Hello, I’ve decided to take this project upon myself. English isn’t my first language so please bear with me. Enjoy.
Bold: The characters are speaking in English.
“Hand me only the application first.”
My throat is dry.
“Your passport please.”
My stomach hurts.
“Your photos please.”
I’m stressing out.
In front of me, a grey eyed man in a sharp grey suit expressionlessly shifted his sight from the red passport book to me. He then lowered his gaze to read my visa form once again. Glancing at the pair of eyes behind those rimless glasses, I couldn’t help but hold my breath with a mix of suspense and uneasiness.
It’s difficult to breathe, especially in an embassy that’s as small as a mouse hole. There was only one staff for such a long winding queue around this rented building. With apprehension, I flex my hands here and there. Thinking to blame myself now for moving apartments before the agreed date. Blame myself for making too much noise and waking up the foreigner next-door who came cursing at my front door. Blame yesterday’s phone call from an old friend. Blame myself for picking up said call. Blame the four bottles of Corona beer that I poured down my throat. Blame myself for being a fool, going out for a night drive despite being drunk. Blame the BMW 3 Series that happened to be parked in front of my driving path…
The man knocked loudly on the glass separating us and handed back my documents. “You didn’t completely fill in the form, take it back and check it carefully.”
“W-w-what question I miss?” Could he even understand my English? As I hastily lurched forward to knock on the glass, the man pressed a switch, unlocking the embassy door like he was intentionally trying to chase me away.
“Your occupation. We cannot accept a jobless traveler into our home,” he explained coldly with mocking smile. I felt numb, dizzy, like I was about to faint… “Or do you want me to fill it in for you? Drunkard? Troublemaker?”
“But. Wait, wait, wait. Mister, can I write it now?” Don’t you dare kick me out of the embassy you bastard!
It hurts like getting crushed under a truck! The owner of the BMW got out of his car. Seeing as he was a foreigner, I took the chance to curse at him viciously, hoping that he would just look at me confusingly and let me off the hook. But who would have guessed it… my past wrongdoings have finally caught up to me last night when two policemen appearing out of nowhere tackled me suddenly from behind like I was a protestor. As my adorable red Honda Jazz—now dead in action at Thonglor soi 15—was the one who tore a long mark down his luxurious BMW, not to mention the shattered driver seat window, my head was calculating the repair fees at top-speed. It was then that I began to sober up and see the BMW owner’s face clearly for the first time. This is… this is… this issssssss! Nooooo! It’s a small world after all! He was that super handsome foreigner who came cladded in a bathrobe knocking on my apartment door earlier. Forget the story of me making a ruckus to the point where this guy was woken up on a Sunday. He was the owner of that BMW but also the embassy authority! Yesterday he was still spewing out swears in Thai but why wasn’t he willing to speak it now?
“Next please.” The hottie in front of me adjusted his glasses and clears his throat, chasing me out with satisfaction as he called for the next person in line. With nothing else I could do, I hauled my documents away pale-faced. A middle aged Japanese man beside a boyish Thai girl both looked at me with curiosity while chattering to each other non-stop. They seem equally uneasy. “Excuse me, but was there a problem with your application?”.
Your manners aren’t half-bad for someone with your appearance little lady… I turned to smile dryly at her, “Just a minor problem, apparently I didn’t fill in the form properly.”
The boyish girl turns to her Japanese partner and shook her head, “Looks like they’re very strict.”
“Is that so?”
“Ah, yes. We’ve had to hand in our documents three times already.”
Whaaat! Three times? I lurch back to look through the glass window. The hottie was already moving to the back while another really Russian-looking man took over the visa desk.
Allow me to explain briefly. This embassy which belongs to a certain ‘iron curtain’ nation was extremely small. Even the size of the room was only a bit larger than a twitching dead cat. The operating hours were Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from ten to midday. But in actuality, the authorities arrived at ten-thirty. On a general basis there were around 20 people seeking visa entry into the country. However, if it takes each person 10 minutes, then obviously a person driven out to re-fill their form would not get a chance to hand it in again on the same day. Which means, asking for another leave from work and having to waste more time coming back here the day after next. Not to mention, embassy holidays applied to both Thai holidays and the holidays of that certain country, the day-offs were frequent to say the least. To say this had nothing to do with me would be incorrect. This ticket in my hand was the cheapest I could get for Air Astana, the only airline that flies directly from Bangkok to my desired destination, one which I groveled and begged my editor to approve a vacation for, for the first time in four years. To add, I promised that if I obtained entry into this brutal country, I would write four whole travel segments for our magazine, complete with pretty photos, but also premium quality vodka as a souvenir. Because of this, it was imperative for me to get this visa no matter what!
