In a heat smacked smoking room in Bangkok, the tannoy bellowed out it’s daily chants. Arrival and Departure reports announced the spectacle of funnelled people rushing in and out of airplanes. I sat concerned.
Arriving at the airport, I held a big hope in one hand, and an empty wallet in the other. All my negotiating power was spent getting here. And now it seems I would be staying here. Jumping from country to country, I had set sail in a boat made of money. But now the paper was gone, and the boat wasn’t moving anywhere. Every contact I had drowned in an ocean made of their own tears. My fault. So I unpacked my charm, and began to haggle in the market place of bygone men, for cigarettes and conversation. But mainly cigarettes. The smoke flowed, but I did not. For five months, I lived in the airport, surviving on a diet of my own determination.
Each day had the same paths and corners as working a full time job. I would awake, and wash my complacency away in the crowded ground floor bathroom, competing for the tap, like passengers for a lifeboat on a sinking ship. Men would stare as I submerged my soul in the sink, water trickling down my prim body. Hair blossoming and cheeks plumped, I headed for the humid and swirling concourse. Tourists, Thai and Other would bumble and fumble through each other, In and Out to discover what the airport would mean for them. For me, it was my stage, my desk, my podium. My work. Starting at 9am, I would stand outside Entrance Gate Number 7. It’s mostly Other international tourists would make the perfect customers. With a deep intake of the wet air, and a dry smile, I would begin dancing. I danced Kathakali ancient dances, Swarsati, and Mugoolulum epics, for the tiniest of their coins. I would eat only applause all day, as I twisted and turned and jumped for the heavens, hoping they would notice my cry. I would branch out into Detroit Hip Hop and breakdancing, if it made them cry. The best success came in One Man Ballroom dancing, the people of this world, hopeless romantics. And at the end of the day, my collapse into a heap and the crashing of the sun into the horizon, I would count my coins. 50 Thai Baht. It was enough for a food ticket at the Suvarnabhumi International Food Canteen. Spicy dum dum dumplings in a noodle based soup and a crushed Milo Chocolate Ice Ball. This continued for several weeks.
One day, I had enough. I bought a ticket for the first plane into Saigon. With my chest beating inside my 69KG body (down from 88KG), I sauntered to my flight. When I arrived at the desk, the attendant licked the paper cut wound on her little finger, and began to howl with laughter. I had missed boarding by a matter of seconds. The plane sat on the runway, bursting at the seams with pity and amusement at me. Then it backed off, and waved it big arms as it flew off into the distance. This set me back another two months.
By now, my body could no longer dance, but only shuffle side to side as I sang ancient Ghazals and Bhaijans of the gods to starve the hunger. The crowds didn’t have the same appetite for it. One day I went to sleep behind the chairs of the luxury fourth floor Prime First Class Luxury Lounge. As a man leant back and his shoes bolted against my stomach. He saw me and immediately began to cry. He spoke only in French and immediately took me to the Suvarnabhumi Luxury Food Canteen. There we ate roast pork and mushroom filled duck legs. Before our lips had time to smack in joy, he whisked me to the ticket counter and bought me a first class ticket to Ho Chi Minh City. He kissed me on the cheeks and waved au reviour.
Don’t go travelling the world without any money.
This post was written by Guy Bennett