Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Truly Bangkok Moment (Not Another Sex Show!)

"Hell is other people," French Nobel laureate and likely loner Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, and I couldn't agree more.

But sometimes, so is happiness. Not the kind of happiness that lasts for a lifetime -- I gave up on that a long time ago because, well, I just don't think that brand of happy exists. I'm talking about the fleeting kind of happiness, those moments of pleasure that make getting out of bed every morning worth it.

I had one of them yesterday, a few hours after I got out of bed, when I was least expecting it. I was walking home from the supermarket, and I stopped at a street market near my apartment because I could have sworn I heard a sausage link at one of the stands calling my name.

"Jeremy. Jeremy!"

Coming!

The process of buying it would end up being more enjoyable than the sausage. While one of the vendors was busy making a fuss over me, describing the difference between the two types of sausage available and offering various relishes for what was two 10-baht links -- you'd think they were making a killing off of me the way he was killing me with kindness -- a swarm of locals swooped onto the scene. Talking over one another, they began asking where I'm from and requesting handshakes.

I obliged, but I was a bit confused. Why all of the hoopla? I've become accustomed to standing out among locals in Southeast Asia, but aside from the gaggle of middle-aged women who insisted that I pose for photos with them last summer on the ferry from Koh Chang back to the Thai mainland, people usually did their gawking at a distance -- or one at a time.

I'm not sure what was so special about me yesterday -- or any other day, for that matter. Perhaps I have one of those faces, the familiar kind that you could swear you've seen somewhere else. The other day a random stranger, an American, stopped me on the street and began talking to me like I was his long lost friend -- until my perplexed expression revealed to him that I wasn't.

Or maybe it's because they'd never seen a face like mine before -- which is unlikely, considering that from day to day, I see a more black people in Bangkok than I ever did in Buenos Aires, or Melbourne. It's harder to tell with the children, like the adorable little girl who had stopped to greet me on the sidewalk just minutes earlier, because their smiles make their wonderment almost look like recognition.

Eventually, I stopped trying to figure out why and just relished this simple, unexpected moment of happiness -- mine and theirs. I knew it wouldn't last, which made it all the more enjoyable.

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