I feel like the floor of a taxi cab. There is a creature burrowing into my skull and another one gnawing on the lining of my stomach. My eyelids are heavy. I achieve consciousness and immediately regret it. I want to sleep. I try to sleep. I fail. I open my eyes. The sun is just starting to poke through the curtains. It is 6AM.
I am in the driver’s apartment. Somewhere in Hua Hin. I look around the room. I notice a small stain on the floor. It looks like blood. I am pretty sure it is not mine. It is a very nice apartment (blood notwithstanding). Widescreen TV. Satellite. Stereo speakers. Bean bag chair. Some artwork of an elephant on the wall. Some sort of crane type bird statue in the corner. Where did that blood come from?
When we arrived last night, Terry was sluggish but still playful. I was apprehensive. It is not my nature to spend the night in the apartment of a stranger in a strange land. But Terry seemed to react as if this was all part of the plan. The driver offered me fruit. Terry offered me beer. I politely declined both.
I stare at the elephant. The sun slowly rises. I try to sleep. I fail. The bedroom door opens. The driver (whose name happens to be Will) walks out. He wraps a light robe around his t-shirt and boxer shorts. He greets me. I return the greeting. He sweeps the floor. He cleans up the stain.
I ask if it is, indeed, blood. “Maybe,” he says. He does not seem concerned. I decide not inquire further.
He begins to make some food. A protracted silence ensues. The guidebooks offer very little guidance on things like this and I am not entirely sure as to the proper protocol. What do you say to a Thai taxi driver/tour guide/gigilo after spending a night on his couch? “You have a nice couch,” I say, deciding that simplicity is probably my best option. He thanks me. The silence resumes.
He slices some dragon fruit. “Telly woke up last night wondering where you were,” he says, offering me a piece. I hesitate slightly, thinking of that small stain on the floor. Then I figure if he were going to murder me, he would have done it already. “He said he had to find his friend. Make sure his friend is safe.” Will’s accent seems less pronounced this morning. Along with the fruit, he has prepared some sausages and tea. “He cares about you.”
I notice a picture on the refrigerator. Will is posing next to an older man and woman. They have white hair. They are not Thai. They are wearing winter clothes and holding skis. They are not in Thailand. “That is Mother and Father,” he says. “I did the exchange program in Sweden. They help pay for my education.” I ask him what he is studying. “Tourism. I will be tour guide for farang like you. Do you need a tour? Monkey Mountan? Dr No Island?” I take a sausage and shake my head silently. The food helps settle my stomach.
“How come you not join Telly and me last night?” Will asks. I take a sip from my cup of tea. “It’s not really my cup of tea,” I say. His face lights up with understanding. “You like girl!” he says. I agree. “You like young girl,” he says. I disagree. Strongly. He doesn’t believe me. “I like you. How young you want? I get for you. How young?” His accent suddenly seems thicker. His tone reminds me of a car salesman, offering optional extras.
I insist that I am, most definitely, not interested in a young girl. “OK,” he says as if I have just told him I don’t want power windows, “I get old girl for you. No problem. What color pussy you want?”
I am eager for this conversation to be over. “I don’t know,” I say, “how about green?”
Terry emerges from the bedroom. For a man who was blackout drunk the night before, he has a surprisingly springy step. He asks me how I slept. I tell him it was fine. He goes to the fridge and takes out the six-pack of beer from the night before. He offers me one. I decline. He cocks his eyebrows. “It’s 9:30 in the morning,” I remind him. He opens one. “Hair of the dog,” he announces, and takes a long swig. “You know, this is probably the nicest place I have ever woken up in after a night in Hua Hin. You must be some sort of good luck charm.” I am flattered by the compliment and slightly terrified by the implications. He rubs Will’s head. Will looks uncomfortable at the contact, but does not say anything.
Terry turns on the television. Will sits in his lap. They act like a couple exploring newfound love. Terry is relaxed and frisky. Will smiles and laughs. “You very bad boy last night, Telly,” he says. His accent is even more pronounced than just a few minutes ago.
They are showing an old James Bond movie on HBO. I rattle off a few pieces of arcane trivia. Will and Terry are impressed by my knowledge of the franchise. For a little while we are just three people from three different continents, eating breakfast after a night out. Talking about silly action movies. Laughing at stupid jokes. Who we are and how we got here does not matter. Tomorrow does not matter. There is just this place. There is just us.
But these things never last.
As the minutes tick by, I become increasingly uncomfortable. Will is a very nice taxi driver/tour guide/gigolo/pimp, but his stable of conversation topics is thin. I like Terry, but a six-pack is not the breakfast of champions. I keep looking at my watch. I keep wondering when it’s going to end.
And when I will finally be able to get home.