Return to Asia, Week One

I land in Hong Kong on Friday at 8:50am.

The airport is super efficient, so from my seat on the plane to baggage claim will take 20 minutes (there’s always a line at customs now; not so 4 years ago). I’ll buy my Airport Express Round Trip ticket at the self-serve machine, use the rest room and then hop on the 20-minute train ride to Central station.

It’s December so the weather will be cool enough to hump my 20kg backpack up the escalators to Mid-Levels to my friend’s apartment where I’ll be staying. Impossible to do in the summer. By then it’ll be around 10:30am and I’ll be refreshed from a Xanax-induced slumber on the red-eye flight and work until evening. I don’t need to see Hong Kong.

Friday night, Christmas party that my friend’s throwing at his place. I have to attend because it’s the friend that I’m staying with.
Saturday night, another Christmas party with a big, fancy dinner, open bar and a gift exchange. This is great because this is where I’ll see everyone in a single night and be good for another year. But I can’t drink too heavily because of Sunday.

Sunday, I’m meeting Hong Kong Pocahontas, who I haven’t seen since the last time I was in Hong Kong on May 9th (thank you, Apple Calendar, and thank me for being a nazi about scheduling). She’ll inevitably want to do something active, hike to the other side of the island or something. And I’ll do it because I haven’t had sex since mid-October.

Sunday night, we’ll (probably) have sex.

Monday, I fly to Bankgok.

Tuesday, after picking up my motorbike and trusty full-face helmet, I’ll fly around the city and re-explore my old adopted hometown. It’ll be boring shit like getting a massage, eating krapow moo and going to the grocery store. When she gets off work, I’ll meet up with Good Girl Gabby, probably in the shopping mall district like we always do, munching on Japanese snacks and Korean desserts. She’ll (probably) sleep over as she works close to my hotel – there’s no point of her going all the way back home to the suburbs, you know? I know, she knows.

Wednesday, I’ll finally meet that Girl With The Perfect Face, a title bestowed upon her from the previous Girl With The Perfect Face, my ex-girlfriend, not that she no longer has a perfect face but because eh, you gotta move on with perfect faces.

We’ll go eat something delicious at a trendy place with dim lighting. I’m wondering if she’ll finally tell me that she has a boyfriend, because while I know that she does, she has not mentioned him to me yet, and I’m not going to bring him up if she doesn’t. I mean, she could be shopping for someone new, right? Maybe he’s emotionally abusive? Maybe he’s a cheating pervert? Maybe he’s not good to her and I am so none of this is really cheating or anything bad at all because everyone can win at the end.

Thursday is empty so far. I’m trying to get Rose Tattoo Alien Face to come out, but she seems pissed at me, since we reconnected a few months ago (after a few years of missing each other). I think it’s because she expected us to jump into some daily texting relationship back in September until my return to Bangkok. I think this because when I said, “Hey, I’ll be in Bangkok in a few weeks!” she responded with, “So? You don’t even talk to me anymore.” Of course now that I’m T-minus 3 days from Bangkok, I’m desperately trying to get her out – I’m bringing a goddamn souvenir – and if I can, this is the night to do it.

Or, that ladyboy. That tall, buxom ladyboy with the sharp features. Seriously.

Friday is for this girl that I met on Tinder during my first or second month of living in Bangkok. Actually, she might’ve been the first or second girl I met on Tinder Thailand in general. Very beautiful and high-society, it doesn’t appear that she needs to work but does anyway. Her parents own a factory that manufactures auto parts, and she went to some school in Hamilton, Ontario when she was younger, something like The Canadian College or equally bizarre.

We would talk on Line and comment on each other’s Instagrams, but that’s as far as it went for three fucking years. Three fucking years to get her out now. That’s what it took. So Friday is important because there’s a terrible amount of sunken cost fallacy going on here. If it’s a bust, that’s three wasted years. If it’s good, then, well, it better be because it took three fucking years.

And I’ll do all of this while messaging with The Comedienne back home in Miami, because she’s tops. Aces.

Oh, I Did It.

