The Ross Letters

November 23

Matthew,

I tell myself every day that these are the “good old days.”  These will be the days my mind returns to as my memory begins to fade.  I will remember only that I loved and that I was loved, and I will find comfort and solace in those memories until I am laid to rest.

Life is not sad.  Life is fucking amazing.

Pete

November 10

Matthew,

I am riding in a cab to go out for the day. A few minutes ago, we drove past an alley. For whatever reason, I turned and looked down the alley, and somehow I managed to catch a man pissing by his car. One second later, we drove past a concrete statue of a nude man.

Now, I don’t know why the universe decided to show me two dicks like that, but it’s got me really wary of this day.

I’m going to try to just keep my eyes fixed forward.

Enjoy your day,

Pete

Sept. 29

Matthew,

I have been doing exactly what I want for a year now. I have been making decisions based on things I have wanted to try. Nothing has come out of anything I have tried so far.

But sometimes losing is what you need. Sometimes a defeat forces you to take a long look at your own playbook. Sometimes failure pushes you to the spot you couldn’t seem to end up in through any previous efforts.

You start to gain focus when you try and fail several times. You become familiar with the pitfalls. You become able to recognize obstacles sooner. Your response time becomes better.

You even learn how to take the hit. You learn how to tumble and absorb some of the shock. You can take bad news. You can still put on a brave face.

You learn to stand upright. You learn to disagree. You learn to work harder than the hardest working person. You learn contingency plans.

I think I’m ready now. Even if I’m not, I will move the ball farther down the field. I’ll get to that goal line. Then I’ll do it again. Even if I fail, my next attempt will be better.

-pjm

Sept 26

Matthew,

At the Mega Bangna mall again, stoned and feeling grateful. A few trips to the health stores and some late afternoon yoga are all that’s on the agenda.

As I was entering the mall, I passed a woman walking with her mother. The mother was probably in her sixties, but she carried herself with a great deal of delicacy and femininity.

The daughter was lovely, but looked tired. I think to myself all the time about how tired I am, but nobody is tired the way a mother is tired.

Two or three meters behind the mother-daughter duo was a man rolling in an electric scooter. Time seemed to have weighed more heavily on him, as his his graying skin and liver spots revealed. He seemed content to roll on his own, allowing the gals their time.

What a privilege it would be! For me to one day be rolling behind my daughter and her aged mother! To behold a life truly complete!

Shit, dude, I’m starting to tear up in the middle of this coffee shop.

I guess that’s all for now. I’m going to wander around and be alone with my thoughts.

Your friend,

Pete

#380

January 30, 2017

Matthew,I was at my favorite vegetarian restaurant today, perusing a rather heavily picked-through a la carte assortment. The lunch rush seemed to have ran off with all the usual items, so I picked through ten or twelve items that remained and selected vegetarian larb moo, two servings of sitr-fried mushrooms, and some wontons.

I put all my items on a tray and was perusing the shelf of snacks while I waited for the lady to come and put my purchases in a bag. As I was picking through the banana chips, a college-aged girl and her boyfriend walked in. She saw the tray and picked up the mushroom wontons, and for a moment I was about to let her have them.

But I did not.

I didn’t say anything, I simply took them from her hand and put them back on the tray. For a single moment in time, there was a collective gasp from the girl, her boyfriend, and the two ladies who worked there. For that moment, I wondered to myself if I had done the right thing. As the moment, which felt like ninety full seconds of breath-held awkwardness, came to a close, one of the women said “sorry” to the girl and she simply went and sat down with her boyfriend. I echoed the apology, as politely as I could put them back on the tray.

As I was paying for my food, I thought to myself hey, now’s your chance to do something cool. Go give her the wontons. That’s the absolute last thing anybody would expect from you.

And that voice in my head was right. They were twenty baht, and it would have been a rather unforeseen gesture to not only relinquish the item, to to pay for it as well. Furthermore, there is a woman who works there that still regards me with suspicion and scrutiny in spite of frequent patronage. For a moment I thought of her as well. Giving this 20 year old college student may completely break down walls. Giving this young lady those delicious mushroom wontons might actually build bridges with a hard to read and harder still to understand culture.

But I did not.

Now I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking that I was taking revenge for some ancient slight, or perhaps trying to even a decidedly tenuous playing field. You would not be wrong in assuming those things, but there was a different motivation today.

