First Morning In Thailand

It begins in an empty restaurant overlooking a sidestreet frayed with pink and purple flowers through which the sun glows with the joyous severity of the equatorial latitudes. A waitress with raised cheekbones smiles as though she actually likes me when I thank her in Thai.

Ah, Thailand. Just get past the long lines in the airport, the grimacing customs agents in old-fashioned uniforms who stamp your passport without comment, then you ride to town on a meterless taxi, and, as we say in Maine, you’re golden.

An aging TV propped in the ceiling plays a talk show populated by women who look far whiter than anyone sauntering through the lazy luminosity shining beyond the screen. In this empty restaurant I have a panoramic view of a sun-yellow sidestreet where an old lady sweeps crisp brown leaves with a straw broom beneath the drooping roots of a great banyan tree with a glitzy skirt wrapped around its trunk. Birds hop in the branches. A brawny Asian man strides past without a shirt, his skin sending its own golden light back into the sun, suffusing the world with the glower of saffron youth. He wears loose hempen pants that allow all to see his swaying, uncircumcised, ant-eater penis.