What It’s Like When It Works

We stuck short candles to pieces of broken glass and empty cigarette boxes and set them out on the railing.

Ben and I bought a bottle of Lao-Lao from a toothless old man in “The Village” as they called it in town. When we walked back on the dirt path through the rice fields, we could feel that tonight it was going to work. We felt it and we jumped into a river in all of our clothes, hit the surface loudly with our hands so strong our belief in everyone back at the bungalows working like slightly mismatched clothes that fight each other in just the right way.

I love swimming in my clothes, this Asian conservatism feels like freedom to me and nothing else. Dive in whenever. I get a million leeches on my ankles and I’m still bleeding when we get back… Javiera cries, “what happen with YOU!?” 

Axel and Ben are in Axel’s hammocks on the porch of his bungalow. I throw the bottle of Lao-Lao at Ben. “Heeyyyyy…Lao-Lao Queen!” The way he says “Lao-Lao” in his Australian accent makes it sound like an exotic Bush creature. Axel gets up and grabs his guitar, and I steal his hammock. You can do that when it’s working. Ben gives me a push. The others are sitting around the porch, and Axel starts strumming. Someone calls from the dark lawn by the river, “Hey, who’s playing?” And Dan answers, “Bob Marley.” Someone else: “Bob Marley has three songs about Muang Ngoi.” Axel makes up a song about how much he loves his hammock. “My Ham-Maaawk…is beaU-ti-ful…”

Axel calls lots of things “beautiful”: puppies, food, the visa for India.”It was beautiful to meet you” is how he says goodbye. In his French accent, the word sounds like what it is.

When it works the evening is beautiful. Liat sings Leonard Cohen songs from her hammock a few bungalows down.  From the dark lawn by the river I can hear Javiera talking with some German guys who just arrived today: “No! Hear me! Hear me!” Which is what she says when she means “listen to me.” Later we all go down there and sit at the round wooden table, take turns drinking shots of Lao-Lao out of the bottle.

We all know that it’s working and that tomorrow we’ll be hungover and we’ll sit on the decks of each other’s bungalows in the sun and eat sticky rice with fried bamboo. We can see our candles still flickering on the railing behind us. It feels home-ish, home-for-now, the cozy excitement of making do.




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