I call but you don’t answer
so I try again
the heart never stops beating
until the end
You probably don’t know this, in fact, I know that you don’t know this, but I think about you everyday. I think about you every morning and I think about you every night. It’s only in the middle of the day, where I can distract myself from you.
I didn’t want to leave without telling you. It was the only way. I will come back for you.
I would do anything to find you. I would do anything to put a working phone in your hands. I would do anything to hear your voice. It kills me psychologically not to know how you are doing, not to have you by my side. The last year has been better and more rich, because of you. Because you were around.
I hope you are not mad at me. I hope you don’t hate me. I hope you understand. Most of all, I hope you remember me. I hope you remember that our last words to each other were “I love you”.
I want you to be safe, healthy, and happy. I want you to wait for me. Maybe I want too much. Maybe I still don’t understand how the world works.
I want to tell you that I’m safe and healthy. I haven’t felt happiness since I left you, but I’m busy. I’m in Central America and busy with work. I might be heading to Africa.
I want to tell you how unfair it is, that I can travel the way I do, that I get to live the life I do, because I was born to upper middle class parents in America. I looked into getting you over here. It’s difficult. It’s difficult and unfair and I’m fucking sorry. Thai citizens have difficulty even for a place like Costa Rica and it was the difficulty of the US visa that made me look elsewhere in the first place. I feel ashamed about America’s immigration policies and then I kind of understand it at the same time and I hate myself for that. I’d trade places with you if I could.
Please wait for me. I’m waiting for you.
It is dark, always.
Waking up is a drag. It is dark, always. And cold, so cold. I keep my eyes closed for as long as possible, hoping that it is not 2:30 AM, hoping that maybe, I actually slept. Hoping that maybe, the sun will start to shine through the windows. But it never does. This morning, I stayed in bed until 6:30 AM, a new record. I spent a good thirty minutes pretending to punch the wall and scream, pretending to slash a knife through the air. I felt angry this morning. This is a stark contrast to yesterday morning, when at 3:30 AM, I woke up, crying, unable to stop. The limit of compartmentalizing reached.
So, this morning, I walked up the stairs of my parent’s basement and started to make coffee. I sat down on the couch and looked out the window. It was still dark, but I could see a new glistening layer of white. I walked closer to the window. Snow. More fucking snow. I’ve never liked winter and I keep telling myself I’ve arrived back to the infamous land of the free just in time for spring. But not yet, because there is definitely more snow outside. I check the temperature and see that it is -7 C. ‘Fuck!’, I say to myself, ‘fuck this’.
I try the number I have for my Thai boyfriend, I get a ‘phone network error’ message, again. For the sixth day in a row. I throw a remote to who knows what first world device at the living room wall. The batteries fly out the back. “I should go to a yoga class”, I tell myself. “I really need to be back in a Kali class”, I tell myself. ‘Since when do I throw things?’, I ask myself. ‘Fuck all of this’, I say again. And again.
A week ago, it was only sun. And warmth. Ibogaine sessions were going flawlessly, one after another, and I was finally enjoying the process of giving people this alkaloid. It was 40 C, not -5 or -10, and I was on an island in Thailand, waking up with the sun and the birds and the sway of palm trees. I felt happy. My boyfriend, accustomed to working late, always slept in. He’d fall asleep next to me, a few hours before I would wake up. This never bothered me. It calmed me to lay next to him in the afternoon and listen to his deep breaths. This is all a bit exaggerated, because the truth is, I don’t sleep much at all. But, in Thailand, it wasn’t because I couldn’t sleep, it was because I was busy with work. Now, when I do sleep, I dream of prison cells and the guy I left behind and getting wasted and getting lost and fleeing, I always dream of running away. But it’s all very brief, because trust me, I don’t sleep much anymore.
I’ve spent probably 80% of the last three years out of America. I’ve spent probably 60% of the last ten years out of America. The gaps between trips to America has grown larger and larger over the years. Coming back, while I do like hot showers, isn’t easy.