The food was on a tray. Other a la carte items were on the counter. Pay attention. Situational awareness. It’s one thing to be a stranger in a strange land, but the awkwardness and the near-ignominious lack of regard for their surroundings that I have to see on a daily basis with these college students is infuriating. Not only were they sheltered, but now they are loosed upon the land with money, a vehicle, and no clue. I know that most kids that age have no world experience, but I’m talking about world experience scores that are in the negatives when you take into consideration what a semi-closed and semi-private society this is.

The food. Was on. A tray.

If this is your first time, I’m sorry. That’s really what the apology was for. I’m sorry you don’t pay attention. I’m sorry you had a startling moment. I’m sorry that you live in a country where nobody disagrees with each other. It must have shaken you up a bit to have a large white dude snatch a carton of delicious food out of your hand.

But the food was on a tray.

So I took the wontons, Matthew. I took them with a smile on my face. And you want to know something? They were fucking delicious.

Arroy Mak,

Pete

#385

March 4, 2017

Matthew,

I just got home and decided to hold off eating lunch until I got this written down. I’m a little unnerved after seeing a moped accident only twenty minutes ago while I was walking home from my favorite vegetarian restaurant. It was another one of those moments where it’s hard to know what happened, because there wasn’t really a collision. From what I can tell, it was just overconfidence combined with inexperience that caused it, though I’m sure it didn’t help that there were three people piled onto one of these tiny machines.

From what I could tell, it seemed like the boy driving was trying to dodge a woman who was parked on the side of the road and had just opened her door. Her expression was that of annoyance, though there was definite concern. I’m not sure if the concern was for the people, however, or for herself and the loss of face, but I do know she seemed like she wanted nothing to do with the situation.

The kids were almost run over, too, by a truck. It was a fiasco, and it really shook me up. I kept walking, annoyed by what I was sure to be another one of those incidents that was caused by puerile disregard, but then one of the girls began crying and it really got to me. I had to look. She was clutching her shoulder and sobbing loudly, while flock of bystanders dumbly hovered around, uncertain of what to do.

I hardened my heart and pressed onward. Truth be told, I wanted to kneel next to the girl and hold her hand until the ambulance arrived, but I talked myself out of the sympathy that was attempting to take over. It’s hard to explain this struggle, but I will briefly attempt to, if not only to absolve myself of this coldness that I think you and my friends know is not typical of me.

First, everyone is always in a hurry. Even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, people with disposable income are all moving at unsafe speeds to get somewhere. Second, mopeds are dangerous. These stupid things are everywhere, and for some reason nobody seems to comprehend that they were not designed for long-distance street driving. Third, there are no traffic rules. People squeeze these stupid little idiot-bikes everywhere they will fit, and it is just dangerous.

I just don’t understand what goes on around me. The Thai are some of the most unconcerned people I have ever seen when it comes to safety. It blows my mind, the overall absence of fear. Maybe that’s why I have a hard time feeling sorry for people when this happens. You can only take so much crap and observe so much stupidity before you start to kinda say Ok, prick, you get what you deserve. You think I haven’t tried? They can’t be told anything. I hate it for them, because I can still hear the sobbing in my mind and it is still messing with me, but at the same time I wish they would take that next step and understand that rules and laws keep us safe.

I don’t like this mix of emotions. I need to watch some cartoons or something.

Pete

#390

April 5, 2017

Matthew,

I try not to read my recent letters for long periods of time. I don’t want them influencing how I write and I don’t want to examine a period that may have been traumatic when I am having a good day. For the most part, my first three years in Thailand have been terrible. Rife for growth and personal development, to be sure, but terrible.

But today when I was at the gym I was thinking about how a year ago I was sprawled out in my bed, too injured to even get up and move around. My rage had turned me into a compulsive exercise fiend, and with little to no variation and a thick skull, I hurt myself badly and for a few weeks was unsure of what to do. Not only that, but according to the letters from around this time last year, I was perpetually angry.

I may not have figured out very much since then, but I have certainly moved forward. I had no money, a stack of bills, I was miserable, and I was 108 kilos. Now I have some money, a single student loan, and I weigh 100 kilos. One thing is for certain: each year, a bit more progress is made.

I even have a 708 credit score.

