Stitched Back Together in Thailand
A harsh light pierces my eyes from a low swinging globe above my face. I am lying on a bed. No. It’s a gurney. It creaks in rhythm with the tight pulling of my arm. A young Thai woman sits on a wooden stool next to me, threading me back together like a seamstress. She skillfully locates my skin, which is hardly visible under a sludgy layer of antiseptic. A wave of nausea hits me and I swallow hard to keep down two weeks’ worth of tequila.
I am in a hospital in Phuket, a southern province of Thailand, crawling with loud, sticky tourists. Matt grasps at his once-white t-shirt, now red. His knuckles are clenched tightly, far too pale against his tan skin.
“Just keep your eyes open. Look at me.”
Our two-week trip had been an impulsive decision. Matt and I met only months earlier and bonded instantly over bad break-ups and a misplaced faith in the dingy nightclubs of Sydney. Eager to be away from our daily lives, we soon found ourselves flying over an unfamiliar ocean.
We arrived without much knowledge of Phuket, and were taken aback instantly by the loud beating heart of Bangla Road. The ground shook with music that leaked out of each door, flooding the streets. To each side of the road were bars that could just as easily have been strip clubs. Beautiful, scantily dressed ladies lined the front of each, elevated on stages adorned with poles. They pulsated their bodies half-heartedly, blank eyes looking everywhere but at the men drooling beneath them. We picked a bar, and two buckets of sickly-sweet alcohol later, the multicoloured lights were dancing through our blurry eyes.
The nights carried on like this: one hazy memory of colour and sound followed by another. Over time, the buckets began to taste like water and we moved onto tequila shots. Each rack of six set us back only $4, but the acrid liquid was hazy, and burnt as it slid down my throat.
Our mornings were spent much more quietly, taking turns at heaping our sore bodies over the toilet bowl. We joked uneasily about wasted experiences and tried to keep our guilt at bay with day trips to temples and plastic-coated beaches. Squinting at the harsh daylight with our pores leaking poison, we waited eagerly for the sun to set.
At this point, we were well-known at one of the many exotic bars. After too much liquid embarrassment, we said yes to the lady haggling us, unsure as to what she wanted but drunk enough to find out. Her voice guided us through a dim-lit walkway, out to a back room that we had not yet discovered. A looming black door stood tall between two large bouncers. They smirked silently at us as they opened the door, tight shirts covering veiny, tattooed arms. A hot, sour air tickled my nostrils. After a few seconds, my eyes adjusted to the dark room, and three naked women walked past us, fluorescent body paint trailing patterns around their unnaturally perky breasts.
We took a seat, watching with open mouths as the women walked to the stage. On it laid a man wearing nothing but a towel, his large frame sticking out next to the petite women who lapped around him. With the towel creating a thin layer between his penis and their hands, they worked his member in rhythm with the snake charming music that echoed around the stuffy room. Chairs creaked as tourists shifted uncomfortably. We shrunk to the back of the room, and left as quickly as we entered.
A tuk-tuk ride later, I sat drunk and slumped over on the bathroom floor. The hotel bathrobe itched at my skin and I wriggled uncomfortably, desperate to get out of both. Shattered remains of a water glass lay next to me, an ill-fated attempt to get up. It’s contents spread over the floor and seeped into my robe. I pressed one of the pieces between my thumb and forefinger, wondering if maybe I’d packed more baggage for this trip than I thought.
The anaesthetic begins to wear off as the nurse knots the stitches tightly at my wrist. She says something in Thai that I can’t understand, but won’t meet my eyes. She’s talking to Matt now, in broken English. I try to take in her words but the room keeps spinning and I can’t focus on anything but the sharp sting. Brown eyes lock with mine and I stare deep, noticing for the first time that they are as wet as mine.
“I want to go to bed.”
“Soon,” he says, voice warm with concern.
“Let’s not drink tomorrow.”
Cover by Hanny Naibaho
Global Hobo and the author do not wish to encourage self-harm, and we strongly urge anyone struggling to deal with difficult or painful feelings to consider alternative coping methods – tell someone you trust or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.