Taking the long way home
I was walking slowly along the sidewalk which was already dark except for some yellow light radiating from the lamp posts and the occasional glare from the cars and motorcycles passing me by. The last Mass for Sunday at the Ruamrudee church in Bangkok had just ended and people were scurrying to their cars, while others hurriedly rode in those motorcycle-for-hires lining up in the sidewalk. I was already tired and it would take me ten minutes more to reach the Ploenchit skytrain station but I was not in a hurry. Some motorcycle drivers waved at me, asking me if I wanted a ride. I shook my head. I chose not to. I just wanted to walk and walk. As if every weary step eased the inexplicable mixture of feelings I had that time.
Earlier that afternoon, I was riding a taxi on my way to the church. Well, I usually take taxis when I’m in a hurry – alone or not, day or night – I can’t recall how many times I’ve taken these colorful cabs whenever I’m in Thailand. I am comfortable with their taxi drivers and being scared or apprehensive was the last thing on my mind.
As soon as I got in the backseat, the driver tried to make conversation, talking about himself, asking some questions and teaching me some Thai words and their English equivalent. Well, I really don’t mind taxi drivers making some small talk to break the monotony of their lives on the road. But I was surprised when he asked me, “You have darling?” I acted as if I didn’t get what he mean, but he took his hands off the wheel and put his two forefingers together and explained, “Like this.” So I told him, “Yes khun, many…” (Khun is a Thai word for mister or miss.) That was meant to be a turn off, but I realized it worked the other way.
Now he was asking some more personal questions. Then he kept telling me, “Khun suay mak.” (You’re so pretty.) Uh-oh… I felt some goose bumps, that was flattery coming from a crazy taxi driver and it only made me want to stop the car and go down. I really don’t know what was going on his mind. I noticed we didn’t turn right in the direction of the Mochit skytrain station. I told him he was driving the wrong way, and I reminded him where I’m supposed to go, he just nodded and said “yes, yes…” but he just kept on driving straight.
I was beginning to have some really bad vibes. I wanted to call for help, but I forgot to bring my mobile phone with me. He kept on talking but I was not listening anymore. I was silently having a conversation with God… “Please, please… I don’t know this guy, he acts weird, please let him just go to the train station, and not straight to nowhere. I want to be in time for the Mass.”
After what seemed like a thousand light years, he made a U-turn. At least he was turning back now. Will he go back to that intersection? I was silently hoping inside. Then finally, he turned left. When I saw the skytrain station, I breathed a sigh of relief. I paid him less than what the outrageous amount on his meter registered, and he even returned to me some of the money I gave him (which meant he admitted his guilt). I was so glad to be stepping out of that taxi.
“Phom chob khun,” (I like you) he called out to me as I got off. Arghhh.. enough of that! I just closed the door as if hearing nothing. I went up the escalator and didn’t look back. My hands and knees were shaking.
What happened next was just a blur – after riding the skytrain to Ploenchit station, I got off and rode at the back of a motorcycle-for-hire; arrived late for the Mass; sat at the back, and was teary eyed during the communion song, thankful that I made it; walked along the sidewalk from the church to the station, got inside the skytrain, just sitting and staring at the crowd of passengers coming in and out; stopped by a bakery and bought some sweets; rode in a van which brought me to the gate of the campus where I was staying.
I was almost home. Some taxis were waiting in line. Will I ride or just walk? It will take me some twenty minutes or so to reach the house, nevertheless, I decided to walk.
My hands were getting heavy from my bag and the other things I was carrying but my soul felt lighter with each step. Somehow I felt safe walking in the dark road. It was just me walking hand in hand with God.