The past four years of my life seem unpredictable and random, like I left Toronto with three bags to see where the wind would take me – but that’s wrong, I knew it would end up exactly like this, exactly what I’m about to do in a month: move indefinitely to Los Angeles.

I knew it, and I knew that I had to move from Toronto to anywhere first, and then from there I would move to LA. Because relocating from Toronto directly to Los Angeles would’ve meant that I’d need to secure employment somehow, and back then (well, and now, I suppose) I absolutely despised working as a full-time salaried employee.

So I refused before I even broke ground on the relocation project: I could never, ever move from Toronto to Los Angeles because it would require me to be a fucking asshole working stiff motherfucker.

But I knew that if I moved first to Hong Kong, to Bangkok and Saigon and Bali and Taipei – I knew that if I first did that for a few years, I would exhaust myself with all of that fun and adventure and happiness and meaning and I’d once more would want to be living some agonizing, stupid and boring life for a few years, in order to be able to escape it again.

You see, because I know myself, and while I intellectually know that fun and adventure and happiness and meaning are good things to have, I’m only content when chasing these things, but not actually possessing them. I’m comfortable when happiness is fleeting, not when it is something solid and foundational. Boring.

I need shit to escape. And then I’ll escape it and find something else to escape. It’s the funnest thing in the world, to kill yourself and rise again.

So I did that: I moved from Toronto to Asia and bits of Eastern Europe. I went out there and I lived the fuck out of life for 3 years. And here I am now, exactly where I knew I would be, bored of happiness, bored of adventure, ready to hunker down and buy a couch and a car and an umbrella and pots and pans and spatulas. Nothing about this was unpredictable. In fact, it all went so according to plan that I’m stunned that it may be the most closely I’ve ever followed a plan for such a long duration.

The plan doesn’t end in Los Angeles, however.

The rest of the plan was to find someone here, get married, rescue a dog, have kids. Then move to the coast, maybe Huntington Beach, maybe Redondo. Somewhere where there’s salt in the air and the scent of coconut sunscreen. Where children drag their surfboards barefoot across the hot asphalt to the ocean where they can catch a few waves before school.

It’s not so much a plan as it is an image in my head that’ll (probably) come true, like the images of Phuket and Los Angeles and that small shitty island outside of Saigon. Images of places and experiences I never had, but once I was there I was hit with a certain déjà vu and thought, Oh, I did it. Oh.

The Comedienne

The Comedienne could be possibly the most compatible person I’ve ever met, in the decades of dating and meeting girls domestic and internationally, from the high school girls in Scarborough to the clubbing girls in downtown Toronto to the Type-A ex-pats in Hong Kong to the models in Malaysia and the socialites of Singapore and the fashionistas of Taipei and that café owner in Saigon.

From the girls I met online on AsianAvenue and Friendster and Match.com (well, only the one Indian girl) and Tinder and OKCupid and all of that fucking shit. Out of all of those women from varying and diversified sources, The Comedienne, goddamnit, it’s her, she comes out at the top.

We met in the most unlikely of places, on Instagram, where I stumbled onto her account and left a funny comment, funny enough for her to browse through my feed and leave comments, each comment appearing on an older and older post until she couldn’t take it and finally sent me a direct message to see who the fuck I was, to see if my captions directly correlated to my conversation – who sends direct messages on Instagram, anyway? – and we switched to Whatsapp after a quick 5 messages.

So there, that’s another magnificent quality: she doesn’t do the hard-to-get thing; she doesn’t play coy. She just says, “Hey, who are you and what’s your deal and do you wanna help me write sketches for this thing that I have with CBS” and then sends me messages when she wants, even if I hadn’t yet responded to her previous message. She’ll just up and send another one right on top, no biggie.

(I just realized how stupid this is, that the “game” of dating has now shifted to fucking text messages. This is how it’s been the past year, me trying to decipher girls’ messages – their choice of words, the timing, the rhythm and cadence, the selected emoji – and I don’t have to do that with her.)