Everything is so big, and mostly useless. How is it possible that I am in a town of 55,000 people yet there are two Wal-Marts, a Target, K-Mart, and a few Wal-Greens? What is up with plush beds and couches and all of these weird pillows, because to be honest, I don’t remember complaining of back pain when I didn’t have access to these items of so-called luxury. No fucking shit, of course everyone has diabetes and cancer and heart problems, how do people live on this food? Being able to understand the language around myself is always a shock, and it drives me a bit crazy, people talk about the most stupid shit. I feel like I don’t have anything to contribute to any conversation and I certainly don’t want to talk about myself. Why is everything so complicated? I need a contract to get a phone? My favorite news website is blocked. Everything costs more. Obamacare, seriously? There is no one with wisdom hiding behind a corner to offer me some odd plant based concoction when I complain of insomnia or nausea or a lack of energy. Traffic laws, while definitely not a bad thing, are something to get use to. There are actual lanes for cars and rules for speed and there are stop signs everywhere, goddamn everywhere. Complaints about things that people in other countries could never dream of swirl past my ears, my head shaking in disbelief. I then ask myself how long will it take me to start making complaints of the same nature.
I grew up in this country and I feel lucky and fortunate for that. So lucky. Don’t take my observations the wrong way. Having an American passport is a blessing in many ways. I have opportunities and experiences and things I can do just because of where and who I was born to. It’s not fair. I do appreciate where I am from. Which is exactly why I am complaining about being back. Self-hating Americans, people complaining about bullshit, articles on the internet comparing America to third world countries — it’s all such a fucking joke. Are you literate? Do you own a smart phone or laptop? Do you have food on the table? How many pairs of shoes do you own? How many books or records? But more importantly, how long will it take for me to forget to be minimal, simple, and grateful? How long will it take me to lose complete touch with nature? How long will it take me to acquire things I definitely don’t need?
I arrived back to America with a very small backpack. One pair of jeans, one pair of shorts, and a couple of tank tops. One pair of sandals. My laptop. Kindle. Passport. That is it. I had to make a trip to Target when I landed just to buy underwear. I borrowed shoes and warm clothing from my sister. I feel out of place here. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my boyfriend and I feel awful about it every goddamn morning, when I wake up from whatever dream is haunting my subconscious.
I think about running for as long and as far as I can and then decide it is too cold to even change my clothing. I start to do yoga when I wake up and halfway through the primary series, feel strong waves of emotions, and stop, to avoid feeling the weight of what my life has become. To avoid the confirmation that yes, I’m starting over, alone, again.
My manager asks me to send her new bikini polaroids, so I strip down to my underwear, in the middle of winter, and take new photos. Because traveling, and being in front of a camera, are these weird constants in my life that aren’t constant at all. New York City, you’ve been missed (a little), and I’ll be seeing you very soon. Asia, I’ll be back for you, promise.
I swallowed cum for the first time this week. That’s right. Twenty six years on the planet and I’m finally swallowing cum. And it wouldn’t make sense if it wasn’t from a twenty-four year old Thai guy with some sort of opiate ‘issue’ that I have not yet sorted the details of yet. Sometimes I wonder what the fuck I am doing with my life. The thing is that I actually kind of enjoyed it. After solely thinking about sex with females for the last year, this really took my by surprise. Sexuality.
It feels good to be back on this side of the world. Thailand is weird. It is saturated with douchey tourists and expats, but it still retains some eastern magic. The temples are either alive with vibrant people or mystically quiet. The street markets transport you into a scene from an independent movie. The people are different. So different. And I feel confused and bewildered by my interactions with the Thai people on a daily basis.
It’s hot. Lately, it’s been raining a lot. I’m more tan than I have ever been, I think. I don’t get eaten alive by mosquitos anymore. I wear long sleeves when it’s eighty degrees, because somehow, I adjusted to the heat. I drive a motorbike around and somehow don’t get hit by other drivers. I’m more comfortable here in Thailand than I am anywhere in the western world. If this wasn’t the case, I’d probably hate it, because sometimes it’s just so damn frustrating to live here. Sometimes, I want to be able to have a conversation with someone without filtering out descriptive words, without walking away knowing that neither of us got anything that made sense from the interaction. Sometimes, I want to lay down next to a guy who I can fucking talk to, who doesn’t smile when he means ‘no’ and ‘fuck off’. Sometimes, I want to be able to order a meal without it being a vegan disaster. Sometimes, I want to be able to read directions on a map so that I don’t get lost while trying to find something. And sometimes, I want to make it through a day without so much problem solving, without a water run, without so many obstacles. Sometimes I want a break from all of this.
