Foreign Allure

Tyson Rhodes was born to one parent whose volatile caprice had the effect on him of a meat tenderizer to a rib-eye. His other parent coddled him with a sweetness akin to honey marinade. Their polar personalities aside, they were dutiful parents who swaddled Tyson from deprivation and need. Consequently, by the time he entered school his personality was as soft as a soggy marshmallow.

Tyson was also born with a particular set of genetic quirks that manifested both physically and mentally. They weren’t quite severe enough to accord him any diagnoses or special treatment, but they would nonetheless create the strain of abnormality all his life.

Physically, Tyson was born missing eight teeth, twelve including his wisdom ones. In his budding adolescence he required braces to keep the scattered islands of his ivories from drifting chaotically across the pink seas of his gums. So front and center Tyson sported a mouth full of metal spanning gaps in his teeth like power-lines strung between snow peaks.

Mentally Tyson was equipped with an innate social retardation whereby he missed more cues than a blind billiards player. His brain was wired to keenly fathom naked truth, but miserably failed to attune itself to obvious etiquette. His social intuition engaged like two ill-timed gears in a rusty engine. Overall Tyson’s strange manner could not be understood by his peers, so it was seen as off-putting.

Unfortunately for Tyson, his bizarre disposition was just too subtle. More of a character trait than a condition, few in Tyson’s life ever spotted or commented on it. Those rare comments took the form of a playground insult, a casual observation, a confused remark, and sometimes even an odd compliment. Altogether they held as much actionable advice, as much valid feedback, as a drunken confession.

To place a final fateful domino, Tyson lacked a male role model at home. His only resources for masculine example were 90’s sitcoms and an all male, pseudo-religious, para-military organization. Thus where most young boys’ natural Oedipal complexes guided them towards healthy courtship, Tyson’s led him straight into a wall bricked by frustration and mortared with confusion.

From that starting point, it is easy to sight the impending adolescent turmoil looming on the horizon like a dark storm. There might have been a sage mentor, or perhaps a knowing companion, to assist in navigating clear of that storm of despair. But it wasn’t to be.

Tyson was ugly, timid, and awkward. On the sinister stage which he lived his life, on which everyone lives, he was neither at fault nor faultless. His being can be seen as innate nature, or as deserved consequence. He was as much pathetic as pitiable, as much a loser as a heroic underdog. There is no perspective more valid than another.

So feel neither sorrow nor disdain for Tyson. His story should rouse neither sympathy nor contempt. Tyson suffers as everyone suffers. No more than anyone at all. Everyone experiences a depth of suffering and a height of joy incomparable between individuals. Everyone suffers in amount spread out or concentrated, early in life or later. Tyson just took his suffering right out of the gates of adulthood. It’s merely the order of things. Any evoked sentiment is misplaced.

This is a tale of determinism in a world where Fate is so hilariously subtle and complicated that no one can prove its existence. The precursors to Tyson’s lamentable adolescence can readily be described as the culmination of destiny. In this world, everyone’s personality can be majorly derived from the context of their childhood. That context is majorly crafted by the personalities of parents and close family members, which are in turn determined by their parents. And so on ad infinitum. Tyson lives in a world where everything is linked in an unfathomable web of cause and effect. His station was centuries, eons, in the making.

So there’s little high-school freshman Tyson, donning an insecure disposition he hopes will come off as shy, and wielding kindness like a foam sword at a gunfight. He is ignorant of the ways in which boys bond, and oblivious to generating rapport with girls. His body is pudgy from too many fast food burritos and too many hours in front of the T.V. And his face assumes one of two masks; a disconcerting, piercing gaze and a fractured, goofy grin.

It is no wonder the cruel world of budding adulthood chewed Tyson up and spit him into the downward whirling vortex of depression. His strangeness was too radical to be melded to any clique, so he faced its reconciliation in solitude.

This is not the fairy-tale world where a boy like Tyson wins love, acceptance, respect and validation, in one fell swoop. There was no climactic scene of extraordinary gallantry to rescue Tyson from his plights. After all Tyson is not extraordinary, because no one is. And there are no climactic scenes, because life just keeps on going. This is a world where the protagonist has to struggle through the pain of self-improvement. This is a world where change grows slowly with unnoticeable progression.

Tyson didn’t believe that to be true. He was drunk on the spirits of Disney story arcs and Hollywood formula. His versions of love and success were as twisted as his notions were on the route to achieve them. He endured his pathetic station awaiting the grace of a beauty to see the richness in his heart; a soulmate to deliver his happiness. But there is no such grace. In Tyson there was no such richness. Although usually claimed by benighted Buddhists, it is nonetheless true that happiness comes from within.

