zaterdag 14 september 2013

The Masks of Thailand

  1. Elin Dahlstrom was a redhaired, tall Swedish girl, with a face in the shape of a heart, traveling for already three months in South and East-Asia. She was 22 years old, almost 23, and had a diploma in economics on her name. On a bed on the 67th floor of the Sky Hotel in Bangkok, she sat next Oren, a guy from Israel, she met one month earlier on a mountain in Nepal. Suddenly he started to caress her arms, took her hand and kissed the palm. She loves this.
  2. “What is your favorite movie?” she asked, to kill the tention. 
  3. Into the Wild,” he replied. 
  4. She already knew this. 
  5. “Whatʼs yours?” he asked, when he bended over her. 
  6. She closed her eyes, and felt his lips on her face and neck. She kept talking. “Into the Wild also... mmm... Breakfast Club, mmm, yes, there, mmm, oh yes, Panʼs Labyrinth... and Amélie Poulain... and mmm... oh yes, of course, the Princess Bride... The Virgin Suicides... Motorcycle Diaries... Mmm...” 
  7. He stopped, laughing. “That is a long list.” 
  8. “Iʼll send you the list later,” she said, when she looked in his dark eyes. 
  9. “Youʼre such a nerd,” he said, before he gave her a kiss. 
  10. “I love the most Casablanca,” Elin said. 
  11. “Why?” 
  12. “It is so sad, and at the same moment... so beautiful...” She sat back... “that Ingrid Bergman and Humprey Bogart let each other go in the end.” She did not say that. She could not say this.

  13. Around 6oclock in the morning she sat, wrapped in the linen of her bed, behind the window and looked to the Apocalyps, when Orenʼs snoring was the hymn of her loneliness. She had never seen such a weird sunrise. Bangkok was covered by smog and brown light. She had the feeling she was looking in the future, but she knew she was in the presence... the scary, arty and at the same moment so beautiful presence. She went back to bed, her skin against his skin, and listened to his breath. She wished this song was not made by swans. He was going to Krabi already today, when she was going to meet a friend in the North of Thailand. He invited her to find him afterwards, but she had a bad feeling about this separation, because she knew in ten days heʼll fly back to Israel.
  14. It is weird to miss already someone, or something, when he is still present in the presence. She missed him already. It. Him. She did not know. It happened before that she was together with friends, family or lovers, but did not feel happy, but reckless, and sometimes she wondered what was wrong with her. 
  15. One day, she promised herself, she would write a song about her emptiness.
  16. If she only had the voice of Adele, these feelings would make her so rich as the emperor of Japan.

  17. Around 9oclock she goes to the 78th floor. He stayed in bed, because he was a guest of her, and hadnʼt paid for it. The buffet was mountainous: a culinary world travel. As a real explorer she traveled in Japan, Italy, Thailand, France, and even Pancakeworld. She ate too much, she knew. Mini waffles, mini pancakes, mini tuna sandwich, mini maki -she had no idea that there were even mini versions of sushi, while she thought the portions were already so small-, mini vegetarian lasagne, mini vegetable salad, mini portion noodles with egg, mini toast with all different kinds of marmelade, mini chocolat croissants, normal bananaʼs... One hour she lost half of the calories back on the 67th floor.

  18. Around 11oclock she and Oren looked to the view on the roof. They did not talk too each other. They just looked to the skyscrapers of Thailand. During the taxi drive to Khao San they did not talk, but looked each other through their window to the many streetfood vendors, gross buildings and the restants of the floodings. 
  19. On Khao San they hugged each other.
  20. “Iʼll see you over a week in Krabi,” he said. 
  21. “Yes,” she said. They hugged each other, and then Oren walked away from this story. Elin wished that this was just a sad moment in their love adventure, as in every movie, and that they will have a happy reunion in Krabi, but when he walked away, something stayed. She could feel it.

