At nearly dusk one day:
After eating fried minced pork with basil and chilli, across the road at the entrance to his street he walks smoking a cigarette, walks and stops, walks and stops, leaning on his cane.
When he stands looking at a man selling crepes displayed on two trays for quite some time,
“You want one, uncle? I’ll buy you one.”
The clear voice of a very young woman.
He hastily thanks her, refuses, startled.
Asks himself, Do I look like I want one but haven’t got the money or what?
After the sun has set, carts selling food at the night market at the entrance to the street all have lights with electric cables running in a batch from a shop that’s open round the clock.
He’s of two minds about eating egg noodles with Chinese dumplings or buying plain rice and fried mackerel with shrimp paste sauce to take home.
Stops and stands for a while in front of the cart selling Southern food.
Not quite hungry yet.
These days, for people in the capital dinner is foodstuffs in plastic bags; they don’t cook rice themselves.
“What do you want to eat, uncle? I’ll buy it for you. Rice and fried mackerel with shrimp paste, perhaps?”
“Thanks. Thank you, but you mustn’t.”
He walks back to wait for the bus without hurrying, lights up a cigarette.
A schoolgirl in uniform half-walks half-runs up to him.
“Mum told me to give you this, for your bus fare.”
She holds a one-hundred-baht note in her hand and presents it to him.
Startled once again, he drops his cigarette, walks faster back to the Southern food cart and hands the money back to the mother.
“You take it, uncle, for your bus.”
A bit peeved after failing to return the money, he walks back slowly to the bus stop, sits down and smokes another cigarette, feeling dazed and tired.
There are still people like this in this town?
If it were downtown, Siam Square, Siam Paragon, Silom or Pratunam…
Hard. It’d be hard for something like this to happen.
The elderly man wakes up, yet doesn’t get up from his sleeping mat, still thinking about the mother and daughter in front of the Southern food cart.
Every morning he wakes up with a glass of water, a coffee and a strong cigarette.
He doesn’t believe in auspicious times, in life predictions, doesn’t make merit. Many of those wrapped in yellow robes these days he won’t bow to wholeheartedly.
He’s never been ordained, even though his mother believed in holding to her son’s yellow robes to reach heavens.
There is no heaven. There is no next life.
Hell there is.
Before going to bed day after day, he tells himself, Going to sleep never to wake up is a good thing.
When it’s over it’s over.