On the first Wednesday of the year, it was getting late. Midnight hour in the near distance, emptying the fourth pint of the golden bitter home brew, I was beginning to feel tipsy. As fluxing international circles of social oblivion blurred into illusive perspectives, internally thoughts flashed back to earlier in the day of large black crow I witnessed feeding on some student’s chicken and rice leftovers at the university canteen garden. Rest assured, if foreshadows were forming, my reality was to be readily receptive.
Almost an entire year before, I found myself at the same pub on Happy Wednesdays. That was a Wednesday I shouldn’t forget; the time I cheated death on my motorbike—but not without compensation payment of my upper left limbs neuromuscular function. This time I wouldn’t be heading back on my motorbike, though was that enough to ensure certain karmatic cycles wouldn’t repeat? Observing a female friend un-loyally clinging on to the male friend I had just offered acquaintance earlier in the day, I was reminded the last time I introduced her to a friend; after a three year relationship (during which both such friends disowned me) that apparently ended violently, I was prompted to detach myself from the intoxicated pair, group, and crowd altogether. Besides, I had to work the following morning
A simple 80 baht taxi home wasn’t going to suffice on this particular evening. Having gone astray with alcoholic dis-cohesion, a peace of mind would be required to justify the night’s safety & sleep; a journey of reckonable distance would spontaneously ensue. I was to walk home. From Sukhumvit 33 down to Asokee-Ratchada, southwest bound past Sirikit center, Rama IV and Rama III.
On the dark sidewalks of Rama III, the fear of such a journey would heighten. Those who claim Bangkok is a safe place to walk around in the middle of the night have likely never been down dark ways like this. Starting with the territorial slum dogs prowling, howling and guarding who knows what, passing in between shadows and rusted vehicles, these dogs have been known to bite, and when passing strangers startle them off guard, fear and vulnerability must be contained, presence made known and exaggerated. Like the original jungle that preceded this urban era, the concrete jungle is dictated by intertwining laws of chaos and order—slip and you will trip.
Sweat dripping and drenching my upper half, my white university dress shirt stuck to my skin, plagued with the dust and dirt of the industrial night air. Phone battery dead, there was no way of knowing the time. The only thing known was my destination somewhere on yonder. Breaks were to be few and short as possible. On the murky edges of Klong Toei district, around Rama III soi 79, the journey seemed to thicken. As easily as I could have given up, passing out on the spot, the rotting smell of urine, scurrying rats and cockroaches pushed me on, yearning for the reward of water at the end of the night’s journey.
Behold, a wooden club lied in the middle of the path, providing a stronger sense of security if/when one of these packs of urban mutts were to cross the line from bark to bite. While the dogs appeared to be the immediate threat, in my mind I knew that human predators were of greater concern: teenage moped gangs racing by with their customized roaring engines and lurking amphetamine attics represented far greater threat. Approaching a group of drinking blue-collars holding territory on their dimly lit sidewalk bench, I concealed the club to my side walking to pass quickly trying to avoiding conspicuousness with my head down. This pack of humans weren’t far off from the dogs, barking off their own warnings: “Beware, this is Klong Toei!”
A block down, I noticed another human in the distance, his back to me, looking after something further down the path. He was holding something long. My gut told me that by now, the wooden club I was clenching could turn out to be more danger than protection, and so I abandoned it in the middle of the path. Moments later I came in close proximity to the human who had turned around by now. The object in his hand was a sawed off shotgun. He looked to be protecting his shop or home from some challengers which were out of site by now—I didn’t keep my head up to notice long enough, gratefully and inconspicuously passing by.
Alas, I reached Nang Linchi road on the far outskirts of my neighborhood in the neighboring district of Yanawa. Only a few kilometers more to go, Jun Gao to Narathiwat to Jan road, and I was soon home free into the sanctity of Sathorn district. At my apartment’s mini mart, the time was 1.20 a.m.. I bought a 1.5 liter bottle of water, refilling it to devour a freshening two liters, topped by a cold shower as my soar limbs eased into the hard-earned inviolability of my bed.