The Ko Chang Stop

Though he won’t say it, Ttam’s been begging me to do a post on him. I’ll admit, being one of my best friends, he’s been introduced on here in fragments. In reality, Ttam is in his own way a fragment. A walking talking contradicting mystery. How could we already put so few pieces of him together? And in a way, that perfectly encapsulates him?

I want to start by saying that we each give the other a fair deal of shit. Most of the time, T’tam brags more about the terrible things he could have done to people, then about his actual merits…or good deeds or to tailor the word more accurately…his chivalry.  But, I wont start there, I wont tell you that he’s a British Nit and the biggest Honky I’d ever known. I wont tell you he’s a board game junky or that he pulls in more ass in spite of that fact, than one might think of a Dungeons & Dragons Wizard Master. I wont tell you that he’s a hypocrite when it comes to questions on moral foundation or that “truth” is what he interprets first, rather than taking the facts. I can imagine now, in all his humility, hollering.

“Nope! I’m not a Wizard Master ya bastard.”

And yeah, he probably isn’t. But who’s to really know something like that? Ttam IS fictional after all. Regardless, I’d like to start him off on the right foot. In the best light possible. And that’s for two reasons 1) because he deserves that and 2) well, I guess I owe it to him for saving my life.

And consider what people tend to mean when they say shit like that. The latter reason I’m referring. Maybe what they really mean to say is: he saved my life from overeating pizza and childhood obesity… or that he landed on a “grenade” last Saturday at the bar OR MAYBE he gave Peeky Blinders a good review on Netflix and that saved my life. The point is that often, the phrase “he saved my life” is a loaded statement. When I say it in THIS context, however, I want you to know with all my heart that I mean it quiet literally. T’tam DID save my life and he saved it from a bullet which was IN a gun which was ON a man who was BY a 7/11 IN Ko Chang and ON our vacation. Ahhh….what to do with so many prepositions.

Now I can’t exactly say I have the scars to prove any of this, I guess that would moot the fucking post anyway wouldn’t it? And what might we talk about then? Ttam’s recreational drug use pitted against his habitual paranoia with visiting regulars? That’s not the light I wish to cast him in. I thought I said that already.

Anyway, Ko Chang is an island off the eastern part of Thailand. During our semester break, Ttam, Chinaski and I decided to visit our friend ‘The Mormon Tabernacle’ who was currently on the island. He was there with his wife, leading a month-long training course for the upcoming teachers. Don’t worry it wasn’t about mormon shit, that’s just the name I gave him for the purpose of this post. And for the record, since we’re on the subject of mormonism, this guy did a real service to an otherwise crazy group of people. In the two terms I knew him, he never once preached to anyone, judged anybody or held out a pamphlet for any reason at all. He was always happy and upbeat and the first person in the group to help someone out. He has my respect for that.

The week prior we’d rented a four-day room with a Russian man named Surge, who on our arrival extorted us into canceling our reservation with booking.com. He was the whitest guy on the island and spent most of his days in a wife beater planting random trees around the property. Like a retired mobster who took up horticulture as a form of therapy, he rarely looked happy, always had a cigarette somewhere on his person and didn’t like people asking questions. Even if they were guests and asking questions about the rooms. Come to think of it, he was probably putting more than trees in those black trash bags.

On the first night we arrived I was spent. We called it an early night and made food in the room. Cooking your own food in Thailand is a luxury by the way. The outdoor kitchen was complete with the soulful raspings of Van Morison and the sweltered hum of King Harvest. We made mashed potatoes with gravy, ate chops off the bone, mixed green beans with REAL butter and drank smooth red wine. It was a Tesco Lotus Express master course. We played cards afterwords then passed out. Ttam and I shared a room, while Chinaski took the second. (Surge botched the third and nobody was Russian enough to protest it)

On one of the nights following, we shot stick at a local Thai bar across the street. Chinaski, was loaded about the same time the sun was exiting the earth. And as he exited the room and walked over to ours, he was on a rant about how confident he was with one of the new teachers.

“Alright boys, I’m certainly getting laid tonight! I think I’ve gotten my confidence back now.” He placed a cigaret behind his ear.

“What happened to the one you walked off with last night?”

“Ahh…man she texted me this morning to go for a run. Couldn’t be bothered with that.”

