2. City Of Angels
Exiting the Lufthansa jet, the bread oven heat pushed me back.
Even in the enclosed terminal causeway,even though it was greyly
overcast outside with the arrival of the rainy season, the sun found
a way in. It was always hot. Even if I stayed past September
into Thai winter, it would still be hot. Thailand had only two
thermostat settings: wet-hot, humid-hot. Immediately, a police
captain with a stern, lined, tanned face accompanied by two
sergeants who looked like children, his head bobbing over a picture
like a rooster eating corn asked, "Mr. Mike? Mr. TJ?"
I leaned over to see what he was holding. I remember that picture. Ta
told me she had sent it to her mom. She wanted to show off how
Mike and I liked her Thai cooking. Except this picture looked like
someone had just grabbed us both by the balls. Pointing, I said, "Yeah,
spicy hot fried chicken gizzards. That's me. That's Mike."
And with a fatherly voice as if talking to five year olds he
unemotionlly said, "Passports and arrival cards please." After thumbing
through our documents and putting our passport photos up along side
our faces to make sure, "How long do you plan to stay in Thailand?"
Shifting nervously,"Three months?" I asked.
"Your visas are for one month; you'll have to arrange to leave the
country and come back if you want to stay three months. Follow me."
As he started to walk away, his segeants bowed, left hand cradling
right elbow as they extended open palms offering to carry our packs
and duty free bounty. We bowed too, Mike even remembered to fold his
hands in a gesture of prayer. A polite Thai greeting. Both policemen
almost dropped our gear when they tried to acknowledge his unexpected
gesture of respect. Caught off guard, I patted Mike on the back, looked
at the guards and said,"Me, too." They both just looked at each other
puzzled, guess they didn't speak English, but looked back smiling
and nodding their heads.
There had been three other incoming international flights coming in around
8am that morning with only one nonresident passport control booth open.
As we walked past the arriving passengers from our flight, still
waiting in line, our captain in the lead, his staff walking behind, Mike's
redhead called out. He put his hands behind his back as if handcuffed.
then slid his right forefinger across his throat as if this was the end.
She mouthed an "O" and quickly raised her right open palm to hide ****1
it away. Mike shook with laughter. Pointed at our captain. Fisted
his chest and gave her the high sign.I knew what she was thinking.
I'd listened to Mike flirt with her, sitting in the opposite seat,
all the way from Germany.
She was 22, from Redondo Beach, California, a med student on a holiday.
She was staying at the exclusive Oriental Hotel for two weeks,
courtesy of daddy, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon.
Like a mongrel dog sniffing up a poodle, Mike had almost convinced her
that we were friends of the King. Now maybe she had no doubts. She put her
clenched hand to her ear, and with a right forefinger dialed into space
while mouthing the words, "Call me."
I laughed, remembering telling Mike
at 5'11" tall in her flats, she was way too tall for him.
But with those long slender legs that wouldn't quit, either would he.
I warned him. If she goes out with you and wears heals, you are going
to look like her unic manservant.
Yeah, I wouldn't of cared either.
And then there was that sumo sized German that had sat between me and
Mike the whole trip from Germany, 10 hours, reading the Der Spiegal
newspaper. We were like bookends on his seat. He wouldn't even close
his paper so we could eat.He saw us under guard. He raised his chin
and jabbed his forefinger at us like trying to ring a doorbell when
noone was home. Yeah, the Thai police had caught those long haired
hippy pot smoking, drug selling bastards before they could pollute
the country. Looking at him, I wished I really did bring something.
Then I could have slipped it in his pocket. I knew all about the
sausage sucking krauts who used to come here with promises of marriage
for naive Thai country girls. Take them home, take their passports and
turn them into whores.Their gluttony betrayed their desire. Mike just
gave him the finger and sent him a wet kiss.
Then the clacking of heals like raw rice falling onto an aluminum pan.
Stweardesses, "MikeY, are you alright? Do you need us to call the
embassy?" grabbing his arms they asked. Our captain turned to protest
but these were professionals. One slipped her grip, her chin on her
chest, she lifted her lashed blue shaded green eyes touching our proudly
decorated Captain's chest. Her chest rose as her blue sky tipped finger
stroked his army sharp shooter service metal. She got close enough
that he could smell her freshly washed balsam hair.
"One minute." she begged as if in his arms.
"Quickly, please." he started to say. Then realising the hero he
could be,"I am just escorting your friends for the mayor. I promise
they are not in any trouble."
His stewardess grabbed his shoulders and between jumps gave him a kiss ***2
on the cheek. She stretched out her arm motioning her friends it was
time to go. And racing away, "Bye Mikey, call me." they all said.
I turned to nod to the guards to grap our bags, it was time to go.
Then I saw that unmistakeable red hair cocked for a look from the crowd.
I just had one thought; Mike get laid. You'll stay here longer and I can
be with Ta.
Approaching the lone passport check-in counter, adjusting his glasses,
the sole processor stood up with a salute. Our captain passed him our
passports. THe processor quickly sat down to fullfill his duty. In less than a
minute he stood up with a salute, "Sir."
Our captain gave me mine with a nod and a smile.
Sighing, he touched Mike on the shoulder and gave him his. Still holding
on to it he whispered something in Mike's ear and gave him a business
card. Mike looked at the card touched our captain on the shoulder, shook
his head yes and gave him a thumbs up.
Sliding down the escalator I had to ask, "What was that all about?"
Mike looking around at where we were heading said, "He wanted to know if
I had that blonde chick stewardess's phone number."
Wondering why I was asking such a stupid question, "Do you?"
Mike now combing his hair in some imaginary mirror, "Not yet, but I know
where they are staying. Wanna come?"
And then there she was. The one girl that could make me say no. And there
he was in his new police major uniform, Joey, bringing Ta a cold bottle of water.
His father the governor had just made him the head of Immigration.
I suddenly felt a lump in my stomach, tears were singeing my eyes and
clogging my throat.
"TJ, what the fuck?" Mike asked.
I didn't answer, just under my breath, not now, not now.
Like a rock star lowered down to the stage, Ta's eyes followed mine down
the escalator. My heart jumped, she was still mine. Mike couldn't shut up.
I couldn't say a word.
I couldn't help but like Joey. He was funny like Mike was embarrassingly
When our two earlier porters showed up with our bags, Ta covered her mouth
and bent down grabbing her knees she was laughing so hard. "Isn't that your
laundry bag?" she asked.
"Mine, too." Mike added.
It's a duffle bag." I protested.
Ta teared up like she was crying she laughed so hard. Now I felt
like I was standing there naked. Ta grabbed me by the arm still
trying to settle herself. Good, her mascara was running. "Oh, my
stomach hurts,"she complained. I bent down so I could look up
into her face. "I have one for you, too." I said. "Seeing as how
you are so ugly I thought you needed a bigger cosmetics case."