Obituary to a Dead Man
You had a new coat. You were around eight or nine years old at the time and your mother came home one day with this new coat over her arm. She made you try on this new coat. She said you looked a handsome young man and the weather was turning cold and
you needed a new coat. It was a good-looking coat and you felt good. You loved your mother. That was way back when.
You came to Thailand a long time ago. Before it was a popular destination. You were on your way to some place else and this was just a stopover, a chance to drink a beer and take a leak and then move on to your destination. But you didn’t get any further. Something happened to you. It was to happen to many others that followed on, but you were the first.
Thailand discovered you.
Your uniqueness. You were the exception in a land of brown-skinned subjects. Distinctive. An object of curiosity. With dollars in your pocket you were a prince among the beggars. Their love, they sold it to you, along with a dream; and there in the Elysian Fields you lay down and suckled on the teat of Ba Alath. But then nobody warned you that you gorged on more than just milk and honey; but it was OK, you felt comfortable in the robes of your new God-like status.
But Thailand was not so much a country as a state of mind, where you found comfort among the poor, and the needy became your friends. Your paradise; a land that asked little of you and yet gave more in return than you deserved. Then one day a whore accepted your fumbled protestations of love because your back was still strong enough for her to climb upon. And from that position, with her bare feet placed on your shoulders, astride your head, she prodded you like a hobbled horse past the White Rock pub and down towards the Asphodel Meadows.
You grazed and lazed in the sun and swiftly the time came for you to leave. But you stayed when others around you listened to the siren sound and recognising there is a time to stay and a time to go, left you behind. You’re alone now; solitude is your drinking companion. You know all the bars and the back alleyways; the rut that runs down the middle of the road leads you to where you want to go.
These days, they come to Thailand, much younger and fitter and smarter. And in the bar they notice the girl wriggling away from your outstretched clutches because she’s got the measure of you. And because they’re smarter, when you call out to them they turn away because, like the brown-skinned girl, they have the measure of you. And when you cross the plaza the young child who carries a bunch of red roses for the clinically insane yet never stops to ask you to buy, passes in front and calls out ‘Meatloaf, you oaf’. But while you’re blinking and thinking about this she has scurried into the warren like a white rabbit, because she, too, has got the measure of you.
You don’t follow her because you know that somewhere down there your maybe wife is turning tricks for a few hundred baht and you’ve calculated that thanks to the thousands of pricks at least tonight you will eat.
You can’t leave. The past no longer exists and you cannot move forward. It’s like standing on the top of a cliff whose edge is crumbling away. And you can’t get away. Thailand is your state of mind. There is a ghost in the trees and when night falls she comes out and does what she pleases. It’s more than you can do, but she never swoops or bothers you because like all the others, and even though she is just a figment of your imagination, she has the measure of you.
The only way is down; then out. But you’re not ready for that. So perhaps you have got a mission to explain and warn. Yet there’s really no need for that because they only have to look at you. The mamasan stands by your side and demands payment for the beer before she hands it to you. It’s a lonely, drunken path to a cold room each night and nobody stops to ask if you are alright, have a light or a cigarette or can point them in the right direction because you can’t, and anyway they all have the measure of you.
But there is one thing you can do.
By chance one night in Pattaya Town, there was a piper standing in the street and he put the whistle to his lips and you danced a merry jig. And all the people stopped and stared. Some laughed at you and some clapped and cheered. And it gave you a hope. As you spun and twisted to an Irish reel you knew you hadn’t disappeared. There really was something you could do, even if you were flailing like a clown. So on and on you went. Even when the crowd became bored and moved on. Even when the piper picked up the small coins from his hat and pocketed the whistle. You carried on spinning round and round. Round and round. On the spot. Just spinning round and round.
I like it!