My Girl is Different
Part 1 – Boom Boom
It has taken Somchai and his brother two days to drive their old battered truck from Pattani to Bangkok. Somchai checks his watch. It is ten minutes to midnight. Somchai smiles to himself, reassured. They are on time. As Somchai makes the turn onto Sukhumvit Soi 4, he knows their journey will soon be over. He is tired, both physically and mentally, but also elated. This is their first visit to the Capital. During their long drive, Somchai and his brother talk constantly about what they plan to do. Now they have finally arrived Somchai feels a little nervous, an emotion he resolves to conceal from his younger brother. He knows his younger brother will see this as a sign of weakness. Somchai does not wish to lose face!
The blue Nissan car in front slows to avoid a drunken farang. The farang is walking in the middle of the road, his arm around an equally drunken bargirl. Judging his moment to perfection, Somchai hits the accelerator, slamming his old battered truck into the back of the Nissan. The Nissan is catapulted forward, hitting the two pedestrians. The farang is knocked clear, but the bargirl is not so lucky. She is trapped under the front wheels of the Nissan. Somchai’s old battered truck comes to rest opposite the entrance to the Nana Plaza entertainment complex. Bargirls’ and their customers’ stream out of the ground floor bars to see what is happening. Some offer help and advice. Most just stand around talking or taking pictures.
Somchai gets out of the truck and walks to the front of the Nissan. His brother remains in the cab. The bargirl trapped under the wheels of the Nissan screams in pain. The farang she is with, picks himself up from the road and dusts himself down. He looks across and recognises Somchai as the driver of the truck responsible for causing the accident. The bargirl screams again.
The farang lashes out. His punch catches Somchai on the side of the head, knocking him over the bonnet of the Nissan. The driver of the Nissan gets out her car and starts crying. Somchai aims a flying kick at the farang which sends him crashing to the ground. More spectators arrive, including a number of freelancers accompanied by their prospective customers from the Nana hotel car park. Distant police sirens become louder announcing the imminent arrival of the men in tight brown shirts. Somchai’s brother remains in the cab of their old battered truck. He appears to be fiddling with some wires under the dashboard.
The five ton fertiliser bomb hidden under a pile of pig iron in the back of the old battered truck detonates with an intense flash of light. The now red hot pig iron scythes through the air, slicing through the flesh and bones of those bystanders not incinerated or blown apart by the explosion. The truck is hurled into the air, landing upside down in the open bar beer area on the ground floor of the Nana Plaza. A deep crater appears where the truck had been an instant beforehand. The Nissan car disintegrates. The engine block from the Nissan is found in the Nana hotel’s swimming pool the following morning.
More than 200 people are killed outright, with many times that number injured. Although The Nana Plaza is devastated, some have lucky escapes. Rainbow 4 on the second level is completely destroyed. There are very few survivors from this bar. In contrast, Rainbow 2 located on the ground floor, almost immediately below Rainbow 4 is virtually untouched. In Anglewitch, several of the girls’ dancing on stage are decapitated, whilst others’ standing nearby are unharmed. The Nana hotel sustains heavy damage to its upper floors, with destruction on the lower floors mostly restricted to broken windows. Causalities on Sukhumvit Soi 4 are heavy. Some like the Nissan car driver simply vaporise. Many of those situated within 100 yards of the blast are reduced to a small scattering of body parts. Everywhere there is blood and gore!
After the roar of the blast there is silence. Silence; followed by the cries of the injured and the screams of the terrified. A small Thai child cradles the lifeless body of her mother; eyes wide open with uncomprehending horror. Then there is panic, blind panic. Survivors run in all directions, desperate to escape the carnage. Traffic is gridlocked. The emergency services are unable to get through. Drivers abandon their cars and run. An elderly Thai woman falls and is trampled to death. Nobody notices, far less cares!
