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balance (2): accident

Saturday, December 4, 2004


after a long night of goodbye celebrations (i felt horrible leaving my dog 'happy') and an excruciating morning of dodging storms on the ferry, whit has made arrangements for us to stay at his cousin's house in ko samui for the night. otto and i smile shyly at his thai family and make a beeline for the back room, which has a comfortable bed and air conditioning. we sleep like the dead for a couple of hours. whit knocks at dusk, he has rented a car which is much too expensive for him. he is too much- i have never met anyone so polite and generous. he lives to make people happy... he drives us around the island for sightseeing.

on the cliffs are ancient rock formations in the shapes of female and male genitalia. they are called "grandma" and "grandpa". we sip cold beer and watch the flocks of thai tourists line up and snap photographs with their hands inside the vaginal rock, or kissing the penile one. somehow it isn't obscene but ceremonial.

we head towards lamai (beach) for dinner. i have a bad feeling. the truck feels wrong- i scramble for a seatbelt. whit speeds too fast, ot tells him to take it easy. we round a bend and and see the shocked face of a motorbike driver in our headlights, coming towards us in the wrong lane. we hit him head on. i watch as in slow motion he is thrown half a block. his motorbike nearly misses a family at a foodstall. his shoes land on our roof.

ot gets out and runs spluttering over to the man, who is writhing in pain. don't move him, i say- but too late, a group of thai men have already surrounded. they unceremoniously snatch him up and throw him into the back of a pickup truck. i hear his head hit the side. the injured man has his eyes rolled back, he is moaning. i don't see any blood but something is obviously wrong. they speed off to the hospital, but not before i am able to push a stuffed toy pig under his head and whisper to him that everything will be fine. i never find out what happens.

once our shaking subsides and we are able to escape the crowd of gossiping people, a second passenger appears. he had been thrown as well, and had ripped his pants down the seams so that his rear was showing. a group of young girls titter from the sidelines. he looks pissed and rather stunned. he sits and shakes his head, over and over. the police arrive and inspect the scene. the driver had been extremely drunk, it wasn't whit's fault. but the passenger seems to be well acquainted with the officer, and it is decided that whit will pay the damage to the vehicle. whit accepts meekly. they draw lines with chalk, take pictures, fidget and try to look official and overbearing for much longer than was necessary. ot and i run in secret to a nearby shop and down a beer quickly to calm our nerves.

the night was somber after that- we headed to lamai and ate fried oysters at a stall next to the open air beer bars. there were two stages- one with singing 'katoeys' (ladyboys) surrounded by bargirls eyeing the crowd for potential customers, one for muay thai boxing. we couldn't get into it. we stared in silence, swallowed our food without tasting it, and drove slowly back home.


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