It’s only my second time on a plane…and I’m buckled in for 16 hours. I have a light backpack of clothes in the belly of this beast, 600 books on my Kindle and this journal. Not much else.
The only other flight was from Detroit, Michigan to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Some kind of summer program for “at risk” youth. A week eating quinoa wasn’t going to keep us from the risks we faced every day, but poor kids don’t say no to free vacations.
At first the big skies and bare cliffs Out West scared the crap out of me. Used to Michigan’s low clouds and tree coverage, it felt like someone ripped off the roof and exposed us directly to the wrath of the universe. After a couple days I loved it though. The freedom to run a horse across a field without any street signs or traffic lights. Seeing stars instead of the 711’s orange glow in the night sky. I felt small and significant at the same time. Coming home sucked.
I guess I’m chasing that feeling. With a round-the world ticket and Aunt Mary’s “estate” in my bank account. I’ve got it figured out- if I average $120 a day (Asia days much cheaper than Europe days) I can be out for an entire year. See ya never Battle Creek.
I got the window so I could see the Pacific. I read once the Pacific Ocean has 75,000 volcanoes. I hope I see at least one. The joker in the middle seat is gorgeous and I’m trying not to look. He passed out right away and I’m going to have to wake him up soon to pee. Should I shove my crotch or my ass in his face? These are Coach Choices.
Damn, he’s cute. Long, legs all scrunched up in the tiny seat. Eyelashes curled into a perfect semi-circle, like the smile on an emoji. Honey skin, and I caught a flash of greenish eyes while he settled in. Pile of nappy curls, bleached at the tips, either from sun and surf…or a kit. I snort, realizing my opinion of him will change entirely depending on which one it is.
I also am realizing I might think he’s cute cause he kinda looks like me, like we could be cousins. Ok I really have to pee, but waking people up is so intimate. Good morning baby, how’d you sleep? Focus on the spray of blackheads on his big nose and the stream of drool.
Turns out his name is Gabriel. His t-shirt was crazy soft. And I went Crotch First. We talked for a long time after I got back, shared a couple beers. He’s passed out again. Eee! Good start.
I’ve never felt jet lag before. Puke. It’s all greasy and nauseous and headachy. Gabe followed me through customs. He’s Gabe now, and his mother is Irish, and his dad is black (from England black), he loves papaya, the scar on his wrist is from a dog attack and is visiting Thailand for a “vacay”. It was a long flight. And his accent is adorable.
“That’s a blank book you’ve got there,” he said when they stamped my new passport.
I didn’t hear that stamp, I felt it. CLunk. My first country. Grinning, I told him I lost my last passport.
He was in a big rush at baggage claim. I watched/didn’t watch as he grabbed his light bag. He took off with a long stride. Narrow hips, jeans barely hanging on, slightly duckfooted. Fuck it.
“Want to share a cab?” I nearly shouted.
He stopped. “That’s…not a good idea.”
“Oh.” Well fuck you too, Friend.
“I mean, sure, come on. Bangkok is intense your first time. Let’s get you to the hostel district, that’s where I’m headed.”
Intense is the right word. Stepping outside the airport, mid-day humidity and heat instantly made my armpits prickle. The chaos of motorbikes, shouting people, bright signs, and intense smog bounced around my foggy brain, trying to register. I couldn’t move, because I couldn’t compute. There was foreign, and then there was this.
Gabe grabbed my hand, not noticing my sweaty shock. We piled into a cab and joined the river of honking traffic. I couldn’t stop staring at the power lines. Hundreds of power lines, running all crazy back and forth across the street. What kind of system was that? What happened if one fell? All my mental preparation to be an impartial observer, a blank slate, absorbing new cultures without judgement, flew out that cab window. This place was loud, smelly and an electrical fire disaster waiting to happen! WAS THAT A BABY RIDING A MOTORCYCLE?! Sweet Christ.
We got out at Khao San Road, which Gabe explained was the place all the backpackers hang out in transition to somewhere better. By this point I think he realized I was a little out of it, mostly clued in by the fact that I sat down on the curb, retched a couple times, and almost passed out. Observant, this guy. He stationed me at an open-air bar in front of the world’s most refreshing box fan and told me to eat something. I groggily watched as he crossed the street, went into a halfway decent hotel and exchanged high fives with a Chinese man in the lobby.
