I’ve written before how lately the surreal has become so common as to become almost real: surreal is the new real people, in my world anyway. Last night, once more, I was given cause to remember that.
There I was sitting at a rough-hewn table at a grungily raw bar on Pantai Cenang beach sipping on a cold San Miguel watching some characters off para-sailing high above the beach as the sun set. Here I am, I thought, jobless, homeless, and practically cashless, a cold drink in my hand, a plate of freshly barbecued chicken satay before me, a cool breeze in my face and a view of the beach prettily framed by palm fronds. What gives, really?
In fact it’s pretty cheap to live that way on Langkawi. The cocktail I started with was about $6, the satay $2 for six of them, and the beer was another $2. The ambience was free. I sat there and reflected. As befitting the place (Babylon) reggae music played in the background while I watched the people from a surprising range of nations go by. They were fat and thin, young and old, some exuberant, and others natively indifferent. Sipping at my beer I watched as smoke billowed from the bbq as the cook fanned the flames with a rattan paddle, while the sun set poetically in the background. This is my groove I thought idly. One of them anyway.
Later I stood and walked down the near empty beach with my flip-flops in my hand. It was surprising how quiet it was, and a little disappointing – I was up for a party. Here and there a couple holding hands walked through the shallows – everyone was a couple – and others sat quietly beholding the sea that came in and out, over and over again. I ended up at the Yellow Cafe, which was definitely not happening place either. I sat at a lounge facing the sea and ordered another cheap beer. As I did so an extended Indian family came up from the water’s edge to one of the tables. It soon became obvious that some of them had chosen to take a dip in their undies, including dad, who stood there in his sagging, threadbare and definitely uncool y-fronts. Did I want to see this? No I didn’t, nor, it seemed, did one of the waiters, who basically suggested they should scram to the nearest toilet. That was met with oblivious mystification, and worse was to come.
You have to understand that the old man was about 20 foot in front of me directly in my line of sight. As I tried to look by him he wrapped a towel around his waist and began the shimmy to remove the aforementioned undies from beneath it. Oh come on man…No, don’t…Oh my God, I thought. I looked away, looked back over my shoulder as if there was something there in the empty shell of the restaurant I couldn’t miss. Some part of me wondered about different cultural mores, while the rest of me revolted. True, had it been a pretty girl I probably would have looked on with rapt fascination. It wasn’t though, and regardless, not something I should have to witness – especially when I’m trying to enjoy the serene ambience of the beach.
Perhaps I was discombobulated by the sight – who wouldn’t be? – for I soon ended up back at the hotel, had a nightcap, a chat, then off to bed.
I’ve been sleeping poorly lately, unusual for me. The bed here is good, king sized and with a soft mattress, but the night before I had tossed and turned like I never do, restless from the moment I closed my eyes.
Last night I slept divinely. Unlike the dreams that have dogged me lately I instead wrote stories in my sleep last night. I had closed my eyes with the plot of a new story in my head. As I slept the story was fleshed out, words put in place becoming paragraphs. Not for the first time I wished there was something I could plug into my head to upload these things and keep for posterity.
Not to be, but I did scribble a lot down this morning over breakfast.