He was an effortlessly simple man, compassionate and gentle. His build was frail despite a transparent love of food, constantly engulfed by happiness for foreign and exotic flavors. His eyes were kind, as were his hands. I felt it most when he ran his fingers through my hair if for no other reason than to show me tender affection. He practiced Reiki, a spiritual form of medicine where one transfers a universal energy. He enlightened me, moving our hands from our heads to our necks to our hearts and so forth in seven minute increments. He was different from other Italian men I had met; his everyday life moved slowly.
Mirko and I sat beneath waterfalls and listened to jazz and ate the street food of Chiang Mai and kissed in bamboo huts while we hid from the monsoon rain. Mirko knew the culture well and his friends were local Thai artists. I was envious and curious so he took me under his wing so I, too, could know the culture and the locals and everything else beautiful about Northern Thailand.
I didn’t want a Mirko, but suddenly he was there and he was kind and we were travelers in Thailand without a care for anything, really.
What I liked most about Mirko was his divine spirituality. He viewed travel and the world and its people through a different lens than I, one subdued. His backpack was also smaller than mine; a desire for possessions nonexistent. Who needs things in a world of love, I would imagine him to say. He’s never known the fast pace of New York, nor would he want to. No, where Mirko belongs is precisely where we spent our treasured days...in a magical place called Pai...in a quiet, bamboo hut just large enough for our mattress and the mosquito net that hung quaintly from the rafter, hidden amongst fields of green. A place slow and calm and melodic, just as was my Italian companion.
Our bus ride to paradise was not for the faint hearted. The twists and turns continued on for hours, our eyes enveloped by the foreign scenery and our fingers interlaced comfortably. Together we were awed by Pai - Utopai as the postcards called it - a play on words nothing short of the truth.
I try to think about it often, before I grow old and the memories of the beaten dirt pathways we walked along become merely a speck on my travel map. I think about how he fed my eager soul with knowledge. I think about how we rode to heavenly viewpoints and sipped tea and admired in comfortable silence. I think about how I suddenly left Pai and Mirko because his kindness felt suffocating, his slowness turned unattractive, his Italian ways of romance grew bothersome. I think about how I couldn’t bare to look him in the eyes and say goodbye. I think about how I cried, not out of sadness for parting ways, but out of guilt for my own inability to show him the same compassion he showed me. I think about how he ran his fingers through my hair one final time as we hugged our last hug and he wished me well.
And when it comes down to it, I think about it all and I smile.