Sitting here trying to control the newspaper in the ebbing breezes swirling round me in the coffee shop next to the roundabout with two plastic fish, as I try to change pages, I notice the grey of the sea as it swells slightly in its wind whipped way. For a moment it takes me back, and I don’t know why for everything looked different then and there was no wind and nothing was grey and I was a lot younger, but it takes me back and I remember the first time I ever saw the sea at the age of twenty.
That time I remember being on the bus for what seemed like many an hour but was probably only three or four as we headed south out of Bangkok. I had before that had to cross the traffic jams that gridlocked Bangkok and predated th financial crisis that had reduced the problem by seperating the emerging middle classes from their ability to make the repayment son their cars. Two hours to get to the hot dry colourless bus statin and then another three to four heading south. I was in a bad mood. And I was famous for how bad my bad mood were. I was hungry and I was thirsty. I never ate nor drank while travelling in case it meant a trip to some filthy or unlocateable toilet. So there I was dirty, sweaty, hungry, thirsty and tired and in a bad mood stood where the bus dropped us at the side of the road.
A short, a very short, trip in a pedal powered samlor mastered by a man who looked a hundred years old with his weather-beaten thin face, but of course who was a lot younger and with those gnarled sinewy thin legs that just went round and round as we headed slowly to the guest house just through the temple.
After dropping the bags in a room rented for three nights and still hardly talking we headed off for something to eat, going down the long soi that headed downhill past a line of shops and bars and laundries and other guest houses. It was hot in the mid afternoon sun and that didn’t make things better for me. And where were we going. It was my first time in the town and we went right and then left and past the parked samlors and songthaews and the little stalls built at the side of the road with their vendors sleeping sheltered from the hot sun as nobody was out to buy their wares in those tropical conditions. And why were we walking? I could feel my temper rising, screaming to come out. Ever hungrier and tired and now wishing i had never even agreed to come.
On past the two large resort complexes for the wealthy sat either side of the road glaring at each other in some terminal challenge to attract the most well-heeled in the biggest cars.. Past these and then I was looking at the blue sky, but it didn’t seem quite right for it went on and on as my eyes dropped ever lower. the sky shouldnt be so low, I thought. This wasnt right. And then in spite of all the moods and hunger and thirst and hatreds and hurts I was trying to imagine, I found myself running and smiling as I as short as I am leaped down the entire little set of stone stairs leading to the sand, and through the sand and ion until I was knee-deep in my jeans in the cool dark water. All of my thoughts of food, drink, anger, my apartment in Bangkok and that horrible journey now washed away and drown in the gentle cool blue water reflecting the sun into my eyes. All now was calm and we were in harmony again.
And moving on skirting the beach while always keeping so the water was on toes, feet or knees but never deeper as I had never learnt to swim but not being able to leave and draw of this new feeling for some fear it would be gone. And skirting the beach past the monument top the boxer who had won a medal in the olympics at some time and to where the rocks were and went into the sea. For how long I don’t know but at some point the sun was going quickly as is its nature in the tropics and with it the sea was disappearing too leaving just a collection of pools among the rocks. A new fascination finding fish, and miniscule crabs and starfish in little pools of their own with the little grey crabs running all over the damp perfectly flat and sloping beach to their plethora of little holes. This was perfection and I was never ever going to leave this again. By some means I would find a way to always stay.
We spent several days, maybe many days that time and every morning and every evening I would religiously go to the beach whether alone or not. Nothing would stop me. Not blazing sun, sickness nor rain. I had to be there. It was me.
Now somewhere to the east of Bangkok I live in a small town with a beach of its own and a long narrow sandy beach. And as I look over the flapping pages of the Daily News I realise this is actually the first time I have looked at the sea for many a week. Sure I have driven past it on my motorcycle and even gone to the coffee shop regularly but I no longer look. I no longer see and and I no longer feel. Looking through the umbrellas on stands to shelter the deck chairs below from the sun that will come later I remember another time and another feeling and for once I feel young again. But I know it will pass and I will back to how I have been for the years I have lived in this town. I never go to the beach anymore. I never feel the sand between my toes or in my shoes. I never feel the sometimes warm and sometimes cool wetness of the sea on my jeans anymore, and I feel at the same time a sadness at something lost as we sit together drinking coffee and trying to control the newspapers that distract us from anything worthwhile.