Ttam: “…that’s chill man, but what happens if you don’t end up with her. Or she doesn’t come out?”

“Another one then, I suppose.” His confidence was unwavering and if you looked him in the eyes, I swear, for but a moment, there was an american flag flapping proudly in there.

“Ttam makes a good point though. What happens if roles are switched? What do we do then?”

“Not gonna happen.” He said all blasé-fucking-fare

What he meant was that he was on a mission. Even if that mission, from where we stood, sounded a lot like sexual assault was somehow an option. Either way he wasn’t going to fail. (He did fail by the way. He failed hard. Mainly because he was blasted at 5 in the afternoon, but thats here nor there.)

“Yes I hear you…” Ttam said in a voice of reason. I think he intentionally disregarded Chinaski’s insulting insinuation. 

“But if one of us succeeds where you had failed, you’d obviously forfeit your room for the good of the group. I mean, I’m not gonna have sex on top of Paul.”

“You can have sex on top of me.” I said sincerely.

“No fucking way boys!” Chinaski shouted. “Nobodies Cuming on my fucking sheets!?”

Chinaski was heated and deeply serious.

“Except me.” He added.

“I came to Ko Chang for a good time and I’m not gonna be swimming in YOUR JIZZ! MY JIZZ only. MINE!”

Chinaski went off on jizzing for a bit. Then, he was stomping around like a kid on a playground, I mean if the playground was littered with trees that had bodies buried under it.

He kicked over toys and shouted noises that sounded a lot like whining. Ttam and I looked at each other baffled. I mean, it wasn’t exactly the fact that he was condemning our night. (He was the confident one, not us.) It was that he was being completely unreasonable. We all had a right to that room. We all fucking paid for it. He had a bro-duty to his bro-gentlemen to bunk with the other guy, should it come to that.

“What if we take the sheets off!?”

“He doesn’t give a fuck about the sheets!” Belted Ttam.

“I don’t give a fuck about the sheets!”

“It’s my room and you boys aren’t having it.”

“What if we all pull tonight? What happens then?”

It was a passing thought. Not very constructive to the conversation, but sometimes curiosity can tickle and when it does, you gotta see where that goes. You gotta.

“We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it!” Ttam said, softer now and with a bit of laughter. I guess he was thinking that would’ve made a good story, or perhaps with the question now arisen, consequently, “group orgy” was phrase that was simultaneously flashing through our minds. Well, for Ttam and I at least. We thought it funny. With Chinaski, however, the thought pissed him off more. He sat there sulking in the sad soup of his own drunken opinions.

We decided the best thing that we could do at this point was to go to a cheap Thai buffet and sober up. After the meal we headed west down the only road in town. It was narrow with businesses. Little turn-arounds branched off along the edges. We walked by a couple of Thai kids playing soccer under the faint glow of a fluorescent bar sign. Watching them I started to forget about the petty bullshit. I started to remember why I was here, in Ko Chang, in Thailand. The kids were barefoot and happy and for a moment I thought about Mercy. Only she would understand this feeling, I thought. 

Not two seconds were spent reveling in those peaceful thoughts, not two fucking seconds, when a Thai man on a motorbike, blew past us. He nearly tagged my elbow and kicked dirt everywhere which left dust in the air, which entered the lungs, which abruptly stopped the kids, which therefore pissed me off. He was driving 55 in 25 and I wanted to kick his ass.

“What the fuck was that!?” I stammered, surprised by the sudden anger which arose inside me. Ttam and Chinaski seemed oblivious. To their defense, this is the way people typically drive in Thailand.

“What happened? He almost hit you?”

“Fucking jerk. There are kids right there.” I pointed over to them. “Where does he need to be right now that could justify that?”

Just then, about 50 meters down the road, the man on the Motorbike pulled off to the side and ran into a restaurant. I stared at the bike as we drew closer. When we walked by, the man was briskly walking back to the Soi. There was a package in his hand and he also looked pissed. When he lifted his head, it was me he saw staring at him. My expression was disgust and though I couldn’t communicate it in words, I simply shook my head at him. I’d like to say it was with a kind of disappointed innocence, but I could see him, in every movement, feeling shame from it. Perhaps it was a shame he’d forgotten was there. An artifact from long ago, something kept in the stone temple he built around it. I never looked away as I passed. My eyes locked on his and it took only a moment for him to dwell in that deep humiliation. The kind where you know you’d done something wrong, but you’re not sure of what exactly. Like a scolded dog after it’s bitten someone. In an attempt to recover his dignity, he started screaming at me.

