Though going to Thailand was my idea, Kevin got there a week before I did and when I arrived, he acted like he owned the place. “You’ll see my schedule,” he told me as we walked across the beach in the dark. “We’ll get up around noon, go to the coffee shop for a few hours, have some breakfast, go to the beach for a swim and a nap…”
“Rough life,” I said.
We were staying on Railey Beach, on the south west coast of Thailand. Though it was technically a peninsula, we constantly referred to it as an island. It had an island feel for several reasons: that it was only accessible by longboat, that there were no vehicles (except the occasional tractor), and the constant drifting smell of marijuana in the air. By the end of the trip I would put together a more suitable word for Railey Beach. It was an ininsula.
And we did fill our days more or less along Kevin’s original agenda. I, of course, had to take breaks from relaxing on the beach to go get as many spa treatments as possible. On the first day, I had a full body massage, a facial, and a bikini wax. The following day I had a foot scrub, foot massage and pedicure. And so on.
Though I’d originally had big plans for my trip, Much of Thailand was flooded due to a dam north of Thailand breaking, as well as the rainy weather. We had a few rain storms, but they were sudden and short, and we always sat in the open air, looking out at the storm with a beer in hand, enjoying watching the weather. And then the rain would clear up, lights would stop flickering, and parties would resume.
“Where do the cats go when it rains?” I asked Kevin after one storm. There were cats all over the ininsula, though none of them were exactly strays. They all were sort of outdoor cats belonging to various businesses. They got fed cat food from the local business owners and stayed near their home. They were very friendly and clean enough for me.
I had been a little cat crazy the entire trip, so Kevin just kind of rolled his eyes whenever I asked about the cats. “They’re animals. They’re fine,” he said. But I was already off chasing down a white cat to rub his belly.
As an animal lover, I was in heaven. My daily schedule regularly went awry when something cute had to be looked at or photographed. For Kevin, the draw of our morning coffee shop was coffee. For me, it was the momma cat and her two kittens that would nap on me every day.
Also on the ininsula, there was a local otter. It too, belonged to someone. The owner had dark skin and long dreadlocks, and he walked around shirtless carrying a long net. When the net had fish captured in the bottom, the otter would squeak in excitement or hunger and race after the man.
And there were monkeys too. The path to the nicest beach ran between cavernous limestone rocks and a bamboo fence. In the early afternoon, there were no animals to be found. But then around 3:00, monkeys would appear, and they would spend their time climbing along the bamboo posts, chasing one another, and digging into trash bins. They never seemed to mind people, as they were quite used to being followed and photographed all day.
They did get cheeky sometimes. I wore sandals with big flowers above the toes which some monkeys tried to pull off, as though they were edible.
When dusk fell, I would walk home to take an icy shower and rinse the sand and salt off my skin. Then I’d put on a new dress, slip an orchid into my hair, and go out for dinner and drinks with my man.
One night, before dinner, I went to get my legs waxed. Now, I’d been hoping to do this on day one of vacation so as to not worry about shaving throughout my trip, but all the spa ladies said I needed to grow out my leg hair for a few days. At last, I felt my hair was long enough to get ripped out. And if it wasn’t I would give up on the growing out and just shave it off.
I went to one spa just to hear that I should wait one more week. I bet I can find someone sketchy enough to do this, I thought. And I walked on to a new spa.
Though the spa ladies had ranged in age at the various places, no one I’d seen had looked nearly as old or fat as the Thai woman I encountered one spa down. “Excuse me, is my hair okay for a waxing?” I asked her, sticking out my leg.
She popped her gum, though I thought it would suite her more to exhale cigar smoke, and said “Ya, ya. Waxing, okay. Come.”
I followed her upstairs and lay down on a mattress, waiting.
Minutes later she was dipping a rubber stick into a cylindered Tupperware and spreading cold brown wax across my shins. Cold wax? I thought. She laid a strip of fabric across my shin, and smoothed it out with her large brown hands. I had just noticed that she was missing one thumb when I realized she was about to peel off the first strip. And so I took a deep breath in and prepared myself for pain.
The lady ripped the fabric off my leg, pulling out some of my hairs. I gasped in surprise. No matter how many times someone gets waxed, the initial yanking is always a shock.
