On the evening of my third day I still haven’t slept anything close to a full night since my penultimate night in New York, and I am starting to feel psychological effects: phantom movements in the peripheries et al. I’m dead on my feet by seven but worried if I turn in too early I’ll be awake again by 1 am. I settle on staying out until 9:30, and so wander a shitty and bracingly frigid mall in Lumphini district; I buy a pair of athletic shorts, which I mislay fifteen minutes later, and then a $30 cannister of chocolate-flavored protein powder (for point of reference, my plane ticket to Koh Samui cost maybe three times that,) imported from the States with white stickers slapped over the nutrional info; I start down what I take to be a broken escalator but is in fact a motion-activated escalator, apparently something that exists here, and nearly break my neck.
Once I’m finally back and into bed, I sweat out all my sleepiness in about ten minutes. My body’s a horse led to water. I realize if I don’t get to sleep I will lose my fucking mind. I get up and go sit at the dining table with Dave and Dylan and some of the trainers; they offer me a glass of beer and after six months sober I don’t hesitate. This is when I hear the story about Dave and Dylan and the prostitutes. I’m back in bed about forty minutes later, and I manage about five or six hours sleep night. Things start getting better after that.
The next night I go to the movies. I see “From Paris With Love,” which is a Luc Besson-produced piece of shit, French-financed and full of cynical French-baiting for its dumb American audience (just like its predecessor, “Taken”) and starring John Travolta as a fat ten-year old’s notion of a badass. But the cinema is a velour-upholstered jukebox-come-cathedral made even more fantastic for being set atop the Siam Paragon Center—a pretentious white-on-white faux Guggenheim with a Hermes outlet and a Lambourgini dealership—like a ringpop on a wedding cake. The screens are IMAX huge. They play lite-jazz versions of songs that were pretty fucking lite to begin with: “been around the world and I I I…” You pick out your seat when you buy your ticket, which is great for me because I get stressed out if I can’t sit dead center. The national anthem starts up after the previews, and the screen bids the audience to stand and to sing along if it wishes. Then it goes into a karaoke-style montage of Thai citizens enjoying life and being great parents. You can get soda in a big bear-shaped cup.
On Saturday during afternoon training, two hours in, I’m motioned into the ring; I’m to do a couple rounds of stand-up boxing with Alak: no kicks or knees, just punching. Alak’s maybe five foot one and of deeply indeterminate age, with a frosted mullet and abdominals out of a comic book; he rolls up the bottoms of his shorts, which makes the shorts look like a diaper and Alak in turn like a muscular golden baby. I am fucking terrified of him. I try explaining first to him and then to Sern that I would like to keep things light, but Alak can’t understand me and Sern doesn’t want to translate.
I try to set the tone by throwing out a few slow, gentle jabs, but he just looks confused as he slips in and gets me hard under the chin. Even then it feels weird to punch somebody so small full in the face. I move around a lot and throw a ton of jabs to keep him the fuck away, and I even catch him with an uppercut when he works some fancy slip for the third straight time. But in the next round I start to tire, and he starts to get inside, and the second time I get hit hard enough to cross my eyes something serious, and at the end of that round I beg off. Sern is all smiles afterward; in my post-coital relief at being clear of Alak I imagine that he’s pleased with how I handled myself, but in retrospect I think that he just likes seeing farang get hurt.
Today is the second day of my second week. At some point over the weekend my feet started swelling from the heat, and now I have huge a Cronenbergian blister on either pinkie toe, both jaundiced from a weird linament Jitti keeps applying . I picked up a black eye at some point yesterday, which makes me feel sheepish and trashy when I’m out on the town. Five days from now I’ll get on a plane heading south to Koh Samui, to train at the Lamai camp there. I’m looking forward to a change of scenery; I miss the manic discombobulation of those first few days, without which the regimen here feels a bit like work. Also, I’m getting sick of Bangkok.