Day 12: The squid's sad death
It's a bizarrely sad thing to witness the final breathes of a squid. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
THERE is something sad, very sad, about a squid dying. Something that stirs my heart; and this is coming from a man who unhesitatingly tried dog in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The translucent creature billows as it fills its tubular body not with water, but air. Skin taught, its entire body contracts, it contracts until there isn't a molecular of air left.
Its emotionless eyes see death.
It's body billows again, and again squeeze out air, as if by doing so it could propel itself away from its fate. The tiny tentacles that once engaged in coitus, that once directed nutrition to its beak, quiver. They grapple with reality.
I watch the squid die within minutes on the cement pier of Thong Thom Yai, before returning my attention to the four-meter-long fishing pole in my hand.
I woke that morning to the sound of a young man practicing Hotel California at the back of the house, just over the water. It's a spooky song to wake up to once you start listening to the lyrics and realize you're not in your own bed.
Not that I have my own bed anymore.
After a morning of running errands, or attempting to – busted tank bag can't be fixed in Sawi, but can be Euros exchanged into bath – I return to the die.
Seemingly hell bent on me keeping up with the blog, the first role decided against reading more of The Dice Man, going to a secluded beach, going to the little shop at the end of the road. It asks me to finish the blog post for Day 11.
It's being unreasonably reasonable. I drag my feet, futzing about on Tinder, Instagram and Facebook as I slowly plow forward with the post.
I skip lunch.
Breakfast had been another round of mistakes on my part, where I just kept saying I like this bit of food and that bit of food, which ended up with me having an enormous breakf-feast of chicken legs, sausages, egg, mushrooms and rice.
Again stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable, I slyly scrapped the leftover rice, which was most of it, off of my plate into the bin. I then pulled a couple pieces of trash over the rice, like a cat hiding its shameful shit in the sand.
Once done with my writing, the die is given similar options. Though “Go to the beach” doubles up on it's chances of being a reality and the little shop is switched for "heading to the pier".
The stubborn bastard sends me to the pier, which I note is technically on the way to the beach.
The dies immediate dismissal of an option isn't necessarily a ban on the idea, just a postponement, I reason. I pack a snorkel and mask, as well as a camera.
The better part of three dozen people are out with fishing roads in hand, jigging the waters for squid. I immediately recognize the woman I sat next to yesterday by her over-sized blue and fuchsia bennie. Her pole is gone as she drags a fishing line with hooks and bait through the water below – fishing for real fish, not squid.
After saying hello, I wander to the end of pier, which concludes in a “T”, and plop down to watch.
Immediately, a woman opposite me waves me toward her. Her upper lip has caved in from having lost most of her teeth, her bottom lip bulges with chewed betel. Its the kind of bottom lip you'd see on any old man driving a Deer through the cornfields of Indiana. Her upper lip is also heavily scarred, perhaps a burn, though it's hard to tell.
I squat down next to her and she hands me a black fiber glass fishing rod with a bit of string dangling from the tip and a squid lure on the line.
I join the crowd, slowly jigging the lure, hoping to snag a squid with the multitude if tiny hooks at the base of the lure.
Jealously, I watch a man not far from me yank up a little squid, which is still spewing ink as it lands on the cement. All the squid being caught are very small, about the length of a finger. Many are probably just used for bait on the spinning rods cast off the far end of the pier, though I'm sure they are also eaten.
I jig away, my mind searching for the right words to describe the people, focusing on the man who just caught the squid. Getting on in his years he has salt and pepper hair and an overbite that gives him a stunningly big and beautiful smile below a bushy mustache. He's regularly calling out, chit chatting and voicing approval as someone brings a squid on land.
I've grown accustomed to being lucky, and am a bit impatient. I want to catch something instantly, be seen as a good omen – people like being around someone who they think is lucky. I, of course, had hoped to be the first person in the lineup to catch a squid once I started. That, however, simply isn't the case. A couple other people catch squid before I feel one wriggling at the end of my line.
I lift the line up and swing the gasping creature over, unhooking it and placing it in the cooler that belongs to the toothless woman and her friend.
There is a lot of down time when you fish. Time for your mind to downshift a few gears. Time to watch the ocean, the islands, the sky, the bait fish as they rise to the surface of the water. My mind is stuck though – it's worrying. It's stuck in fifth gear, thoughts and words whirling around and around.
Yesterday, Tar, who is maybe a daughter, mother, cousin or a combination of the three in relation to the other people poking around in the house – I can't for the life of me sort out the relationships between people, the children seem to come and go – said something about taking me out on a boat tomorrow. It wasn't really clear exactly what we'd be doing, though it was clear that I wanted to go on the boat and would have to stay another night if I did so. But I haven't seen her today, which is worrying.
The website with details about Thong Tom Yai did clearly suggest that visitors bring a guide, but failed to mention how one finds a guide in the first place. I'm considering myself very lucky that Tar stepped in and mentioned the boat, as well as helped me sort out dinner.
As the sun begins to set, I leave the pier and stroll back to the house. Pa Mour offers to make dinner: minced chicken with chili peppers (kra poa gai), chicken legs, sausages, cucumber soup with pork balls, rice, papaya – again more scrumptious food than I can eat. Though, now at least I know that I am not expected to eat it all.
By the time I am down with the kra poa gai, my rice is nearly gone, which is a relief, I really don't like having to bin it.
It's dark outside, and Pa Mour and Lung Dong are watching TV. I walk over to see what they are watching. After turning down a little whiskey and soda Lung Dong offers, it's pointed out that I have a TV in my room that I can use.
I keep wondering if I'm imposing, or if they are just being far too kind and are trying to make me as comfortable as they possibly can. I'm sure it's the later, but not that sure.
With the outside door closed, I'm hesitant to leave, but eventually decide an evening walk is necessary. Pa Mour offers to let me borrow her scooter, but I really am just in the mood for a walk. Then barely out the door, a local offers me a lift to the pier on his bike. I hope on, it seems rude to turn down this particular offer.
There are still dozens of people under the florescent lights at the pier. More teenagers now, the boys video chatting their girlfriends and playing on their phones. In the afternoon, almost nobody had a phone out, a stark contrast to the world where a couple having dinner hardly notices each other except to clink wine glasses.