We venture out into the twilight of Suphan Buri. The sun has just set and the sky is nearly completely dark. It is finally safe to escape from my air conditioned nest, into the crazy, abyss of the world. There is a pack of us once again. Stares come from every direction. There is no way we could hide. Our skin would not allow it.
We glow in the dark.
We stand in front of the boarded restaurant, cars passing behind us. Tiffany’s English is no longer an option. My random, minimal Thai vocabulary will have to be our tool utilized for communication.
I begin to get nervous. We pass the sweat drenched buildings with their inhabitants sitting in front drinking various liquids and dressed in the least amount of clothing deemed appropriate. The role of leader has never come naturally to me, but I try to continue my confident act to the next restaurant on my list. The man who works here has always been kind and his eyes are calming even if he and his wife don’t speak any English. As we sit under the florescent lighting and the man and his wife try their best to make us comfortable, pointing at least two fans in our direction my anxiety comes to a peak. I want to communicate my gratitude, but I say “Kop khun ka” so frequently here, that I feel it loses its significance. I smile to the man with a scar on the side of his right eye and raise my eyebrows hoping facial expressions are common across our very different cultures and countries.
As I begin the order, dread enters my body. Her eyes are confused, as I am sure mine are. I continue once we agree on the first dish that caused some confusion. The next is easier and the third is effortless. She shows me three dishes written entirely in the Thai alphabet. I smile and with that smile she knows that I don’t recognize the words, but we will be content with whatever she gives us.
Pots and pans clink together and the painful, pungent smell of peppers fills our noses. We each take a turn forcing out our coughs or sneezes to relieve the pain in our noses and continue with our conversation. Many people pass captivated by our presence. In between, answering questions that have come to be common sense for me, I look at the portrait of the king hanging on a back wall of the restaurant. I see a slight smirk on his face making me feel guilty for my lack of communication skills I have in this country I have lived in for 6 months.
I tell him, “I still have time”