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How a Bangkok woman was driven to living on the street, and cutting off her ex-husbands penis.
The streets of Bangkok are alive with the sound of music. A bony, disorganised, rambunctious kind of music; it sounds like a television blaring when you’re trying to concentrate, like an old machine in need of grease, an oil drum, the sizzle of oil in a hot pan, a distorted phone line. It sounds like a thousand horns, a gaggle of geese, the growl of a peacock, like the melody has been salvaged from the recycled bits of a rubbish tip. The sounds come at you from every direction. It is menacingly beautiful.
Rain begins to fall in downtown Bangkok and it’s smudging her mascara, washing the grime from it’s buildings down the gutter. People scatter like mice.
In amongst it all, horizontal on a banana recliner chair, a couple of inches from a roaring street, a street tailor is trying to gather some sleep. Several others that line this street everyday, fixing travellers clothes and backpacks, are ducking for cover. With piercings in her eyebrow and nose, she appears a rough character, a lived-in character. But she looks incandescent lying there, peacefully, in the rain.
I decide to wake her. She’ll soon be as sodden as wet toilet paper if she’s left there. She doesn’t seem to mind when I shake her by the shoulder and we both huddle under a shop window. I help her drag her ancient industrial singer sewing machine under shelter. I remember seeing the same sewing machine in many living rooms back home as nostalgic ornaments. Here, it is somebodies livlihood.
I’ve brought along a pair of my shorts that have acquired a gaping hole in the crutch. Don’t ask why. She tell me she can fix them and offers me a chair when I indicate I would like to sit with her but I plant my ass on the concrete next to hers. Her English is makeshift but understandable. Her name is June.
She hasn’t slept in days, she tells me. There’s a new gang of homeless that have moved into the area and are giving the street’s long-time tenants grief.
“They try to steal my sewing machine every night so I chain it to my ankle,” she says, poking an eye at me through the gaping hole in my shorts.
“You sleep here by the road?”
“Yeah, I must – room is very expensive in Bangkok,” she tells me.
“But I sleep at my son’s apartment some nights- this is enough.”
I make sure I understand this clearly. “You sleep on the street while your son sleeps in a house?”
“Yes,” she says, sounding irked.
“I pay 5000 Baht a month for their rent and I sleep under the stars.”
She’s exaggerating: Bangkok’s skies resemble a swamp through which no stars shine through.
Her sewing machine starts to clatter like a machine gun. A passing man takes a photo of us both. June cackles a laugh. I feel like she’s more laughing in his face rather than posing for the photo.
When he leaves, her face transforms and becomes sour.
“Too many tourist in my life,” she says.
To peruse more photos of the madness just pop into the photo gallery on your way out!
The wounded are carried off in droves, cupping their eyes, under the arms of consoling boyfriends; most wearing only one shoe as the other has been lost on the dicey surface of the battlefield.
An old Thai woman sprinkles water on the shoulders of passers-by – traditionally a gesture of good fortune at this time of year - until a merciless attack from a topless tattooed man hiding behind a truck shoots her eyeball out with a super soaker 5000.
Another raggedy old Thai lady bears a cheeky grin as she snipers unexpected victims from the shadows of her shop of tacky t-shirts and cheap DVD’s.
Ladyboys wearing hot pants and high heels are screaming as they become the target while they gyrate on tables and chairs.
Not even innocent, unarmed civilians are spared as they come out the other end of water gauntlets lining the streets as if they have been spat out of the dishwasher half done. Men resort to running through using children as shields.
Thais and tourists alike cradle heavy artillery under their arm, looking left and right, patrolling the crowded streets of Bangkok like soldiers, on alert for the next ambush of icy cold buckets of water or a piercing shot to the crutch from a super soaker.
When I find myself in the cross hairs of a toddler’s SpongeBob Square Pants pistol, I giggle like a child as I return fire with a gun like a riot water canon that sends him running and screaming.
Downtown Bangkok looks like downtown Baghdad.
There is religious significance to this madness. Don’t act surprised; it is not the first war to be fought in the name of religion.