When you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to be able to evaluate how far you have come, especially with significant stress. I wasn’t even thinking about this until recently. It has almost been like somebody just flipped a switch, and the torrent of misery all but stopped. Yeah, I still think about my stupid job and I’m sure I haven’t sorted through all my mixed feelings about the loss of my parents, but I’m just so satisfied right now. It’s not like I’m a hundred percent, either. I still have a few things wrong with me and I still get stir crazy from time to time.

And I get annoyed a times. I managed to drop down to 97 kilos, and after a prolonged sinus infection I took too many antibiotics and killed the gut flora that was keeping everything moving. Naturally I tried to overcompensate in the gym again, and I ended up messing myself up a little bit… again. I’ve been mad at myself for doing the exact same thing exactly a year later, to be honest, and that is what has prompted all of the thought about last year.

But I will say this: it’s not as bad this time. I suppose I am slow to learn my lesson on certain things, but no matter what has happened, every year is a little better than the previous. At least I’m not doing those horrible visa runs anymore. At least that little cunt Geoffrey is gone. At least I don’t have to tutor. This time, the improvements in my life are far more pronounced, it would seem.

This was all going through my head today when I was at the gym. Although I was a bit mopey over gaining a few pounds, I noticed something that snapped me out of it. After my cardio set, I went to the locker room to sit in the sauna. I removed my shirt and happened to glance up at the large mirror on the wall, something I try to avoid doing, and I was more than a little surprised.

I had muscle tone.

Not a lot, mind you. I’m not fit and cut. But I did have discernible musculature in my arms, chest, and shoulders. Actual muscle tone. My arms are not particularly large from having to cut back on weight lifting, but my biceps, triceps, and shoulders can all be seen. It’s not just a solid mass of flab. I couldn’t even say that about myself when I was in the army and exercising ten to fifteen hours a week.

It was quite a revelation, especially since I was lamenting my slight weight gain from finishing off my school year with a bit of a loss of self-control and spending a significant portion of the vacation so far just sitting around. I was trying to reason everything, of course, but at the same time a calm came over me suggesting that I just chill out and be satisfied with myself.

Obviously, I am still batting it around in my brain, but I will say the conclusion keeps coming up the same. I actually am satisfied with myself. I logged on to my bank account just to look at the balance. That was satisfying as well. Be satisfied with yourself. Stop entertaining alternate realities and what could have been.

These kinds of things can only really be seen when things are holding still. Did I need it? Absolutely. I was starting to get down on myself for how I was spending this free time. I’m on vacation, and I need to do just that: vacate.

So I’m gonna chop up another lime and pour some more Perrier, then turn on Spacehog’s “In the Meantime” and look up the lyrics. It also dawned on me today that I’ve heard that stupid song a hundred times and still have no idea what they are saying.

After that? I’m gonna get some ice cream. Screw it. Go big or go home. It’s not a proper vacation if you don’t gain weight.

Get to the choppa,

Pete

#392

april 21, 2017

matthew,

back to the gym after ten days.  shook off some weakness and flushed out some water weight.  it was the gym at a country club.  fucking posh.  i’ll probably go back.

my girlfriend’s parents and sister are visiting.  shit’s getting a little busy.

right now i’m reading zero hour: crisis in time.  i had no idea comics were so cool.

what else.

i think i’m a little depressed.  mobility is limited.  options are limited.  not enough room.  frustrating.

i have a salad every day.  good for you.

i’ve been taking detox tea as well.  my skin actually looks a little better.

after nine months, i still want a cigarette.  maybe it’s all that coffee i drink.

seriously, i drink a lot of fucking coffee.

i think i’m ok though.  no reason to think otherwise.  i look ok, i feel pretty strong, i still get erections.  should be fine.

it’s time for a shower and then some chamomile tea.

you are in my heart, dickboy.

shut your face,
pete

#393

april 22, 2017

matthew,

i’m not entirely certain what i should be doing now.  i think “nothing” is never the answer, but i wish i knew what the “something” was.

maybe i should learn some thai.

smash mouth had a lot more success than i realized.  good thing that we have wikipedia.  mike myers is in one of their videos.

red cabbage is very good for you.

maybe i will do some research today on some random bullshit.  if i don’t find something to do, it is definitely going to be a long day.

maybe i’ll play super mario world instead.

i wonder what mario lopez is doing right now.

i wonder what jennifer lopez is doing right now.

what else.

life is good, but i wish i had drugs.  an antihistamine buzz can only take you so far.

a lot of people get the beatles and the dave clark five confused.  i don’t.  i’m a fucking genius.

i wonder what waldo from “family matters” is doing right now.

screw this.  i am bored.  time to do something else.

beat it,
pete

#394

April 23, 2017

Matthew,

My brother and I have taken my mother’s death two completely different ways.  He was there when she passed on, and I think having to watch both her and his father die was traumatic.  I, on the other hand, chose to stay in Thailand both times, even though my mother wanted to see me one last time.