She cackled as I caught my breath and prepared for another strip of fabric. “You not so bad, hairy, you know. Some people hairy like a monkey. Even hands,” she said. I wondered if she was complimenting me, but before I could ask, she ripped away more hairs and cackled again as I whimpered.
Devil woman, I thought.
That night, post waxing, I went to meet up with Kevin. He had just finished some Pad Thai and was working on a crossword puzzle as I approached. He looked towards my legs, and I waved my hand in his line of view, and said, “Don’t even. She sucked. She was a devil woman with one thumb and she destroyed me. There is still hair everywhere but I couldn’t go through anymore waxing so I paid her and left.”
Kevin stroked his facial scruff. “I told you that vacation is no time for hair removal,” he said.
I ate some Thai curry and then we went out for drinks. The last bar along the shore had nightly fire shows. We sat on the platform and waited for the show to begin.
After a few solo guitar performances, the fire dancers started. Kevin and I were already a few shots of Jameson in and sharing a hookah. The show started out amazingly, and just got more and more impressive. By the end, there were men on each other’s shoulders, synchronized firestick spinning, and men using their toes and teeth to whip chains around with balls of fire on the ends.
Kevin and I happily staggered home at an unknown hour, slipped under the mosquito net that wrapped around our bed, and promptly passed out.
The next morning I woke up to cursing. It was Kevin, and it was continuous. It was as though someone wrote swears on slips of paper, shuffled them, and pulled them out at random, and wrote a script, making sure to repeat a few fucks and damns for good measure.
I sat up and blinked, and then squinted. He was rubbing his forehead and standing in front of the bathroom door. The top of the door stopped at the same level as Kevin’s forehead.
“I just want to go pee and these fucking Asians can’t build anything over six fucking god damned feet tall. FUCK this country.” He ducked excessively as he tried again to enter the bathroom, and then he slammed the door.
I was about to lay down when I saw something on my leg. Zits. Not just one or two, but a heaping load of zits. Basically the entire front of my right leg looked like an acne ridden teenager having an outbreak that was worse than normal. I swung around my left leg and saw that my shin looked similar, but had fewer pustules.
“Devil woman,” I muttered in anger.
We fought off our hangovers and went to go boating around for the day. Island hopping was a dream… except I had to explain to many curious strangers that I was not burned by something, nor attacked by bugs, but had undergone a waxing job from hell. I did pause, at one point, in total gratitude that my bikini waxing had not resulted in a similar disaster.
We island hopped all day, swimming in every bay and lagoon that we anchored in. We snorkeled and marveled at the sea urchins below us. I followed a parrot fish to see what he was up to, and found that he had no plan or direction whatsoever.
We were back before dusk. Having had nothing but coffee and a marginal lunch buffet that day, we decided to have a big dinner. Kevin ordered something meaty and I got a wood fired pizza. It was one of the best pizzas I’d ever tasted. After dinner, we went back to the platform at the last bar to watch the fire show again.
But something was wrong.
I sipped my mai tai slowly for a bit, and then I stopped all together. My stomach was twisting.
Kevin ordered another beer for himself and looked at the cocktail I’d barely touched. “Something wrong?” He asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe I just need to go to the bathroom.” I walked away, wondering if I would throw up. I hated throwing up. I sat in the bathroom with no results. I stood and looked from toilet to finger and back again, then sighed and left.
“Come on,” Kevin said when I returned. “It’s our last night here. Do you want a hookah?”
“I don’t know, I just feel sick.”
By 11 p.m. I could take it no longer. I had to go home. Kevin walked me back to our cabana. It was a long uphill walk, but it took longer than usual because I had to repeatedly pause and double over, waiting to see if I’d puke. “Mouth sweats?” Kevin asked.
When we made it back, I could tell it would be a bad night. “Kevin, you gotta go get drunk. This is gonna be ugly and you’ll get no sleep if you’re in here with me.”
“I’ll come check on you in a little bit,” he said.
As soon as he left, I began an endless cycle of bed to toilet, bed to toilet. I fell asleep quickly every time I lay down, but I’d wake up to my own moans of pain. And then I’d run to the bathroom.
Eventually I threw up, and the pizza still tasted flavorful coming out. As I was uncontrollably heaving, I felt a small pinch between my shoulder blades but was too helpless to swat at the mosquito who took advantage of me.
