of the ones who wouldn't fall in love, who only pretend to believe when I pretended to like you, but I was wrong (Beware The Ro3!), and she asked him to buy her a rum shooter. Pathetically, he nodded and indicated he would also have a beer he didn't want or need, and, here’s the kicker, he said again, I just came back to say goodbye.

I'm going back to Hong Kong tomorrow, he said and she looked even sadder as she saw 3000Baht slipping away with more plastic surgery and her boyfriend's motorbike repairs held off in the distance still, and she pouted her lower lip. Which must have done something inside her mouth because she slowly unwound her hands from his neck to tighten the stud in her tongue and she smiled, against the flow of Little Miss All-Forlorn, as she did this. But his confused mind was made up, probably, and he would leave now, now that all his dignity was shredded and burnt in offerings at the bar’s small shrine. He took his beer, drank most of the bitter razor-blades quickly, called for the check-bin, paid, then placed a 100baht note tenderly into her bra, making sure it was right against the nipple (he wondered later if those firm breasts were genuine, or part of a job-lot with the silicone nose-bridge she was so proud of), and he kissed her cheek again (it struck him that she hadn’t kissed him properly - only pecks - on the lips in all their time together) and somehow, not through courage, not through reason, almost accidentally, he managed to leave.

He cursed himself audibly for being the cliché he always mocked as he walked down the strip, crushed a 20Baht rose underfoot and, neither sober nor drunk but flushed and giddy, turned left at the quiet road to kick at stones and cans along the footpath and to fend off the occasional katoey on a scooter for the half-K back to his wrong hotel.


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