Thai Awardee

 

DISTANCE

“What did you say?”

I yell, but my voice can’t penetrate the transparent vibrating wall of eight lanes of traffic that move continuously, without break.  I cup my hands into a megaphone and suck in deeply.

“What did you say?”

I shout again, so hard that my body stoops forward.  But she remains unresponsive and smiling, before beginning to speak again, not caring if I can hear or not.  The only thing I know is that she is talking to me, but the distance and roar of traffic melt her voice until it becomes a small dot of silence in the sound storm.

What happened is that yesterday after dinner I told everyone in my family that I was going out for a walk and then kept on walking, nonstop with no reason.  I just felt like walking.  I walk aimlessly because it seems that there is nothing to lure me to go this way or that, turn right or left at the next intersection or stop at the corner. If I enter a dead end Soi, I just turn back.  When I reach a junction I randomly turn to either direction.  My eyes never lift from the ground and I only look at the footpath, hearing the footsteps of people walking past.  That’s nice to hear.

I walk stooping, passing from evening to late night and into the next day.  The orange light of morning sun bathes the ground, but my legs keep on moving and seem unstoppable until there is a voice, a faint voice that I can hardly hear at first, but then loud enough to seize my legs and I lift my neck and turn to the sound.  I see a girl, the owner of the voice, standing across the road.  Her hair is long, touching her shoulders and she is wearing a mud colour t-shirt, jeans and white sneakers.  She is telling me something, gesturing with her words.  I try to guess what she is saying, but because of the distance I can’t see the detail of her face.  She is wearing black rimmed glasses and has a young teenage face.  Her lips move eagerly.

She smiles back when I yell the same words, “What did you say?”, ”What did you say?”, “What did you say?”.  I shout out perhaps twenty times, but she still speaks without raising her voice, as though I’m not far away from her, standing right beside her.  She keeps talking, her gestures so natural, as though I’m a close friend and she’s telling a funny story.  I hesitate to cross the road, the cars still passing furiously as if they won’t let anything not on wheels onto the surface.

I decide not to cross the road and she seems not to care.  In fact she seems more comfortable speaking to me from a distance.  I sit on the curb and rest my face in the palm of my hand, elbow on my knee.  I don’t want to shout anymore.  I just look quietly, trying to listen to what she says from the other side.

The cars are still passing,

I’m not really sure if I can hear anything she tries to say.  I nod and smile back sometimes as if understanding, but I can’t do anything.  It’s already past and too far away.  Those times of mine have already gone.  I can’t go back.  All I can do now is face them with a smile.

I slowly nod and sigh.

For a while she stops.  The smile is still on her face.  I stand up.  I don’t shout, I just say goodbye in a soft voice, almost a whisper.

I stand up on the footpath and don’t look at her again.  I straighten up and walk on.