But the thing is, I do love Asia. I love the way of the eastern hemisphere. And I love it here, sometimes.
New article and interview with Bovenga Na Muduma up on Howling Hearts!
It’s raining again and you aren’t here. You like the rain, you have said to me. There is thunder and lightning, my cute surrogate cat has taken refuge on my balcony.
I wish you were here. If you were here I would make you take a walk with me. It’s warm enough outside, I think.
I usually walk through the rain alone. I’m not sure if most people don’t like getting wet, or if it has something to do with upholding an appearance, or maybe it is all the electronics people own. At any rate, thunderstorms and I usually hang out alone. I wonder what all the stray dogs and cats do in these storms. Do they all hate the rain, or do they like it as much as I do? I like sitting on porches and balconies in the rain. I like drinking a hot coffee or tea under the shelter of an awning or umbrella in the rain. I like watching the storms pass through. It is about the only time where smoking a cigarette still sounds (and looks) appealing. I’m now remembering last summer in NYC. I had just gotten out of an audition at Milk Studios in Chelsea. The worst of all rains was pounding down on the tainted streets of NYC and it just wasn’t stopping. After a good hour or so, people just started getting naked. Naked! Everyone was running through the streets naked. I had a ride picking me up about a twenty minute walk away. I joined in. I took off my dress, my shoes, left only with neon pink completely see through underwear, and I walked. I didn’t run, because it didn’t matter. But I walked. It took me a long time to warm up after that. The rain in NYC is not like the rain in SE Asia.
The thunder has gotten louder. Reminds me of the midwest. Nothing is more spectacular than a midwest storm, although these tropical storms come pretty damn close.
I’m thinking about you and wondering what you are doing right now. I’m thinking about how I was almost enjoying being lonely, before I got close to you. But. I am fairly sure that this, whatever this is, is better. I’m thinking about how you are far away right now and how that might be a reality in the near future, a longer term reality. Am I O.K. with that? I don’t know yet.
My surrogate cat is sleeping on my sweatshirt on the balcony. It’s adorable. My right arm that is covered in bites is not so adorable. But it makes me sad. Not the bites (although if I acquire rabies, sad will be the most mild way of describing my emotion), but it makes me sad because I need a dog in my life. An animal. Something to take care of. This is very apparent to me. I can’t take care of this cat the way I would like to, as I don’t want to give it the illusion of a real home. I’m not always going to be here. In fact, I’m not even going to be here for very much longer. I’m realizing as I write this, I don’t even know what a ‘real home’ is or means. I kind of feel like I also can’t be close to you the way I want to, as I don’t want to allude myself with the vision of, well, ‘something real’.
I couldn’t tell you what color the sky is in Bangkok. I look up to the sky and see a consistent non-color. Sometimes, when the sun starts to set, colors appear through the clouds, the buildings, the tree branches. I always turn my head away. I know it’s only a practical joke from pollution. In fact, a lot of Bangkok seems like a practical joke from the evils of the Earth. The scam artists, the hookers, the fake policeman, the taxi drivers who don’t care where you are going. The illusion of nature, the markets who thrive on child labor, the ear to ear smiles and reverent prayer poses that don’t mean a damn thing. What about the monks who smoke cigarettes, who text on their phone when they think no one is looking, the temple volunteers who blare Nirvana when no one else is supposed to be listening. If I was to tell someone one thing about Bangkok, I would say ‘you can’t trust anyone, seriously no one’. I don’t mean that in some angst ridden way, some ‘life is so hard, I’m heartbroken’ tone, I actually mean it. It’s the one true thing Bangkok holds up to. Like the makeup artist at my last runway show told me, “I can’t tell you what I think about the protests. You never know who is who, if people are who they say they are, you can’t just say what you want here’. And I think about all the times I have criticized America, the ‘not land of the free’, I have attempted to protest that freedom of speech doesn’t exist. What an ignorant prick I am, sometimes.
