Now that I was on the major transit corridor, the opportunity to hit Mandalay the next day in order to flee Myanmar the day after was now an option, and the transit corridor afforded a signal by which I could plot this next move on my smartphone. Did I want to make a hasty exit? Or did I want to go to Pyay on the other side of the Bago Yoma? Despite being the Myanmar Situation’s primary north-south transit link, mobile data service was nonetheless intermittent. Between big chomping spoonfuls of biryani and lost connections, I used a mapping application to zoom into the road going over the mountains to Pyay. But the image wasn't clear enough to discern dirt from paving. When Krishna returned to inquire as to whether I would like a second helping — yes indeed — I asked about this mountainous road, explaining enough of Plan A for him to offer valid advice, once he confirmed his understanding of it.
“You are on motorbike and you want to drive it to Pyay?” he repeated.
“Yes, I want to go through the mountains. Do you know if the road is in good condition?”
“It's a long way and it's very remote,” he said. “What do you do if you break down?” his voice raised to a concerned pitch as he made his way through this question. I didn't speak of the two liter network or the finer points of my tactical approach. I mentioned nothing of the Deviant's Struggle, but painted the picture in a different way, letting him fill in the unspoken details while remaining on the subject of road conditions. As in, how were they? I did this by asking: “Do you know if the road is like the one from Loikaw to here?”
“You drove here from Loikaw?” he asked, his voice now a higher pitch of surprise, not concern.
“I just arrived a couple hours ago.”
“Such a long way!”
“Yeah, it really was. And mostly on dirt roads too,” I replied. “I'm so hungry and exhausted right now.”
“And tomorrow you want to go to Pyay?”
“No, I think I need to rest tomorrow. Today was too much. Do you know if the road to Pyay is paved though?”
“Why do you want to go to Pyay?”
“I want to go to the coast. From Pyay I'll cross the mountains into Rakhine and go to the beach. Do you know if there are military posts in those mountains? I heard there were conflicts in Rakhine.”
“Going to the Rakhine state might not be safe. There were problems between the army, the monks, and the Muslims. Maybe ask someone in Pyay how it is now. They will know better than I do.” He gave me directions for how to get to the road leading to Pyay but never spoke of the road conditions. Most likely because he didn't know.
I sat there wondering to myself what the hell was I doing with myself. Pushing boundaries remained the best answer I could come up with. By choice I had been free of employment for a hazy eighteen months. During that time nearly each and every day was devoted to research, reading book after book and acquiring the knowledge necessary for making my own contribution to critical theory — which at some point I would need to write down. Otherwise I did bits of exercise, met a few new people on the way, and generally did my best to be as distant from the United States as possible. No emails and minimal phone contact.
I was beginning to long for answers as to where it was all leading, particularly when someone respectable or dad-like happened to ask. And in those tragic moments when I broached this question to myself, the lack of answers spiraled outward into nebulous, ungrounded emptiness. I believed in myself. That was my only grounding on this limb I had climbed far out upon. Being deviant without a cause in the Myanmar Situation had the unintended effect of compounding the most nebulous details of my overall circumstance. As a deviation within the greater no-jobby-job deviation, which stood on a whole string of previous deviations — me being deviant by nature — like a castle made of sand I found myself battered and bruised, driving one horrible road from sucky here to sucky there. Meanwhile, I had to accept that the entirety of Plan A was just that: renting a motorbike and driving it all over the place. Not unlike a chicken with its head cut off, one might indelicately suggest.
Now that I was in Taungoo, having just driven through the one village in the one intact section of mountains I had thus far found, discovering that I was not at all up to the task of becoming a jungleman at that point in time, I sat toothless before my plate of meatless biryani, scrambling to find purpose. Amid this mental scramble, the idea of turning north — to turn tail, if you will — was quiltishly easy to embrace. At the same time I knew there was value in proceeding, despite not having a grip on what that value was. Within that emptiness of understanding I inserted the concept of boundary-pushing (a.k.a., headless chicken wanderings) as a means for achieving greater mental and spiritual freedom, using this conceptual stop-gap as motivation to push onward. And when it was discovered, not just at this table in Taungoo but several times before and thereafter, I used this device as inspiration to open my map and plan my route to the next sucky city, which only required a few seconds: I shall take this, the one horrible road leading from sucky here to sucky there.