The Comedienne is a comedian with a moderate level of fame, not enough to have her own TV show but enough to guest star on sitcoms and sell out her stand up show at the Apollo and have stalkers (though as an attractive Asian woman, it’s not hard to amass a stable of stalkers). I don’t know the extent of her fame or funniness because I refuse to look her up and consume the plethora of videos and podcasts and tweets and shit that she has out there, documenting her life of running around the country with other comedians of moderate fame.

This has resulted in us talking normally, rather than whatever would happen if I discovered her to be famous (I’d probably be intimidated and try to hard) or even worse – funnier than me (I’d probably be intimidated and try to hard). I’m bad with this, when I feel like I need to impress a person, to a mortifying degree. So this is probably the best move I could make, to treat her like a normal girl and to talk to her about normal things and ignore every minute detail of what she does for a living.

But we’re not compatible because she’s funny. Well, it’s that. It’s that she’s funny but it’s also that she’s professionally funny, which means she doesn’t do that thing that unfunny people do where if she gets a laugh out of one of her jokes, she’ll reuse it a million fucking times. She doesn’t squeeze her jokes. She makes me laugh, then discards the joke, because she knows that there’ll always be other jokes.

(I do the same thing, because I’m funny as fuck.)

So I like The Comedienne because she’s funny, but I like her more because she’s sporadically funny. I like her judgment and choices in which she outputs the funny, if that makes any fucking sense. Like she’s not desperate or needy for the laugh. She just floats around the world, saying and doing what she wants, and coincidentally it’s all shit that people would pay to see her do on a stage at a comedy club.

Also, she’s hot as fuck.

The Producer Part 1

I met The Producer in Santa Monica, at a large outdoor patio whose name I should remember but can’t remember. It was the trip where I spent the longest in LA – a full week – and rented a one-room house in Venice and a cherry red convertible. It was a precursor to my nomadic life – I was on my monthly break from art directing the magazine, so took off south with my laptop to finish up work for other clients.

I never saw a house so small; I didn’t know that they existed. I didn’t think that anyone would waste a prime plot of land in Venice Beach – or anywhere, for that matter – on a one-story, one-room house. But there you go, it existed and I rented it for $700/week from some Jewish girl off of Craigslist because AirBNB didn’t exist yet.

So I was staying at this tiny house and running on the beach every morning and jumping rope on the sidewalk out front in the late-afternoon. Then I designed soccer balls and packaging on a white table in her cubby hole, the wooden walls painted with thick layers of white paint over and over again that it all seemed blobby and plastic. At night I would meet friends. I would drive my red Mustang convertible to Westside or more likely Koreatown, get drunk and drive all the way back, down Venice Blvd. and onto Washington, then a right on Abbot Kinney and a left down the small street to my small house. Parking was always a pain in the ass during the daylight hours; not so at 4:30am.

I went to the famous Gold’s Gym Venice and inquired about a weekly rate. “It’s $50 per month or $20 per day,” said the skinny kid working reception.

“Do you have a weekly rate?”

“No, just the two.”

“Well, can I just pay you something for the week?”

“No, there’s no button on the cash register for that,” he said. He didn’t care but I’ll make him care, I thought.

“I mean, can I just, pay, you, you know what I mean?”

“No, it does not matter to me at all if you get to work out or not,” he said, to paraphrase.

One day, I went for a run. I ran up to the Venice Beach boardwalk and to a convenience store where I bought an expensive bottle of water, solely because it came with a squeeze cap. I bought it and scowled and sulked, then ran to Santa Monica Pier and back. I walked up to my door and fetched the key from my pocket, but it wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere. I went back to the store thinking it fell out when I paid for the expensive water, but it wasn’t on the floor and the cashier did not give a fuck.

I went back to the house and climbed through an open window in the laundry room – thank fucking god I kept that window open – and in my remaining days in that house, that’s how I got in, after lunch or workouts or running or slobbering and clumsy-drunk: through the laundry room window.

So the night that I met her, we were all in Santa Monica, at a large outdoor patio whose name I should remember but can’t remember. It was the first or second night of my week in LA so I was still excited and hopeful. It was a record launch party, or a film festival after party, or a bespoke sake brand party. Something very Los Angeles and taking place under palm trees and purple lights and maybe a swimming pool in the middle.

