I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.–Elwood P. Dowd
Crazy comes in many flavors. Much more than a mere thirty one. There are a few particular flavors that hang out on the campus of Xavier High School here in Chuuk: Eeki Wo is one, and the other is Quoy Qu0y. Now, I’m not speaking metaphorically or anything here. These are just the names of two guys who frequent the place. I only mention them because somehow writing about them here makes them a little more real. If I were to find myself at a party back in San Francisco and tell people about these two characters, no one would believe me. I know I have a gift of embellishment, and I don’t deny it. But no hyperbole is needed when telling of these two. It’s just redundant.
Eeki Wo wanders around campus every morning. He is painfully thin and worn looking. He has a scratchy, scraggly beard and wild, tousled hair. He is shirtless, but not without his slippers. He often wears a Thai style sheet, for lack of a better word. In Thailand, everyone has a plaid piece of thin cloth about the size of a beach towel. It is usually worn by men and women alike as a sarong, but it is so much more. I have one myself I picked up while there. It’s incredibly useful. I use it to wrap around myself if I need to change outside. You can wrap things up in it to carry, you use it as a belt, pick up hot items… The list is only limited by your imagination. That said, let me tell you that Eeki Wo is quite imaginative. He wraps it around himself in a way that is part loin cloth, part skirt, and part halter top. He often has a pair of underwear in his hand, which answers the question of what he has on under his kilt. Father Rich outside the other day, and without batting an eye, walked past him saying “You look lovely today, Eeki Wo.”
The next flavor on the menu is Quoy Quoy. Quoy Quoy is never seen without his white clorox bottle filled with gasoline in one hand and a machete in the other. His favorite form of exercise is running across the open field on campus here at full sprint while sniffing gas fumes. The machete he caries is for coconuts or mangos or bananas or bread fruit or even pineapple–not to cut them open, but to cut them down. You see he earns a little money by scampering up trees, machete in tow, and chopping down fruits or coconuts for people. The other day he wandered onto campus selling coconuts, four for two dollars. I figure the money he earns goes to support his gasoline habit. At 5.35 a gallon on island, that’s a mighty pricey fix. I first saw him tearing ass in the field, white jug in one hand, two foot blade in the other. I just stared. I thought he was training for the Sapook games, an event where the people in the small neighborhood down the hill compete in track and field events to commemorate their return to the island after the Japanese surrender. Someone walked up and informed, “That’s just Quoy Quoy; he does that. Sniffs gasoline and runs.” Then he walked on.
I write about these two not to exploit or ridicule them. They’re not even what ultimately fascinated me. I worked at the Clarks Summit State Hospital back in the day. I’ve seen crazy and perused many of its flavors, even sampled a few…except one. That’s the flavor of crazy that doesn’t bat an eye at Quoy Quoy or says, “That’s just Eeki Wo.” I’ve mentioned here that so much of the culture is communal. That poverty, in the American sense, doesn’t exist. I guess that sensibility allows others to see petrol-sniffing madmen as threads in the communal tapestry. They are part of the fabric, not a flaw to be cut out. If my brother is sick when I go fishing, I bring him back some fish; that’s the thinking here. It’s a crazy sense of community taking place, a crazy type of acceptance. Who’s to say? Maybe it’s a tasty flavor of crazy. Maybe we can all use a spoonful.