As always, English is not my first language, corrections are welcome.
Bold: The characters are speaking in English.
“Many people say living in this condo brings happiness. The north points to fame, the east points to wealth, the west points to support, while the south points to spiritual protection.”
(TN: The auspicious directions or feng shui)
“That’s not all Petch,” the previous owner of the room said as she lowered her voice to a whisper, like she had a secret hidden away from the rest of the world, her thick elongated eyelashes covered in mascara batting up and down dramatically. Umm, is this place secretly a harem?
“Hey Pae,” I interject mid sentence when suddenly, a manicured hand as large as a sugar palm leaf came thwacking down on my head. My transgender friend and owner of the apartment looked at me surlily.
“You’ve got balls to call me Pae, are you looking for a death wish? It’s Jessica!!!”
“No need to overreact, dammit Pae,” Before I could finish, Pae- I mean Jessica was close to stabbing me in the eyes with her stiletto heels. Luckily I had already persuaded her to knock the apartment price down another two hundred thousand baht. If not, then I would be slapping my mouth right about now.
“Yeah whatever, whether your name is Jessica, Amoeba, Paramecium, or something else, that’s your problem, just know that I’m a different species from you. I’m not the type to eye-rape every handsome macho guy I meet, like a certain someone.”
“I do no such thing! You think too lowly of me, Petch.”
“What about the guy next-door to the right? Is he hot?”
“Off the charts actually.” Pae’s eyes went sparkly. “He’s sharp, classy, doesn’t talk much, cold, but kind-hearted. Ooooh, and when he curses in Russian its super raw and sexy.”
“And the guy with the corner room?”
“He’s god reincarnated.” Pae said dreamily as she twisted her body left and right. “Handsome with a heart of gold. Whenever he sees little ol’ Jessica with her shopping bags he always volunteers to help carry them for her. He also speaks Russian but has never said anything not polite, Jessica’s like so pleased~”
“The guy’s probably gay.” I concluded. My theory that well-mannered men were homosexual had been proven correct many times already.
“Tsk, you really have bad judgement!” Pae retorted.
“And aside from this condo being your personal harem?” I transition to the real story at hand when suddenly the doorbell rang. Wide-eyed, Jessica reached for a mirror to check herself, then sauntered over to open the door. Looks like she already forgot that I own this apartment now. Appearing at the door was a foreigner as large as a Gorilla with a stone cold face comparable to the Stonehenge. Jessica leapt into his arms, reminding me of the dog at my parent’s place when it hasn’t seen me for a mere five minutes.
“Darling~” Jessica then ran back to drag away her 30 kilo suitcase, waving and smiling at me as if she’s off to go compete in the next Miss Universe. “I’m going now Petch, bye-bye, see you next summer.”
“Hey wait a sec, other than a harem you said there was something else here!” Not able to resist my curiosity, I chased after her. Jessica turned around, putting on an innocent face and sweet smile (Which I hoped to god I would never fall for. Heavens, I rather hang myself with coriander stalk tied around my neck instead).
“Honestly, there’s nothing~ I was just pulling your leg.”
“Out with it.”
“What!? That’s it, I’m selling this apartment back.”
“I’m joking. Bye-bye Petchy, you’ll find out soon!”
What the hell. In the end, Pae ran off to Germany with her husband, leaving me to ponder over the newfound knowledge by myself. Ponder while sitting up, ponder while lying down, ponder while doing somersaults across the bed. That is, until the sound of a ringing phone startled me out of my reverie. Only then did I realise it was already 8pm. Picking up the call, the security guard downstairs informed me that my pizza had arrived. However, being too lazy to take two trips in the elevator from the 12th floor I protested to the security guard. But to no avail, I begrudgingly headed downstairs in the end.
I pressed the button to call up the elevator. Admiring the view of Bangkok under the shining lights of Phetchaburi road, I sighed. As a photographer, no matter where you look, you end up seeing beauty in all things. This was the reason as to why I gritted my teeth and smashed open my ‘piggy bank’. The money which I had saved up in these twenty-six years of my life had been to buy an apartment in the middle of this city, despite knowing the heavy responsibility which came with it; and even if it was bought from a close friend after all.