My friend wanted a woman there. A slim Asian with breast implants, blonde hair and blue eyes. I was his wingman who was to distract her friend, The Producer. With this friend, there were no options: I would be his wingman and I would talk to and distract The Producer — whether I wanted to or not — as he would attempt to gain the affections of Asian Barbie (he did). The four of us sat on a couch facing what was probably a swimming pool, the two girls in the middle and my friend and I flanking them.

I was drunk – perhaps blacked out? – so we spoke briefly, made plans to meet later in the week, and then I flittered off to catch up with the friends I hadn’t seen in a good quarter-year, and then we all went to Big Tomy’s where I ate pastrami chili cheese fries for the first (but not last) time in my life.

The next day I added The Producer to Facebook and saw what she used to look like — deep tan, massive breasts, slim waist, toned abdominals and a huge, toothy smile with slightly buck teeth — and immediately messaged to see when we could get that first date in.

San Diego: Portly Mexicans and Thick Lashes

Downtown San Diego felt like Toronto back in the early 2000s when the entertainment district was thriving and all you’d have to do is walk from University Ave to Spadina to find a place to party.

I checked into my hotel in the Gaslamp District, which miraculously felt more like an east coast downtown than the west coast counterpart. Narrow streets made for pedestrians (or horses) instead of cars, brick buildings, large neon signs and gaslamps. There weren’t many big brand stores, but if there were they were embedded into centuries-old building with wrought-iron gates.

Hobos. Lots and lots of hobos. Like I said, it felt like a bona fide downtown.

My friend Rugby – whom I met in Hong Kong who now lives in San Francisco and is visiting his parents in San Diego for the holidays – met me in the lobby of my hotel at 10pm, while I was watching Days of Thunder and incredibly – incredibly – not tired or hurting from the 12-hour bike ride earlier that day.

We went around the corner to a 10-person bar (it could only fit 10 people) and had a few drinks as we caught up. Once slightly drunk, we went to the bar next door, a joint with a Western theme complete with a bull-riding machine in the corner. We stood at the corner of the bar, talking and drinking and buying shots for whichever girls were around us.

Girls in San Diego are friendly. Some would take the drink, excuse themselves and leave – but most would stick around and chat, telling us where we should eat and which bars we should hit next. Rugby entertained two large Mexican women (one was drunk and the other was suspicious) as I talked to an older white woman who was between the ages of 27 to 55. I can’t tell with these women, man.

When 27 to 55 excused herself and left, I tried to talk to the bartender who couldn’t accept drinks (!?) so instead broke my way into Rugby’s Mexican threesome. Once the second girl went from suspicious to drunk, we left the Western bar and headed to a lounge on the corner. Rugby paid the cover charge and I got the first round.

In the back of the bar was a stairwell, innocuous but brightly lit. We ambled down the stairs and at the bottom was – holy fucking shit! – a dimly lit club, crammed with young people dancing to old school hip hop! We made our way to the other side where there was a platform, and I danced with my squat Mexican girl while she stood on the stage and I stood on the floor.

I wrapped my arms around the circumference of her large waist and I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t fucking do it, man, there wasn’t enough substances in the world for me to abuse in order to get to the mental state to even want to see the hefty mounds of her flesh under her billowy white shirt and red jeans. I mean, it was like, stiff fat, you know? Like she was one giant piece of cartilage. I would almost prefer jiggly. (No, I wouldn’t).

We went to the bar and beside me was a super cute girl of mixed ethnicity. Asian was definitely in there, and maybe some sort of Latina? Mediterranean? She was wearing a simple white t-shirt with a pocket and had small eyes with long, thick lashes. “You girls want a shot” I asked her and her white friend with the cleavage shirt. They looked at each other with absolute glee, and even made a sound: eeeeeeeeeee! Yes we do! Yes yes yes!

