Skytrain Encounters – Graffiti ManPosted: August 12, 2011
Mark jumped off the Skytrain at Siam station – weaved between the crowds of people, all heading selfishly in their own direction – and crossed the platform to catch the connecting train to Mochit. At the edge of the platform, a puzzled-looking man was glancing up and down the tracks. He seemed to be lost, as though he wasn’t sure where to catch his train. Mark walked to the edge of the platform and chose his place to wait for the train.
“Excuse me,” said the man, he appeared to be of Middle-Eastern descent. “Is this where I catch the train to Nana?”
“Erm, I think it is,” said Mark. “Let me just check my ticket.” He pulled his ticket out of his wallet, which had all the stops on it, and looked for Nana. “Ahh, no, it’s not here. You have to go downstairs.”
“Ahh, downstairs,” said the man. “Thanks.” As he walked away, another man approached Mark:
“Was he looking for Nana?” He asked. He was an American, well dressed, and polite.
“Yes,” said Mark.
“It’s the one downstairs. You have to head for On Nut.”
“Yes, that’s where I sent him.” Mark smiled and turned away. He felt as though the man wanted a conversation with him, but he didn’t know what to say.
The train arrived and everyone boarded in that selfish way that people do in big cities: ready to elbow each other out of the way for a seat on the train. Mark got on and went to stand by the doors at the opposite side of the train. He usually left the seats free for others. The man stood next to him. Mark didn’t want to be rude so he changed the hand he was holding onto the bars with so that he was facing the American. He must have sensed the opening:
“So, do you live here?” He asked. He was tall, casual, and looked like the type who couldn’t help being friendly.
“Yes,” said Mark. “How about you?”
“Oh, I’m just here on vacation. What do you do out here?”
“The same as most foreigners here: teach.”
“Oh yeah? Is it good money?”
“Not really, but I’ve just been interviewed for a new job. It’s a music teaching job, which would be right up my street as I trained in music.”
“Cool! I’m a teacher also but I wasn’t able to find any work out here. I have a degree in psychology, and I work at a school in America, but I couldn’t find anything that matches the perks I have in my job back home.”
“I see,” said Mark. “Because it’s easy to find work here, it’s just not that easy to get a high-paying job.”
“I hear you. I just come here on long vacations. I love the place but it’s nice to have the option to go back home.”
“Yeah. Honestly I think that’s the best way: enjoy a long holiday here, then go back and earn more money in the West. I would probably do the same if I could.”
A Chinese-looking man sat watching them, probably listening to their English, seeing if he could understand the natives at play.
“Where are you from?”
“Oh, me I’m from London.”
“Not much to go back for at the moment then; except the riots and looters.”
“Yeah! Or beating up some innocent kid! Where are you from?”
“I see. Whereabouts?
“Ahh, I’ve always wanted to visit New York.”
“Yeah, it’s a cool place. A lotta history.”
“I was always into the New York graffiti, thought it was cool.”
“Yeah? I used to do some when I was a kid.”
“So are you like a famous graffiti artist or something?”
“Naa, just did it because everybody else did.”
The train stopped, and Mark was about to continue the conversation when he sensed the man moving away from him:
“Anyway, this is my stop.”
“Nice to meet you.” Mark reached out his hand and they exchanged a curt hand shake.
As the train sped off, Mark felt glad for his brief encounter. It was good to know there were still some friendly people in the world. He realized about a minute too late that he never asked the guy’s name. He cursed himself for missing the opportunity to extend his circle of friends in this lonely city. He looked out the windows at the concrete mass of Bangkok and knew there’d be other times.