Most mornings I wake up before the sun. The room is dark, although there’s a kind of charge, almost a glow, to the darkness as the light of morning becomes imminent. I sit up and look over at the twin sofa-chairs between the window and the balcony of our one-room apartment. Jai Dee is asleep on the second chair most mornings, his chin on the arm of the chair and his nose pointed toward me. He opens his eyes to look at me, blinks and closes them again – letting me know he’s not down for a run this morning. I’ll have to take him out when I get back home. Some days he leaps up with excitement, launching himself onto the bed and leaping over Kevin’s sleeping body repeatedly in anticipation of the run. Kevin never wakes up from this, which always amazes me; I wake up if Jai Dee so much as looks at the door.
Dressed and shoes on, I slip out the door into the newly lighted sky. I can see a large patch of Pattaya from our front hallway, which is open to the air and wind and rain. There are construction cranes reaching up into the ether in all directions – the promise of growth and occupancy and wealth. These buildings are never finished, the money is always running out. But the cranes remain like flags staked into the earth, claiming the land for something, sometime. Arriving at the parking area of our building I’m greeted by a sleepy but always affectionate dog, not more than a year old. She’s got the sweetest temperament of any dog I’ve ever known and has many names. My dad named her Maya when he visited and she was just a pup, the Italian man in the building (since left) who first gave her a collar named her Lupo – and the Thais of the building shortened that to “Po” – and Kevin and I call her One Week Two Week, an affectionate derivative of something an old trainer at Lanna often repeated to westerners first coming to the gym, indicating the time frame needed to prepare for a fight. This dog is Jai Dee’s sister, from another litter, but she somehow made it to our same building and has become the kind of mascot of the place. She’s fed, watered, and given affection by all of us as a group.
The sky is a pale blue now, with pastel pink clouds streaked across like a child’s crayon scratched over a wall. My legs feel like blocks, moving all as one piece as if without joints. I go slow, walking and bouncing a bit to get the muscles warmed up. About 200 meters from my building is a little shop that sells drinks and snacks – there are thousands of these in Thailand – still dark and the gate closed. To the side of it is a small wooden hut, just a bamboo floor slightly raised off the ground and a roof over it for shade. Seated on the edge of the hut is an ancient dog, face turned white and long black hair shagged everywhere else, his paws flopped off the side and his head bouncing as he pants from his age. He’s keeping watch, monitoring the neighborhood and all the various dogs that live on this street. Behind him to the right is his best friend and the only tolerable animal in his book: a reddish-brown rooster, sleeping idly like a lump. Sometimes he clucks around and every now and again he sits in the tree right next to the hut, but this is basically how this rooster exists: hanging with the ancient dog. They’re buddies.
It’s past this duo that I begin to jog, taking up a swing in my arms and feeling the charge of light opening up the sky even more. On my 10k run I will pass the same motorbike taxi drivers, who will smile and wave and offer a thumbs up, as they do every morning; I’ll pass the same shops as they open, their owners sweeping the cement in front of their doors, firing up the charcoal grills to cook chicken, fish, and tripe on sticks; I’ll agitate the same dogs on the same corners every time, pretending to pick up the same invisible rocks every morning to keep them at bey, whether Jai Dee is with me or not. This is the route I run; this is the routine I keep. The differences are slight: the temperature of the air dictating when or how much I sweat, the occasional shift in traffic on the smaller roads, the busses and trucks on the highway… it’s as sure as the sunrise. But don’t we always marvel at the change in color, the way the light plays into the sky as if it’s a piece of art rather than a promise of celestial revolutions? The comfort of sameness in the confluence of endless changing details. The kind you either notice, or don’t.