I don’t know where I am when I wake up in the morning. It’s always 6am. Weak white light spills into the room through cracks in closed blinds. I know I’m still in Thailand, I’m just not sure where. My eyes open wide and my hazy mind tries to remember: am I on the island still? Am I back in Chiang Mai? Am I in that fluffy bed in Bangkok? Where? Where am I? It takes about 10 seconds for me to re-orient myself and realize those places are hours and miles and borders away; that I am home.
I was bitter as I stood in line at customs at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. I was resentful of the smiling faces of the airport employees who helped to facilitate my return home. It was raining in Bangkok. The sky was dark, the roads were wet and slick, the sides of the roads flooded. Maybe we couldn’t fly tonight. In the line next to me there was a plump young girl wearing jean shorts, a tan cowboy hat and a white t-shirt with the words “Good Morning Tokyo” scribed across it in black. I bet she didn’t get the reference.
I sat between the window and a Vietnamese woman on the flight. She kept smiling at me. She laughed when the attendant came around to verify that I had opted for a vegetarian meal. I laughed with her because she was so sweet. She didn’t know what she was getting. “My daughter order for me,” she said. I filled out her customs form because she didn’t understand the questions. She was too old, she said, to learn English. She lived in San Jose. Her son-in-law would pick her up from the airport. She put her blanket on my shoulder while I slept.
I didn’t want to see the sun cast its golden light over the shimmering ocean, or the glittering glass windows of the city buildings. I didn’t want to see the shadowy mountains spread along the bay, or the classic and shining silver bridges built between them. Still, I stared out my window, unmoving, unblinking. It was still the most beautiful place I had ever seen, and yet it was the one place I didn’t want to be; my home.
Now I’m painting my face with white polka dots; I never had pimples in the Thai heat. I still wear my flip-flops and walk on the left of the sidewalk. The bottoms of my feet itch for the white sands and warm waters of another life.
My dad asked me what I dreamt last night. I told him I hadn’t. “Your dream woke you up,” he said. He was right. I thought back to a vague scene. It was red and gold and warm and there was a woman. I opened my eyes and the place was distant, and then it was gone.