  22. She turned her back to it, and discovered the backpackerʼs hub of Thailand. She bought new clothes, fresh fruit juice, and looked to all the tanned people around her, a bit jealous. When she looked up from a folder with bus tickets to Chang Mai in a local travel office, she hold her breath, because she recognized an old travel mate. 
  23. “Oh... my ... god... Gary?” 
  24. He laughed. It was two months ago since they have said goodbye in Jasailmer. That is in India. They had done there together a camel safari. She will never forget the nights under the starry sky, the moaning of the camels who sound like the Sandpeople of Star Wars, the beatles who made mini snowmen from sand, and also the farting of the same Sandpeople. Gary was a blonde guy from England, who reminded her to his golden retriever whose pictures he keep in his green wallet. His dogʼs name is Fluffy, which she thinks is a weird name for a golden retriever. 
  25. “What a small world,” she said.
  26.  “This morning,” he said, “I saw on facebook you arrived in Bangkok, and reacted, but obviously you did not have been on the internet yet. It is really a coincidence we met each other on street in such a big city.” 
  27. “Not when this street is Koh San,” said the young brownhaired tall guy next to him. He had a black eye, was really tanned, and wear only a color ful bermuda pants which did not cover the black spots on his belly. Gary introduced her to his American friend Marco. They met each other in Cambodja. After a small awkward silence, Gary invited her to lunch with them. They ate street food -of course, that is what tourists do in Thailand. Gary told her about Laos, Cambodja and Vietnam, compared Khao San with the old part of Bejing and about his future travel plans. Mostly of the time Marco was the center in the story. He was really a caricature. He is a schizophrenic guy who wants to save the world, wants to save whales and wants to build a city in Asia, “with monkeys, elephants, aliens and LEGOland.” He drank beer on street and burped loud to passengers. When we cashed money out of the ATM, he asked so loud that everybody in Khao San it could hear how much 10000 bath was. It is much. He asks tourists if they have marihuana and scares buddhist monks by jumping on them and asking them on a very loud and rude way if they could bless him with their holiness.

  28. They went to the river banks, where they walked over some sandbags which holds the last water of the floodings of the last weeks which had dominated the households of many Thai people, and sat on a bench, saying nothing. Marco had sometimes blackouts. Last night, Gary had to find him in the tourism police. Nobody knew what was happened to him... He woke up, somewhere, with bruises and wounds, and no money. That is why they went to the ATM.

  29. In the evening they decided to go to a pingpong show. In a dark corner of the city, where the lights were blue, and the air smoky, and where Elin imagined a whole maffia film, the two young guys and she looked how Thai girls danced totally not so enthusiastic on a small stage, with some pales, took off their underwear and nitted it around their legs, which Elin thought was a good idea to keep your underpants instead of loosing them somewhere in the wrinkles of your bed linen. The girls blew ping pong balls in soup bowls and even took razors out of their feminity. Elin looked to the audience. Old couples, soldiers, business man, young guys, girl friends... everybody wanted to see it. Elin wondered if people go to Thailand with the same reason she did. She had has always associated Thailand with sex, bestial desires, sex tourism, lady boys, lady bars and hookers. This country of spicy food, spicy lingerie and spicy remarks awakened some fire in her, and she imagined herself dancing on that stage, everybody looking to her. She went to this trip of 6months in Asia to become someone else, she only can be in her dreams, to have the freedom, and then she wonders how much freedom the Thai pingpong girls had. But...there are different kinds of freedom...
  30. One of the acts was the whole kamasutra by an old Thai man, and a young girl. Elin missed Oren at that moment, although she was between two hansome guys. She wondered she missed him, or it. No, if it was “it”, then she should have seduced one of her two companions. She missed him. The idea of him. She smiled when she remembered her promising him a list of movies. When the guys paid the bill of the drinks, Elin asked one of the girls behind the bar how long they had to practice to do these tricks. 
  31. “To train our muscles... one week maybe,” a girl replied. 
  32. “Do youʼve muscles there?” Elin asked surprised. 
  33. “Yes, of course,” the girl said. 
  34. Elin blushed. “So... How long do you need to train the razors trick?” 
  35. “That's bit longer... maybe... one month.”
  36. “Does it hurt to train this trick?” 
  37. “No, of course not,” the girl said. 

