The Weight of Bangkok (Thailand. Summer 2006.)


It was a small splash, the first time the Chao Phraya River touched her skin. It collected itself, making a rivulet, its own tiny clone, and slithered from her shoulder, down her back. It was easy enough to brush off at the time; her attention was focused on ochre-colored robes of tan-colored monks and the smell of sewage. The busy-ness of Bangkok is enough to distract even the most worldly of travelers. It would caress her often while she tried to wrap her mind around the city. She often mistook its gentle droplets for her own sweat. Little by little it seeped into her clothes. The algae would get invisibly caked in her hair. Bathing only made it worse, since it was the same snake that came out of the faucet, running in tiny streams down her legs and nesting in her drain, just waiting for the next time she would stand above it. It brought all of Thailand into her room. The sweat from the bathing mother. The piss of the Ko Kret buffalo. The decomposing rice leaves. The acrid saliva of Asian Open-Billed Storks. The ashes of incense from Wat Pai Lom. The river left them on her eyelashes, resting on the shelf of her belly button and curled in the ques of her pubic hair. In less than two weeks time, she was drowning in it, tangled in water hyacinth.

The combination of water hyacinth and wet heat left me with dreams of the Amazon. Before long, each day was laced with ayahuasca. My stomach ached for and wretched with the newness of each experience. My appetite left me completely, and food became just another beautiful band in the rainbow of the life around me. Piranhas nibbled my toes as I walked down streets dusty with the resin of car exhaust, curry-laced smoke, and incense cinders. Vipers strung themselves from telephone poles and carried the secrets of the city from Klongsan to Phra Pinklao. The sky let loose a constant rain of wet sunshine. Even at night, nothing was dry. The moist fervor of the city covered my body, making it a struggle to keep my hips still.

In the end, it was the weight of everything which finally drove me mad. Every blanket was too heavy to sleep under. Just thinking became dangerous because one could get smothered under the weight of a simple idea. Each thought that went into the air collected condensation and dust, becoming more and more tangible and visible, until it finally dropped to the ground in a puddle and actually existed.

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