It was like this was their first ever free drink bought for them by a stranger at a bar. Could it be? Could it really be? I mean, Mixed Ethnicity was cute as fuck, surely she would be used to leaving her money at home on the weekends, confident that the boys would come through for her. But, nope, they congratulated each other, took the shots with big grins, then insisted on taking a selfie with me on her iPhone, eager to capture this milestone in her life.

Some Asian girl – young, but not as young-looking as Mixed Ethnicity (who could’ve been, like fucking 17) – came up behind us and whispered something into her ear with a stern look on her face. I feel like she was the babysitter, warning her to calm down or we’re going home and I’m tellin’ mom! I offered her a drink to which she waved off with a scowl.

I went back to Rugby and The Rotund Mexicans and we shot our tequila and went upstairs. As we went up the stairs, I put my hand on the small of Red Jeans’ back (for whatever fucking reason) and she turned and said, “But you were talking to that other girl…” with sad, pensive eyes, like we were once something and now we’re not. What?

As we were leaving the lounge, they went to the washroom and Rugby said that it was best that we disappeared on them, and I agreed.

Mi Young

It was a chilly night in Los Angeles so we met at a place renown for its budae chigae, Korean Army Stew, a pot of leftover meats and vegetables that the American and South Korean army were reputed to cook in the days of the Korean war. Usually, the restaurant would fill the skillet with old cabbage and kimchi and spam and toss in a pack of Maruchan instant noodles and call it a day – but this joint did it right and added salami and rice cakes and white Korean sausages into the bright red broth.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I walked in and saw her sitting in the back. Immediately I noted that she didn’t look like her photos on the dating app on which we met. She was fair-skinned and 5’9” but that’s where the similarities ended. Her pointy chin, her slender legs, her shiny hair, her youthful vibrancy – those were all absent in person.

Nonetheless, not being one to turn away a random night of budae chigae and beer, I approached her. “Hi, are you Mi Young? I’m Alex. It’s nice to meet you.”

I sat down and asked her simple questions: Did you just get off work? How long did you work for? Did you drive here? What car do you drive? And she nodded or shook her head, or spoke in one word answers.

“Mi Young, I can understand Korean,” I said, in my shitty Korean. “I just can’t speak it. So go ahead and speak Korean.”

She brightened up to this and said, “Oh, you don’t know how relieved I am to hear that. I’m so shy when I have to speak English.” She said this six times in Korean because it took me six times to fully comprehend what the fuck she was saying.

“How long have you been in LA?” I asked Mi Young.

“Six years, already. I started in San Francisco, but I didn’t know English and there weren’t any Korean people there so I had a very hard time. So I came to LA. But now I want to practice my English but there are too many Korean people here, so I think I’ll have to move elsewhere.”

“Peace,” I said.

So we ate budae chigae and the restaurant’s famed kimchi pancake (too soggy) while drinking four giant bottles of Korean beer. She drank faster than me, chugging glass after glass and making me catch up.

“What do you like to drink?” she asked.

“Usually, gin.” She stared at me, blank. “You know? Martini? It’s like vodka…”

“I never tried vodka.”

“You never tried vodka? What about gin? Whiskey? Tequila?”

“No, I only drink beer and soju.”

“How is this possible? How are you a 34-year old drinker who has never tried liquor?”

“I don’t like the smell of it,” said Mi Young. “Whenever I get close to drinking it, the smell puts me off and I just can’t do it.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, so you’ve never been drunk before?”

“Of course I’ve been drunk.”

“No, I mean drunk drunk. Beer- and soju-drunk don’t count. You have to be in pain on top of the bloating.” She went to the washroom and I tried to look at her ass.

There’s this thing that happens as I get more and more drunk: the girl’s looks fade and her personality begins to reflect on her face. Mi Young’s warmth and humility (“I’m in America because I’m just an old, single woman in Korea”) brought out her eyelashes, the creases of her lips, the baby hairs brushing her forehead.

“My neighbor has an old dog that he keeps outside. Every night, he’ll start crying because I think he’s in pain. I think the cold makes him hurt more. So he’ll cry all night and I won’t sleep.