  38. After this show they went in the gay district of Preetochai. Marco had a déjà-vu, and Gary and Elin were teasing him he was maybe there last night. Elin convinced them to enter a gay bar, “because I also joined you to the pingpong show”. Gary put his arm around her shoulders, and pretended that she was his girlfriend, but that did not stop the lady boys in their attempts to get him and Marco in their bed. Also the audience was diverse. Soldiers, tanned Russians with fake blonde hair, and... men who looked like her father. 
  39. “Normal”, that is how they call these man. 
  40. Gary got disgusted (“I donʼt want to be bangcocked,” he said afterwards), certainly after Marco was touching the fake boobs of a ladyboy. They decided to go to the cocktailbar on the 83th floor of the hotel. The three young people took the free welcome drinks of the lounge, and looked to the ocean of different colors and lights, when Elin was zipping her cocktail.

  41. The next day she bought a Iphone. She went to Petchbury Road, and saw everywhere Thai hipsters, with glasses, ipods and short skirts. She became jealous, because they all looked gorgeous. Hello, this is New York, but with pad thai instead of donuts, and ice tea in stead of hot coffee. Elin always wanted to live in New York, and become one of the women of Sex and the City, where she should have amazing romances with coffeebars, clothing shops, and different men. She could see also a life her as an urban girl. 
  42. She passed the big Christmas tree at Platinum Shopping Mall, people collecting money for the victims of the floodings, wondering Thai people are also celebrating Christian holidays, and turned into the big IT paradise, called the Pantip. There was no charm in this building, but there was a big supply of electronics. It looked like a bowl with too many fishes. She bought her iPhone, and then she started to parade, as one of the trendy Thai girls, she called her mother, ordered coffee in Star Bucks and shined in the dirty Bangkok. She wrote a mail to everyone, in fact to Oren - the rest did not matter- that they all could contact her on a Thai number.

  43. On one of the virgin white beds in her room she explored the virtual space of her Iphone. She jumped from one bed to another, took funny faces in the mirror of the most fancy bathroom she saw in months (she had paid a 3nights in a 4star hotel, as an early christmas present for her), looked to Bangkok on her feet, looked to her Iphone, abled the internet on her phone, checked her mailbox, and did not find anything. There.
  44. She knew that it was easy to fade away into the nothing, in the big emptiness, in the big grey mass, in the brown smog, and she could dress herself in Louis Vuitton, parade with an iPhone, drink fancy coffee made with beans plucked by poor Ethiopian people... but it does not matter if you know youʼll sleep alone in your room.

  45. In the early afternoon, Gary and Marco waited for her in the entrance of the hotel. Marco was drinking another welcome drink he plucked from the reception, and they told her they want to find some costumes for the Full Moon New Yearʼs Party, the center of Wonderland, where there are no limits. With her iPhone -and she liked it to organise this search on this way, and that she was doing it, because then she felt like a Charlotte from Sex and the City- she took them to costume shops. When they tried durian - according to the Thai the king of the fruits- they wondered which costume Elin should wear. They decide she should be a classy film star like Marilyn Monroe. Elin loved this idea. After the fruit break, they wandered around in Chinatown, with the ducks, shark teeth, tous, flowers and rubbish, and in the labyrinth of the shops near Pretchbury Road, but they did not find the masks and costumes they wanted to wear.

  46. That evening she took the bus to Chiang Mai. She saw the astonishing White Temple, did Elephant Ride, a Jungle trekking, Bamboo Rafting, and this all with a good friend, but even in the heart of the jungle, where only the waves of the sounds of frogs could reach her iphone, she tried to check her mailbox.

