Rabu, 17 Agustus 2011

Between Two Worlds



Farangs consider themselves smarter than Thais. This superiority complex is based on the centuries of Western domination over the rest of the world. Foreigners boast about their education and well-paid jobs to each other with pride. The Thais regard farangs kee-nok or bird shit. The West never conquered Thailand. Farang food is tasteless and the men are drunks.



Western prestige means nothing.



Thais love Thais.



Farangs come and farangs go.



Thailand forever.



I had moved to Thailand to raise a family . Her mother betrayed my trust by signing another man's name on our daughter's birth certificate. She told me it was her cousin. I refused to marry the farm girl at the wat or city hall, but stayed with her to raise our daughter. I loved Angie every second. Her mother none.



After three years her mother went up-country with the car. I kept asking about her return. Her excuses for staying varied from month to month. I didnt lift them to the light, because the truth is an onion with many layers. Once you peel them all, you have nothing.

Neither did I question her returns, which coincided with my wandering farther from home. I was happy to end my pseudo-philandering, because their arrival meant I got to spend time with my 3 year-old daughter.



During my 'wife's' visits, my friends understood that they wouldn't be seeing me at the Welkom Inn or Buffalo Bar. My daughter and I swamat the Shaba Hut and rode around town with our little dog in the motor scooter basket. No bars, no late nights, and I laid in bed reading WINNIE THE POOH to my little angel in horrible Thai. I was happy and my 'wife' wore her misery like a chador.



Five years ago the monsoon season had given way to the glorious weather of November. My 'wife' had been in town two weeks. She wanted to see her older sister. Pi-yai and I had nothing in common. The fishmonger was after my money and I wasn't giving her any. Her little sister suffered a lost of face and her older sister beratedfork four having found a farang without money.



"You go out. I go see sister. See friends. Get mao with farangs."



A freedom pass was an easy command to obey and I busted out of the house off Soi Bongkot with a fugitive's dispatch.



Sam Royalle was waiting at Heaven Above A Go Go.

His girlfriend had a posse of girlfriends retired by out-of-town boyfriends. They were stars on Walking Street. Men surrounded our table offering drinks and money to the trio of beauties.

I was soon bored by the action. They were too loud to speak over the boy band disco and ’suck-my-dick’ rap. Naked girls held no thrill. Not when they’re shuffling the old bored one-two step, but Sam kept ordering tequilas. After three my tongue reverted to Neanderthalism.



As Sam called for a round of Kamikazes, I escaped from Heaven and staggered down the stairs to Soi Diamond. Every step was a challenge and I wondered how to negotiate the two blocks to my parked bike. A catapult seemed my only solution, until a New York voice commented, “Man, are you really that fucked up?”



"Fuck you."



"Are you sure about that?" It was Jamie Parker. "You're in no condition to fight."



The ex-con slipped his arm under mine. My legs regained partial use.

“Tequila on an empty stomach.” I tried to pull myself free. My head hit the headrest wall. Jamie caught me before I hit the pavement.

“Are you thinking about driving home?” Jamie had a good hold on my arms.

“I’ve driven in worst condition.” I hadn’t seen the Lower East Side native since the memorable 9/11 opening of his defunct PIGPEN A GO GO.



“Which is why your wrist looks like a Klingon warship.” He was referring to my near-fatal motorcycle crash on the Burma border.

“I wasn’t drunk then, only distracted.” My concentration had been distracted by the ageless scenery of opium fields.



"You're drunk now and you're not getting on a bike. You have a daughter, remember."



"And a 'wife'."



"Another reason you're not going home." Jamie and I went back to New York. Our tempers were well-known in East Village. Few expected us to live past 30. "You're not getting on that bike until you can walk in a straight line."



"Straight line no problem." Free on his grasp I veered right and then left with my arms swirling to regain my balance. I hugged a wall like a mountaineer clinging to a cliff and lolled my head back onto my neck. "Jamie, I'm all yours."



