It was a perfect birthday celebration day. Well, almost.
As I’m about to go to the supermarket to buy fresh bread and replenish the fridge, the food van comes by. Plumpish Khun Lek sits in her cage of vegetables, eggs and meat while rotund husband mans the wheel and calls the shots over a loud speaker which drives neighbouring dogs into a frenzy.
‘How come you’re wearing two layers in this heat?’ says Lek, referring to my t-shirt and shirt. She doesn’t know that, when out and about, I live by the Touareg principle: in heat, cover your skin and hide your sweat.
‘I’m out to celebrate my birthday,’ I volunteer.
‘How many years would that be?’ Lek asks at once, cutely using the word kuap instead of pee for ‘years’, as you do only with children under twelve.
‘Six and five,’ I answer.
The pro forma compliment follows.
I pay for a couple of spuds, four tomatoes, one onion, two sorts of string beans, a fistful of garlic and ten eggs, take them back home and leave them on the terrace rocking chair – and then out again for bread, milk, yoghurt, coffee, cold cuts and, as a treat, the latest John Irving and the latest Orhan Pamuk.
When I’m home again and feed fridge and cupboard, I find one egg is broken.
Waking up of a morning, I see a baht-sized bloodspot on the blanket covering my other rocking chair, in front of the TV set. And there is blood, not on every bracelet, but on last night’s sarong in two places. I tell myself, How unseemly to have menses at sixty-five, and you a man! Then I remember: last night, after crouching to check something on the TV tablet I reared up incautiously, lost balance and the vicinity of my coccyx smashed into a protruding arm of the rocking chair. It did hurt, but I just sank into the chair and went on watching TV. Blood seeped through. Yes, indeed, that back-of-beyond spot is still sore. Now, Lady Macbeth, how does one remove bloodstains from fabric?
I bleed easily, it seems. I keep bumping into things, however few I surround myself with, and it almost unfailingly draws blood.
Scratches and rashes are par for the course whenever I give my creepers a haircut, three to six times a year. The iron fence with its sharp hooks may or may not have kept burglars away, but it definitely gashes my arms every chance it gets.
Last month, when that young fellow went up the heavy folding ladder I held for him to replace the light socket in the living room, as the middle lock on his side wasn’t properly locked, on his second step up the ladder collapsed and kicked both him and me in the shin as he jumped off, shocked. He made a song and dance about it but his shin was hardly bruised. Mine bled. And the parquet got scratched into the bargain.
Last October in Provence, the cold made my nose bleed, and chapped my lips.
Ages ago, as I sped down the narrow lane crossing the slum by the river, the trash collector swerved his trolley in such a way that a rod protruding sideways skewered my right thigh. A river ran down it while the dear old man scooted, head hung. I had to discard the trousers. The inch-long scar is still with me.