Saturday morning, July 8th
I wake up early with Azami at my side, sound asleep but grinding her teeth so fiercely I worry she might crack a tooth. With a gentle nudge, she rolls over onto her side, the gnashing stops.
I go to the kitchen to make myself a café au lait. As the milk is being heated in a saucepan, the kettle comes to a boil. I place three scoops of coffee grounds into the filter, and once the milk is warm enough add two lumps of La Perruchesugar to the milk, then slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, pour water over the coffee grounds and let it drip, drip, drip into the milk.
Bowl of café au laitin hand, I go and sit outside on the balcony. My rabbit rubs up against my ankle.
“Morning, Pyon,” I say and scratch him where he likes it, on the top of his head right between the ears. “You got any regrets, Pyon?”
The rabbit stands on his hind legs and gives me a noncommittal look.
“No? Not even one? Well, I’ve got plenty for both of us.”
After locking and chaining the door and shutting the curtains in the hotel room, I cut open the hard plastic containing the pink pills, and let them spill out onto the glass coffee table. Examining one, I found “WY” imprinted on one side of each tablet.
The latest edition of The Economist featured a short article about recent seizures of methamphetamines in Thailand. According to the article, anti-drug operations had netted some six million pills that very week; another seven million pills had been nabbed the week before.
“I guess this is why the shit was so hard to find,” I said, tossing dé Dale the magazine. A good month for the narcs, perhaps, but it was evidence, too, of the booming trade in methamphetamines in Southeast Asia. The article also stated that the pills, imprinted with a “WY” logo, were mainly produced by the United Wa State Army, the largest drug trafficking organization in Myanmar. Thailand was the primary market for yaba.
“Check this out,” I said to dé Dale, holding one of the pills up. “WY. Wonder what that means. Wa’s Yaba?”
Dé Dale replied with a grunt. He couldn’t be bothered to look up, focused as he was on separating the paper lining from the foil of the Nestlé Crunchwrapper. Never underestimate the resourcefulness of a junkie, I always say. Brushing the flame of his lighter quickly under the wrapper, dé Dale picked at the paper with some tweezers and pulled it neatly away.
“Ha hah!” he said proudly and handed me the foil.
Borrowing dé Dale’s Swiss Army pocketknife—the guy was never without it—I cut the foil in half, and, crushing one of the pills up, placed an amount of the pink powder onto one of the tin squares. With a straw clenched between my teeth, I flicked the lighter and, passing a weak flame below the foil, waited for the smoke to rise.
I tried again and waited, but the shit would not burn. Instead of giving off smoke, the pink powder melted and formed a dirty liquid.
“What the hell is this?” I said, putting the foil down on the coffee table.
Dé Dale grumbled that I wasn’t doing it right and gave it a shot himself. But, still no luck.
“Maybe the bastard sold us X,” he said.
I popped half a pill into my mouth, chewed on it a bit, and then washed it down with gin. Dé Dale did the same, and returned to the task of trying to make the pink powder to burn.
“It’s awfully sweet for ecstasy. Almost chocolaty,” I said, chewing on another half.
“It’s probably been cut with something,” dé Dale replied, the irritation in his voice rising.
Dé Dale had been simmering since we left Khaosan when our first attempts to score yabahad been frustrated. And now that we had got it only to be disappointed, dé Dale was ready to boil over. After several tries, we gave up trying to coax a plume of smoke from the pink powder, and popped one more pill each.
Slouching back into my chair, I turned on the TV. MTV was playing the same irritating video by a band I’d never heard of before called Crazy Town. Since arriving in Bangkok, I had seen it more than a dozen times. The song was also being blasted from speakers at street side vendors all over town.
Come muh lady . . . Come, come muh lady . . . you’re my butterfly, Sugar baby . . .
“Ugh. At least the chick in the video’s hot,” I said, pressing the “mute” button.
When another thirty minutes had ticked by, and still nothing, dé Dale banged his fist on the table and jumped to his feet. “Fucking bastard sold us children’s aspirin!”
He paced the room like a caged tiger, fuming. I might have been able to comprehend my friend’s anger if it had been histhree thousand baht that had been flushed down the toilet. I was more philosophical about it: there were worse ways to learn a lesson, I thought, than being made a fool of by a drug dealer in Patpong. At least it was only three thousand baht. Could have been worse.
Just as I was about to concede to dé Dale that we had been duped, though, I began to feel a mellow, yet distinct, tingling throughout my body.
Dé Dale admitted he was starting to feel it, as well.
