Six-sided battle against PTSD (Part 2)
Steady hands throw the dice to dispel the burden of choice. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
SITTING on my sofa, I contemplate the dice. I am going to give it a go. I like the idea of being liberated from the monotony of making decisions and worrying about the outcome. This way I just have to go with the outcome. Eventually, I grab my bicycle and go out for a ride – no thinking just pain.
By 7pm, Isaac has arrived in Pai. He starts to talk about how amazing the ride was; I feel a pang jealousy. I have a lot of history with Pai – not all good and not all bad – but it has been hanging over me for a couple of years now. I want to go back and build some bridges and lay some ghosts to rest, but I don’t want to go on my own.
Messaging Isaac, I let him know I am jealous.
You have time. Come to Pai. Or at least roll for it, he writes back.
I consider this and realize that if I roll and the die says no, I am going to be properly pissed off.
Fuck it, I think, replying to his message: See you at 10am tomorrow.
Pai, a supposed hippy haven in the mountains, is one of those places that tourist are fervent about and persuade others to visit. It's where I got married, built a house, had all my friends. It all started to go wrong, when my ex stupidly overdosed and had to have an adrenaline shot to bring him back to life. Now, the place is a dark shadow cast over me, torturing me every time I think about it. Last time I was in Pai, it was to clear out the house, which I just gave to the guy who’s land it was on. It was too painful to do anything else with it.
By 7am, I am on the road to Pai. I love the ride and am excited, so I start singing to myself loudly, occasionally getting odd stares from people on the side of the road. An hour later, I stop for coffee. I ask for a hot cappuccino. When it arrives, the server is smirking to himself. Looking at the cup, I realize that he's made a big cock and balls out of the milk, coffee combination. I start to laugh, pay for the coffee and nod gratefully at him.
I send a picture of my erotic coffee to Isaac: this is more like what I was expecting at the Erotic Garden. Draining the cup, I take it back to the counter, thank the server and smile at him. As I ride off, I start to get nervous with scenarios running through my head... what if he is there. Shaking my head, I push those thoughts to one side and concentrate on the road, even though I know that I know every turn on this track like the back of my hand.
As I start the descent into Pai Valley, the sun is out and I feel like I can cope with coming here, especially as I know Isaac is there and I can talk to him. It's odd that I am so comfortable, but Isaac is like a favorite hoodie: it just fits with no effort.
I arrive at Isaac's guesthouse. We hug and have a bit of cock-coffee banter. He is working, so I ask if he wants coffee and make my way to my first port of call: El and coffee. El, a good friend, sees me cross the road and starts to jump up and down shouting my name. I try not to act like an overexcited puppy, but El and I have known each other for years and have talked through a lot together. As she makes my coffees, we chat. It seems that she has also left her husband. We both reflect on how much happier we are now, knowingly smiling at each other. Another customer comes over and is watching us with interest as we babble to each other in Thai.
Coffee in hand and a smile on my face, I head back to the guest house to find Isaac, who has nearly finished his bog post. As I sit there, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee, the receptionist apologetically walks towards us, apologizing as she tells us that the room is booked for the night and it is past check out. Eventually, we get out of there and head over a rather rickety bamboo bridge to find a new place to stay.
We find a set of cute little bungalows. There is one that's available for a reasonable price, unlike the place Isaac was at last night. We get to the bungalow and see a double bed. I look at Isaac and shrug. It doesn’t bother me or him, so we take it. With our little bungalow along the river secured, we head out for food. We don’t get far before Isaac is attracted to a big avocado-season sign outside a restaurant. Inside, I am persuaded to try my first ever avocado smoothie. Why haven’t I tried these before? Our relaxed banter continues as we wait for my food to arrive, which it never does. Smoothies consumed, orders canceled and we are off to check out the Pai Canyon.
We take the back road past some elephant camps, but when we get to the main road, I loose all confidence in where we are going and aimlessly take what I figure is the right direction. A couple of minutes later, I second guess myself and we turn around. What feels like almost a quarter of the way back to Chiang Mai, I have to admit that I was wrong... not a favorite thing to do. Turning around and heading back to Pai I remember how much I enjoy the road and begin to get into the constant flow of sweeping corners and hairpin bends. Back in the valley, we stop for coffee and a re-think: where is this canyon?
As we wait for coffee, we watch some workers trying to erect a huge metal sculpture of a man. For those who have never been to Thailand this kind of activity is worth watching here. We are not disappointed by the entertainment value. The men finally get the legs of the sculpture standing and a worker drops his screwdriver down one of the legs. As the leg is still attached to the crane they lift it a little and begin to shake it, not unlike how you might try to extract an unwanted guest from a trouser leg. The process of putting together the tin man ends up taking way too long.
Bored with watching, Isaac gets the drone out. We leave our stuff on the table of the coffee shop and go to take some footage. When we arrive back to out table, the owner of the coffee shop and partial builder of the sculpture begins to talk to us. He signals to the girl behind the counter, who then she brings out some fruit for us.
