At a crosswalk, everyone behaves like a comma in the middle of a sentence.
Prematurely paused trajectories, counting down every red second.
Meanwhile, a man checks the time on his wristwatch. A girl is on her phone,
perhaps sending a message. Someone else shifts his weight from one leg
to the other. All of them ever so slightly leaning in the direction of their destination.
When the time expires everyone follows their feet (their minds already where
they're supposed to be). In places like these, looking is a luxury.
Above Silom, on the BTS station, I wait and look and begin to
consider the city and its lines. Verticals and horizontals of steel
and concrete, sorting space and asserting ownership. His building,
her street, their city. Being an outsider, the lines acquire a kind of
calculated cruelty about them.
But the train arrives and I get on and just like that the lines blur.
On the metro, tracing a line on the cold face of this city, looking out
and into the diffused distance, there is nowhere I can't go.
In another time, perhaps
in another place, a man
Is cutting leather
the size of a foot of a woman
he has never met. They will
fit like a second skin.
There is no formula
to this. There is only a pair
of scissors seized by a hand
long grown tired
of trembling. And the years.
We are in the studio;
wear your shoes, dear.
Excerpt from a poem written on those afternoons
I find myself watching the students in the studio.
Under a certain light, Degas lends me his eyes.
It's late and you might already be asleep from a long day of
work and study and work again, but I am writing you anyway.
Some days, I think of all the places we've already been to.
And I think of them without you. No one to share opera binoculars
with during a ballet, saying "her feet are so ugly" and other tiny
criticisms that keep us entertained. No one walk alongside
in the volcanic rock paths of Fuji, where only my breath rises
in the cold air and no one else's. No one to count coins with
in some unknown train station, getting tickets. No one to drag me
across a foreign city looking for a fabric market, where we'll find
the hidden little gems of that place. No one to place a cold towel
on my forehead when I'm severely sick in Sagada. No one there at all.
I think of them and I think of how hollow they are without you,
how they are haunted by your absence.
But you were there, and you still are. And those are thoughts
I'd like to think, that another year has come and passed in your life
and I've been fortunate enough that you spent some of those days
with me, good or bad. And I'd like to think of how the years stretch out
in front of us and how you will fill them and all the places we'll go.
Until nothing is hollow, until you fill all the still hallways and train cars
and streets in my mind and in my photographs. Until there's no one else
but you, and I.
Here, and everywhere else with you,
Somewhere up the slopes of the village, there is a woman
who is both the elder's daughter and the child's mother,
working the fields.
These are lives lived like seed becoming grain,
like echoes in this valley.
Speaking to one of the younger traditional tattoo artists or
mambabatok of the Butbut tribe, she tells me how long ago,
among their women, having tattoos signified beauty. I,
having been around their village for a few days, noticed
how not many of the younger women had any. So I ask her:
'the women now do not have tattoos, does that mean no one is beautiful?'
She answers me unflinchingly, as if it were a simple matter of fact:
'no one is brave anymore.'
That afternoon, listening to the rhythm of the
charcoal-inked thorn piercing flesh I learned that
beauty and bravery are inseparable