Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TO LIVE AND DIE IN PATTAYA by Peter Nolan Smith


Pattaya isn't what it used to be in the 90s or 80s. The coconut plantations have been replaced by luxury villas. Interpol and the Thai Police hunt down fugitives and the Russians have taken over the hills, so two summers ago I moved north to Sri Racha with my son Fenway and his mom. The city was a quiet refuge from the madness of the Last Babylon, which was too quiet some nights and that summer Fenway's mom suggested that I go visit old friends in Pattaya.

"I came here to be with you not them."

"I know, but farang have to be with farang sometime. Same Thai have to be with Thai." Thais understand the concept of fun or sanuk better than westerners.

"Are you sure?" Pattaya was filled with temptation.

"Sure you love me forever, no, but no one in Pattaya can love you same me." Mam knows my heart is hers and hers alone and swore that my longtime fidelity has nothing to do with a magic potion. "I not need magic to make you love me."

"You're right." I loved Mam for her and she loves me for me. No one else can handle either of our special madnesses, plus at my age I was too lazy to butterfly with a bargirl or go-go dancer.

"You want go out. Go out. Not get too drunk." Mam worried about my getting into an accident or a fight more than cheating on her.

"I'll only drink beer."

"No tequila. You have son. Not want him not have father."

"Okay, no tequila."

I called Jamie Parker and we arranged to meet at an old haunt.

I kissed Mam and my son good-night and caught a slow bus to Pattaya.

Forty minutes later I walked into Chez Michel on Soi Buffalo Bar. Jamie Parker was on his first beer. He had always been thin, but the new gauntness was worrying.

"I know what you're thinking, but I'm okay." The exiled New Yorker explained that he had gone on a six-month Ice binge with little Ort, the twenty-three year-old go-go dancer from the Paris A Go-Go. "It's all over. Ice, Ort, and not eating food."

He ate three courses; salad, steak, and dessert.

Afterward we walked to the Buffalo Bar for a nightcap at a slow pace.

Jamie was in a New York state of mind.

“Tomorrow will be nine years since 9/11. Remember everyone saying how it would change the world. Nothing’s changed. Nothing at all.”

He paused and a second later a woman’s body hit the pavement with a soft thud. We looked up to see from where.

A second-story balcony.

A groan reverted our attention to the woman. Her fall hadn’t been fatal. Jamie knelt down to help her.

“Pai ke ki.”

She didn’t want our help. Two women came out of the shadows. They regarded us as assailants, until recognizing the woman’s face. She was no stranger. We called for help, as a crowd gathered around the woman. A pick-up appeared and two men loaded the suicide onto the back of the truck. They drove off to Banglamung Hospital and I overheard from an old lady that the jumper was one of the other woman’s lover. She had found out about her seeing someone else. Her leap to the street had been an act of love. I explained the story to Jamie outside the Buffalo Bar.

“If she had wanted to kill herself, she would have jumped from the roof.”

“Have a little heart.” People jumped to their death frequently in Pattaya; mostly jilted lovers and bankrupt farangs.

“She broke her arm. That’s all and you know what day today is?” Jamie dragged me to the bar.

“September 10th.” I couldn’t recall anything significant about the date.

“World Suicide Prevention Day.” Jamie ordered two Chang beers. They were stronger than Heineken. “I read about it in the Bangkok Post. She was trying to kill herself on a day like that.”

“Suicides aren’t interested in dates only a relief from their misery.” Four year ago during my black period I had contemplated killing myself, although only with a gun, which I couldn't afford, and I rejected jumping as too messy.

“Then she should have picked another day. The terrorists from 9/11 did.”

“9/10/2001 was rainy. Ceiling visibility in New York was a 1000 feet.” No way they could have found the World Trade Towers in that slop.

“I know, but the real reason they didn’t pick 9/10 was that it was World Suicide Prevention Day or maybe someone talked them out of it.”

“You really think nineteen towelheads had any idea about what day it was.” I had never heard of World Suicide Prevention day until Jamie mentioned it.

“Yeah, I do and your'e being a little anti-semitic with a statement like that. If you’re going to drive a plane into a building then you want things right. Everything. They did it on 9/10 out of respect for what they were about to do. Suicide.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Then you give me a good reason why they chose 9/11.”

“It had nothing to do with 911 being the emergency telephone call letters for many countries.” I sipped the beer from my glass. The ice made it nice and cold. I had actually researched the numbers once and said, “9 is the second cube and 11 symbolizes threat in numerology. Revelation 9:11 warns of destruction. George Bush Senior declared the creation of The New World Order on 9/11/2000. Eleven years later 9/11 and 9+1+1=11. September 11 is also the 254th day of the year: 2 + 5 + 4 = 11.”

“Stop it before you go mad.”

"Two tequilas." I signaled the bartender to make them doubles.

I had seen a man go insane on numbers before. He was trying to figure out how much a girl loved him by the times that she didn't kiss him. The answer came up zero.

Bix was found dead in a park at the northern tip of Manhattan. His fingernail had scratched arcane formulae in stone. My fascination with number came from studying Math in university. My Multivariable Calculus professor failed me in my sophomore year. He had done me a favor, but I still respected the power of numbers and said to Jamie, "Numbers are only numbers.”

"So 9/11 is just a number."

"Nothing more." I wondered how many times 9/11 had been said since 9/11.

Billions of times a day. Those numbers added up to no good.

“But not if you consider GW Bush as the anti-Christ.” I lifted my glass.

“And you do?” Jamie’s eyes rolled in his head like a broken slot machine. He was no fan of GW Bush, but he didn't believe in any devil other than himself.

“I don’t believe in anything, other than my son, my wife, and beer."

We downed the tequilas.

"If you don't mind, I think I’ll keep trying to kill myself with beer.” I ordered two more Chang. “Is that all right with you?”

“It’s not like we have a choice.”

“Beer.” We clinked glasses. “The only way to go.”

On any day of the year.

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