Jamie frog-marched me over to the Jennie Bar, famous for the world's most beautiful TVs in the world. He ordered a gin-tonic and a soda water. A tall kathoey sat next to me.



"This is Glaie. She will nurse you back to sobriety." Jamie tipped her 200 baht.



Glaie was the spitting image of a young Beyonce minus 20 kilos.



"Dhim." She held the glass of soda water to my lips. Her hands were devoid of veins.



"Yes, m'am." I obeyed Glaie without hesitation. She was six-feet tall in three-inch heels. I would do anything she asked me to do, which wasn't a good sign.



"I saw something weird today."



"Only one?"



"I was on a visa run to the Cambodia border this morning. I get on the minivan. 6:30. Crack of dawn. Sleep two hours. Listen two hours to the various bullshit from the other visa-runners. The only one not speaking was this old guy. Maybe 65. He’s reading a book. I like reading like you and ask him what he’s reading. He says with a German accent, “Zarathusa, but this version is called BANGKOK 8.”

"We spoke about the ubermensch and the untermensch. The old guy originally from Austria. Fled the Nazis but he wasn’t a Jew. Father was a commie or a criminal. He’s been out here since before electricity. Runs a restaurant in Made in Thailand.p

“I know the place.” His wife made a great veal schnitzel. “His name’s Frank.”

“Yeah, that’s right, but I have bad news.”

“What?” I was expecting him to ask me for money

“Frank’s dead

“Frank’s dead?” He was only 65. I knew his daughter. She was beautiful.

“Yeah, we crossed the border into Cambo. No problem. He’s fine. Gets his visa stamped and lowers his head into his book. I thought he was asleep and went to get a bottle of wine. Nice Bordeaux. I come back and see he hasn’t changed position. I touch him and he’s cold.

“Frank's Dead."

“Deader than a bucket of nails.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. I told the guide and he said the same thing. We had a little conference and decide to risk taking him back across the border. I mean, I didn’t want him stuck between the borders like Orson Welles in A TOUCH OF EVIL.”

“No one would have wanted to take responsibility for him.” Frank could have been stuck there for days. “Bad luck

“The guide wasn’t too happy about the situation, but we got him upright. You ever notice how heavy dead people are?”

“A bucket of mud in a plastic bag.” I had worked as a janitor in a terminal ward during university. The orderlies were my friends and I helped them move the dead to the gurneys. The difference in pay was five cents an hour.

“You know the border. Shitty muddy waiting area. Crappy bridge.” Jamie downed his drink and ordered a refill for my soda water. Glaie poured it down my throat, as if she had learned her trade from a CIA water boarding school.



"Get him another." Jamie sipped at his gin-tonic. "So where was I?"



"Frank's stuck in no-man's land between Thailand and Cambodia."



“We get to the passport control. The officer looks at Frank and asks what’s wrong. We say he’s drunk. The officer knows drunk. Frank is more than Mao-kah and he signals us to come to the side.”

“How much he want?” Thai border officials are quick on the take.

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

The guy had been stamping Frank's passport for years. One more newer visa was no big deal, but only if we declared him dead in Thailand.”

“Good guy.”

“That’s why we live here. Thais understand reality.” A Britney Spears look-a-like TV sat on Jamie’s lap. “We carry Frank’s body into Thailand. Everyone waied his corpse. They respect him as an old man who loves Thailand. The minivan driver sat him in the front seat. The other farangs never noticed he was dead."



"Good." Nosy farangs were a pain in the ass. Glaie made me drink a 3rd bottle of soda water. I was about 50% and thanked her for her ministrations with a 200 baht tip.



"How Frank's wife take it?"



"She cried a bucket.”



They had been together more than 30 years.

“Guess we’ll be going to the wat for cremation.”

“Better than being buried in a box.” Jamie and I never thought we were going to die. We clinked glasses and I headed home to sleep on the couch. It was the final refuge of the unloved, but my daughter would understand why I got drunk.



She was my blood and flesh.



As for her mother.



I didn't give a shit what her mother thought.



And that was a good thing.

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