The sound of a farang shouting at a bar girl who has poured too much coke in his drink makes you look to your left and the Big Dog bar.
The girl speaks no English so perhaps this is among her first weeks in Bangkok.
Music is playing very loudly in the bar, ‘I met a gin soaked barroom queen in Memphis, she tried to take me upstairs for a ride’. The girl looks frightened.
The smoke of the barbecue’s mixes with the stink of the rotting garbage, stale sweat and piss.
Decay, degradation and the faces of the Thai vendors and motorcycle taxi drivers are etched into the grey concrete at the entrance to Soi 4 like an ancient economic truth.
Their look is not envious, nor jealous and not full of hate; but the look of those trapped in the waking dream world of constant and chronic poverty.
They are the faces of the drowned and drowning.
‘It’s the ho, o, o, nky tonk women, give me, give, give me the honky tonk blues’.
This is Bangkok. This is Nana.
But you are looking past the messy third-world order of cracked and dirty tarmac and paving slabs that border the car park.
You have lived long enough to know that under the surface of things lays the dream reality that you seek.
Bangkok; full of men and women with plans to escape back to Surin, Korat, Leeds or Texas; just as soon as they have enough money or less desire.
But what you see is something tender in the way Bangkok holds its residents.
In the impossibly beautiful bodies and faces of the Ladyboys arriving as dusk sets in, in their eyes, in the way they hold themselves, in their gaze, you see a story.
And then, just as night arrives you see them at the entrance to the plaza.
A man is on his knees at the feet of a Ladyboy. She is 6 feet tall and her face has the kind of dark beauty that can destroy worlds.
You cannot hear his words but the sounds he makes are more animal than human.
Even on his knees the man still has a stiff pride, the quality of an iron weathervane, always pointing towards her, his North.
His supplication, his willingness to beg comes from strength not weakness. He does not see the people that flow around him.
The Ladyboy holds her arms across her chest as she looks down at him. Her face is set like a beautiful oriental mask; without expression.
She turns on a heel and walks away. He screams after her, ‘ Faridaaa’.
She does not slow her stride as she walks towards you but as the rain explodes onto the street you see a single tear run down her face.
Then she is gone. This is the foretelling of a future that has been waiting to happen for so long.
I cannot say what happens to the man you saw or the Ladyboy. I can only tell you how it began.
This is a love story of Bangkok.