  47. When she arrived in Krabi, alone, she had no clue in which hostel Oren slept. She even didnʼt know if he still was in Krabi. She explored the beaches, looked to the sun, but she did not find them. She drunk more coffee, ate icecreams, did sea kayaking, and found the time to read 4 books she planned to read for ages. She got finally tanned. When she was finishing a book, she got a message. It was from her Gary and Marco. They were also in Krabi. They met each other in her favorite coffee salon. They convinced her to take tomorrow a bus and boat to Koh Phangan. 
  48. “Why should I go to that island?” Elin asked. 
  49. “You know why,” Gary said and he winked. “People go with a reason to Thailand, and especially to the Full Moon Parties.” 
  50. They do. For many persons Thailand is Wonderland, where people can be rich, crazy, or a trendy urban girl. And Marco was the Mad Hatter. When Gary went running on the beach, Marco told her that two nights ago he had again a black out. 
  51. "You totally don't remember anything?" she asked. 
  52. "No... by the way do you want to marry me?"
  53. She laughed. "You're sooo mad. But... I have to say no. I am in love with someone else."
  54. He touched his heart as if Elin just had broken it. With too much drama of course. 
  55. “Who?” he asked, after the drama was over. 
  56. “A guy.” 
  57. “Really?” he asked on a sarcastic way. 
  58. She concentrated on her coffeecup, licked the last bit of her spoon and wondered how you call that in English. The last bit of coffee in a cup. Rubbish? Left over? A memory? 
  59. “I was hoping for a girl,” Marco said. “That should be hot... you know... to be married with a lesbian.” 
  60. Elin frowned her eyebrows. 
  61. “So... where is Prince Charming?” he asked. 
  62. “I donʼt know. I hoped he was here.” She told him about the last month of that life. 
  63. “He sounds like the love of your life,” Marco said. 
  64. Elin bite on her under lip. “I donʼt know if all these amazing things really happened.” 
  65. “How?” he asked not understanding. 
  66. “All the happiness in the past does not feel real, after he left me, and ignores me. I donʼt even know why he ignores me. Sometimes I feel it is all in my head... and what does it matter? It is over... Maybe... I know... He moves on.” 
  67. “Why should he do that?” 
  68. “Because there is no future for us. I am from Sweden. He is from Israel,” she said. When she said this, she wished they had found their costumes for the Full Moon Party. Then she wondered how he would react if he would read in the news she was a famous person, like Marilyn Monroe, or another classy actress. Should he return to her if she was hot, popular, beautiful, rich? “The past is so flexible,” she said, “ that everything could have happened. Memories fade away, and even get their own life. Maybe I just imagined all this love, and nothing happened, or maybe he does not exist. No, I know it was real. There are pictures, but if they are lost, it is just in my mind.” She grinned. “It is funny.” 
  69. “What is funny?” “
  70. In the presence it does not feel epic, you know, the whole romance. Only when it is gone, it becomes a sad fairytalish big romance. It is just all in my head. My sick head.” 
  71. “You say this to the right person,” he said dry. 
  72. “Sorry... but youʼre not so sick... or in fact, weʼre all sick. Every human.” 
  73. “Why do you think you are sick?” he asked. 
  74. She smiled. “I am sick, because I always whine, first because I know it is going to finish, and afterwards because it is finished.” 
  75. “Youʼre not sick. Youʼre normal, very human, maybe a bit too emotional and too analytical,” he said. “I am sick.” He paused. “Maybe he is schizophrenic,” he said. 
  76. She laughed. “Why should he be schizophrenic?”
  77. “Probably -in these dark nights- I meet the most amazing girls, and then I got a black out, and donʼt remember them. So maybe there are some girls waiting for a call,” he continued. 
  78. She looked up. 
  79. “Or maybe I pretend I am schizophrenic.” 
  80. "Why should you pretend you're schizophrenic?"
  81. Marco winked. "It is past, over... isn't it?"
  82. He stood up from the beach chair.
  83. Then he left Elin to talk with some Thai girls on the beach. 
  84. Ofer never wrote back. He just disappeared... 
  85. Elin ordered more ice tea. Thatʼs what people drink in Thailand.

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