POSTCARD #115: Chiang Mai: Out of the car and into the shopping mall, colour, lights, people – I feel M’s hand slip into mine, holding on to the ends of my fingers like they were tree branches. That familiar use of my hand as a stabilizing device, an anchor she needs in order to do her little dance (it seems impossible to just walk normally), a few skips to build up the momentum, then a larger hop, reduced to a smaller hop and back to her normal walking pace. The child and the old man; this is how it was for me, long ago and far away. She’s spinning her head around, taking in the surroundings of where we are… always in the here-and-now. The event is forever in present time. A question comes: Toong Ting? (I don’t know why she calls me that) Today is Friday 13th, yes? I stop and look at her small face; Taiwanese Thai with Japanese grandfather – I’m thinking, what day is it today?
We look for a place to sit down, tired of all this walking round to get the escalators one after another up to the movie theatre on the 5th floor. Just at that moment a public seating area appears in the form of different kinds of fruit – I wouldn’t have noticed, except that M asks me if I sit on ‘the tomato’, she will sit on ‘the watermelon’ okay? Yeh.. okay (a seat is a seat) and I lower my weight on to the surface of the tomato – it’s bright red, wobbles a bit, I ask M to sit beside me. She skips over with a hop and a jump, sits down and her weight tips the balance. We take a look at the date on my phone; her view of it is better than mine… See? Toong Ting, it’s Friday thirteenth! Ghost comes, pee, number thirteen sideways, same as Thai word ‘p’. I find a piece of paper in my bag and a pen; can you write it for me? She flops down on her knees puts the paper on the seat and takes up the position of formal writing.
Focused attention, she writes it a couple of times, then scribbles it out after she’s explained to me – because ‘p’ might come if it’s still written. The Thai alphabet p, when turned sideways, becomes the numeral 13. I ask her if she believes in ghosts, and she just looks at me, like… are you kidding? Nearly every people in my class believe ghost is real! So there’s no way I can convince her it must be something to do with holding on too much to identity with body/mind. Okay, let’s go, and we make our way up to the fifth floor, get the tickets for the movie, buy the popcorn and the Coke, sit in our seats.
The movie was “Cinderella” and when it was finished I thought it was the best movie I’d ever seen. Before that, though, I was aware of M looking around in the darkness, attention having shifted away from the huge screen. It’s then I realize; yes I could be aware of ‘p’… what’s happening here? What’s happening behind me, at either side?
‘For life in the present there is no death. Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact in the world.’ [Wittgenstein]