Actually, it was called Whitening. What is that a reference to, anyway? The Westernization of Asians? That was my first thought, to be honest. After looking around, I surmised that this must be the brainchild of a Westerner. A Thai would never create such a place. The white tablecloths, for instance. The nouveau art on the walls of the open-air thatched hut. But the topper came when I emerged from the rugged Thai toilets, and found neatly rolled white washcloths in a basket by the outdoor sink. “Please dispose of hand wipes in the basin provided,” read a small sign. On the cement floor was a white garbage bin, which looked like it came from Ikea. Only a Westerner would have come up with a place like this. Whitening deserves mention only because there is nothing like it in Seattle. If there were, it would be the hippest spot in town, by far. Celebrities would demand to eat there. El Gaucho would lose prestige, with its dark walls, its cave-like interior, its heavy steaks and red wine. At Whitening, all things are light, white.
Upon sitting down, I innocently ordered a glass of white wine. What was I thinking? Was it planned? I never order white wine. I didn’t even notice it was white until I was halfway through the glass. What a coincidence.
Okay, let’s stop pretending I’m writing this later, when really, I’m writing it now. I’m writing it here, at Whitening, because the flow is good. When the flow’s good, grab it. No reason to wait until later. I see the sun setting like the moon, over hazy clouds to the West. It is sinking now, red, pink, unreal. The perfect topping to this unreal day. Everything in this part of the world is unreal. They make it that way. That’s why tourists flock here by the millions. We have nothing this unreal at home, and if we do, we don’t recognize it. But here, in Southern Thailand, the Thais know they have it, and they cash in on it. At our expense. Which we happily oblige.
Whitening. Even the dogs are white. Well, beige, really. They’re beige. But they’re damned near white, which is… funny. Was it meant? Were they meant to be white? An unreal little fishing boat just passed by; blue, with red trim. A brown, muscled Thai man at its helm. My battery is about to die, to call an early end to my lovely flow~ how sad. Ah well, I must continue when I return to the bungalow later, to the power source, to the fan.
Until then, let me also comment upon the white sky. Is it really white? Is that actually possible? Well, yes actually, it does look white. White streaked with pink in the West. White tinged with blue on the horizon. White lights in the white trees. White sand. White people, at white-table clothed tables. White dogs sitting beside me, barking at each other in white, piercing barks. Shut up!
I was thinking a bit earlier, as I walked along the road, my laptop bouncing against my back, that my sister could never comprehend my need to do this thing, my need to communicate with you, the world at large. It is absolutely the last thing in the world that she wants to do. She cannot fathom it. To her, being in Thailand is an escape, a blessed anonymity, an invisibility from the world. As I walked I thought, “Yes, for you it is that, for me it is something different.” For me, this trip is about several things. It is about writing. It is about meditation. It is about learning yoga. But behind those things, common to each of them, this trip is about finding peace, about learning to access it more freely every day. This trip is about growing stronger, physically and mentally. This trip is about falling in love with myself.
I look out across a short distance of sand at a couple sipping cocktails. They are sitting at a white table, in love. Well, pretending at being in love. I think she is more in love with him, on the surface at least. He wears a hot pink tee-shirt, and she is distinct in frizzy brown hair. She reaches over the table for his hand, and he flinches. Then he concedes, wordlessly, and lets her paw him. I see him flick a glance in my direction- he knows that I am watching, that someone is watching. Perhaps that is why he hesitated. I look down, deliberately get lost in my own world for a minute, and when I look back up, the spell has been broken. He has forgotten I am there. I keep watching. I watch as she snaps a photo, and then tries to show it to him on her phone. He misses her though, doesn’t hear or doesn’t pay attention, and just then the barefoot waiter appears between them, pad and pen in hand. She quietly puts the camera away, pretending to herself that she didn’t need to show him, anyway. And I think to myself, “Distance. They just created distance. A little bit, yes, but the separation of interests is there. Now she feels hurt, even though she tells herself she shouldn’t.”
Perhaps I am reading too much into this. Only, as I sit here watching, love is on my mind, and the wonder of being in love is on my mind. I am critical of this couple, because I don’t think they are in love. The waiter walks away, and they return to each other. She leans in towards him, a pouty, kissy face on. He hesitates again, barely darts his head around to see if anyone is looking, and then concedes, and gives her the kiss. She smiles, satisfied, and tries to hold it a bit longer. He pulls away, the motion barely perceptible to the eye, but I see it. They kiss again, baby kisses, and then they part. She is happy now, goes back to her camera phone, lifting it to the sunset to catch the light. I consider their kiss. A man in love wouldn’t have hesitated. He would have met her halfway, her dance partner with perfect timing. He already would have been there.
Later, when they get up from the table, I watch them walk out together, their hands finding each other as they move. This happens naturally. Then I think to myself, “Maybe I didn’t give them enough credit. Maybe they are in love. Or at least they share an affection for each other.” Clearly they share an affection for each other, otherwise they never would have linked hands.
One by one, the stars come out in the sky. How cliché. Both the stars, and the line. I apologize. Let me try again: I look up at the sky turning blue, and I see one star, miraculously, tucked away among the bare white branches of a white tree planted in the sand. My eyes dart around the sky, expecting to see another. You never see one star without seeing another. There is never a first star, there is just the first one you see. Once you’ve seen one, it means that there are already others, peering out, showing their whiteness. But interestingly enough, there really is only this one. Ten minutes later, when I check in again, I finally count two, three, four more stars. Five. They’re everywhere.
Full on fish and potatoes, I order ice cream, vanilla of course. It comes out white, with chocolate syrup and a cherry on top. Really quite cliché again, but at a restaurant called Whitening, on a white sand beach, with white dogs, and white tables, and white trees, and white lights, clichés are bound to abound.