I ordered a green curry and a beer. I know. It should have been water. But…it was vacay. The curry shocked me back to reality a bit. Creamy, crunchy, sweet and savory at the same time, I didn’t know food could be that many things at once. I ordered another plate before the first one was gone. And another beer. Gabe came back and offered to help me find a room. Good thing too, because when I stood up, I couldn’t stand up.
He sighed and one-shouldered my pack for me, scooping the other arm across my sweat-soaked back. I wasn’t so out of it that my ears didn’t prick up nervously when the receptionist at the shoddy hostel next door asked if the room was for one or two.
“One,” Gabe said firmly.
Fine, I think you’re kinda sad too, Gabe. Get your soft and slightly calloused hands off me.
I sank gratefully onto the abused cot in the small room.
“Drink some water before you pass out,” he said, tossing me a giant plastic bottle. “And if you’re conscious later, my friends and I will be at Brick Bar at the end of the strip. Come by,” he stopped at the door. “And if you go out alone…don’t drink too much ok? There’s a lot of sketchy guys around here.”
Thanks Gabe, I don’t know anything about taking care of myself. Still it was kinda sweet.
Have you ever woken up in a panic, thinking you had forgotten something incredibly important, like, to breathe? I could somehow feel how far I was from home, mentally running down a rosary that ticked every mile, and it was unending. Also, so thirsty. So, so thirsty.
Gratefully chugging Gabe’s water, I considered my options. My phone said it was 10:30 p.m. I could read (hide) in my room and wait for the train to Chang Mai tomorrow at noon. I read once about the Santika nightclub fire here. 66 people died and they were so crisped it took a week to identify all the bodies. I should really just chill out and rest.
The club was loud and blue. Gabe was sprawled across a low couch with a bunch of other hipster guys. Young Thai women in fuck-me heels floated around them hopefully. Ew.
He hopped up right away when he saw me, and settled me in his spot, shooing away a bro who looked like Scooby Doo with a man bun, then squeezing in next to me. He smelled like pot and sweat and curry. In a good way. He passed me a bucket with multiple straws.
“Knockoff Thai Red Bull, Coke, and vodka. A local favorite. It’s rocket fuel for a party.”
It tasted like bubble gum and bum piss. Wanting to play it slightly cooler than I had that afternoon, I sipped a beer from the iced bucket on the table instead. Gabe slid a long arm across my shoulders. Guess somebody warmed up from not wanting to share a cab. I felt a mix of annoyance at pretty much being peed on to mark his turf from the other guys, and a tug of excitement at the soft hairs on my bare skin. Doesn’t take much to make a girl feel special, guys.
We kissed in line for the bathroom. In the close, dark hallway he gently lifted my chin and gave me a quick graze with his lips, then looked at me to see what I thought. Fuck it, is what I thought. I did what I had wanted to do for 16 hours on the plane and tugged one of his curls straight. Then I pulled his face down to mine and took it slow. We lost our place in line for the squatter toilets.
The night was still balls hot as we made our way back to his hotel. He stumbled a little dodging the crush of wasted 20-somethings on the street. At 1:00 a.m. the already busy road was a sea of tank tops, tattoos, sloshing Singha beers and hopeful whores.
Gabe grabbed my arm and pulled me into an alley. He pushed me against the crumbling wall roughly and kissed me softly. His breath started coming faster as he ran his hands up and down my waist, barely brushing the bottom of my breasts with his thumbs. I was having a little trouble breathing too, damn he was good. His mouth insistent on mine, I could feel him hard against my leg and it was definitely worth a grope.
“What the hell?” I yelled, whipping my hand out of his pants. Was there a bunch of a bubble wrap around his dick? Was it wrapped in Pillsbury dough?! What WAS that?
At the same time he gasped again, and hurled all over the alley. It smelled like bubble gum and bum piss.
I seriously considered running away, locking my hostel door and seeing if there was an earlier train out of this hellhole. Then I remembered how good his water tasted when I woke up. Dammit.