Love You Long Time, Bangkok
Dusk. City dusk. Skyscrapers and exhaust fumes absorb the day’s last rays. The skyline vanished a long time ago and dragged away with it the urbanites’ eagerness for the start of tomorrow.
You see a bearded man on a street corner. He’s holding out a rose with a broken stem. His cardboard shorts are soiled and his T-shirt is nothing but rags hanging off skin and bone. He’s wearing mismatched flip-flops, one lime green (too big), the other pink—it’s hard to say, but it looks like there’s a Hello Kitty print on the rubber sole under his heel. His feet are caked in city filth, and open sores populate his legs like parasitic colonies strategically planning to suck him dry.
The man’s standing on his toes in the middle of the pavement searching for someone in the crowds, who are on their way home. They are dressed up in smart clothes: business suits, silk ties, polished leather shoes, and leather handbags; they own the latest gadgets: smart phones, watches, and weird little flat squares they run their fingers over like they’re stroking their pets.
He’s in distress, like a mother who’s lost her child in a crowded market. No-one notices. They talk to themselves and stroke their pets.
He spots her in the crowd and his face is dawn personified. You don’t see the lice in his hair and you don’t see the angry red of ringworm on the side of his neck. You see his bright eyes, flickering with delight as if the reflection of candle flames in the sheen of marble flooring. You don’t see his missing front teeth, and you look past the bottom lip, chapped and bitten bloody. All you see is joy, a smile as wide as the Chao Phraya River.
You see a tall, blond woman. She’s also dressed up in the latest fashion, a knee-high blue dress that fits like a kimono, fastened at the front with six oversized black buttons. She’s wearing black stockings and a pair of Giuseppe Zanotti high heels. She carries her Celine multicoloured envelope handbag over her shoulder with such style it looks like she’s forgotten about it.
Their eyes meet in that space where nothing but first love exists. Words don’t exist in this time and space; they’re invisible for the time being. Reading between the lines is temporarily erased.
Bangkok holds out her hand, palm up. Her skin is smooth, fingers elegant.
He limps toward her and presses the rose against the glass where the display window dreams rush hour traffic scenes and only the mannequin’s glass eyes comprehend his love for her, secret messages conveyed in the glimmer of neon light flashes.
words by Ramon Ramirez
art by Craig Hopson