Honestly, I didn’t intend to not write down my occupation. I’m a freelance photographer and to tell you the truth I work at a major corporation. However, as to the reason why I refrained from filling in this information, I had heard that countries broken off from the Soviet Union weren’t particularly welcoming to foreign media. Another thing, if I filled in my occupation, I would be subjected to questions like, where are you going? Why are you going there? What are you planning on doing? Are you entering any unauthorized zones? Who invited you? Who are you taking those photos for? What about the confirmation letter from your company? All in all, getting a visa was difficult as a low salary worker asking for a 10 million baht loan. As to another problem… well, how embarrassing… this word ‘Freelance Photographer’… How are you supposed to spell it in English?
I turn left and right to ask but saw that the girl and her Japanese partner had already gone inside. They seemed very stressed. Actually, observing the atmosphere, is this an embassy or a battlefield? Who knows, I couldn’t help but sigh. Alright, its do or die. I pulled out my pen and meticulously wrote down: FREE RENT PHOTOGRAFFER.
…This is correct right? …My English isn’t so bad…
What is it with them?
I watched as a pretty Vietnamese girl walk out with a twisted face. With looks so pretty and a tall slim figure- “Fuck! If you wanted my company confirmation letter why didn’t you tell me first? What a waste of time!” Oh, you’re Thai…?
Before I could open my mouth to ask her, she moved to lean on the massive bear-like foreigner nearby, “Ah darling~”
Divine protection is real. If I had let loose my mouth for even half a second earlier I would be eating watered-down congee right about now.
At this current moment I was second from the front of the queue with fifteen minutes remaining. The visa application desk was about to close, hopefully I’ll make it in time… From my observations, around 60% of those who came applying for a visa have had to hand it in again. Those who passed were people already on their second or third attempts. Thinking about it now, if they didn’t have any desire to open up their country, why set up an embassy in the first place? It’s a waste of time and manpower after all. The man in front of me was a foreigner with an athlete’s figure, tall, and a large backpack with a tennis racket handle poking out of it. With looks like that, it makes you wonder whether this guy had a job or not. Or was that hottie only picking on me?
The man who had gone in before me exited with a beaming face, eyes in delight as if he had just landed first place at Wimbledon. I quickly cross over, seeing the face of the new embassy staff and heaving a sigh of relief. The man took my documents, flipped through it and frowned, before disappearing through the back, “Alexey… Alexey.”
The voice of two people can be heard speaking in fast Russian, and not long after a certain handsome guy appears out in front again, lifting the corners of his mouth in that annoying way at me. He holds up a mug to sip at the steaming coffee before breaking out in laughter, almost spilling the coffee on his luxurious suit. Using a flawlessly ironed handkerchief he wipes the corners of his mouth and then knocks on the glass, beckoning me with his finger like how one would beckon a dog. The same paper was slid back to me as he pointed at the form that I had just finished filling out, trying his hardest to contain his laughter.
“Mister…?” He asked my name.
“Phachara. Pha-Cha-Ra. P.H.A-C.H.A-R.A.”
“Hed?” (TN: Phachara phonetically pronounces the letter H as ‘Hed’ instead of ‘Aitch’ or ‘Haitch’)
The letter ‘Hed’! You know ‘Hed’! Did this foreigner fail his English classes? The letter ‘Hed’… I screamed in my heart while picking up a pen to write it out for him. Phachara, like this!
“Ah… the letter H.” Why is he laughing again? When I was in 4th Grade my teacher taught me that it was ‘Hed’, so it has to be ‘Hed’ okay!? “Okay Mr. Phachara, we guess your application needs to be corrected again.”
“Check this with any dictionary and see you on Wednesday.”
“Why Wen-day?” Looks like he didn’t understand this ‘wen-day’ of mine.
“We’re closed now.”
Why? Whyyyyyyyyy? Which part of ‘Free Rent Photograffer’ is it that’s wrong? Somebody please tell me!!!