“Excuse me, are you the owner of room 1204 who moved in recently?” A voice next to me greeted loudly, startling me but also making me squint at the sight of his dazzling smile. The foreign man had deep blue eyes and was wearing an Adidas jogging outfit… what is up with those shiny sparkling eyes~
“I-I am.” And who are you?
“My name’s Sasha, I’m from room 1206. Miss Jessica told me you’re a good friend of hers.”
Woaaah Pae… When you’re with this guy you get automatically upgraded to ‘Miss’ Jessica. I smiled dryly. I couldn’t just pretend to not know her, but calling her Jessica made my mouth itch.
“My name is Pha-cha-ra. You can call me Petch.” I spoke English all of a sudden. Seems like Jessica’s spirit was trying to possess me, she seemed like she would be powerful entity. Why couldn’t she have possessed me when I went to the embassy? That hottie would have been cursed so viciously that nothing would be left of him except for some ash.
“Ah, Mr. Petch we’ve met before… do you remember?”
“Eh?” I was instantly curious. “Is that so? Then I have to apologize for not remembering, I’m pretty forgetful.”
Sasha smiled kindly at me. “It’s okay, nice to meet you again Mr. Petch.”
My god! Pae was right, a handsome, cute and well-mannered foreigner really exists!
In that moment, the elevator reached the ground floor. Sasha excused himself to go exercise in a separate part of the building, parting ways with a wide smile like we were close friends. It made me feel weirdly refreshing inside. My life probably won’t get any worse than the hottie next-door that I had to deal with. I accepted the box of pizza, still wafting a delicious smell to hold close to my chest. Protecting ‘my precious~’, I carefully took it upstairs, hoping that it would suffice for several meals since I had already spent the majority of my hard-earned money on the apartment. I’d better start saving up again soon, since it’s going to take quite sometime before I can get myself back on stable ground. Luckily, I won’t have to pay for my last three car installments since Ma’ offered to help cover the rest; that is, after discovering that had been frugally home cooking to the point where the kitchen nearly caught on fire several times.
The elevator doors opened alongside the appearance of a tall familiar figure that I had just met this morning. A feeling of anger and resentment boiled up from my stomach as I stared hard at him. You black-hearted person. You inconsiderate guy. You bastard! Hae~ Don’t come near me, I’ll bite you.
“What’s up, Mr. Drunkard. Did you fix up your visa form yet?” Look at him!! Only now did he actually speak Thai, and clearly at that! “Does your place have a dictionary? If not I’ll let you borrow mine.”
“Eck-cuse me! My name is Phachara, not Mr. Drunkard!” Hey, it happened again. Jessica my friend descending down to possess me again. I’ve been wanting to curse this guy for a long time!
Ah, why was he laughing?
Hm? How did he know my nickname, was he a stalker?
“Don’t forget to correct it, that is unless you want to waste another trip to the embassy.”
The hottie studied me from head to toe and then at my pizza. I tightened my grip on the box, fearing that he would ask me to share it with him. Certainly, it would make for an unappetizing meal.
“When you’ve finished eating, come meet me in room 1202. We need to talk.”
I raised my head up to his face, feeling uneasiness in my heart. His way of talking was roundabout, annoying, and commanding, as if he were actually my boss. Wasn’t this guy just an embassy staff? Why was acting so high and mighty?
“I’m not free today.”
The hottie looked sharply at me, raising the corners of his mouth in that annoying way. Two long slender fingers moved to touch my face, jerking it left and right. It was then that I broke out of my confusion and brushed the hand away, “Don’t touch me.” Doing coquettish things like this makes me feel protective of my body you know.
“Those two went too far…”
Shocked, I recalled the moment in which I had drunkenly got out of the car and loudly cursed at the BMW, drawing the attention of several passersby. The hottie exited his car with a sour face, along with two officers whom I have no idea where they appeared out from, but either way they proceeded to beat me up till I was battered and bruised. At that time I was still drunk so I didn’t think much of it.