“My client at work, she works for a place that rescues dogs like this. So I told her about this old dog and she came by a few days later. For months this dog was crying and I was crying, and the day my client comes to rescue the dog, he’s no longer there. The dog died outside the night before, in the cold.”

“Too bad,” I said. “Let’s go drink more at another place.”

She knew of a place around the corner, called Second Floor because it was on the second floor. We shared a pitcher of beer and she ordered takoyaki. I ordered spam musubi, then looked at the time – 11:30pm – and then canceled my order.

Mitochondria is the Powerhouse of the Cell

My green and black road bike that I bought from Wal-Mart for $150 in September, I took that piece of shit and rode it to San Diego. I started at my downtown LA loft and followed GoogleMaps southeast until I got to the LA river, a man-made concrete river that was featured in Terminator 2 and snakes its way down south to Long Beach where it empties out into the ocean.

The sun set over me somewhere in Laguna Beach. By then my legs were sluggish, tired, dead-weight. I would pedal for 20 minutes until the pain in my left knee told me to stop. Then I would jog alongside my bike until my right hamstring would seize up. Then I would hobble at an excruciatingly slow pace until my body forgot that it was old and repair itself enough for me to hop back on and pedal, thus restarting the cycle.

I did this for two days, 10 hours each day. But all the way through, I was laughing. I was happy and I was laughing, ecstatic to be free and alone once more (what is wrong with me).

In Laguna Beach, there was a car accident. The man made it but his two dogs didn’t. A girl was standing on the side of the road, crying. A fireman covered the carcass of the dogs with a thin white sheet, treating them with the same respect reserved for humans. I went to find dinner but everything was closed – it was Thanksgiving.

I sat on my bike and looked for a hotel, resigned to the fact that I’d be eating chips and beer for Thanksgiving, on my hotel bed and watching Netflix (this sounds sad but is in fact my ideal night). I was flipping through ridiculously-priced hotels when someone called at me from across the street.

“Hey you, Bike Guy!” It was a young white kid with messy hair, face piercings and an apron. I was Bike Guy. “Come on over and get some food!”

“Whaddya got?” I yelled back.

“Turkey, cranberry, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese…”

“Oh cool! I’m just checking into a hotel, I’ll be there after,” I said. Instead I went over immediately, knowing that checking in was always a longer process than I thought, especially being so drained from cycling. There was a good chance I’d shower and pass out for the night, when my body was in desperate need of calories to tackle more biking the next day.

I crossed the street and stepped into the small café. There was a decent spread laid precariously across three coffee tables of varying heights. “Looks good, how much is a plate?”

“It’s free,” said Nose Ring. “Just enjoy yourself.”

“What? Why are you doing this?”

“A few years ago, I had a falling out with my family. So I was alone on Thanksgiving with nowhere to go. But then I met some guy who invited me to his house, took me in and fed me. So every year I pay it forward by cooking up a Thanksgiving dinner for whoever needs it. For whoever’s hungry or alone or bored. No one should be left out on Thanksgiving.”

“Shit, that’s awesome. Shit.” What is Thanksgiving? What is this shit?

I loaded my plate and sat with the regulars of the café, who were all weirdos of some sort but normal in this one place. They were all weirdos in their own ways, too: Nose Ring Joey looked like an out-of-shape Jock; James seemed like the quintessential long-haired stoner hippie with a sensitive soul; Tan was a Malaysian immigrant selling potions and elixirs; Q was an older, dread-locked black dude who was a surfer, skater and military man. They seemed out of place with even each other. What did they have in common to talk about?

It almost as if they were excommunicated from whatever society they were living in, then banded together here in this small café in Laguna Beach on Thanksgiving to eat and watch America’s Funniest Videos, the only joint on the strip that seemed urban and reasonably priced. The only joint in the world that accepted the rejected.

“This place has a good energy,” said Tan, whom I talked to most because she had a dog.

“What do you do here?”

“I distribute health supplements. Some electrolyte products, but other really cool stuff, that helps strengthen the mitochondria.”

“Mitochondria: the powerhouse of the cell” I thought, reciting what was drilled into my head in elementary Bio.

“Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell,” said Tan. Okay, so Malaysia uses the same text books as Canada, I see.

I shook everyone’s hands and left the café, crossed the street to my overpriced, under-heated hotel. There was a bathtub but no plug. “Sorry, we don’t have those,” said the super-hot girl manning the front desk. I went to the store next door and asked the 50-year old Korean cashier who spoke perfect English. “You know what you should do, just take a hand towel and put it in a plastic bag, then put that into the drain.”

It worked.

My Bangkok Nights Were Diametrically Opposite Of What People Think

When the sun set in Bangkok, it always felt like the perfect Indian Summer night, when it’s late-September and you’re granted a reprieve from the biting cold of Autumn and so you juice it for all its worth and stay outside in shorts and a tank top until that red sun disappeared completely.

That’s how every night felt like in Bangkok – the perfect fucking sunset.

I’d usually be on my motorbike at this time. At 6:30pm I was always on my way to the gym or on the way back from it, bombing down a rush hour-packed Sukhumvit, snaking in and out between the cars with the rest of the bikers. We would all be stuck at a 130 second red light, and the sun would dip and we would raise our visors or take off our sunglasses. Some locals would light cigarettes, others would take a sip from their plastic bag of liquid jammed into their cup holders.

One time, Ticket to Heaven by Dire Straits hit my ear buds and cemented that memory into my brain.

I’d make a left on Sukhumvit 22, all the way to Rama IV, take another two lefts and back up Soi 23 to the giant- mega-department grocery store, Big C, on the second floor. On the first floor was a food court that was merely passable in Bangkok, but would be KILLER in North America. I’ve eaten there a few times, but only when I had to. Only when I was in the mood for a few small dishes at once (for the variety), and didn’t want to trek to the good food court in the new mall that was a few blocks the other way.

There was also a McDonald’s and a KFC that I would frequent – a lot – and a pricey Japanese buffet ($20) that I once brought Good Girl Gabby to, after we spent the previous night and the entire day together.

The entrance to Big C was up the escalators and to the left. The carts were on the right and the cashiers were to the left. It’s seemingly a small, insignificant memory, but it’s fucking insane to me that I remember the details of a department store inside of a commercial strip plaza on a small street in Bangkok, Thailand. Walk into the store and you’re in the electronics department. Work your way to the other end and you’ll go through toiletries, home hardware, automobile accessories, and finally the jewel of any Thai store – the food section.

First the dry foods and canned goods. Then the bottled sauces and beverages. And then there’s always a few rows of international foodstuffs, with a giant sign overhead that read “INTERNATIONAL FOODSTUFFS” with Tabasco sauce and Keen’s hot mustard and Kraft Dinner. Doritos and those shriveled up Cheetos that have a concentrated dose of cheesey powder.

At the other end of the store nearest to the cashier would be the fresh foods. Fruits and vegetables and milk (nom) and the most important section, the place where I would eat the most during my time in Thailand: the ready-made food section.

Most single-serving meals were 35THB ($1) and consisted of rice, a meat, mixed veggies and fish sauce with peppers (nam pla prik). I’d skip these and aim for the family sized portions, the whole roasted chicken (gai yang) for $4.50, or the omellette for $1.20. Occasionally, I would get a pack of rice for my shin ramen, your choice of white, brown, purple or green (dyed with pandan leaves) for 24 cents.

At 7pm, a worker would trudge through this section with a price gun, marking everything ½ price, and the customers in the know would follow behind her like vultures and scoop up the even cheaper food. What they didn’t know – or couldn’t wait for – was that at 8:30pm, these now 1/2 –priced foods turned into 2-for-1 deals where you now paid half price and got another dish for free. Suckers.

I’d motorbike back home and my nights would always be the same: I would eat while working and either get a massage or watch a movie or take a bath while drinking boxed wine, all while alone, all while not speaking, without interacting with human being for at least 14 hours a day, and they were the best days of my fucking life.

God, Her Face.

God, this girl.

