Thursday, May 26, 2011

Children's Scissors

Bangkok, 2011

“I don’t believe in karma but – maybe – because, the day before I lost everything, I stole a pair of scissors. Just a small cheap plastic pair, from Seven-Eleven. I didn’t even mean to, I needed to open my chocolate packet and – you know how it is on Xanax – those scissors just floated out the door with me. . .”

Oskar is begging on the sidewalk outside Saladaeng station when I walk past after the bars close. Twenty-three years old, from Sweden, he says he’s been an addict since forever – but he’s got it under control now. With Tramadol, the key, he says, is not to take it every day. So he takes it every other day.

I give him 20 baht and we reminisce about the hell of benzodiazepine withdrawal. “The doctors, they pass it out to anyone who marches in the door and says they’re anxious.” Oskar laughs. “Yeah well -- nowhere near as anxious as you’re gonna be when you stop taking that little pill!”

Oskar has red brown curly hair and the lines of his forehead are grooves. He leans against the wall with ankles crossed, as if sunning himself in Bangkok’s neon light. He’s not wearing underwear. He has the eyes of a puppy that’s been buried alive. He’s a very friendly person, Oskar.

Oskar’s arm is in a sling. Muy Thai. Says his teacher is the best in Thailand. Says he’s dislocated his shoulder twelve times and every time it’s worse. The pain’s excruciating.

When I ask him how long he’s been in Thailand, he has to stop and think. “A year. And four months. It doesn’t matter about the visa after awhile. The most they fine you at the airport is 20,000 baht.”

Then he tells me about the day he lost everything. First, somebody stole all his money. He doesn’t know how. Maybe he gave it away. Fucking Xanax. He doesn’t care about money anyway. “I’m nonmaterial,” he says.

“But my phone! With all those pictures I want to look at when I am, like, seventy years old!”

“Then I went to a club and the guards -- they wouldn’t let me in. I didn’t have 20 baht. I just sat on the curb and smoked. Then I went to talk to a friend and – somebody stole my cigarettes! The guards just laughed and laughed at me. . . People aren’t usually like that here.”

“Sure, I got family,” Oskar says. “My dad’s a businessman. I gave him advice and saved his business. It wasn’t even such special advice. But he is like the dumbest man on the planet. I made him a logo too, a really cool one. It reads the same way backwards and forwards. I made a website for him. My friend did the programming. He doesn’t use any of it. He is a seriously stupid man.”

“My mom? She’s a nice lady. She worries about me. She didn’t want me to come here. I get in trouble here. But in Sweden I get in trouble too so maybe – this is more easy for her. Sometimes, you know, it is more easy for people if you just disappear.”

We pause then and look around, at the sky and the street and the overpass. It’s 2am outside Saladaeng station. The metal gate has been down for hours. Almost no one is left walking around.

We have disappeared.

Somewhere else, in the world that matters, the people who matter continue their lives. It is nothing if a few of us vanish. Whole continents can vanish -- must vanish, in fact, if these people are to continue unimpeded their secure and respectable lives.

May it be considered an act of generosity, of mercy: the way we use our stolen scissors to cut ourselves from the picture.

Oskar says he’s saving his money real carefully now. (On a good night he makes a couple thousand baht.) “My girlfriend is 41. But her daughter is 23. The same as me. Her daughter -- she follows me with her eyes. It’s only a matter of time. . .

“I’ve got to get out of here.”

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