Its getting harder and harder to remember what happened exactly. One- because Thai Whisky, as it is consumed in small groups, is consumed by the bottle. And Two- because by the end of it, I’m 35% sure I was swearing in Russian.
I want to start at the beginning, but I’m afraid it might sound like a polish joke you’ve heard before. You know the one: A man walks into a bar and orders a glass of Polish Vodka. One guy looks over to the other, says: “Hey, what a coincidence! I’m drinking the same Polish Vodka”. At one point the two discover that they’re both from the old country. Giving them, yet another reason to drink. This continues for at least 10 more minutes before the two are swearing at each other.
And so it was in a bar, on a deserted Soi, in the sticks and two counties from Bangkok when I met such a man. We’d been fixin to leave for Hua Hin the morning before, but a string of Bombings brought a hesitation to our plans. Not the Polish guy and I. Though, come to think of it, AD does look a bit Polish. Anyway, worried for our safety, the girls sat on their beds, contemplating whether we should stay put.
“I don’t know” Leky blurts out in a high pitched panic. “Should we go!? I don’t want to risk it? I feel like shit anyway? Ahh…I don’t know, I wanted to go though! Maybe…I don’t know. Maybe it’s safe?”
The Canadian Twins: “This is kind of Fucked. Maybe we shouldn’t. I heard there was another attack in Bangkok this morning.”
“Really!? Was it in the News? I didn’t see it…”
“I saw it on Facebook.”
“I don’t think we should go.” I said finally. “If these are major attacks, Ayutthaya, might be a target as well.”
“Eeekk!” Leky cried out in an ostentatious fit. “You really think so!?”
I looked at her and nodded gravely. Sometimes, I come off as being a dick when the social situation doesn’t call for it. She took the look I gave to be one of those times and grimaced at me from the side of her face. (For the record, I was being series. The city is a major historical landmark. If the bombings were political, they may of been targets to send a message.)
After several hours, I kid you not, several hours of deliberation, the group remained divided. There were those who couldn’t care either way and wanted to risk it. Some who wouldn’t dare leave their rooms and then there were others who decided to “be diligent”.
I stood with the diligent few. We hopped a fence and spent the day at the pool. Laying around, we kept updates on notification, worried something might turn up in town. Later that night, when the Soi was dead, we drank our beers like we were at a funeral. The mood was light and not many falangs were out. I was ready to call it in early when Hippy Feet walked over to the table.
Some quick background on her:
Hippy Feet did not last long in town. A sweetheart, but also more loopy than the loopy haired brunette. The last time I saw her she was on Facebook Live, in a dirt road, next to a rice paddy field, high on LSD and playing a miniature toy piano that casted bubbles when you struck the keys. Maybe it didn’t. To this day i’ve been convinced that they were spit bubbles. Anyway, not the point. I stopped following her on Facebook after that.
“I met this guy” She said to us while exiting the pool. He happened to be another hippy. “I’m gonna show him around the temples today.”
Leky: “Well call us if you need help! I mean.. if he turns out to be a weirdo.”
Okay and we’re back:
When they arrived to the table later that night, we assumed all was well between them. Hippy Feet was hard to read and none of us received a phone call. Her friend, however, was a walking alarm clock ready to wake anyone up that wasn’t paying attention to him. In retrospect, that’s probably what made him so appealing to her. His Hawaiian shirt was split open and chest hair spewed onto the table like a trashcan that had been intentionally kicked over. His accent was thick and his eyes were unusually wide and I thought this exact thought to myself “Pshhh…What a fucking tourist.”
He was in fact a Russian Tourist, but that’s not exactly important. What was important was the look Hippy Feet was giving us. It sounded like…I couldn’t make it out at first. But it sound like it: Stttaaaaayyyyyy! Fucking Stay. I wasn’t sure, because I’m pretty slow when it comes to eye gesturing. So when there was a break in the thicket of garbage and accent. I asked her if she really needed me to stay, or maybe if I’d been reading her wrong. Yes I did and No I wasn’t. Unfortunately, he was EXACTLY as creepy as he appeared.
Pressed for conversation topics, I decided to make the best of an already shitty night.
