My naked feet touch the dark wood floor. The warmth of the floor shocks me. My eyes fight the dark and find my chipped toenails. Purple specks. Raised bumps where the bugs have sucked my blood. The wood repels the cool air of the air conditioner. My cold toes are pleased. They don’t want to move.
Urgency returns to me.
Stumbling, I get dressed and rush out the door. The hostel is behind me. The moon is still out. People walk to their temporary homes. Makeup smudged. Shoes in hand. Words slurred. Many men acting as gentlemen and many women allowing it to happen. They know where the night is taking them, however if either party acts experienced the predawn sky will betray them.
“Taxi?” a man standing in front of 7-11 asks me.
“Pak Khlong Talat?” I ask.
He shakes his head having no other way to communicate the distance is to extreme.
A man approaches me. My palms begin to sweat. My heart begins to race.
“Where do you want to go?” He asks in perfect English. My anxiety disappears. I give a big smile. “The Flower Market” I tell him, arching my eyebrows indicating that I know it is far.
“Pak Khlong Talat?!”
“Pak Khlong Talat?!”
“Pak Khlong Talat?!” he yells at many different cabs. They all shake their heads, rejecting the idea of driving such a distance at 5 in the morning. Finally a man approves the challenge for a hefty sum of 200 baht.
I become desperately aware of my flawed haggling skills as I agree and open the cab door.
Thai traditional music. Gap teeth. Tanned, dark skin. Hands that have been many places.
He smiles at me and begins making conversation with the little English that he knows. By the end of the drive he knows I am from California and that there is no traffic this early in the morning.
He pulls over. Nods. Takes my money. I am here. It is time. I look out the window. Chaos. I slide over to get out on the safe side. He smiles at me. Winks. Drives away.
I begin to walk.
Deep reds. Bright yellows. Maroons. Midnight blues. Violets. Curves. Corners. Thorns. Blooms. Young. Green. Protected. Unaware of life. I couldn’t take it all in.
Whistles. Hellos! Where are you froms. Stares. Self consciousness. Skin that has never felt so pale. Tattoos. Young men. Muscly arms. Tanned skin. Large baskets. Sweat. Heat. Urgency. Weight. Wheels that stopped turning. Wheels that were turning rapidly. Blurred images of built young men hauling gorgeous, varied flowers.
Wrinkled faces. Women wise beyond their years. Their hands working. Their eyes focused on the young foreign girl. Createing materpeices. Artwork from leaves and petals of marigolds.
Monks. Robes of varied oranges. Barefeet. Bald heads. No eyebrows. Avoid eye contact. Ignorance as to how to greet these men who could bless me. Change my destiny. Change my Karma. Confusion. What do I believe. They deserve respect. I smile, unknowing how else to give it. They stare, just as the wise women. Looking right through my translucent outer layer.
My pace quickens. Heart racing. Feelings of inadequacy. Wishes to be anonymous. Chills run through my body. I button my overshirt. Hoping it will take the stares away. The judgments. The feelings of regret. Why did I come at the busiest of times? I search for a friendly, familiar face. Just more stares. Even the cats on the spirit houses watch as I pass. My pace quickens again. It is a maze. I cannot find my way out. I become desperate. Dead end. Curves and turns and flowers and the fragrance that overwhelms me even further. Farang. Laughter. Unease. Worried eye brows. Smiles with missing teeth.
Quiet. Peace. I begin walking next to the river. “Where are you going?” a young boy asks. I don’t see anyone, but he emerges. His dark, messy hair needed a trim and his shirt was too big. His feet were naked same as the monks’. I tell him my destination and in perfect English he directs me where to go. He reminds me of the 7-11 man. Maybe they are related. Maybe they aren’t. I walk with an ease. My heart rate has slowed to normal. I try to comprehend the experience I just had. A feeling of regret floods me as I realize I only took one photo. I begin forming descriptions in my head, trying to comfort myself. “Beauty” and “Exposed” are the two words that take over.