by Angela Xu and Peter Tieryas Liu
The Chao Praya River, commonly translated as the River of Kings, is busy with ferries, water buses, and barges. The barges are massive, bedeck with tires and rope. I spot families aboard and wonder what cargo they carry within their walls. Even more amazing are the tiny tug boats that wield these enormous loads and lug them to their destinations. Tug boats have a high power to tonnage ratio, boosted by hefty horsepower and a strong bollard pull. Their propellers give them the maneuverability to veer abruptly and avoid obstacles, necessitated by the heavy weights they drive.
The tugboats remind me of certain friends I’ve had throughout the years. They carry around massive barges of memories, stuck in a sepia past of languor and melancholy. Isn’t the whole river a repository of history, the legacy of thousands of years? It’s hard to break cables apart: obligations abound, bills need paying. I look back and am surprised at the sight of my own barge— it’s bigger than I believed, held together by planks of regret. I’ve become so deft at tugging everything along, I’d forgotten how much it’d been weighing me down. I look to the shore and am reminded that there’s a whole city on the river banks. I just need to get off the boat, let the barges float away. Unfortunately, the cables are entrenched, locked tightly into millions of knots. The more I try to unravel them, the more they get entangled. I realize that I’ll be adrift for the length of the river, wherever it takes me.
Fortunately, the Chao Praya is long.
View the work of Angela Xu and Peter Tieryas Liu in LITnIMAGE's Spring 2012 issue