“I don’t know what this is,” I said, “but I’m starting to feel pretty damn good.”
“Me, too,” dé Dale said, brightening. A smile spread across his face, the furrow in his brow softened.
Half an hour later, dé Dale declared that he was “high like the kite”, so we left the suite and hit the clubs.
Saturdays are another full day for me. I have two lessons in the morning at a “culture center” across town, teaching the unteachable: pensioners. At noon, I have to hurry back home where I have three more group lessons, back to back.
After teaching all week and having the same dull conversations over and over again, I am usually beat by the time Saturday mornings roll around. If I’ve also squeezed translation and freelance jobs in between the lessons—and more often than not I do—then I am a zombie by the end of the week, on the fast track for karōshi, or death from overwork.
The odd thing, though, is I don’t feel the slightest bit tired this morning. I should be an emotional and physical basket case considering what is going on, but I’m not. Just like yesterday, I was full of energy when I woke, my mind racing a mile a minute, high on the adrenaline coursing through my arteries.
Floating on my back in the Baiyoke’s 20th floor swimming pool, I started peaking again. Every time felt like the first, an orgasm rippling through my virgin flesh. I closed my eyes and let my body sink to the bottom of the pool.
“I could stay here all day,” I said to myself, air gurgling out of my mouth and bubbles drifting like lazy dirigibles to the surface.
If only I’d had a long hallow reed to suck air through, bliss would have been mine. I would have become a merry little sea cucumber, not a worry in the deep blue sea.
It must have been around midnight when dé Dale and I had left our suite at the Baiyoke. We wandered around Pratunam for a while where I cashed a traveler’s cheque and, now flush with cash and goodwill, splurged on a Planet of the Apes gorilla mask for my friend.
Let me tell you, a kid never got so much pleasure out of a toy as dé Dale got out of that mask. Dé Dale donned the mask and started hamming it up, climbing on to dumpsters, spinning around telephone poles. Later as we were barreling through the streets of Bangkok on a tuk-tukheading back to Patpong, dé Dale leaned all the way out, howling and beating his chest.
After clubhopping most of the night we ended up at a hole in the wall where the Mama of the bar challenged my friend to a game of The Captain’s Mistress. “You win, you drink for free,” Mama said.
It sounded like a fair bet to my friend. What was a game of glorified tick-tac-toe, after all, to a Frenchman who was often bemoaning the dearth of suitable chess opponents back in Fukuoka? He took up the gauntlet with the blind alacrity of a bull copulating in a queue at the slaughterhouse.
“Dé Dale, I wouldn’t put that piece there if I were you? She’s going to . . .”
Dé Dale blamed the first loss on my interruption.
“Shall we make the game more interesting?” dé Dale suggested, anteing up the gorilla mask.
“Hey! I paid good money for that!” I protested.
“Trust me,” dé Dale said. “I now understand how the bitch’s mind works.”
It was a rout: dé Dale did not manage to win a single game. Instead of drinking for free, we ended up having to pay double, the mask sacrificed on the altar of dé Dale’s pride.
After settling the bill, dé Dale told Mama that he wanted three whores to take back with us.
Three! Boys be ambitious, indeed.
As I was wondering how dé Dale intended to divvy up the poontang—two for him, one for me; two for me, one for him; one and a half for each of us; three for him, none for me—the saddest looking specimens of womanhood you could imagine started slinking in. It was as if we had arrived late at a farmers’ market and all that was left were greasy black bananas and stinky durians.
“You gotta be kidding,” dé Dale said. “Never mind.”
Passing on the orgy, we hailed a taxi and headed back to the hotel, where to our surprise the pool was still open.
“I was almost about to dive in after you,” dé Dale told me when I finally surfaced, gasping for air. “You know how long you were down there?”
“Sea cucumbers can’t be bothered with things as bourgeois as time.”
“Nothing, nothing,” I said, jerking my head to knock the water out of my ears.
“You were down there for almost two minutes.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed, impressed not so much by my pneumatic capacity as I was with the morning sky. It was lit up like Christmas, the sun rising above the city like a golden ornament against a crimson curtain. “Did you get a load of the sky?”
“Yeah, I’ve been staring it all this time.”
“What time is it?” I said.
“Eight! Let me tell you, if this is children’s aspirin, I’m buying stock in Bayer!”
Getting up from his chaise lounge, dé Dale yelled, “Yaba-daba-doo!” at the top of his lungs and did a canon ball into the pool.
The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.
Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.