Stickman Readers' Submissions January 21st, 2009

My Long Walk to Freedom

I hovered around the boarding area like someone carrying something contraband. My shirt was soaked and I imagined all eyes were upon me. I was carrying something, something dark and illegal, and something that had haunted me for 2 years.
Something that made every trip on the roads and in the bars of Pattaya a nightmare. I was a criminal in the eyes of the law and I knew it. If I could just pass this last hurdle my traumatised body would collapse into the aircraft seat like a badly
beaten boxer dragged into his corner after a 12 round pounding, glad to hear the defeated verdict.

I was on overstay….more than 2 years of overstay!

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I am sure that most of you reading this have never been in my position, yet I believe that a few have and most likely some of you are still. What led to my ‘entrapment’ here in Thailand, as pleasant as it sometimes was, is a
story in its own. We all have calamities that strike us down from unexpected angles; my tale was one of being gang raped by all the unexpected that life could throw at me. I make no excuses, I bear the brunt of all my follies for trusting the
wrong individuals who I considered friends. Mai Pen Rai!

I checked in and the airline official gave a whistle as he glanced at my passport. ‘You have money to pay for fine?’ I nodded and smiled more confidently than I felt, my lovely Thai ‘wife’ of 3 years hovering just
as nervously as me in the background. I still fully expected sirens to go off and to be surrounded by men in tight fitting uniforms who would whisk me away to some secret underground location. He indicated the boarding entrance and after an eternity
of hugs, promises and loss, I ripped myself away from my Darling, too scared to feel tears. The line in front of me seemed to move at a frightening pace as all those law abiding citizens passed through the gate with a semi-warm thank you. Then
it was my turn and I stood on the line and handed over my object of shame and expected internment. Time seemed to stand still as the customs lady swiped, re-swiped and examined my passport intensely. Finally, looking up she stated ‘You
overstay visa?’ All thoughts of lies and excuses faded and I merely nodded and said ‘yes’. ‘Go pay man there’ she indicated to a bored looking individual reading a newspaper behind a desk. Giving my best wai
and speaking my best Thai, I greeted him and handed over my passport. I knew that this man held the key to me being either allowed to board the aircraft or being the boatman across the River Styxx. He merely glanced at my entry card and last valid
stamp. ‘You have money to pay fine?’ I passed a pre-counted 20,000 baht over in an old DVD cover over and he swiftly counted it. His hand hovered over the array of stamps on his desk and I shuddered that it would come to rest on
the one marked “ Future entry denied.” However he simply picked up the normal exit stamp, stamped, and together with a further stamp and receipt that I had paid sent me on my way and returned to his paper. I was through!! I was free!!

Gone were the days of suffering and wondering if this was to be the last. Visions of immigration arresting a good friend of mine for the same crime came flooding back. The fear of passing official looking people lessened somewhat. I felt
human again and not the supposedly hunted criminal that I always felt myself to be. I had not committed any other crimes. I was well liked by all the Thais who knew me, many actually came out to wish me farewell and shed a tear. I’m not
sure if it was through true friendship or the future beer sales loss, but I prefer to think it was the former. I wish to thank all the good Thai friends I made and the country itself for a traumatic yet enlightening time. To the few Farang who
can still call themselves gentlemen and be true to their word, I thank you above all. To those who betrayed my trust ….. Mai Pen Rai.

Stickman's thoughts:

I just could not live like that, wondering, waiting for the axe to fall. I also would not be surprised at some future point if they make a decision on visas which takes past infractions such as overstaying into consideration. It is just foolish.

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