The sunlight here at 9 am has an ashen quality to it and the morning air has a sharp edge --autumn is on its way, after approximately one week of summer. Four years ago I was winnowing through my possessions, paring them down to what would fit in two suitcases before moving to Bangkok. Now back in Seattle, I'm eyeing a single suitcase for a return trip to Chungking Mansions and Thailand--a mere six-week stay.
Packing for that amount of time is a very casual undertaking, clothes washed and put in a small suitcase, laptop put in a bag at the last minute with all necessary cables and adaptors. (Hong Kong and Thailand both have different plug prongs.) But my cavalier packing habits are more than compensated for by my obsessive need to make lists.
Most of them are never put on paper or a computer screen and those invisible ones are the most important. They consist of memories that I will chase--or avoid. They fall into loose categories--evening light, fragrance and stench, ice cream, markets, steam after heavy rainfall.
When I lived in Bangkok, I was accompanied by a living memory--geographically distant but still close. He was around every corner of my city--sometimes physically present, sometimes bringing the past close enough for me to touch. Remembering him was a visceral act that I could feel on my skin; now that makes my throat tighten. He'll be there still for me but I'm unsure of how much strength it will take for me to encounter him this time around. I wear him on a chain around my neck, "if it suits you," he said when he put it there. Oh god, he was so unsuitable and so essential.
There are many people in the world of whom I am fond; I can count those whom I truly love, in this life and beyond, on two hands with some fingers left over. It's a list I rarely make. I take in those names as I breathe, they are as much a part of me as my eyes.
Bangkok is a city where ghosts are comfortable. But even if I don't see a spirit this time, I will be haunted by one, as I am in this city. At least in Bangkok, he will be at home.