Notes From The Subterranean Part 2
It was one of those really hot tropical days, and Mike was down at the beach bar, getting blitzed on large Chang beers, because he said his visa was up and he had to go the next day. He was in one of those moods.
“What’ll it be, Burma or Cambodia?” I asked him.
“I-I-I-I’m looking for somewhere nobody knows me,” he said.
I could understand why Mike wanted to find a place he was unknown. He owed nearly everyone in town money, and hadn’t settled his bill at any of the restaurants or bars. One of his hands had five fingers, the other four. Timing was everything when you tried to skip town.
“Shit, man. I wouldn’t mind a spell in Phnom Penh.”
“I-I-I think I’m coming down with something.”
“Cambodia is a much more rural culture. They fxxx and smoke weed every day there.”
There were other people at the bar, old timers with nothing to do but drink and piss the day away. None of them wanted to talk to Mike, in part because he had Tourette syndrome. As he drank, he become more and more unintelligible, stuttering out sentence fragments and struggling to enunciate. I was one of the few people who could understand Mike when he drank.
“I g-g-g-g-got t-t-t-to g-g-get out of town,” he sputtered out, then punched himself in the face. That was another byproduct of the Tourette’s, he’d constantly be slapping and punching himself.
“I know. You told me.”
Wayne and Stan were also at Suzy Chow’s, which was what we called the bamboo beach bar since it had no name. This forty-something Thai woman named Suzy owned the place, really one of the nicest Thais I’d ever met, and she would serve us lunch every day during our break from classes. We liked to come for the beachside atmosphere and cheap beer and whiskey.
“It’s another day in paradise,” I said.
“Fxxxing-a right,” Wayne agreed.
Wayne had slept with 47 women since he arrived, 4 short months ago. He was explaining the ins and outs of the dating scene here, really getting down to the nitty gritty, the details of women he’d met only once, women he hardly knew. There was a formula, it’s in the subconscious, he was explaining to me, if you think you need to get laid you will.
“I haven’t been laid in weeks,” I complained.
“Well, that’s cause you got your old woman. Once you get hitched that’s it.”
“I know,” I added somewhat bitterly.
“Speaking of Phnom Penh, I ever tell you about the worst case of gonorrhea I ever had?” Stan added.
Stan was this old timer I roomed with back in Ban Phe. We had completed the teaching as a foreign language course there. At the end, we each received a certificate saying that we were now qualified teachers. They put us in schools in the far northeast, a rural countryside they called Isaan.
I shook my head, no.
“Worst case I ever had,” he repeated.
“I never got gonorrhea,” Wayne said. “I got the clap 3 times though in Lima, Peru. Twice in one week!”
“Well, gonorrhea is much worse than the clap,” Stan retorted.
One thing about Stan, he didn’t like being one-upped. The stories he told were meant for digestion, not comparison. He put his beer down and got up, obviously annoyed with the situation.
“I’m gonna go take a piss,” he said.
Mike was engaged in conversation with Suzy, the bar owner. He was trying to convince her to put his beers on his tab, which, apparently, he hadn’t paid off once since moving here. Mike was a natural salesman. He could convince just about anyone that he was the victim here, a pawn, a patsy.
“Y-y-you know I’m good for it,” he was saying, “I still got that titanium road bike. Tell you what, if you don’t get the money next month you can have the bike.”
The titanium rode bike was the real deal, Mike having it shipped in from the States. From time to time, he’d come across a lump sum and go on a spending spree. No one knew where he got the money from, or for that matter – how he got the money. There was something inherently dodgy about Mike. All we knew was that from time to time, things like brand new titanium road bikes would show up at his house.
“Lance Armstrong himself rode that bike during the ’03 tour,” Mike said, then punched himself in the face.
Suzy seemed reassured by the gesture, but I sure wasn’t. I knew Mike would be gone the next day, and odds were it would be the last we saw of Mike, until about 3 months later, when he’d randomly turn up at some bar you were at acting like he’d never left at all.
“I don’t know why you bought that bike,” Wayne said. “You can barely walk, let alone ride.”
Since we’d known Mike, some 3 years earlier, down at Ban Phe, we’d witnessed his health deteriorate precipitously. It wasn’t just lobbed off digits, either. He’d had spinal injuries, leg injuries, neck injuries, rib injuries, muscular injuries, and cardiovascular injuries. To boot, he was a recovering alcoholic who loved popping pills for breakfast.
“Hey Suzy,” Wayne yelled, “play some rock. Play some fxxxing Chilli Peppers.”
Stan came back and sat down. “Hey,” he said, “what happened to my beer?”
“I-I-I drank it,” Mike replied.
“Why the hell did you do that?” he asked.
“B-b-b-b-be-cause I thought it was my beer.”
“You don’t even drink Singha.”
Mike slapped himself in the face. Wayne was all over the stereo, trying to figure out how to play some Red Hot Chili Peppers. There were piles and piles of dead jelly fish all up along the beach. Because of the jelly fish, no one was on the beach. It was one of those really hot tropical days, and no one could swim, because the tide had brought in the jelly fish, but we didn’t care.
There are plenty of Mikes in Thailand, there really are!