Readers' Submissions

Two For The Road




Eduardo went home from Phuket today in Royal Orchid Class. Ooy went home in a cheap brass urn.

Eduardo’s leg stuck out into the aisle in a hip-to-toe plaster cast which would annoy the flight attendants all the way from Bangkok to Rome. He also had a broken collarbone, a dislocated elbow and a hairline fracture in his left orbit, the ring of bone that contains the eyeball. He had two stainless steel pins in his femur which would set off airport metal detectors for the rest of his life. Ooy was eight ounces of ash and a few chips of bone.

Eduardo’s summer vacation cost him 75,000 baht for plane tickets and hotel accommodation. The vacation cost Eduardo’s father 50,000 baht for the lawyer, 50,000 baht for the police, 50,000 baht to repair the front end of the parked pick-up truck that Eduardo hit head-on at 60 kph, and 20,000 baht for Ooy’s funeral. He paid 50,000 baht to Ooy’s family, and 200,000 baht for the 450 cc motorcycle Eduardo had wrecked. Eduardo’s vacation had cost Ooy her life, and nobody concerned questioned that a two-year-old motorcycle should be worth four times as much as that life.

When Eduardo hit the parked truck, the motorcycle jammed its front wheel under the truck’s bumper, and pivoting on the hub of that wheel acted like a six-foot-long lever. Eduardo was thrown over the truck’s cab, smashing his leg on the windshield in passing, to land in the cargo bed. Because she was perched behind him, on the extreme outer end of the lever, Ooy was catapulted 50 feet before landing on her face in the middle of the road. She was probably dead by clinical standards the moment she hit the pavement, but at any rate she slid another ten feet before coming up hard against the curb, head first.

When the embassy notified Eduardo’s family of the accident, his brother Gino called a friend of a friend of a friend, who imports Italian wines into Bangkok. The friend-cubed flew to Phuket and handled all the arrangements, including the delivery of a few plates of spaghetti carbonara into the holding cell at Phuket’s provincial prison, where Eduardo was held for a day after his release from hospital.

Ooy’s mother, father, two brothers, one sister-in-law and four nieces came down from Korat on the bus, with the kids riding in the adults’ laps for the entire 27-hour journey to save the cost of four more tickets. They showed up on Wednesday morning at the go-go bar where Ooy had worked, and that was the first that the management or Ooy’s co-workers learned about the accident, which had occurred the previous Friday afternoon. Eduardo had never sent word. It was the police who wired Ooy’s family, taking the address from the ID card found in her purse.

Eduardo waited for his court appearance in a four-star hotel, holding a bag full of ice to his face and watching Star TV with one eye. Part of the time he spent thinking of a story to tell his fiancée about how he broke his leg. Ooy waited for her funeral in a locker at the local health department’s cold storage facility.

Ooy’s family spent two nights in Ooy’s room in the apartment which she had shared with three other girls. In the room, besides a bed and vanity table, were a new TV and VCR, a lot of stuffed animals, and a dozen photo albums. Nothing had been touched since Ooy had last been there, and under the mattress Ooy’s father found an envelope with almost 5,000 baht in it. There was also a camera in the room, and it held a partially exposed roll of film. Ooy’s elder brother took the camera to the funeral, used the rest of the exposures, then took out the roll and sold the camera to one of the girls.

The family left Phuket immediately after the ceremony, and when the brother had the roll of film developed in Korat he found that three of the earlier photos had been taken in the go-go bar. They showed his little sister up on the catwalk, dressed only in high-heels and panties, with a sash made of toilet paper strung over her shoulder bearing the words “MISS F**K FREE.” It was a game the girls played on slow nights.

In all of the photos Ooy was wearing a lot of gold jewelry. Nobody in her family found it unusual, or even unfair, that the police report didn’t mention any jewelry being recovered from the body.

Eduardo did not attend Ooy’s funeral, but he sent a note. It was read out loud at the cremation by Nancy, the farang manageress of the go-go bar. Ooy’s family could not understand a word of it, and Nancy’s Thai is about as good as you might expect from someone whose only experience of Thailand comes from working in a bar, but twenty of Ooy’s coworkers were there, and a few of them could translate the contents of the note into Esarn Thai.

Basically, he said that while he had only known Ooy for one night, he thought that she was a good girl, and a very pretty girl, and he was sorry that he had caused her death. After Nancy finished reading, Ooy’s mother took the note and put it in the flames. Nancy will wonder for the rest of her life if that was an effort to send the young man’s good wishes along with Ooy to her next life, or simply an act of disgust.