On one hand, I definitely feel for my brother.  We’ve experienced the losses of six immediate family members in the past ten years, including a rather violent death of an aunt by a little piece of shit who was driving drunk.  I honestly don’t think anybody deserves what has happened to us.

But on the other hand, they were his meal ticket.  Even in his 30s they were bailing him out.  My perspective is much different.  My stepfather kept trying to throw me out of the nest, and my mother’s only role was to try and see that the fall didn’t kill me.  With my brother, he could wreck a vehicle being stupid and have a new one later in the week.  Our upbringings and what we were given were so fucking disproportional, even on holidays and birthdays.  And they set my brother up for failure by never letting him fix anything on his own, and you can add that to the list of reasons I resent them.

And he milked it.  He dry-humped that cash cow until the bitter end.  He even moved into mom’s house with his girlfriend when she was Stage 4.  It wasn’t to take care of her, either.  They both had no money.  They both weren’t working regularly.  Even my aunt who is in charge of the estate is trying to push the money in my direction because he took all of mom’s furniture and both vehicles.  He stripped the place down, refusing to carry out her wishes that those things go to the church.

I was no different early on.  When he had his son at 19 years old, I was right there to try and help him out as well.  But he got too greedy, and I cut him off.  One day he had the audacity to ask me why I didn’t give him more, and that was that.  He brought me a few shitty bags of weed when I was in grad school, but it hardly counts when you stick around all day expecting me to smoke half of the bag with you.  He has a track record for being a mooch, one with an incredibly short memory.

I had to browbeat him for months to compensate me for all the stuff in mom’s house, because once again those were the wishes of our mother.  She knew he was probably going to take everything, so she told my aunt to just take a certain dollar amount out of his half of the estate.  I didn’t want to take the legal avenue with my own family (and I also didn’t want an aunt I’ve only met twice to arbitrate our conflict), so I came down on him for months until he finally sobered up and realized I was the only family he has left.  I settled for a thousand dollars, and since then we have been cool.

But when this is all over, I’m not sure whether or not I want anything to do with the little fucker.  The only reason I speak to him at all is because he is holding most of my stuff.  Mom was storing things from my childhood, sentimental items like stuff from high school, a stamp collection, a coin collection, my old books and writing, and even some cool stuff I managed to save from elementary school.  After that, I suspect that he can go fuck himself.

However, it isn’t fair to just make my mind up that I will still be pissed off at him in a year.  He has taken some strides to correct his life, and I will say he definitely shut me up when he forked over the money.  But when he contacts me saying shit like “I wish I could talk to mom,” I do get irritated.  It’s not that I doubt that they had good talks.  Even I had a good talk with mom every once in a while.  However, I can’t help but wonder why he misses her and what he misses.  I don’t miss either of them.  I don’t miss anybody.  I was just getting to know Aunt Lynn when she was killed.

Holy shit, Matthew.  I think I might be a little more messed up than I originally suspected.

He’s more normal than me for missing them.  I’ll grant you that.  Outside of this, however, I am still very cynical because of all the times they spoiled him rotten and he took them for granted.  I only got about twenty percent from mom and about two percent from my stepdad, because my brother needed all of their attention and resources.  It’s hard to let that go overnight.  He tends to think I never wanted a relationship, when the truth is I hung in there long after it was even advisable.

People can change.  I don’t doubt that.  A guy like my brother, though… I think he needs more time for these things to be truly sincere.  For right now I think he knows I’m the only family member left who will talk with him, and I don’t want him thinking I’m going to be his shoulder or his rock.  A thousand dollars was enough to placate my ire, but it is not enough to make up for what a shitty person he has been.

Let him go without for a little longer.  Maybe he’ll come around.

Screw it.  Time for some more coffee, and then some stretching before I go back to this badass country club gym.  Time to work out some more of my irritation.

Talk soon,
Pete