When the Roads Turn White

Even at 6:30 in the morning heading up the new road it wa snow hot only 30 minutes after the sun had risen. The angle of the sun was low but being in the tropics that would rapidly change as the minutes ticked by. The sun hung as a prefect circle in the sky. A circle of pure yellow washing the colour from everything to the left, right and above and below it except for the lemony yellowy ring that frilled around the perfect disk of the sun. And just looking that way left eyes blinking and seeing many colours when quickly averted. The heat searing through the thinnest of almost unnoticeable dews hanging over the mangroves and barren grass outlands and even the tin shanty soon to be a building site and the half built row of houses or shops that were scattered in the name of development around the once pristine swamps the road had been driven through.  Even so early drops of sweat could be felt forming on the forehead and that thinnest of suggested mists would be gone soon.

After spending so long trying to fish the notebook out from behind the large wooden bed, and then seeing such faded pencilled notes in a scrawl that was going to take time to decipher if it could ever be so with the dust and stains and scuffed corners, it was time to sit back on the floor resting against the big bed and let the sweat generated by even such an activity as fishing behind a bed with a curtain wire evaporate and take a breath. The notebook was or at least looked like one of those cheap ones you found in most shops, but one with maybe more pages than most with a purple cover which was now both faded and stained as well as grimed with dust but still a little not so white box with space for name and anything else the writer wanted to enter. But on this book there was nothing.

Wan now has a little shop in Ayuthaya. Well it isn’t a shop that we would recognize in most European countries but one made of a thin wall of little red bricks and grey breeze blocks with a modicum of plaster over them in patches and with a roof of tin in places and corrugated asbestos in others and looking quite out-of-place a glass front with large sliding doors that opened on to the wares Wan sold. And behind that area of display was a store-room cum bedroom and a tiny shower and toilet. But this was now home for Wan and she even had her television in the shop to watch when the business wasnt inundated with customers, which was actually allowing for the end of the factory shifts most of the time. The shop lay on the main road just outside the gates to the factory and not surprisingly Wan did most of her business when the factory closed, or at least when each shift finished for the factory rarely closed. It went without saying that most of the business involved the sale of such vitals as beer, whisky, cheap local distillate and ubiquitous bags of ice. Many would after a long shift just take these to the rooms and tin shanties they lived in while a few would linger sitting at the two tables outside Wan’s shop making small talk but mostly watching the television and drinking.

Down by the beach and also in every road that ran into the beach road or adjacent to it or even nowhere near it the sound of shrill voices, drums and a cacophony of every kind of music imaginable mingled into one party. One massive mobile party with all in the backs of pick ups and larger trucks gyrating to the music, laughing, drinking, joking and of course throwing water and throwing more water and being hit by deluges of water. And with powder being thrown and smeared onto any face passing by only to be washed off in the next thrown bucket of water or a stream fired form some brightly coloured water gun. IT was the first day. The first day of five for the incessant party that was just beginning.

Wan was now with her second husband but things wer better now and at least this one talked. You have to worry about the ones that don’t talk she often said and of course her first husband had fallen into this category. Of course maybe it wasnt his taciturnity that ended the relationship but maybe that a couple of teenagers were always destined to change or maybe it was the string of men Wan took to having a thing with and not really even attempting to hide ort maybe it was even when her husband after changing his family name to that of his mother was watching the news two days after the change was complete to see his mother dragged from her house by police for selling drugs. But whatever it was Wan knew you had to be careful with the quiet ones. But she was happy for her new husband was not quiet.

Moving along the road early in the morning after a day of revelry was over and before new one had begun saw still the coatings of water. Even the tropical heat could not work faster enough to remove this layer before the next one was to begin on the next day of the party. And when the water did go if by some miracle that happened there would still be the coat of powder over everything the water had touched and beyond to remind that this was no normal time but a time of riotous enjoyment. Even with the fracas in Bangkok this year, or maybe because of it with people wanting to enjoy and just escape the battles of those who thought such things as who ran a country were important, nothing was going to stymie the party. And as the sun rose a little the first truck with the first music of the day and first pulses began to arise first slowly and one or two but soon more and more and it would not be long before the full party was back again.

At first look it was soon apparent the notebook was full and filled with a faint scribble in light grey both finely written as though th pencil had been kept obsessively sharp and written in small script that seemed to pay no attention to the narrow faint lines that were meant a s guide but totally ignored here with sometimes two written lines to a ruled line and other times a written line taking off at some angle to cross the where it shouldnt have crossed. Sometimes at an angle going up and at others at an angle going down. It was obvious this was not going to be an easy read or one that could be leisurely done over a beer, but this was going to be a task. But having invested so much in fishing the notebook out in the first place, it was a task that had to be done.

Now with the sun high high up in the sky and temperature screaming through forty, the party is staring to reach fever pitch. Drums, music, screaming, water, powder and more of all five again. Some people now walking between the trucks or walking aside them as the column inches forward and the surging bodies leave trucks bottoming out while slabs of ice are moved into huge bins of water on the flatbeds replenishing and making more effective the watery armoury, and all around there is enjoyment, happiness and peace and smiles as the time ticks by knowing that come the dark and the free concerts later and the loss of the sun and movement from water and powder to something darker not only in light but also in tone and feel and that while there will still be a coating of powder on much that moves or doesn’t but it will only the be a veneer of something gone and lost at least until the start of the next day but for replaced by something deeper and different. Something sliding over with a different beat of music. A live music and a different look of eye. A narrowed sideways glancing eye amid a now heaving mas of bodies but a mass lacking the combined symbiotic rhythm of the day and now out of synch and lacking any rhythm and crashing into each other. Out of balance and inviting a new and off putting feel a feel that will set the tone for the streets or some small part of the street to run a different colour now as lights of blue and red start to flash and where once th crowd a large cl;earing now, as the music goes on but is clouded by a distant but close set of screams merging into one sound as shadowy figures enter the clearing and those that were there now run and scatter and fall and then suddenly it is all gone as people come back in and once again the music takes hold leaving only a distant and noticeable aftertaste but one of something not quite right. But knowing all well that come the morning the next day will bring the party again for all or almost all.


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