For free, he says, before returning to watching the ever more entertaining sculpture debacle. As we consume the fruit, Isaac spots a piece of paper on the table with a phone number. It has been tucked under the saucer of my cup. Okay, now the free fruit is making more sense. A while later, we leave to head back to Pai. Five minutes later, we see signs for the canyon.
Fuck, I was right the first time.
I am pissed off with myself: why can’t you just believe in yourself for once? You are right sometime. Don’t revert back to the old ways just because you are back in Pai.
Trying to ignore myself, I stop at the canyon with Isaac and head up to have a look.
Later on, back at the bungalow, I head out to meet a friend for a beer and Isaac settles down to some work. Pulling up to Fluid, the swimming pool-cum-bar, my heart is beating like crazy. Why is my body reacting to every place with memories? Calm the fuck down. Nothing is going to happen.
As I take off my shoes at the door, I hear several familiar voices greeting me. I begin to relax. Some time and banter later, the conversation inevitable turns to my ex-husband. (I am not going to name him … not because I don’t want it to be known, but because he does not deserve to be named).
My friends are concerned that he will never give up on trying to ruin my life. Offers are made that I have to ignore or forever live with the consequences. All the talk of my previous Pai life make me feel sad. Is this what defines me here? Can I never be me here? Always his ex-wife? Can I expect that to change or am I expecting too much. Confused and bit upset, I make my excuses and leave, heading back to the bungalow.
I talk with Isaac, never really considering the option of not talking to him about this problem. Sharing my concerns alleviates the worry a bit, but still I am left with a nagging feeling of having to make some decisions while I am here.
Let it go or let Pai go.
I briefly considering getting the dice to help, but, almost as quickly, reject it, knowing this is a decision I have to consider.
Several more unwanted reminders later, I go outside to sit in the dark and watch the river.
I get up and head back to the room.
I have made a decision, I loudly announce, as I get into the room, not really paying much attention to whether Isaac is listening to me or not.
Sounds interesting, mumbles Isaac, not really looking up from his work.
Carrying on, as I am not really talking to him specifically, I am just talking.
This is the last time I am coming here, I announce.
This gets Isaac's attention. He looks up from his computer and pushes it to one side.
Go on, he says.
We sit and discuss how I feel being in Pai and the fact that I can not escape the memories attached to the place and that I really want to. After a bit of a chat, I decide to hit the sack.
At 5:17am my alarm goes off. Snooze. A couple of minutes later, Isaac's alarm goes off and he hits snooze. I crawl out of my side of the bed and into the bathroom, which is half open to the elements. It is raining pretty hard.
It’s raining, I shout from the bathroom.
Can’t fly the drone in the rain, replies Isaac. So I crawl back into my side of the bed and go to sleep. About an hour later and Isaac is still manically slapping the snooze on his alarm every few minutes.
Awake, I get up and go out to get coffee. I grab one for Isaac and head back to the room.
He stirs, thanks me for coffee, turns over and goes back to sleep.
Eventually, we head to the canyon with the drone and start the day. After a bit of filming, some food and more coffees, both Isaac and I are ready to head off.
Refueling before leaving, we both get off our bikes and hug a hug that says a lot: I have made a true friend over the last few days. Back on the bike I head off to Chiang Mai as Isaac heads the other way.
All the way back the dice are playing on my mind. I decide freedom from decisions would be perfect right now. How can I start this? How should I use it? I start to get excited about the thought of a new adventure.
Arriving home, I drop my stuff and hug a very overexcited Cheetah, my dog, before heading out to find dice – easier said than done in Thialand.
After finding a box of dice, I return home, wondering what my first roll should be. I get back, light a cigarette and start to smoke while I am thinking. I stub out the cigarette and it comes to me: I need to quit.
Quit now or finish the packet? Odds for now and evens for once I the pack is finished.
It's a three, Okay, the dice have spoken.
I contemplate ignoring the dice, but realize that's bullshit. If I am going to use the dice, I have to obey the dice. Cigarette packet in hand, I go into the kitchen, flip the bin open and pour the last cigarettes out of the pack. Done.
I message Isaac about my first roll and eventually I get a response noting that I have started with a very big roll. I point out that I am a stubborn bastard when I want to be.
Happy to have started, I smile to myself. Maybe this will help. If not, I am sure I can have some fun with it.
It feels good to have been to Pai, faced some demons and made some decisions. It feels like I have started to open that door and deal with all the shit behind it. Part of me want to slam the door shut, but I know it will just burst back open at some unexpected time. My only option is to open the door wide and wade through the shit.
As I contemplate this decision, my mind bounces back to The Dice Man book. It's been bugging me since Issac mentioned it and I don’t know why. Glancing over at the bookshelf, I realize why. What the fuck? I own it. It'ss a random book that I picked up before the school break. Really? Is this just a coincidence? I believe in fate – this was meant to happen. I am meant to embrace this path and see where it takes me. I take a photo of the book and send it to Isaac
Guess what I found at my house?!?!?! I write.