Many survivors instinctively head towards Nana BTS and the bus station. The immediate panic lessens. The strong begin to aid the injured and vulnerable. The police arrive, and attempt to restore some order. A group of saffron robed monks hand out water. Nobody pays any attention to an apparently broken down pick-up truck with the bonnet up, pulled over at the junction of Sukhumvit Road and Sukhumvit Soi 6.
Annan stands by the front of his pick-up truck, balancing awkwardly on his club foot. Departing at the same time as Somchai and his brother, Annan has also spent the last two days driving north from his home Province of Pattani. Annan was abandoned by his parents whilst still a small child. Annan’s parents are poor Thai farmers, unable to take care of a son who because of his disability will never be able to undertake hard physical work. Similar to the other waifs, strays and orphans in his village; Annan was taken in by his local mosque. One strict although apparently kindly Cleric took an almost paternal interest in Annan. In addition to being instructed on the teaching of the Koran and learning Arabic, the kindly Cleric also introduced Annan to the doctrines’ of radical Islam. Annan keeps a picture poster of Osama bin Laden pinned to the wall above his sleeping mat. Captured against a backdrop of rugged mountains, Osama is standing tall and proud on a rocky ledge gazing out to the far horizon. A portrayal of a strong but reflective leader! Osama is dressed in his characteristic long flowing tribal robes holding a Kalashnikov rifle in his left hand. The photograph was taken back in December 2001, near the Tora Bora caves in Afghanistan. This is where Osama bin Laden evaded American forces intent on his capture. Annan enjoys looking at his poster which continues to inspire and motivate him. Osama bin Laden is Annan’s role model and hero. Annan is most certainly unaware that whilst attending High School in the Lebanon, Osama bin Laden spent much of his time in fashionable night clubs with other wealthy young playboys, often in the company of blonde prostitutes!
Although nearly 20, Annan is a still a virgin and without marriage prospects. His disability and poverty make him an unattractive suitor. Annan dismisses this as inconsequential. Has he not been promised 72 virgins in paradise as a reward for his martyrdom? Defiantly, Annan shouts “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the Greatest) and makes the fateful connection. The second explosion rips through the Bangkok night exactly 13 minutes after the first.
Part 2 – Teeruk, we have a son!
The secretary slips quietly into the boardroom. She passes me a folded note and then leaves as unobtrusively as she arrived. The note informs me that I have an urgent telephone call. The business meeting has already run for more than two hours and most likely will conclude without any firm decisions being taken. I am glad to have an excuse to take a short break, empty my bladder and perhaps secure a fresh cup of black coffee – I feel like something stronger! I make my apologies and follow the girl out of the room. My wife Oy is on the phone. She is calling from the hospital in Bangkok. “Teeruk, we have a son!”
When Oy and I first met two years ago, she was a Rainbow 4 Go-Go dancer. She had left her village in the Isaan to find well paid work in the Capital. Oy arrived in Bangkok just two weeks before I met her – I know they all say that, but in Oy’s case it was true! I was and still am a business services salesman. I am based in Thailand and service the Far East territory.
I did not go to Rainbow 4 to find a girl that night! Following the successful closure of a large deal, I and two colleagues hit the bars with a view to having a few drinks, admiring the scenery and generally ‘shooting the breeze’. One of my colleagues excuses himself and leaves early, complaining of the onset of ‘Bangkok belly’. My remaining colleague falls in lust with a tall, light skinned beauty from Chiang Rai. He departs soon afterwards. The Mama-san introduces me to the new girl Oy because of my ability to speak rudimentary Thai. Oy can speak little or no English at the time! Once I have put her at ease, I find Oy to be open and friendly. Despite having little formal education she is curious, observant and intelligent. Oy proves to be charming and refreshing company; especially so when compared to my brash, aggressive and highly competitive colleagues. On a whim, I barfine Oy and take her out for a meal. I then arrange for a taxi to drive her home. I don’t plan to see Oy again, but the next day I find myself thinking about her. I resolve to get her out of my system, so I return to Rainbow 4 the following evening; this time alone. That night we are lovers! Within a week, Oy quits the bar and moves into my apartment. We are married three months later!
