The Son of Light
the passengers were asleep when he returned to his car except the man he saw
smoking a cigarette between the cars before. This second time seeing him was
enough for Thomas to recognize him: it was the General's deputy. He was the
only one awake.
found his seat just as the express train was making one of its few stops. Since
he was one of the few passengers still awake and had his window open, a little
boy approached him asking him what he wanted. Bypassing the language issue,
Thomas waved his one-nutted betel nut baggie at him. This set the boy off in a
crisp sprint to grab a fresh baggie. Other vendors were at the far end of the
train looking for open windows, but after a minute the young chap returned in
the same sprint with a baggie of betel nut with half the town following him.
They all jockeyed for position in front of his window asking him what he
feeling like a prince, Thomas paid the boy more than the going rate for the
baggie since the kid had earned it with good service. He was in a generous mood
after the mead hall on wheels so when the kid presented a second baggie he
bought that too. As any prophecy seeker at the end of his journey could tell
you, one can never have too many treats during a long journey in a foreign
land. Thomas lifted up his last can of Myanmar Lager to the eager faces and
flashed three fingers. Another youngster sprinted away, returning a minute
later with three frosty cold ones, which he purchased with much theatrical
this point, with the entire car as quiet as a library, the twenty-strong crowd
began shouting as they jostled hard for position to peddle their wares.
Just as this kid was running for more smokes, another ankle-biter arrived
with four more cold cans of beer. He already had his three brown pops but he
felt a duty to reward the little bugger for his industry and prompt service, so
he paid the price he asked for, giving him an exaggerated look of disbelief
upon hearing the jacked-up price. In no time his leg space had become cramped
with goodies, but as soon as the smokes arrived and were paid for, he tried to
keep the momentum by handing out free smokes to whoever wanted one despite their
was the power of the dollar to hungry kids that caused it all.
English began to surface in awkward eruptions and indecipherable accents, but
he was able to field some questions, keeping his voice down in consideration
for his fellow passengers, most of whom were now pretending to be asleep.
have," he said to a kid holding up a pack of cheroots, his newest addition to
his den of vice. The cheroot was a special kind of smoke. Part tobacco
and part herb, it was a light, flavorful bouquet whether massaged slowly or
okay," he said to a kid holding up a can of coke for the tenth time. But soon
simple replies weren't enough to quell the raucous, so that personal questions
from the group come forward.
is your name?" someone asked.
Son of Light," he replied spontaneously.
That was an answer that always generated positive ripples. One chap was so
excited at this exchange that he gave me a cheroot. In kind Thomas responded by
offering him a betel nut in spite of the fact he was too young to be partaking
in any narcotic activity.
was another chap who was so taken by it all that he took off his silver ring
and offered it to me for his two silver rings. Of course he had to decline
since his ring was too small and Thomas's too valuable, so he settled for a
handshake just as the train began to pull away. No one stirred in his coach as
the train picked up speed, but he knew that most of his fellow passengers had
heard the farang interacting with the locals.
south to Rangoon with Thomas sampling the purchased goods, he reflected on his
novel experiences in a new world far different than the one he knew. Looking at
the treats by his feet, he thought if these sins of betel nut and beer
were bright stains in the saint's moral code, then let them scream to
the heavens but leave me alone! The Dionysian force he felt was the
ecstatic participation in divine life-fulfillment, a reminder that he chose to
live rather than to watch. He drank the overflowing cup of light
feeling the loneliness it brought when night fell, the wind messing his
dust-soaked hair, the spirit of Dionysus danced with silent feet trodding over
gentle sounds of change as he fell asleep to the lullaby swaying of the iron