The Mekong was whiter than ever last afternoon. How many colours can the Mekong be? We all seat at the communal tables under the straw roofs looking at that different light. There was some fog lingering over the water. The sky was a mixture of pinkish and blue. How long will it take me to get used to the fact that I now live in front of the Mekong? How long will it take for me to be bored by its colours? For the Mekong to become normality? Julian, mut mee’s owner, has been here 20 years and he still looks at the river in awe. How could we not? Most of us farangs had heard about the Mekong in geography or history classes when we were children but did we ever imagine it would lie in front of us like that? Showing us everyday a different face?
It was a strange day yesterday. I decided to seat on the Asian Pavilion in the morning and watch the redness of the Mekong under the sun. I felt my “soul” was finally almost totally here. It takes a while for body and soul to be in the same place. Sometimes it requires just letting go of the past. Just let it feature as a faded story of which we are mere observers. As distant observers the reenaction of memories does not seem to make the body liberate strange endorphins which make you more anxious than you should be. I guess many people can spend a whole life with soul and body entirely separated. Mut Mee is special it helps so many to find this little port where you feel home and both meet.
Not so long ago I wrote of the Danish man who was heartbroken by his Brazlian Mulata who had abandoned him for another gringo. He was not staying at Mut Mee but yesterday as I was watching the whiteness emanate from the Mekong I saw him appear. He looked devastated. I stood up to talk to him “Can I stay here now. I need to rest.” He had no bags with him so I asked whether he was ok knowing fully well he had come here to talk to me. I a total stranger had once heard his pain and now I was the personification of this port he needed.
“ My mother died last night. Can I have a room ?”
I ask him to follow me. I take him to the nicest room we have. He starts to speak. His mother who was a fit 92 year old woman made fire everyday in her house in Denmark. He had spoken to her 4 days before and she was very happy. “The house caught fire. She was burned to death. I can’t think straight I need to rest. There is also my son in hospital”
I do not know what to say since any word seems profane. I ask him whether he wants to have a seat. I know he does not even really need a room. He has one in some other guesthouse. He needs to talk. I ask him what happened to his son. He is 17. He had diabetes. “2 years ago just after my 28 year old marriage was finished the doctors made a mistake and injected him with too much insulin”. The story gets complicated he is attempting to speak in Portuguese. I do not want to interrupt. Suddenly I understand that a medical mistake his had put his son in a coma for 1 year. There was nothing the doctors could do anymore.”
“I wanted to kill the doctor. I needed to leave. I ran away to Brasil. I met the Mulata there. She got pregnant. She abandoned me.”
The stories become intermixed. I can barely follow. He goes back between Europe and Brasil. His son is brought home. He can’t move. He can’t see. He can only scream in pain “ahhhhh”
“But then something good happened. I realized he could hear me. So I told him. If you want to say yes say AH. If you want to say no say Eh. He now could speak!”
As he says this words my eyes fills with tears. He found joy in this basic communication. Inside of me I know not what to say. I just reached his hand and said I am really sorry. I don’t need to say that… I do not need to say anything…. my whole body shows I am listening. Sometimes this is all we can do.
Looking at my own emotion he breaks down and cries. “it is too much. She left me I am crazy about this woman. My family hates me because I had to go away… I had to go I was going to kill that doctor! My mother burned. She, the mulata, had an abortion of my baby.”
I don’t say anything. I just pause in silence wondering how can all suddenly collapse like this in one’s life? How can both his children and mother sometimes seem less painful than the abandonment by a young Mulata in Brasil. I watch in bewilderment. The coexistence of feelings. How much it hurts heartbreak… How much it fogs priorities. He thanks me for hearing. I wish I could do something. I wish I could magically help. I cant do much. I suddenly remember the sweet Italian who rescued me when I most needed help. I remember that words don’t matter that much. It is simply this silent understanding. This silent unjudgning understanding… yes sometimes we just run away. Sometimes we go with the hope that our soul will follow our bodies. That our minds will stop at least for a second. I watch that man in front of me. I see he is fragmented. He is in a million different places at the same time. I know that feeling.
At night he comes down to the boat. He takes the guitar and plays a sad tune. This morning he comes to talk to me. He is a bit more in place. Some seconds of it. In the garden he meets the beautiful Indian flute player.
“I will go pick up my flute to play with her.”
He seems a bit more in place today. Less words. It consoles me to see he has found some solace here. Some solace till he has to cross borders in the air to go back to Denmark in a couple days. As I hear the beautiful sound of the flute coming from the garden I hope with all my heart that he will have at least from some briefs moments his soul and body together. I hope, kindness of strangers, music and the Mekong can work for him as it does for me.