(Not to be attempted after dark.)
1. Donâ€™t look both ways. Donâ€™t look at all. Close your eyes and imagine ponies. Deer, crabs, clouds, a rainbow. Things that scuttle or trot, loom; appear across the sky, on both sides at once. Embrace this vision of evanescence and apparition. Hold it for a fragment of a moment. Let it go. Remember: there is always another street to cross. Another bridge yet to pull from the mucked sediment of the churning river.
2. Keep you eyes closed. Step forward. Step again. Imagine you are backing away from a ferocious grizzly stalking you upon the Alaskan tundra. Like that except donâ€™t move backwards. Like that except donâ€™t wave you arms. (Your personal space has shrunk to within an inch of your skin.) Donâ€™t shout or curse. Feel the wind on your arm, your cheek, your lips. Taste the heaving smack of a passing rearview. Now is the time to scream.
3. A small child held in her motherâ€™s arms is laughing at you. â€œPhucking tourist,â€ she says and spits a mass of phlegm to the thirsty ground. Her mother grins sheepishly. â€œCÃ m Ã³n,â€ you say, thank you. You are glad of your place upon the earth. You are a student, grateful and obedient. Kiss the childâ€™s brow. Kiss the motherâ€™s palm, her wrist. Kiss the ground; bring the dirt upon your tongue. Take the womanâ€™s calloused feet into your soft hands. Bathe and perfume her feet. Life is a blessed event.
4. Try looking left. The sight of 10,000 rushing motos may alarm you. Do not let it. They will be gone soon, only to be replaced by 10,000 more, and more again. Learn to trust. Close your eyes. Step. Turn your head and look. Watch the machinesâ€™ rapid departure; hear the diminishing putts of 100cc motors; see the men astride pass a cigarette back and forth. Like them, know your ease, yet exist within yourself. Disregard the delivery truck that has veered into the oncoming lane. It is a figment. This is your time. Step again.
5. When you were a child, your mother would hold your hand as you walked to school, the crunching snow underfoot echoing in the preternatural quiet of the winter morning. She would remove her glove and you your mitten. Your yearning was mad and unknown for the feel of skin, the warmth of blood. You suspected the truth. Your body, your face coldâ€”scarf wrapped tight around your mouth, it caught the condensation of your breath, the dribble of snot from your nose; lips, tongue and teeth caressing the stiffened undulations of frozen cloth. Your fingers grew together, your thumbs sunken. Your hand aches now, searching for her absent touch.
6. You have lost a flip-flop to the melee. Disregard. There are replacements available on every corner, cheaper and hardier than your own. Youâ€™ve had your shots. You are in no immediate danger and have taken out a travellerâ€™s insurance policy as a suitable precaution to the unbidden acquisition of tetanus, dengue, and the like. (Any claim you make will be used in a high-stakes grudge match of trashcan basketballâ€”know that your trans-continental whine became a fine shot taken from well beyond the copier. Hear the whoops of celebration.) Take measured even steps to the midpoint of the street with appropriate knowledge that this space too is a construct. Divisor a tool meant for angels and their braying kin. Show no fear. (Do you remember the bear? The tundra?)
7. If you are clipped, pay no heed; cherish your bruise as a mark of lifeâ€™s bounty. You are foolish to complain anyhow: she was a small girl, not going so fast, dark almond eyes flashing a lurid welcome above her Hello Kitty pollution mask.
8. If you have not yet arrived to the other side of the street, return to Step 4 substituting â€œrightâ€ for â€œleftâ€ and vice-versa. If safely across the street, move on to Step 9. If your wounds are more grievous than originally suspected seek medical attention. A passing moto driver will be happy to give you a lift (for a small fee).
9. There are moments in life when everything crystallizes. Everything seems to make sense again. This, perhaps, is one of those moments. Accept it as you do all things. Individually and with discretion. It too will pass. Like the rushing motos and your most tenderly held dreams, only a hollowed keening will remain. There is no 4A.M. without regret, only ever less adhesive plasters of denial and repetition. There is only this, until the next: when the next intersection calls and youâ€™ve walked up and down the block 3 times and still found nowhere to cross. So marooned you stand, hands in pockets, thumbs resting on the paunch of your money belt, staring meekly at your freshly polished shoes.
Erik Wennermark recently relocated to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where along with struggling to cross the street, heâ€™s grappling with his chopstick and language skills. He is confident however that he will dissolve to the requisite fluidity of all tasks, and move past solely fish-out-of-water prose. Exciting projects on the horizon include documenting the filming of a low-budget action movie in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Past works include fiction in PANK #3. Check out erikwennermark.com for updates and more.