What made the recent trip nostalgic, usually, was the thought of dragging myself to the office. Since I missed most of the new year home, seeing distant acquaintances again also meant going through the whole unnecessarily catching up for the sake of fake politeness again.
I didn’t want to be asked about my love life by strangers. I didn’t want to be reminded over and over again how lucky this family was for having an academically successful son & daughter. I was sure my parents would be disapproving of that, inside, despite their smiling faces. And I didn’t want to be greeted by those office people, thinking of me as a priviledged kid whenever I embarked on a trip. That’s why I tried to avoid them upon going back to work yesterday.
Matt gave me a call last night and asked if this was better than the last trip. I said yes. But with the last time, there were still lots of stories to tell. This time was better but somehow, I felt like there was not much to write down.
It was meant to be a trip for two, Joey & I. But as it fell out, I changed my entire plan, at least to get to see Damian since we had promised to see each other anyway. My cousin was nice, he drove me all the way to the airport, giving me a smirky farewell. On the way, he didn’t forget to comment on the Joey thing, suggesting he might still take the flight to surprise me as the tickets had been bought. That was the thought that I’d been clinging to for quite a while.
And that was also that thought that kept hovering around for all of those 9, sometimes 12, hour bus rides, from Yangon to Ngwe Saung and back, to Bagan and all of the others. I didn’t regret going on the ride with Joey back then, but I did regret letting it end the way it did, telling him that I’d got men and women chasing me and yet declining them all to join him. That wasn’t a lie, but what I didn’t tell him, partly because of my pride, was that his company was what made it less lonely.
Catching up with Damian was nice. I was a bit bothered since he was with his ladies group. They were nice people, but still there were conversations about clothings, makeups, Disney and inside joke that I never got, as well as the picture of having Damian’s attention split in half. Comparisons arose. I told him I booked the expensive tickets just to see him. It wasn’t a lie either.
But Damian had always been kind and attentive, to me. There was a night in the camp that he hugged me from behind since I was feeling too much of the cold. He told me sad stories about his childhood, which I’d never got to know. And sometimes, I noticed that he chose me over the girls to devote attention & spend time with. All of that was really moving.
I told him stories about George, which I guessed I’d never done. He’d always been perceptive, and unselfish. I told him about the man who made bracelets that I met at the end of the trip with George, who gave me a free bracelet and told me our countries are “brothers”, which made me almost cried on the street since that was the only warmth of kindness I could feel again after days of rowing constantly with George. I told him that I actively sought for that man again while walking the Yangon street the other day and did succeed. What was even greater was that he remembered me too.
Damian told me how things were like a circle: I ended my last trip in Burma with that man, and now starting a new one in Burma with the very same man. He always did that, helping me see things that I couldn’t see in my shoes.
He did that again on our last night, opening my eyes about the local massage boy, about Robert & about Joey. I knew I hadn’t been the kindest man to him when we first met in my town, but I just wanted him to know that I had tried.
After splitting way with Damian, it felt lost again. It was just 2 days that we got to spend together. I didn’t know what to do except for following the popular route millions of travellers had laid out in front of me, filling the checklist with items like: 1) hot air balloon sunrise in Bagan; 2) sunset by the river in Inlay; 3) boat trip to Sankar lake; 4) bicycle ride to the Red Mountain; etc.
The day went even more dreadful as the only surrounding sound was the sound of “backpackers” commenting on how China wasn’t “civilized” enough just because English wasn’t widely spoken, how they were such genuine, authentic experience seeking explorer, gathering local knowledge instead of doing the “touristy things” while they themselves were only drinking and talking to people of their kinds and getting soaked up in the Western bubble-ness. Some might have sighed and said “Kids these days”, but they were actually almost 30. There was a point when I had to deter their big talks, made an excuse and just left.
Sex did come, after a long duration of no ejaculation. I didn’t dare to touch anything due to the fear of STDs. It was coincidence to see Robert, a guy I had messed around a couple times back in town, all the way at Ngwe Saung beach. I made an excuse to leave Damian’s group a little to catch up with him at the beach. He held my beer bottle as I was stripping to go into the cold water at night time. He stood still as I rubbed my erection against his (popping) butts from behind, right in a public place where homosexual acts could lead you to prison. But that was all that we did.
There was this French guy on Grindr whose room in the middle of nowhere I came to. He was quite handsome, body shape the exact type that I found attractive: muscular but not too artificial, curvy bottom with defining cock. But he refused to suck without condom and couldn’t handle the fucking he had asked for a few minutes earlier. I left and visited a Chinese guy staying 500 meters away. He got to sucking my cock immediately but I didn’t manage to feel like it and said goodbye soon afterwards.
On the way home from the French guy, I had to walk through around 3km of road with barely any light and no presence of human. It was just an empty, newly laid out road, cutting in between the tall grass, surrounded by the sound of dogs barking from afar. They seemed to sense my silent footstep. I thought of the ghost prevented from entering those Bagan temples. “They must have been walking around somewhere”. But soon, that thought was replaced by another as I looked to the sky and notice the dazzling layer of stars. The moon wasn’t full but it was strangely orange-ish. Blood moon.
The last night I was walking with George in Burma 2 years back, the blood moon was there too. It was my first time ever witnessing such phenomenon. But I guess it wasn’t the first time the blood moon witnessing something broken.
Of course, it would have never been my trip if there hadn’t been anything lost, to which my carelessness was always at fault. I brought along the broken pair of sunglasses Alan gave to me when he left (which I also tried to fix again and again). It did held up for quite a while with the super glue Florian applied on, but still couldn’t survive the drastic weather changes, constant physical movement and long winding dirt road.
Immediately after landing, I received a phone call from Hanne. She had just come back from somewhere else, hearing the speakers saying that my flight had landed hence deciding to wait. If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have known what to do since my wallet had been gone, along with the credit card and money, somewhere in the middle of Yangon airport. The cash inside wasn’t that much of a matter but that was a gift from my dad. And also what I would miss were the photos I’d been keeping around for a long time, including one given by Ben years ago.
I still remembered Joey’s reaction upon seeing Ben’s photos falling out of my wallet. “Maybe it’s time to move on?” he asked. I didn’t respond but I wanted to believed in him in that moment.