There is a temple near the top of a mountain in northern Thailand. At the foot of that mountain, there is a city founded in the thirteenth century.
Surrounding that city’s center, there is nearly-square moat. Tucked inside the perimeter of that moat is a thick wall made of red brick. And along that wall there is a series of wide, fortified gates. Near one of those gates there is a tree that casts its midday shadow on the flower bed and the square, concrete bench beneath it.
There is a friend from years and places ago who lives in this city now. A friend who gets into her car and drives to your hotel, pulls over on the heavily trafficked road and patiently waits for you to settle into the passenger seat. A friend who navigates onto the highway, then leaves it, following another road farther out of city.
A friend who turns down a narrow path toward a large house that sits behind the trees. Attached to the front of that house there is a wide, wooden porch and on that porch there is a long, rectangular table.
The house is a house, but it’s also a restaurant. Your friend has been here before, often.
You sit and eat a meal. And talk. And laugh. No one wants to leave.
The sun sets before you get up from that table, step off that porch, and walk down the steps. The air is cooler now, the sky is dark, and the trees are just outlines.
Your friend drives back toward the city and all of its lights. The house disappears again.
With a mountain behind you, the car crosses over a moat, past a tree, and back through a gate. It stops, again, outside of your hotel and you linger there for a moment to say goodbye and thank you.