“What do you think about all of the Bombings?” I asked him (keeping it light)
In hindsight, you should never use the word “bomb” to start a conversation with a Russian. He thought I was being condescending. Looking at me with skepticism, he drank his beer slowly. The ice in the glass chunked against his teeth.
“Is there a bomb? I don’t know. Nobody told me this. Is you making a joke for me?”
“No, I don’t know where that joke would go…There was a bombing yesterday. South of here. I figured you might of heard about it”
As I later came to realize, bombings in the South are a regular occurrence. My Thai wasn’t so good at the time, it was a slow Saturday and Boom was just looking sad, I guess these were mere coincidences which brought me to misread the Soi. Regardless, it wasn’t exactly that. This guy was fucking clueless.
“I am Russian. Total Nuclear devastation we have been fearing before you were born”
“That would be… before you were born too.” I added. Not to be confrontational, just stating the irony.
He sat there staring off. Pissed perhaps. Piss drunk, more likely, but staring off into a cold, cold winter. One some ignorant yankee from New Hampshire would never of known. He slurped his beer slowly. Bringing it to his mug, pausing a few moments, then slurping again.
“What was communism like?”
I guess I needed to change the subject and figured this was a good Segway.
“What do you know of communism?”
“I know that it didn’t work so well in your country.”
“That is because people are selfish bastards.”
At this point, Hippy Feet had returned to the table. She sat quietly, mildly intrigued by that exact comment. It was ironic. The entire night, she seemed repelled by any topic the Russian tried to introduce. And let me tell you, he fucking tried: backpacking through Malasia, Sankran, the perks of recreational drug usage. If spoken from another mouth, she surely would of bitten. She was a hippy after all. He was talking directly to her soul.
“I agree” She said in a forthright candor. It was as if she had just entered the podium to deliver a Hilary Clinton speech. “I think we’re all just mythical animals. In our own jungle of spiritual…blah blah blah. Word vomit. Shit. Zodiac. More shit. Granola. etc.”
She spoke like this for 5 minutes. More or less, to commandeer a conversation she felt left out from. To remind us of her worth, yet without precisely demonstrating that point with her words. And to a horny Russian, one might think he would have smiled and given her his attention willingly. As if what she had said, had suddenly changed him.
Instead, however, we both stood there dumbstruck by the scene. He genuinely seemed irritated by her interruption.
“Okay sweetheart” He jumped in finally. “Maybe you should let us continue our conversation.”
For the remainder of my time on the Soi, that was one of the rudest things I’ve ever witnessed outside of my own actions. I’m sure Ttam and AD could think of worst shit said. But the surprise I felt, to this day, still resonates with me.
Anyway. I can’t say she closed her mouth, but she was certainly silent. He then turned to me to resume our talk.
“You see, my friend…may I call you my friend? You see as the woman pointed out, we are but animals. In the jungle a man must kill things in order to live. Do you see? He must eat the heart of other animals. If it is necessary, he will drink his blood too”
“You can call me whatever you like. I don’t see how that speaks to how communism fails in your country?”
I said the line again. Word for word. He took a moment to process, most likely in his native tongue.
“I see your point. I mean to say, that you’re friends will betray you….if you give them opportunity.”
The “p”’s in the word opportunity popped slowly out of his mouth. Just then, as if struck by white lightning, a thought occurred to me. And with it, I began to realize something. Something important to my own survival: we were going to fight. This man. A man who read my bullshit like a Russian novel he’d be author to, wanted, in fact, to fight me. Very soon by my reading. Why? I think one reason. Because I’m an American know-it-all, who knows everything there is to know about the world. And I was trying to rip his heart out, sink my teeth into it and drink it clean.
Instead of shutting it down. Instead of just going home. I ignored the thought and did the only think that made sense. I started to raise my voice.
He was saying: “Russians are a loyal people, but we don’t trust people that are not Russian. If the world was Russ…”
“Okay. I don’t think you get what I’m saying.” I cut him off.
“I’m talking about communism. I get how selfishness is apparent in nature, but cooperation is also apparent in nature. So what are you trying to say? I could say that in the jungle, I have a better chance of kicking your ass, if my American friends are with me.”
“What you want to kick my ass!?” He said quickly.
Yup. Here we go. He was now on his feet.
