Pele, part 2
a story about my friend the taxi driver
It's Sunday again and that means ecstatic dance. This time I bring Natalie and Anna, new friends from the yoga retreat.
Natalie and I met during a relationship clearing workshop. In the workshop you sit across an empty floor cushion, which represents the person you're clearing (typically a family member or lover). You talk to the cushion and tell the person everything you need to say—all your disappointments, your frustrations, your sadness, your resentments. Once you say your piece, you swap and sit on the empty cushion. Now you are tapping into the person, and you speak as them and communicate what they need to say to you in response. Maybe it sounds dumb, but it worked. Before the workshop was over the class depleted the mountain of toilet paper provided to soak up our tears.
Anyway, back to the story. Pele picks us up and we sit in the back of the songtaew. Natalie is Swiss and Anna is German, and they speak auf Deutsch while I think about whether it’s worth continuing my German studies.
After the dance, Pele ferries us home in time for yoga nidra. We all loved the dance and we're being girls gossiping about people, but because we're yogis we're gossiping about people's energy. Anna didn't like the tall curly-haired guy, he seemed on another plane. Probably on drugs, we decide. Anna says she likes Pele's energy and Natalie agrees. Hmm, I seem to not be rare in my affinity. Pele drops us off but I arrange for him to pick me up later to take me to my next destination.
When Pele picks me up it’s sunset, and I crane my neck to catch glimpses of the hot pink glow. The sunsets on the island are spectacular and each time I see one I say to myself, "That's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," which is probably not true but I don't have each beautiful thing side by side to compare. I wonder if Pele still appreciates the sunsets, or if they lose their luster after so many years.
I wish I had asked him this, because he occupies the silence to ask if I have a boyfriend. I should say yes because that's what you say when you don't want further interest. But I strive to always tell the truth, and so I say, "Um, sort of. I don't know."
Boyfriends are binary things to Pele—you either have one or you don't—so this confuses him. My mind flashes back to laughing over truffle pizza and Campari spritzes. Was that only two weeks ago? I try to simplify the ambiguity to one of location: "Well, he's in Lisbon. I'm not sure if I'm going back to Lisbon. I might keep traveling."
"You keep traveling, no plan?"
No, Pele. There's no plan. He is impressed that I can afford this. "I worked hard for a long time. This is the first time I am taking a break. And I can work remote."
I imagine he has also worked hard for a long time. Why is he the one driving me all over this island for a few hundred baht?
It's a daunting task to explain the state of flux that is my life, so I'm grateful when Pele stops asking questions and instead talks about his desires to travel. He dreams of seeing the UK, America, and the Netherlands. All the broadcasted, expensive places—places I try to avoid even on a Western salary.
He doesn't know if he will ever reach these destinations. Before the pandemic hit, he had amassed seven jetskis. With his English skills, he was making good money giving jetski tours. But when the pandemic hit, he had to sell them. He lost everything during the pandemic, including his business and his life savings.
“But today is a new day,” he says. “You know? I am starting to feel that. Today is a new day.” The hope spreading across his face and breaking into a grin is contagious.
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