Smile Guy.

What have I seen, what have I seen, what have I seen that’s worthy of writing about?  I’m trying to keep writing all the time now.  Bored?  Write.  Sunburned?  Write.  Hungry?  Eat dinner, then write.  I want to write, because I want to be a writer.

I think observing people is sometimes the most interesting writing material.  Or maybe that’s because my mom just told me that her favorite story so far is the one about the funny couple at Whitening, the lovey-dovey girl and the hesitating guy.  Maybe that’s why I think writing about people is so great right now.  But whatever the case, I almost want to pick up my shit, head outside, and find some good, proper people to observe.

However.  I’m sitting on my bed, and the fan is blowing on me, and it feels pretty good.  So let me wrack my brain.  Have I seen anything report-worthy in the last few days, or hours even?

Okay, let’s try this one.  A bit of a human interest story, although I don’t actually think you’d call it that.  More like a bit of self-observation, brought on by the smallest gesture of a simple Thai guy.  Okay, let me try.

I was walking down the street today.  The “street” is a winding, pitted dirt road that runs parallel to the sea.  On either side, the Thais have built up one to two storey buildings, but the “buildings” are more like shacks, ramshackle affairs that last long enough to generate some money (sometimes) before being knocked down by the elements, or a greedy developer with more money.  They don’t last long.  Here in Mae Haad, these “buildings” house internet shops, open-air restaurants, dive shops (the dive shops are usually nice, because Westerners tend to build them), travel agencies, used book stores, and bars.  Walk ten feet and repeat.  Again and again and again, all across the island.  Dive shop, internet shop, travel agency, restaurant.  Eat, drink, email, repeat.  Dive, eat, book ticket, repeat (though now you’re on new island).

Anyways, I was walking down the “street” today, bouncing along, shades on my head, when I became mildly self-conscious.  I noticed a small Thai man standing on the stoop of his restaurant, arms folded behind his back, watching me.  The Thais gather in packs here, and they watch you in packs.  In the West, I would bunch this scenario up in my hand, take aim, and toss it squarely into the garbage.  I would say hello.  They would look away.  Easy.

Here in Thailand, however, when you confront a gang of men looking at you, you don’t say hello, because if you did, they’d follow you, they’d ogle you, they’d laugh and titter in Thai, they’d look you up and down, and they’d stare at your legs.  In other words, you’d be inviting more attention.  Yucky attention.  img_0501attention, that I don’t want.  So I tend to look away.  I pretend that I’m looking at that pretty orchid, or I deliberately focus on the sea, knowing that actually immersing myself in something else is the best way to avoid that attention.

Today, as I was walking down the “street,” I saw this Thai guy on the stoop.  I immediately looked away.  I didn’t want to smile, ‘cause I was too far away, and that would have extended the smile game far too long.  I felt him there though, saw him out of the corner of my eye with his hands behind his back.  A group of Dutch backpackers passed by me just then, offering a welcome distraction from the Thai guy.  I kept walking.  Almost there now.  He was nearly out of my eyeshot, about to disappear behind me when,
“Sawat di kop!” he yelled, right in my ear.  I shot a look at him, startled, but the words were already out of my mouth- “Sawat di kaaa…!”  It’s a natural response.  You say hello, I say hello back.

Then I looked at him.  He was really rather goofy-looking.  Harmless.  And he had a huge smile on his face.  Not leering, but happy.  I beamed back at him, I couldn’t help it.  He was just a little nugget of a man, knobby knees and missing teeth.  But he had clearly been watching me, as I tried to avoid him, and he wasn’t going let me off that easy.  His nose was scrunched up and his eyes were crinkled.  He was so happy.  We exchanged happy, drippy smiles, like two passive puppies, rolling on our backs to expose our stomachs.  And then he was behind me, and I bounced down the road, smiling ferociously, kicking up dirt.  All was well.  We were friends here.


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