I knew it was “Aheeya” and “Quai” he was throwing my way; two of the worst insults you can say to someone in Thai. He followed behind, forgetting his bike, grabbing at words he thought failed him for my attention. I chuckled lightly shook my head. My back was to him.

Ttam says: “Is he yelling at you? What the fuck did you do?” I chuckled again, repeating the mans words “‘Aheeya’…’Quai’”, knowing exactly what they meant, still shaking my head, still walking away. We had reached the 7/11 on the corner and the boys were starting to feel concern. The guy hadn’t let up. He was quiet now, but still following.

I had resolved to turn around and deal with it. Of what I could have said, I wasn’t sure exactly. There’s no plan for something like this. Before I could do that, however, the Mormon Tabernacle entered the situation as if on cue.

“Hey! What the are you guys up to!?” He and his wife had just finished dinner. Distracted by the third-party intrusion, I imagine the Thai man felt suddenly outnumbered. Like a barking dog who’d lead himself into a pack of wolves. I mean, if two of the wolves had converted to Mormonism and the remaining three were drunk. . 

The conversation didn’t amount to much. They were on a date and we were technically the ones intruding. We stood outside the store for a moment considering our next move. Chinaski suggested we head down to Lonely Beach and hook up with the TEFL Teachers. We started across the road and down an alley toward the water.

It was not halfway down that alley, went we were met with a single headlight putzing its way up the road. On the motorbike, which appeared strikingly familiar, sat the same pudgy eye’d stray dog from before. From the way I remember it, the man just dumped his bike on the ground and kept walking. I know that’s not what really happened, but I think it would have been badass. Instead, he kickstanded the bike in the middle of the Soi like a bitch.

As he walked toward us, he was again, screaming in Thai. This time his tail wasn’t between his legs. I was utterly shocked as he stood across from us. We all were.

Chinaski says: “Dude you’ve got to apologize. Ah..Katode Kap” He says to him in Thai.

“I’m not fucking apologizing” I said reluctantly and increasingly more angry. I stared again at the man, never leaving his eyes. His never leaving mine. The boys spoke to him with broken words.

Finally, in his shitty english, he says to me: “This is my land. You are a guest in my land. Thailand. You are bad. You have no respect.”

“Just fucking wai him!” Ttam says.

I didn’t. I couldn’t. Am I a bad person? No, fuck this guy.

I finally spoke to him:

“Aliwhaa…Aliwhaa?” which literally translates, in this context, to “What the hell do you want?”. It wasn’t a smart thing to say, but given it was one the few phrases I knew, it felt right.

After saying it several more times, he reached behind him and pulled out a gun. Now he’s waving it at us and swearing. He finally says in English “I am policeman. Do you want to go to jail?”

I didn’t want to go to jail, but I also didn’t want to apologize. I wouldn’t Wai. I wouldn’t let this corrupt piece of shit extort me. T’tam at this point, saw that I was making it worse. As Chinaski attempted to plead with “officer” undercover, Ttam did the only thing he could think of doing. He walked between us. Breaking my eye contact with him, he pleaded with me “Just apologize.”

“I can’t.” I said. “It’s principle.”

So maybe it was both Chinaski and Ttam working in tandem, but whatever they did worked. The man hopped back onto his bike and said to us “You’re on my land! Get off my land!” Flipping his kickstand up again, like a bitch, he drove us back into the street. He blazed off down the road like the fucking “Alaiwa” who passed me before. 

“You’re a fucking idiot mate.” Ttam said as we continued our walk toward lonely beach. Taking the long way, though. It was up a mountain and down a mountain to get there and the whole way I was noticing myself.  A bit high from the event, a bit inflated with pride. Feeling like I’d won something. The boys continued their rant about how they’d almost been shot, that Thai prison can’t be fun, about the perks and setbacks of knowing Thai. About half way down the mountain and midway through the conversation a thought occurred to me. A thought which brought me to a stop. He was right. I am a fucking idiot.

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