This hottie was right. It had been two days yet the corner of my mouth still showed signs of bruising. The cuts and injuries on my body were still there as evidence too. With me being so fair-skinned, typical of someone with Chinese migrant parents, the injuries stood out more so.
“But if you don’t want to have a chat with me, that’s fine, just take those injuries as a deserved punishment. What’s done is done… I actually wanted to settle this another way.”
The hottie cocked one eyebrow and headed into his room, leaving me in a state of confusion.
What did he mean…
This question churned inside my head and I couldn’t brush it off even with food laid out in front of me. I turned on the television to watch some football and munched on my pizza. But the question lodged in my heart made me full faster than normal. I couldn’t even pay attention to the football game. To sum it up, I’ll probably have to go back and demand an answer from that guy.
Getting beaten up because I ‘deserved it’, is there such a thing?
Huaah, overthinking things was going to make my piss yellow. Let’s just go to rooftop, sip some beer, and take pretty pictures for fun instead. That said, I grabbed my trusty Canon 450D camera, still shiny brand new and hung it around my neck. Along with two cans of Singha beer, I pressed the elevator button, and headed up to the rooftop.
Let’s have a small amount today, else I won’t be able to wake up in time for the visa application tomorrow, and that’s going to be a problem.
Taking pretty photos, sipping beer, stargazing, and having a woman by your side, these were truly the four ideals of one’s life. Albeit, the latter point may be excruciatingly hard to obtain. I admired the photo of the stretching Phetchaburi road covered by nightfall in my camera and downed the rest of the beer at the bottom of the can as if to indulge in the beauty of Bangkok at night. From initially one camera, it had multiplied into two more lenses and my trusty tripod. Such a pity that I lacked an extra hand, otherwise I would have nicked another two cans of beer.
Cold beer and pretty photos, these were the two cures for a horrible day.
“You’re quite skilled.”
A low discordant voice could be heard from behind me, complete with the smell of tobacco that was unfamiliar to my nose. Recoiling as if attacked by some creature not of this world, I was met face to face with the hottie, now in casual stay-at-home clothes and a cigarette in his hand. I opened my mouth to chase him away but realized that this was the first time he had ever said anything nice to me.
“That’s because the ‘equipment’ is high quality stuff” I stuck out my chest to accept his compliment.
(TN: Petch is referring to himself.)
The grey eyes beneath those coffee-coloured eyelashes narrowed with a trace of an amused smile. “How immodest.”
Uwah! How about I smash your face in with my tripod?
“Try it. Hit me with that tripod and you’ll be the one to take a dive off this building. Whatever you decide it’s up to you.”
Threatening me like he could actually read my mind I froze, staring at the hottie with cautious suspicion, “Who are you exactly?”
Those pair of grey eyes glanced at me, huffed the cigarette into his lungs, then faced the other way, releasing cigarette smoke into the thin air which slowly wafted away from the high-rise building.
“You’re a freelance photographer correct?”
“Yes, now answer my question.”
“The salary must be pretty good since you managed to afford a room here.”
“I scrape by. If someone hires me, I’ll take the job no matter how strange.” With that said, my mouth was itching to curse at him. “Typically I’m not so free as to sit around, drink beer, and take pictures for fun you know? It’s just that this idiotic visa is a waste of time for me when I’m trying to make a living, and guess who’s to blame for it?”
The hottie raised his eyebrows high.
“You want entry that bad?”
“Am I not welcome?”
I was livid now. The appearance of this guy had completely killed the nice atmosphere. I decided to abruptly end the conversation, quickly pack up my belongings in frustration and head towards the rooftop door, that is until I was halted by the other man.
I side-eyed him. Tch! Now you decide to speak nicely with me? “What?”
“Make sure you prepare all the correct documents, I think you’re missing an important one. If you don’t know what it is, call up the staff. Deal with it properly before you go to hand it in. Remember this, no one wants to waste their time with you too. It’s a waste of time when others are trying to make a living.”
Woiiiiiii!!! This bastard’s gone too far! I’m definitely going to make this foreigner bleed. I placed my camera bag on the floor and walked right up to him, putting one hand on my hip as if to demonstrate how unimpressed I was.
