Doors of the train slid open. Drum beats slipped in, people poured out. Below Bangkok’s Skytrain station are vendors calling out, everybody walking, people dancing and water-splashing. I stared at the long stretch of Sala Daeng full of partying teenagers and twentysomethings, not sure if foreigners are welcome in their New Year, in their celebration of the passage of time.
I tightened my grip on my things and wished Mike were there to hold my hand. It’s been a year since I saw him. Why is Time ever the slowest when you are waiting for something grand?
The three of us looked at the crowd–squirting guns; bodies touching bodies; fingers dipped in bowls of wet talc powder to be wiped on the faces.
Tradition taught the Thai to pour scented water over the buddhas’ body. The pouring of water has gone wild, though, as Thailand started holding one of the world’s biggest water fights. While some containers of water were perfumed, most were not; but the most notorious of all was the ice-cold ones–straight from the ice box. Rare was dry hair, dry shirt, dry underwear. Everybody was dripping, drip drip.
On both sides of the streets there were throngs of people walking towards each other–like a river with water flowing from opposite ends. I walked ahead of O. and C., still wondering what happens during the last nights of Songkran. Had Mike been there, he would have held me close to him, as we brave the mosh, but I wasn’t sure how he’d hold me; I couldn’t imagine anymore actually. It’s been a year.
Then this happened: the wiping of the powder. Here’s how it goes:
Young men walk in lines (three to five guys, usually), holding a bowl of diluted powder for other people’s faces. Some use their fingertips, others their whole hand, some others use both of their hands with palms serving as pillows to both cheeks (usually of girls). Some dip their hands in the bowl first, while others rub their palms, before they spread the mixture on others’ faces. It feels more like caressing than wiping. A gentle, tender stroke. And that’s all I needed to remember Mike’s touch.
After so many hands touched my face, I felt light. It’s as if the universe sent Mike’s touch across the world through these gentle hands. What’s more heart-warming is that, whenever they press their palms on my cheeks, they say something in Thai–I didn’t understand it, we didn’t understand them, but their words sounded reassuring, comforting, as if to say, everything will fall in its proper places. You are not alone. That night, I remember how Mike would cup my face with his two hands, and say how small my face is, then he’d grab me and imprison my ‘small head’ in his strong arms. That night, I felt at peace with a thousand strangers.