Anyone out there got a waterproof pen? I'm asking because I've been waiting for a
not-so-muggy night to write this. Unfortunately, though a succession of several
oppressive, tropical Siamese evenings the tormenting humidity has progressively been
worsening. This is frustrating. I'm on a deadline.
Normally, particularly sultry climate shouldn't be conducive to writer's block, but
my situation goes well beyond the sphere of the norm. I'm writing this from the barren,
inhibitive confines of what should be a four-man cell in Bang Kwang Maximum Security
Prison on the outskirts of Bangkok. If you saw the room though you'd feel obligated to
correct me. You'd insist it's a dormitory sans bunk beds, and certainly far from barren.
However, if you visited the room for, say, seven minutes you'd begin to note that while it
is indeed chock-full of bodies, it is devoid of select traces of humanity and certain
elements of basic human comfort—if not survival.
In those seven minutes the first thing that'd strike you is the relentless heat, which
is so powerfully overbearing is causes sweat from your hand to be absorbed by your
stationary, thus making letter writing—meeting deadlines—a rather arduous task. And if
you possessed a lurid appreciation for irony you'd perhaps wryly observe that while it is
so insufferably hot, there's a distinct absence of warmth. You know, the human kind.
Believe me, it's hard to be cordial when you suddenly find yourself locked away in an
intensely hot and densely crowded prison cell—and with a life sentence.
But let's go back to the hypothetical seven minutes for now. For the uninitiated it's a
bit easier to deal with. In seven minutes, aside from the sweltering heat, you'd be
deploring the exceeding lack of sufficient ventilation and be desperate to just get out for a
breath of fresh air. In seven minutes you'd discover that your physical proximity to the
guy you're meant to be sleeping next to defies every law of your heterosexual ethos. In
seven minutes you could find yourself resigning to the disappointment of having
forgotten your water bottle and realizing you'll go thirsty for the night. In seven minutes
you'll find yourself wondering just whether or not the ceaseless cacophony of noise will
ever diminish, and just how you're supposed to sleep through it all. In seven minutes
you'll gaze amongst the throng of the nearly two-dozen men that you're sharing your cell
with and begin to wonder just how you're supposed to get even a moment of privacy.
And, in seven minutes you might not begin to speculate when will be the next time you'll
have an opportunity to make love to your wife, girlfriend, or exciting new acquaintance,
but I guarantee such thoughts shall eventually start to consume you. And they shall
continue to consume you, relentlessly. I can tell you this from personal experience. I've
been here for seven years.
The initial shock in visiting a Bang Kwang prison cell for seven minutes differs
immensely from having endured one for seven years. You inexorably become
accustomed to the reality of living without, peace, privacy, space, emotions, a loved one's
touch, air, and water when you forget it. You may become accustomed to it, though you
never come to fully accept it. It's just one of those things you just have to live with.
For me, living without the freedom to travel is one of the most difficult aspects of
my stay here. A veritable nomad by nature, I just can't perceive the joi de vivre unless
I'm packing foreign sand into the soles of my flip-flops along some middle-of-nowhere
deserted beach. In retrospect, I've come to realize that all of my dearest, most lasting
memories stem from vivid experiences which had consisted of a mere couple of hours to
a couple of days duration. A birthday in Bali, a reunion on Koh Chang, and a couple of
weeks of classic Sri Lankan surf. Now, however, I've come to realize, while the true and
definitive meaning of monotony pierces my consciousness, the myriad collection of life-
long travel memories I could have been creating over these years. Instead, I can only
hope that time will somehow expunge all the disturbing visions I've accumulated while
here. There's a message in here somewhere, and it's not just targeted at you hellman
adventure cowboys and you ennui-plagued, insouciant heiresses-in-waiting who are out
to shock the world—and maybe your parents—by taking the fateful walk from the wild
side to venturing into something you feel exudes a truly radical allure—like an impulsive
jaunt into narco trafficking, for instance. There's no glamour here, no promise of success,
no proverbial pot of gold to pick up on the other side; just a sweaty, inanimate existence
riddled with the futile dreams of what could've been, mingled with aching regret of
having let so many good people down—especially yourself.
Enjoy your travels, and never put yourself in a position that would jeopardize your
freedom to do so.
Building-2 (Now Released on Transfer Treaty)