Chiang Mai: Moving through the main road traffic in a tuktuk, going at an unknown speed, just surrounded by the noise of it. Lying back on the seat in the slouched position is best, holding on to everything, and the body kind of adhered. It’s also the only way to see out because of low headroom. We make a fast turn into a soi (narrow road), lurch to the right in this flimsy three wheeled vehicle, lightweight structure with a wide seat, shiny chrome poles support a canvas hood overhead and nothing to separate outside from inside. We’re now in a residential area, careering down a narrow passageway; the engine noise is louder here. Pedestrians turn and look as the tuktuk approaches and step back out of the way. There’s just enough time to see the person’s head turning in my direction, I glance and have eye contact, then I’m gone. Turn another corner and somebody else looks up from what they’re doing. It happens again and again, an old woman, a child, a man just sitting on the wall. He hears the sound of the approaching tuktuk, head rises, shoulders turn and face comes round to where I am, looks at me sitting in the back seat, then I’m gone. It all takes place in a couple of seconds – not really unusual, quite ordinary… a fragment of a recorded event.
Heads move in my direction: who is that in the tuktuk? The human reaction, eyes and ears; vision and hearing, and mouth is there to speak or call out if necessary. All these sensory receptors are positioned in or about the face and the flat plane of it moves round like a small parabolic TV satellite dish reaching out for a signal, ready to respond. But it’s too fast and the thinking process doesn’t engage. I see the beginning of recognition, mind takes over and ‘self’ locks in, then released and the tuktuk has gone in that same instant. A brief glimpse; an excerpt from a sentence; a few words that don’t have a context.
Each person I see is ready to respond, smile, say hello when we have eye contact. But it’s too fast and I’m not anybody they know, and I’m a foreigner: white face, pale eyes, kind of invisible. Sorry, have to rush, bye! It’s a brief encounter then zoom round the corner and there’s somebody else. Face turns, eyes look, mind doesn’t engage, face turns away. ‘I’ am not here, I never was here really, it just seemed like that for a moment; the look of eyes, and our shared world, the air takes the volume of a space where there’s always enough room for it, and the water in the lake is for fish to find somewhere to swim around in….