Even before I walked away I sensed it, as I stood up I knew it, and with a glance back, my suspicions were confirmed; she was already talking to him. This has happened time and time again. We are talking together in a public place and the silent pause of me walking to the restroom is filled with the voice of a stranger. She has this way about her, a constant invitation - a welcoming. I expect I will never understand the mystery of how it happens. Years ago it was threatening, it becomes more endearing with each passing day.
She is the invitation, I often invite unravelling; at least that is how we see each other and ourselves. She welcomes the necessary superficial, people offer me a deeper honesty. How much of it is true? We don't really know. Along the continuum of the health of our relationship, on good days we look at each other and appreciate - some days we envy - darker days it remains jealousy.
We are a 1-2 punch, and we are starting to like it that way more days than not. She thinks I carry her, but I know I am the burden. More each day we see each other through the other’s eyes, we appreciate ourselves a bit more, and we learn to leverage each other higher. We are a team, and this is one heck of a team building exercise.
Tonight as we ride the night train to Bangkok, we are reminded of the dangers of the team. Prior to arrival, we were preparing to volunteer with a third person, and cautioned that we should avoid talking about others in private. It is nearly impossible, but we try on the regular. As a team, it is hard not to team up sometimes, and teaming up is nearly always unfair. We cast judgments sometimes, cast stones others, and there is a false ease of brushing off wrongness when you are not alone. I find I can soften any wrongness for my teammate, especially when it is in my own interest.
Tonight as we were boarding the weekend night train, we did so with a great many “fahrongs” (foreigners). It is easy to cast those judgments. To be honest, I recognize a slowly growing skepticism and cynicism. Our love for the people we are caring for is resulting in a greater assumption that everyone has sinister motivations. We look at young travelers and they are culturally ignorant and insensitive tourists (much like we were when we arrived), we fear each older gentlemen is a sex tourist, and everyone is taking advantage of the people here. It resonates because when the lights are off, I worry that we are taking advantage too.
But I digress by four paragraphs.
Susan was recently described as "an absolute treasure," and though I rolled my eyes in male machismo, I honestly could not agree more. She has opened my life up to travel, experiences, and people whom I am sure I would never have met without her.
Susan also has an uncanny ability to gravitate to coincidence. The man we spoke with this evening, ’B’, is volunteering with an organization which is a religiously affiliated group that teaches English to physically handicapped individuals. He is a middle-aged gentlemen, no doubt searching as we are. Searching for meaning, a higher calling, trying to grasp humanity - or straws - but grasping none the less.
He tells us amazing stories of people overcoming physical disabilities to read, write, and speak English. Tonight he squelches our cynicism, he restores our belief in humanity, and without her I, well I wouldn't be on this train, but if I was I would be inaccessible with headphones on. Of course, the coincidence is that he happens to be going to the same island we are to meet his own family members. Nonetheless he reminds us why we strive to start from a place of love and continue to love despite everyone’s imperfections.