'Money makes the world go round', he says to me. And he isn't the only one. Even my father, took the logical approach (as he always does, even when it comes to his first born's sanity and happiness), when I expressed that I was thinking of quitting, walking away with little to no money, possibly coming back to their home, my home, for a month. 'Fuck money', I said to my friend from NYC who was passing through Bangkok, 'I don't care'. I told my mother I wasn't a 'money minded person'. I told a friend back in Brooklyn I was 'creatively minded'. But I always have the same problems, I always need money. And here I am. Backstage, as some would call it, for a show that no one on the planet cares about. I have spent nearly twelve hours in a giant shopping mall, similar to the luxurious rows of malls in Hong Kong, feeling like I'm going to lose my mind. I hate malls. The ads. The people. I hate all of it. I keep telling myself it's not the end of the world, it's just some job that is putting me in close proximity to a goddamn mall for the day. But the thing is, it kind of IS the end of the world, in a more abstract sense. Ads. Brands. Money. Shopping. So, I read a book. I talked to friends on the internet. I read the news. 7.5 hurricane off the coast in Guatemala, weed legalized (legalized!) for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, China's changing leadership and still sucks but claims they are getting better, nor'easter hitting New Jersey and NYC and ruining more homes and lives, etc. I calmed down a bit. And now here I am, wondering if this is just what I do. This is how I live. This is what I am good at. I think about my manager telling me about the agency in Paris who wants me to come out for fashion week, I think about London and how living there was actually really fun, and I think, what's stopping me from having a real career? Why am I so unsatisfied?
'You pretty much had the perfect utopia, what everyone wants, and you still weren't happy. So what is going to satisfy you?' A friend said this to me the other day. I had just finished telling him about my two months in Utah. The mountains, lakes, canyons, family, a job that was fulfilling, friends I liked, a quiet and easy life, without feeling repressed or bored (although at the time I felt as if I was bored, when really, I just didn't know how to stand still, or what that even was). And he's right. I remember when I was expressing my concerns with modeling and how I didn't want to do it much longer, but that I thought coming back to Asia was necessary. K hated modeling, I was sure of that, but he said to me, 'I guess you are in the 1%, I haven't thought of it like that before, but you are, not many people can do what you do, and then out of that 1%, you are the other 1%, because you don't fill up your time with fashion clubs, people, and parties, you actually learn and do cool shit. So I guess that's kinda cool'. 'You got to do what's profitable,' says everyone I know. Profitable. Money. Modeling. Fashion. I wish I was more 'punk'. I wish I was more of a revolutionary. I'd walk out of this job right now. I'd go to my temporary non-home and I'd walk out of that building. I'd go sit at the airport, on standby (standby in a Thailand airport, what a disaster scenario), I'd take the flight back to Utah or Iowa or wherever the fuck I want to go. Maybe even NYC, I could knock on Jimmy's door, I could see all of my friends, the only place I ever thought was really home (and now that I'm realizing it's not, it's quite an isolating feeling). But, at any rate, I could fly to Salt Lake City, I could fly anywhere I goddamn wanted. I'd hang out with family, I'd get some menial job, and I'd just live. I would drink kombucha every single fucking day, I'd eat right, I'd wake up and feel good, do yoga, do kali, and just live. I'd stay on my chosen path, I'd still go to Costa Rica, but I would be done with this fucking shit. I remember a time when I *liked* having an agent, a manager, and a booker. I liked the idea of 'real' adults going to a fucking office every morning to spend their day dealing with people like me, in fact, dealing with me! I liked that someone was going to call me at 9 or 10 AM everyday and make sure I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I remember talking to Asa about this and in agreement we said, 'I need that, I need someone checking in, telling me where to go, booking me jobs'. I remember going to that magazine store on Bedford Avenue every month with him. We would buy each other's magazines (it felt less vain), and talk about how weird it was that we kept appearing in the same magazines at the same time. Life was new and weird and bizarre. And now it's literally the most shallow, mundane thing on the planet. I wish I was more punk. I'd walk out of this fucking job, this fucking mall, right this second. I'd drink a beer. I'd tell everyone in the industry to 'fuck off'. I'd leave without saying goodbye to anyone. I'd send emails to the people I like and care about in the weeks after. And I think, just maybe, I'd feel happier.
More from Tina Rice.