“They hired you to work for them, so you should work honestly. Do you think you’re all that great? Your domain is just a tiny mouse-hole embassy, don’t think that I’m not brave enough to touch a meager visa staff like you.”
The hottie stares at me, his eyes already replaying the scene of me getting flung off the building, “Go ahead and try if you’re brave enough like you say you are”.
With that, my patience which was already running thin, mixed with the alcohol in my body caused me to yank at the hottie’s shirt collar, an action lacking any processing from my brain whatsoever. The other hand clenched in a fist rushed towards his face. Say goodbye to your good looks today f*cker!
Except… narrowly, my punch didn’t make contact with anything but the skin at the tip of his nose. The hottie sneered, and then everything happened in an instant. I remember myself being tossed into the air, back hitting the cement floor of the rooftop hard. The hottie’s face above me was plastered with a cold expression. I moved to get up but found a leathery shoe pinning down my left shoulder. The hottie lit another cigarette, then proceeded to leisurely take a drag.
“What do you think you’re doing, Mr. Phachara?”
Grrrrr~ Is he blind or something? Does it look like I’m eating a meal with you? You dare ask such as question! I wish I could have been born a Rottweiler, that way I could bite into his ankles and make him cry, ‘eng! eng!’ “Release me, woi!”
The hottie removed his feet before squatting down next to me, staring at me with the same sneer as I tried to push myself up into a sitting position with difficulty.
“You’re more amusing than I thought. Miss Jessica said that you were an odd guy, but I never thought I would find you amusing to this extent.” He clicked his tongue. “Has anyone told you that you’re a funny guy? You have a foul mouth but you’re really funny.”
“Shut up!” Uuuu… my body ached all over. I glared resentfully at the hottie in front of me. You beat me up and then still have the balls to tell me that I’m funny? I’m not a punching bag woi! Do you think I exist to get punched at again and again just for you conclude that it was a fun exercise? I tried to move my body but it failed to act as intended. Just shifting my hip was enough to cause tears to well up. Huu huu huu, mommy… if my bottom half becomes paralysed I’m complaining to the ministry of foreign affairs that an embassy staff bullied me.
The hottie stood up, strode to grab my camera bag and opens it up. “Hey! What are you doing?” Don’t, don’t, don’t. Don’t you so much as touch my sweet child, my little Canon. “What are you planning to do with my camera– You bastard! You– You– You! What the hell is your name!” The white light of the flash blinded my eyes and before I could see clearly again the hottie had already disappeared, leaving behind a pitiful Thai youth with a sprained hip and a single camera. I reached for my sweet child, my little Canon, consoled her and then pressed a button to look at the most recent picture taken. It was a picture of a young man with disheveled hair and a shocked face, leaning dead against the edge of the rooftop wall. It kind of resembled the victims in those fear-inducing slasher films, quite scary indeed.
Eventually, I heaved my body precariously back to the apartment. Parts of me felt like they were about to fall off piece by piece. I stared at the door of apartment 1202 which belonged to the hottie resentfully. Just you wait you bastard! Tomorrow your BMW will have marks on it like zebra!
My vision tripped over a white name card inserted just above the keycard panel to my own room. To the left was a picture of two golden unicorns facing away from each other. To the right was something like a golden sun above a circular blue floor. Meanwhile, at the back was the name of the country in Russian and details of the name card’s owner, also in Russian. I flipped it over to the other side, reading the English which made me freeze for a whole three seconds.
What did it say, Alexander Nazarbayev… did I read it correctly? That last name felt annoyingly familiar. Then again, what was this guy’s position? Was he an embassy security guard? …Hah? Consultant of Political and Foreign Affairs. Umm, what did this mean? An advisor for politics? And foreign countries? I wasn’t really sure, but if there’s one thing I was sure about… this guy was actually powerful woi!
Uu, I had messed with the wrong person. If I ever fail to get a visa, it was going to be this time.
P.s. After a bit of reflection, I considered myself pretty lucky for not getting flung off the building by his policemen/bodyguards.