UMM Thailand Ch. 2: If wind velocity multiplied by speed less weight equals … oh, forget it.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 12: Oh, one more thing.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 1: Do you trust me?
- UMM Thailand Ch. 2: If wind velocity multiplied by speed less weight equals … oh, forget it.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 3: Ham, eggs, coffee, tea, and a message.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 4: You can’t win if you don’t play.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 5: Over there. Over where? Under there. Under where?
- UMM Thailand Ch. 6: Don’t compare the you of today to the someone else of tomorrow.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 7: Trying. Trying very hard. Trying extremely hard. Trying too hard.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 8: Translation without Representation
- UMM Thailand Ch. 9: I believe it when I see it
- UMM Thailand Ch. 10: I see what you believe
- UMM Thailand Ch. 11: Smile and nod, smile and nod.
It was too late to be so clever.
A trainload full of witty answers went through his head so fast that he couldn’t possibly have said them all. But as the milliseconds ticked by, he realized she wasn’t looking for a witty answer. One of his go-to tactics when in a moment of complete confusion, he changed the subject.
“What’s your name?” he asked. Their faces were so close together that even over the hum of the metal churning below and the wind whistling by, he didn’t have to speak loudly.
“Mary,” she answered quickly.
“No it’s not,” he said more quickly than he meant to.
“It is for you,” she said in such a way that there wasn’t going to be a discussion about it.
“Oh,” was his go-to brilliant retort.
“Well,” she said and waited.
“Well what?” he asked but he knew full well what she meant.
“Do you need me to ask you again?” she asked, her language staccato but clear enough to not miss any words.
“Do you trust me?”
He looked into her eyes and although it was dark out and the only light was a dim bulb above them in a glass shell covered in dust and grime, her eyes sparkled. Those little flecks that you can only see when you look really, really close into someone’s eyes or maybe see a macro lens photo of an eyeball. But he wasn’t that close and didn’t have a macro lens. But still, they were there. They shimmered like moonlight on a lake.
“Yes,” Charlie said.
“Turn around,” she instructed and again, there didn’t seem to be much room for discussion. Whether it had been about ham and eggs that he didn’t really want or turning around to face the darkness of the Thai jungle, he did what he was told and somehow it was OK.
“Trust me,” she whispered and she put her hands on his shoulders.
He was immediately tense but then just as quickly relaxed. He had so many questions, but it just didn’t seem like the time. He tried to stop thinking of his questions, to just let her do her thing — whatever that was.
“Trust,” she whispered again and she used the slightest force to push him a little while at the same time holding onto him. Her palms were on the back of the top of his shoulders, but her fingers kept him from falling forward. Falling forward and onto the tracks.
His questions came back, zooming in like a flock of birds. Is this some kind of test? Who are you anyway? Why am I here? What does this all mean? Are the eggs hard boiled or fried? What if I don’t trust you?
She nudged him just a little further.
“Trust you,” she whispered as if her lips were as close to his left ear as possible without touching him.
He tightened the grip with his barefoot toes on what seemed to be a step below him. He wanted to look down to see where his feet could best hold on, but he also didn’t want to look down. The metal of the step was warm even in the midnight air. Everything was warm. The breeze from the moving train was a breath of freshness that swirled through his shirt and for a moment he thought about how the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.
She nudged just a little more. Now he was leaning over the tracks slightly, but enough where if she let go, he would fall. Again, she spoke.
“Trust,” but this time the whisper seemed to come into his other ear.
He wanted to ask But what if I don’t trust? and at that same moment, he knew that he did trust. He trusted her, for reasons never to be understood, especially since her name wasn’t Mary and just some hours previous she was hocking ham and eggs while prancing down the corridor of a night train in the middle of Thailand. He also trusted himself.
Boom. It seemed to come to him just like that. In a jolt, albeit a soft jolt, of understanding or knowing that he trusted her and he trusted himself.
Her grip on his shoulders loosened or maybe it just felt like it did. He needed her support less as somehow he felt more balanced standing over the rails.
The Old Charlie would have possibly turned around at this point to ask questions, get to the bottom of this, figure out what in the world was going on.
The New Charlie wasn’t going to do any of that. The New Charlie surprised the Present Charlie by doing something the Old Charlie would have only dreamed of. He closed his eyes.
He smiled as he knew how much Old Charlie would have protested, gagged, and shook his head at this nonsense. What in the world is going on here? he’d have asked. Get back to bed and get back to sleep. How can you trust her? You don’t even know her? How you trust yourself to trust her? This is all just really stupid.
Charlie smiled and kept his eyes closed as he hovered above the rails somewhere in the middle of jungly Thailand. That Old Charlie was done. He might as well just disembark at the next stop. No, he could just get out right here and now. Watch your step!
Mary’s grip loosened even more and she was now only barely holding him in place. He wanted to thank her for bringing him out here and it was time to let Old Charlie go. Maybe that was part of it. Maybe the old self was taking leave of this new, trusting self.
He had so many questions for Mary. Maybe they could stay up all night and talk in the baggage car. How did she find him? What was her role in all of this? What was his?
In a surprising change of balance, he felt lighter, even the questions seemed to float away into the night and he now could no longer even feel Mary’s hands on his shoulders. But she had done her part. She got him out here and helped him find that balance. He had so much to thank her for.
Without warning, he opened his eyes. With even less caution he looked down. He was indeed balancing defying laws of physics hovering over the tracks at the end of the car. Now if he were in the front of the engine, the wind might have pushed him into place. On that thought, maybe there was some kind of vacuum that brought the air around the sides and pulled him back into the car.
As he tried to make calculations of wind velocity and speed and weight, he ever so slightly turned his head. What he saw he was not quite ready for.
He turned his head a little more. With more and more disbelief, he turned his shoulders and his torso and finally pulled up his left foot to fully see behind him.
A chill ran so clearly and cleanly from his gut up through his chest around his neck and into the back of his head. It stayed with him as he tried to understand how it was possible. The feeling was like goosebumps, but the good kind, not the oh-my-leg-fell-asleep-in-the-cinema kind. It was both on his skin and just under it. It held him in place as if energy had the power to move particles, rumble the cells of his body from his gut to the lower part of the back of his head. It had a hold on him, but from within.
He both didn’t believe it and absolutely did.
Mary was gone.