I need to acknowledge the lucky breaks in my life, I really do. This girl, I mean, we met off Instagram of all things, two years ago in Bangkok of all fucking places. We didn’t even “meet” – I saw her face somehow and I followed her account. It took two years – two fucking years – of sly commenting and well-timed likes for her to follow me back, and then from there another 6 months of neutral, friendly back-and-forths, and now, 2.5 years later, we’re meeting up in Bangkok when I’m there next month.

Jesus fucking Christ. 2.5 years. That’s as long as my longest relationship.

Back then I thought, How? How can I finagle my way into this girl’s life? This beautiful, young, intelligent, popular and desired and fit and successful and fashionable girl’s life? How can I beat out the thousands of men who year for her in person and on various social media platforms? I gave up before I even started.

But now. Now! Never would’ve thought I could get to this stage of being so close to her, to having her in my phone’s contacts and being able to throw a text message at her from halfway around the world – and to have her answer it, swiftly and enthusiastically.

Never would’ve thought we’d talk long into the night (her day), about her year of schooling in Mississippi, about her hippie parents that sent her there, about her sister who gets to be an artist while she has to analyze energy futures in the gleaming, sparkly Thailand Stock Market building in downtown Bangkok, close to her modern condo where she swims on Saturday mornings and then grabs a bite at Dean and Deluca before her MBA class.

But here I am again, surprised and startled and kissing the feet of the gods that I get to interact with women like this: women who made me sad when they didn’t know that I existed and women who made me frightened when they did.

God, her face.

I look at her face and extrapolate our future. Just based on her face, her big eyes and soft lips and her mature and professional stock-broker hairstyle, I can tell that I will dig her personality and that we’ll get along and that although she wears clean, pressed clothes and drinks expensive coffee, she’ll jump on the back of my motorcycle in an old pair of handmade jean-shorts with the inside of the pockets exposed and flapping on her porcelain thigh.

22 Days of Heartbreak = Disheveled Facial Hair

Come to think of it, I’ve been heartbroken for 22 days. Mildly heartbroken, in that I didn’t realize I was until last weekend, slumped over my couch and wondering why I was riddled with exhaustion and anxiety (mild exhaustion, mild anxiety). I thought I was getting sick, I thought I was stressed from work, I thought it was the weather. It took me awhile to find the culprit – my stupid little heart that wants things it can’t have.

So it’s not the devastating kind of heartbreak, but the kind that just kind of puts you in a fog, puts a haze over your life and you can’t be happy. I mean, you can have moments of happiness, but you can’t be uninterruptedly content.

But it’s not just that I couldn’t get a girl that I wanted. Or, rather, I couldn’t get to a point where I could even try to get a girl that I wanted. It’s more that in this city – coupled and with my reputation – I’m pressured at every second to be on someone, to have some sort of scheme running all the fucking time to be trying to talk to this girl or sleep with that one.

I only have a small handful of friends with whom I can go out with, without this inane, exhausting pestering: “Go talk to this girl. Go talk to that girl.”

Well, to their credit, no one knows that I was broken, or at least to the degree that I was. And I didn’t – don’t – have the energy or care to explain it.

So sometime last week, I decided to ignore these people. I went back to Netflix on Saturday nights. I went back to cooking and biking and growing up my beard –

— growing out my beard is sort of my way of saying that I’m on strike from girls. I’ve noticed that whenever I want to be left alone, whenever the introverted region of my brain needs to be reenergized, my subconsciousness just stops shaving. Well, usually I’d get on my motorcycle and hit the nearest coastline, but that’s no longer my life (but will be again).

The past few weeks, I’ve been force-talking to women based solely on the fact that they were the types of women that I’d be talking to if I were in the mood. But since I’m not in the mood, what’s happening is that there’s all of this shit coming out of my mouth. It’s just dispassionate, trite, moronic bullshit that I’ll say or write to them, and they’ll get bored and I’ll get bored and the whole thing would tank and I would ruin things now that I could just save for another day, when I’m back to normal and in the mood to talk to them.

I might be in the mood to get rejected. That happens sometimes, too. I’m forced to talk to women and so I get in there and get rejected so I can come back to the table and finish my beer and go home.

I have no point. (Do I ever?)