My old friend Huang used to say to me “When I was a kid I wanted to know stuff but as I’ve become older it has started to seem to me both more important, and more difficult, and more fun to learn how to not know stuff.” And I said, as I usually did by that point in the evening, cause I was tired and drunk from Mekong whiskey and my feet had finally stopped being numb and settled in to really hurting “What are you talking about?” “I honestly don’t even know.” he said ‘Why would I think that you would understand? You’re from Brooklyn, I’m from Mae Sariang, you’re a Jewish American, I’m a Chinese Thai. Why would I think you would even understand? Let’s talk about something else.” But I said “Okay are you talking about local minimums?” “What are you talking about?”asked Huang.
“Local minimums mean you have climbed to the top of a mountain and the only way to get higher is to go down.”
“Because the mountain is not the tallest mountain?” asked Huang. We had left the room and were now in the convenience store across the soi and he was buying us another bottle. I was being bitten by so many mosquitos. The next morning when I counted the bites on my legs I lost count at three hundred. The woman selling us the whiskey was slender and amused by us.
“Yes. There are taller mountains. So knowing is climbing a mountain. Unknowing is going down a mountain.”
“Yes, okay. Something like that.” he said “That’s right and also very, very wrong. Because you know you want to climb a mountain and I don’t even know that. To me the idea that I need to climb mountains is itself one of your little hills pretending to be a mountain.”
“Okay maybe it is like backing up out of a blind alley.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. We were staggering down the street, helping each other from falling down. We had tried to sing “I am a Young Woman from Kon Khaen” but I could not carry a tune and he didn’t know the words. Even so I think we were pretty good.
“If you go forward in life sometimes you get trapped. ”
“And the only way out of the trap is to back up?”
“That’s even worse than your hill thing. The biggest trap is to think you are in a trap.” He laughed. We sat down on the steps in front of the mobile phone store. A few tuk tuks full of drunk people in search of commercial sex were still plying the streets, but the night was huge, moist, quiet. The noises actually made the quiet noisier, if that makes sense.
“Why is it do you think that when people wake up from a deep sleep their first question is “Where am I?” and only a few moments later to they ask “Who am I?”
“I don’t know.” I said.