I used to sit out on my balcony back when I smoked. I’d grab a beer and head out when the power cuts plunged my part of Yangon into darkness. I went out there once to vent my anger at the coup that overthrew the Thai government. Well, not ‘the’ coup, one of the coups I should say.
One particular night the power was still on but I grabbed my laptop and headed out. The chairs were always coated in a perpetual layer of dust that I had to wipe off. I cleaned one and arranged the small table so that it would hold my computer and kept the bottle of beer parked in my hand. I put on some mournful Gordon Lightfoot rhythm and waited for the circle train to pass by.
That night, like many I passed in that tropical country, the moon looked down on me frustrated in love. The girl I was dating was always on my case and I couldn’t get the better of it. Distance amplified misunderstandings and she was mean even when we lived in the same city.
That night on that balcony it was Operation ‘Feel No Pain.’ The warmth wrapped around me as I drained the beers. I let the soft dull of the suds wash over me. I wasn’t reading, I didn’t really have any hobbies, just killing time and drinking. I laughed at that revelation and watched as some people pissed on the sidewalk on the other side of the gate from my building.
In a roar, the circle train rattled past, illuminated blue and yellow and green from within. It seemed to ooze ‘the tropics,’ but I knew from the logo on the circulating fans in the cars that these were old trains from China.
Sometimes at night, I’d wake the guard who watched the gate to walk out along the tracks. The trains stopped fairly early and there were reeds that grew in water that flowed in the stream beside the tracks. I loved to go stand on the small paths that had been cut between them and watch them sway in the moon and starlight. A city where electricity is constantly going off is a great place to see the stars and the moon is extra gorgeous. Orwell reflected on his days living nearby saying that the moon is more beautiful in Yangon than anywhere else on Earth, and I’m inclined to agree.
I’d walk to the convenience store, if it was open, and by more beer. Or there was a restaurant/bar that would serve me too. But no matter the drinks and their pleasant afterglow, that lyric would still echo in my head as I walked or stood amongst the reeds- long after I’d paused the song and close my laptop up on the balcony.
“Sometimes I think it’s a sin when I feel like I’m winning when I’m losing again.”
That was my life then, and in retrospect, I’m not sure if I was winning or losing or even what I thought about it.
“Sometimes I think it’s a shame when I get feeling better when I’m feeling no pain.”
Problem was I never thought that was a shame, but I learned that no girl was worth it. Even though she was a hard lovin’ woman who got me feeling mean. She wasn’t worth it then- pitty was it took me a couple more years to figure that out.