“Dude, don’t ask for my water. Not cool. You shouldn’t have drank yours so fast,” he said.
His sister had banned plastic water bottles from her home. She said it was the right thing to do. He agreed, but he still drank the free ones at work. They were free, after all.
Before he left, she gave him a lightweight canister and tablets for the trip. She warned him about plastic bottles and the delicate ecosystem. Both the canister and the tablets were sitting in his Los Angeles apartment. His friends had made fun of him. He was weak and he hated himself for it.
“We’re going to so party tonight,” he said. “Are there ping pong shows on this island? Dude, I can’t believe we didn’t go in Bangkok. Too hungover, what does that even mean?”
His friend laughed.
And he hated himself just a little bit more. He thought he’d get away from that in Thailand. That he would land his feet on exotic sand and feel free. But traveling only sharpened the rough edges of his worst self. He was a man who followed.
His sister believed in spirit animals. And his would surely be a sheep. Hers would be a dragon. Sure, he was curious about the ping pong show. But he didn’t want to go. He didn’t think he could watch a woman shoot a ball out of her vagina and not just feel overwhelming despair. Who thought that was sexy? Who came up with the trick? He really thought about that. Was it a woman? He hoped at least it was a woman. But still, he thought, there was no way it was empowering. It was a side show of degradation. His sister would punch him in the arm and say, “See? Mom did make a difference in your thick head.” He thought about his mother and bit back the tears that always came to his eyes when he thought of her. She always smelled of vanilla. She always told him the truth. He bit back any emotion at all.
“Damn, see? Ahead of that monk? That sign says live show. And you know what that means?” he said. Ping. Fucking pong.”
His friend nodded and laughed.
And so the edges hardened.