“What kind of asshole bites someone while they’re puking!?” I said to no one as I reached for my toothbrush.
As soon as I’d climbed back under the mosquito net, Kevin came stumbling in. He climbed under the mosquito net too and rubbed my shoulder. “Hhhhhow are yhhhhew?” He asked, breathing his party breath on my face.
I was suddenly grateful that I’d just thrown up, or I may not have made it to the bathroom in time. I pulled the blanket over my nose. “It’s coming out both ends,” I said.
“I’ll go get you some water,” he said, standing up.
“There are three bottles in here, I’m fine-”
“No. You need water.”
I fell asleep as soon as he left, and only woke up when he came in later with water and some Thai medicine that a concerned bartender had given him.
“Drhiiink Thhhhis,” he said. “It will help.”
I sat up and looked at the bottle in his hand. It had a white fluid inside. I unscrewed the lid and sniffed. “Smells like Vicks Vapo Rub.” I took a sip and gagged. “Ugh, tastes like Vicks too.” I chased the medicine with water and wondered if I was really supposed to drink it, or if Kevin had made a mistake and made me drink an ointment.
“The bartender thinks you had bad ice,” he said before falling asleep.
The night was repetitive for me. I twisted and moaned and was happy that Kevin slept soundly through it all.
Right around dawn, I went to the bathroom and found bloody splotches along the floor and a smear of blood beside the toilet. What happened to me! I thought. Then I realized that the dots fell in a pattern that footsteps could have taken, and my feet were laceration free. I rinsed off the floor and walked back to bed. I bent down and peered at Kevin’s feet and saw his toes covered in blood.
In the morning, I remembered having a dream that a mosquito crawled into my nose. Then I felt something in my mouth and reached in with my fingers. I pulled out a dead mosquito, and promptly freaked out. “It’s too much!” I said to Kevin through the bathroom door. He was washing his foot off.
“I just pulled a dead mosquito out of my mouth. This is seriously one of the sickest things that have ever happened to me.”
Kevin opened the door and leaned out, grinning at me. “Hyperbole much?”
“No. Actually it’s not. A mosquito crawled into my nose and died last night, and then I found it in my mouth. It’s literally one of the sickest things that have ever happened to me.”
We grabbed our bags and walked to the coffee shop. We were checking out.
The plan was to go to Bangkok and find a tiger temple, but we only had two days until we departed from Thailand. The problem was me. I had the ambition to go, but not the strength. “I think this is what old people feel like,” I told Kevin as I moved along slowly.
“We can just stay here one more night,” Kevin suggested.
“No. We’re in Thailand and I want to see tigers.” I made my way to the cabana lobby and used the internet to browse tiger temples. Everything involved a lot of travel. I coughed weakly and signed off. Then I walked back to the coffee shop. “Fuck the tigers.”
Kevin went back to the lobby and checked us in for another night while I curled up at our coffee shop and took a nap with the kittens. He returned and we both sat and worked on crossword puzzles.
The coffee shop adjoined to a rock climbing center. Every day as we’d relaxed, we’d watched sweaty tourists scale up the cliff beside us. What kind of vacation is that?
Now, as I sat at the counter, I watched three people work together to carry a girl into the shade of the coffee shop. The girl her arms over the shoulders of people on both sides of her, and another woman led the trio, walking backwards holding up the girl’s left leg. They sat her down and her fellow climbers gathered around. I peeked around one of her friends. Her ankle was gashed and bleeding. She shakily caught her breath as one woman began to clean and bandage her leg.
I had been so wrapped up in pain and self pity that I hadn’t looked around in a while. “I’m a hot mess,” I had told Kevin that morning as we left our room. Now I reflected. I remembered him walking into the door one day, and stubbing his toe another. I looked at this girl with her rock climbing injury beside me. A lot of people have everything go wrong on vacation. That’s how adventures are made.
After the crowd thinned, I bought the injured girl a water bottle and some aspirin that I’d brought along in anticipation of vacation hangovers. “Here you go,” I said, handing it to her.
She had relaxed a bit, and looked at me gratefully as she accepted my offering. Then her eyes dropped down to my legs. “Oh my god, did you get attacked by bugs?” She asked.