Tyson endured high school, and invested his hopes for salvation in college. He so foolishly imagined it a sanctuary of like-minds where all the crass nonsense that so vexed and perplexed him would be filtered out by highly competent admissions panels. But he’d confront the reality that people are driven by the same animal urges for reward, and they are conducted by the same tribal codes of social order, no matter the sophistication of context. The pretense of higher learning is a thin vestment draped over the human condition.

His intuitive failings would follow him to university. The delusions Tyson held about the human condition had him treading water futilely when he otherwise might have evicted himself from his straits much sooner. It wasn’t to be.

All in all Tyson’s early life incrementally cast him out from the warm, mushy center of majority approval, and propelled him careening towards the icy fringe. He desperately needed to believe that a profound change in consciousness was possible. So it was there, in the frozen wasteland of complete dejection, where he’d enact a revival.

Tyson toiled. There was no singular act which incited his recovery, nor one which signaled its completion. Contrary to all he’d learned of achievement in his life, change didn’t occur in discrete little packets. It’s not structured according to a predictable curriculum. It’s not a checklist of tasks to be signed off. It’s doesn’t suddenly generate from an overwhelming surge of motivation. For Tyson the process of lifting himself from his woe took years. It was a gradual grind wherein he tore up the wiring of his entire psyche, piece by piece, and re-soldered it in greater accord with reality.

Tyson had to destroy himself. And he did.

Nearly eight years later, Tyson Rhodes strolled into Chiang Mai without a plan. Never mind the city was a massive and maze-like tangle of crowded, noisy streets signposted in an intelligible language. Never mind that it was the onset of high tourist season, and accommodation would be scarce. Never mind that he was alone without a friend for thousands of miles.

Tyson strode casually in the early morning bustle. His shoes flexed against the fragmented sidewalk. Their torn, resewn, and again tattered seams strained with each step. There was a staff in his hand, a sea captain’s hat on his head, and a Buddha smile on his unshaven face. Tyson stopped for coffee, hijacked some Wi-Fi, booked a hostel, showered, napped, and felt fully restored and fully settled.

When a person devotes himself to something for long enough, especially if that thing has no definite state of completion, he develops an inertia which will inevitably carry him past the point of success. Tyson had devoted the better part of a decade to a single, indeterminate goal. He never laid out an exit strategy. He never defined success.

So he wasn’t aware that the day he stepped into Chiang Mai, and the month that followed, would be the confirmation of all he’d strived for. He didn’t know that he’d made it. He could finally stop building that deck and start enjoying it.

At some point conversation became effortless. Tyson’s smile became permanent. Laughter flowed in like a warm breeze. Happiness radiated like sunshine.

The manners of people were no longer an inscrutable mystery. Charisma wasn’t a finite resource he’d been born unalterably lacking. Charm wasn’t a boat he’d missed. He’d traveled far enough afield to dial into the human condition. That journey revealed a variety of cultures to adopt and adapt to. But it also revealed some fundamental commonalities that underlie everything else. And his engagement with the world crafted Tyson’s character like no assiduous study of theory ever could.

At some point Tyson became the toughest man in the room. He’d slept on enough dirty benches, in filth and grime, on freezing buses and crowded trains, in sweltering tents and on mosquito ridden beaches. His stomache had digested enough exotic food to gag a buffalo. His body had hiked enough road, swam enough waters, climbed enough mountains, wrestled enough beasts. His mind had endured the extremes of bliss and agony, stress and imperturbable calm. And his brain had danced around the flames of a hundred narcotic states.

At some point Tyson collected enough intrinsic value to emanate confidence. He could unlock rapport like a master safe-cracker. He could raze walls of shyness. He could break the states of depressives and narcissists alike. He could artfully ride the waves of a conversation. Skipping smoothly from family history to color preferences. From plans for the future, to absurd-whimsy. From international political situations to sexual experiences. In and out of topics, up and down in seriousness, the conversation flowed naturally, continuously.

At some point Tyson considered himself a competent human being. Socially. Emotionally. Physically. Psychologically. He’d become empowered without even realizing it.

However in overcoming himself, Tyson did not look back in smug defiance. He didn’t view his success as having come in spite of his past. But because of it.

His retrospective attitude contained a mountain of gratitude. What he once lamented as a miserable existence, he had learned was the necessary catalyst to his salvation. What he once saw as a rejection, a dissonance, with the world in which he lived, he realized was a blessing for the path it thrust him onto.

Tyson embraced the deterministic nature of his world. Eight years senior, he could trace the causes and effects of everything anathema to his adolescent self. Causes which he had no control over. And effects which directed him to who he became.

How could he possibly feel anything but gratitude?

Thank you for reading.

-C

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