Four days after I receive Oy’s phone call in Singapore, the Bangkok bombers’ strike! Despite the hospital being located well away from the devastation, I am desperate to return to Thailand to see Oy and my new born son. It is a further week before I am able to wrap up my business commitments and catch a flight to Suvarnabhumi airport. Oy has already returned to her family home. I catch a connecting flight to Udon Thani, arriving at Oy’s village in the early evening.
Oy and her family are delighted to see me. I pay for food and drink, and we have a party that continues until sunrise the following day. Most of the villagers’ drop by to pay their respects and help drink my ‘Red Label’. Oy looks a little pale, but says she is well – just tired! I fall in love with my tiny, cute and gorgeous son!
Just before the party finishes, the phone rings. Oy’s brother takes the call. It is Nit, the Mama-san from Rainbow 4. For having the foresight to introduce us, Oy and I had invited Nit to our wedding. Nit’s family live in a neighbouring village! We still keep in touch. Nit asks to speak to me – she is crying. Nit tells me she is in hospital. She is one of the few bomb blast survivors from Rainbow 4. I tell her I am glad she is still alive and ask if there is anything I can do for her. Nit says she must see me urgently. There is something she has to tell me. She cannot say anything over the phone. I offer to meet her in Bangkok. Nit says she will be discharged from hospital soon. She will meet me at her family home. Nit tells me she will call again, as soon as she arrives from Bangkok. I ask if she would like to talk to Oy. Nit starts crying again and the line connection breaks.
I am curious, although not overly concerned by my conversation with Nit. All is well in my life, and I am certain that Oy has not returned to work in the bar, nor does she have a boyfriend. I put it out of my mind. Soon Oy and I retire and fall asleep in each other’s arms. Our baby son sleeps peacefully beside us.
About ten days’ later I hear Nit is dead. She caught the bus from Bangkok, arriving at her village about an hour after sunset. Although seen to get off the bus, she never made it home. Nit was found the following morning, lying by the side of the road, her neck broken. The police are unable to explain Nit’s death. She has not been robbed or sexually assaulted. Nit has no other injuries – other than what she suffered in the Bangkok bomb blast – to indicate that she might have been involved in a fight or struck by a hit and run driver.
The following evening, I leave Oy at home to visit a local bar with my brother-in-laws and some friends. We are quite drunk as we return home that night. As we reach the elevated family house, I see an arm grotesquely stretching through the floorboards to pick up a fallen lime on the ground. As I recoil, I notice Oy’s engagement and wedding rings on the ring finger. My drunken companions fail to notice anything amiss, so I convince myself that I must have imagined it. Perhaps it was just a trick of the light?
The following weekend, I leave Oy at home with her family and return to work in Bangkok. Sitting alone in my apartment, the events of the past two weeks play on my mind. Despite the terrorist attack on Bangkok having occurred nearly a month ago, many of the bodies have still not been identified. The police are appealing for the relatives of missing persons to come forward and provide DNA samples. Despite telling myself for the thousandth time that my concerns are insane, I present myself to the police doctor and allow him to take a sample. I am called back to the police station a week later. After a short wait I am shown into a room where the doctor is waiting for me. A policeman sits by his side. The policeman hands me Oy’s engagement and wedding rings, which he asks me to identify. He tells me that Oy’s remains were found in Rainbow 4, cradling a new born infant. The doctor has successfully matched my DNA to that of the baby. DNA testing has also established the maternal link between Oy and the baby. The policeman says he believes Oy had taken the baby to Rainbow 4 to show him off to the girls’. She was indeed unfortunate to have been in the bar when the bomb exploded.
I leave the police station in a daze, not knowing what to think or believe. Exiting the police station, I clatter into a girl walking out of a book shop. I knock the carrier bag she is holding out her hand. The book she has just bought falls onto the ground. Apologising profusely for my carelessness, I retrieve the book and hand it back to her. As I do so I glance at the cover. The book is entitled Nang Naak!