“No.” I said. “I’m saying my American friends could help me if I had to kick your ass.”
I was loud, but calm. In part, because I was merely clarifying the point. The point being that people work better in groups. That nobody can actually do it alone. That cooperation IS an instinct for survival. Maybe, not exactly a reaction, like fight or flight. Maybe not an impulse like his impulse was to grab my shirt from across the table. But more like, a way of thinking. The other part of it, of my calmness I mean, was that I still wasn’t convinced we were going to fight.
I smacked his hand away. He cleared the table. Hippy Feet scooted her stool back, then lit a cigarette as if the world was about to burn and she was fixing a lawn chair on a hill somewhere. Even if it had been her we were arguing over, I still don’t think she’d of been impressed at this point. I mean, he did make her feel small earlier. He says:
“You fucking Americans think you know the world.”
I said: “I’m more than just American you prick!”
He said: “What’s a prick?”
At one point, I felt that on both sides, our insults were going over each other’s heads. I said shit like “twat box” and “Fucking Stalinist”, he called me a “Mudak” and a “Pinko”. Funny enough, the more we swore, the more we both seemed to respect the other’s viewpoint. Case in point, I told him that “Russians needed to get up to speed with the 21st century” (regarding their views on Homosexuality)
AND HE SAID: “Yeah, but you hypocrites too. America still doesn’t have marriage for them.”
You might of just missed it, perhaps it was the spit cloud lofting its way around the table, but he just said “yeah, but” which concedes to the premise. Anyway not the point.
“My family, like many other Americans, have diverse backgrounds.” I continued. “My Great Grandfather brought my Great Grandmother over from Russia so that my Grandfather could be born in a free country. Yeah people are ignorant in America, just as they are in your country, but you can’t just look at me and think you know something about me.”
“Wait a second.” He said in a startled tone. “YOU!? you are Russian?”
I gave him my last name to confirm the fact.
“OF course! Of course you are!” He belted out “I understand you! At first I think this man is a, how do you say? A ‘nitwit’. BUT NOW! Now I know, I truly know what’s in your heart. We are the same.”
I stared at him with a lifted eyebrow. He was again trying to grab at my shirt. He clearly hadn’t been listening to a God damned thing I was saying. Around us, was a silent bar. A dead silent bar. It was the first time, I’d noticed this. Along with Hippy Feet, a few Thais had even pushed their chairs back. Boom stayed behind the bar.
What an asshole, I thought. Looking back on it, I think that applied to both of us. He was grabbing at me, trying to pull me in for a hug. He yelled to Boom “Get us some vodka!” Boom scrambled to find something that resembled vodka. The room was silent as Boom poured the drinks. Like a scene out of Pulp Fiction, the clanging of glass bottles was the only thing sounding in the bar. Not even Hippy Feet was going to take this opportunity to speak.
Several months later, I was with Roo at her apartment in Bangkok. We’d been to the market and had a load of bags in our hands. As we were entered the elevator lobby a strange looking man yelled from across the silent corridor.
“Hey! It’s you! You are Russian!?” He came quickly trotting over.
Genuinely surprised by this guy, I had no clue who he was. He was wearing a suit and appeared to be living in very well to do building. Yeah, his accent was thick, but he seemed somehow more refined.
“Do you remember, I think I met you before. You live in Ayutthaya! No!?”
“That’s weird. I did live in Ayutthaya, but not anymore. I live here in Bangkok.”
“Are you sure!?” He said again. “I think we shared vodka together.”
“Sorry. I don’t remember.”
“Well you look just like the man I met.”
I shrugged innocently and we entered the elevator together. He pressed our key to the 15th. When we got back to the apartment. I was chuckling.
“I think that guy was right. I did know him.” I said to her.
“Really!?” She was a little surprised.
“Yeah” I said. “Do you remember that guy I told you about. The one I got into an argument with on the Soi?”
“I don’t remember” She said.
“I swear I told you about it. We got into it this aggressive screaming matched and spooked most of the locals in the bar. They were afraid that two white guys were going to murder each other.”
“Oh yeah!” She bursted out. “I remember. The one with the Polish guy!”
“Yeah, that’s the guy!” I said to her as a matter of fact.