wage for those charming locals in their adorable shacks? Or did I forget
that on vacation? During the plane ride home, we suddenly seemed to
be on different sides of experience. Her family had probably put pressure
on her. Angelica herself was looking to marry, sometime in the approximate future, and I was not up for marrying anyone. She knew that.
We didn’t last all that much longer after the trip. She would fall into
fits of ill temper against me, as if I had betrayed her by being who I was.
“You can’t get away with this forever,” she said. It was a harder breakup
than I expected.
But after that I was a travel addict, always trying to get myself to
somewhere in Southeast Asia, that leafy tangle of uneven development
between India and Australia. I knew where to get cheap flights, I piled
up sick days to wangle longer vacations, I got by on very little when I was
there. I liked wherever I went—Malaysia, Thailand, Sumatra, Java—year
after year. The guys at the union called me “Jungle Rat.”
There was a rumor at the union office that I came from a family with
mansions in these places, that I had a trust fund I kept under wraps. I
had freely admitted to someone that my father owned a company that
made paper boxes for other companies. Trudy used to say she could tell
a certain kind of private school from my speech, though my speech had
changed. Were you always and forever what you were born into? I had
set up my life relying on other principles.
My mother used to say, when I called her, “Do you remember anything about us at all?” My mother’s new husband—he wasn’t even so
new anymore—had moved them to a fancy retirement community,
which she actually liked.
In fact, I had forgotten a lot. I went for so long without talking about
much of it. And none of it was the same now anyway. I’d made a few
visits. We all looked different now.
“I guess you’re the black sheep,” one of the guys at work said.
“I’m the goat,” I said. “I’m the wild pig.”
People think you’ll always go back someday, that home is what you
are and it’ll claim you. But I was on a different system. It wasn’t for ev-
eryone, but I liked my system.
I was in Isan, in the northeast of Thailand, where I’d been having a great
time riding a motorcycle along a lake with pink water lilies, when the
bad news about my father reached me. From a pay phone in a post office in Udon Thani, I made a call to my phone machine to check my