POSTCARD #181: Chiang Mai/Bangkok flight: Here today and gone tomorrow or here today, next week tomorrow, time warp in an itinerary that is only continuous interchanges. Shrill announcements in Chinese, nine tones, so much air needed to get it all to sound clear, they’re almost shouting. Pain in the head, swallow medicine with a glass of water. Small tables seem to leap up and strike me with food, stabbed by cutlery and glass in the mouth, at night soft pillows try to smother me. Now sitting in an airport coffee shop with M my niece and she says, Look Toong-Ting there’s a mosquito on my chocolate brownie! And I need a moment to figure out what she just said, M looking into my disbelieving face, almond shaped eyes, black pupil almost fills the space. So I lean over to her small plate and M points cautiously with her little finger and there is a mosquito sitting there, or standing there (do they have knees?) on the edge of her brownie. I look at it closely. Do you see it Toong-ting? It’s a boy mosquito. This intrigues me… so small, the genetalia would be hypothetical – how can she tell? Where is this conversation going? Girl mosquitos drink the blood, she says. I shoo away this rude boy mosquito, and ask M if she would like me to go buy her a new chocolate brownie instead of that one that’s been walked upon by a boy mosquito? No she’ll just not eat the bit where the boy mosquito was standing. And she’s eating with a spoon so that looks possible; yes she carves away that chocolate brownie so what’s left is the tiniest cliff teetering on its own in a sea of white porcelain plate with crumbs of its relatives scattered around.
The whole world is a hypothesis – that’s the hypothesis. I’m reminded of something I think I heard somebody tell me about already, it’s only the females who go for the blood, hmmmm, typical, the males hang out in coffee shops and eat chocolate brownies. Then it’s boarding and we’re passing through apertures in walls, holes in the fuselage and sitting in 43H&J. I stow away the hand-carry bags in the locker above, a volume inside a volume, and M selects the aisle seat, sits quietly and perfectly straight, long-necked and graceful, looks around to the back with a fleeting glance that scans for detail all around the inside of the plane, right down to the front, her small eye beams flash through the interior between seats and all through the crowd unnoticed, absorb all data, processed to the brain to see if anybody looks interesting.
Meanwhile I’m sitting with my knees squashed up against the seat in front trying to find the optimum position of comfort – Thai planes are made for little people – ask M if I can put my leg in the space on her side and she agrees and seems pleased to have it there, a fallen tree trunk occupies part of her space. Asks me if I want to put the other one in as well, so I do that, one leg folded on the other and she’s fascinated by the size anomaly, but it’s too much. People will think I’m taking advantage so I take one out and fold it up against the seat in front like the mattress on a bed settee when it’s closed… it’s only a 50 minute flight
She continues looking around, stands up to look at where her seat belt is at, with head spinning nearly 360 degrees, long black hair sweeps around like curtains, then settles into her seat with the thump of her small weight and ‘click’ goes the fastener of her seat belt. These days, M is being an individual, self-contained ‘self’. She’s nearly twelve – and at that age you’ve got to know what you’re doing … I’m thinking it’s a bit sad that the crazy playfulness is gone. There’s just this beauty and sweetness and I don’t know where it comes from. M tells me to fasten my seat belt. I feel that soon it’ll be M taking care of me on these flights.
“A king heard the sound of a lute and it delighted him, so he ordered them to bring that sound. The servants brought him the lute, not the sound, and they had to explain to the king that the sound has no independent existence, but is created by the separate strings, box and arch, all elements acting simultaneously. Just as the king cannot find the sound of the lute, we can not find our self. “ [Buddha, Samyutta Nikaya]