Sitting in the massage chair, she yanks me up, throws an arm behind my head and crack, crack, cracks my back. Then she does it again, and again. Pound, pound, pound on my shoulders, slap, slap, slap on my back, the hollow clunking of prayer hands on my head, one, two, three times, and then… I’m done!
Jump up, run out, cross the street to the Mexican food joint that serves deliciously good tacos that taste like they’re from home. Seattle-style Mexican food in Bangkok… yum!!
Order, watch the Thai girl who was working earlier chatting up some poor young kid who just got in. The street is streaming outside- Thai people, white people, white people with serious beach tans, dreadlocked heads, baby heads, thumping music, flashing lights, careening tuk-tuks, bargaining taxi drivers, Indian men selling suits, fried food, phad thai, the smell of curry working its way into my nose, throat, choking, choking, choking- BIG cough, that’s better- More people, more music, a liquor menu that will blow you away- Buy three shots, get your fourth free!!! Every Monday! screams the sign on my table….
Tacos arrive, grub, grub, grub, gotta hurry, gotta catch a train… The Thai girl next to me turns and strikes up conversation- I saw your friend earlier, she drawls, showing off her English. The new kid gazes at her in adoration, his pink-topped queen, black, teased hair, everything he’s ever dreamed of. She was with her boyfriend… she says to me, showing large incisors and a rolling tongue. I wonder if she’s a lady-boy.
Guacamole, beans and rice, yum, yum, yum, it’s six forty-five. He’s going to the Full Moon Party, she goes on, and now the boy is grinning at me, hopeful, turning his body in my direction. Ughhhh…. Oh, that’s cool, I say, through a mouthful of beans. You’ll love it. Back to my tacos, chomp, chomp, chomp, gotta get ‘em down, gotta eat fast and pick up my bag before I catch a cab, gotta go!!!
She has stood up, her empty margarita glass on the table, and left me with the boy. I feel him edging in. Great. I keep eating. So…. he begins. Where are you from? Here we go…
I’m from Seattle, I say smiling. Back to the taco, dive in. Oh… Seattle… he says. I’m from Berlin.
Ah, Berlin, great… I say, shoving my face, not in the mood for a date.
So, when did you get here? He asks, eager for conversation. His Thai goddess has left, and now his whole body is turned towards me. Um, last month, I say through a mouthful of taco. Oh, last night? he asks brightly. Yeah, last night.
Jump up, gotta go, train leaves in thirty minutes. Run out the door, into the night, hit full force with the wave of heat. I am already sweating again. Into the guesthouse, show the key, grab my bag, throw it on my back. Oh my god, that’s heavy. Out the door, onto the street, who’s gonna take me to the train?!
First cab rejects me, second speeds away, third tries to rip me off so badly we both laugh… finally a tuk-tuk screeches around the corner, stops, offers me a good price, and I roll in, bag first, breathless body next.
To the train station! He whips through traffic, narrowly avoids a motorbike, and the breeze on my arms is a welcome relief. Time is flying, tick, tick, tick, must make it to the station in ten minutes. But he’s a champion, my brave tuk-tuk driver, and I never should have doubted him, because he drops me off at the station in five minutes flat, and with a grin in the mirror, says, Bye Bye!
Bye Bye, I echo, and tumble into the station, disheveled, sweaty, the eyes of a young Thai girl on me. She watches me as I wipe my forehead, wipe my lip, shake off my hand. It’s way too hot! Inside the station I rush to the counter, and watch the Thai girls behind the glass in amazement. How does their hair stay so dry? Is it really that sleek?! When I step up to ask where I’m boarding, a gust of icy air hits me in the face and I realize their secret- AC.
They point me in the right direction, and I am running, well, speed-walking, out across the pavilion, right at train 5, rush, rush, rush past the people. Last carriage, says the Thai man in the navy blue suit, pointing to the end of the platform. I go, go, go, my Thai pants swishing, my eyes on the girl coming towards me. She is deeply tanned, Israeli probably, and wearing lots of silver around her neck. She sees me looking at her curiously, and smiles, and I smile back at her, huge. The smile doesn’t leave my face as I watch a Thai guy trying to break-dance ahead of me, and then a courteous conductor comes into view, bowing slightly and waving me on. I can’t stop smiling at people. In fact, I am smiling at the world. And the world is indeed smiling back.