This is being written on Saturday afternoon thanks to my getting drunk last night, alone, in the very posh hotel lounge. Ignoring both the disgusted looks I was getting from the ladylike bar-girls and the puzzled looks I was receiving from Japanese tourists, I doggedly kept re-ordering large bottles of Heineken while nodding my head along in time to the awful cocktail band who smiled sweetly while butchering the likes of Abba and The Eagles.
Earlier that day, Friday, I had made my first visit to a maximum security jail, the Bangkok Hilton. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. For one thing the prisoner I was meeting was an old hand at conversing with nervous visitors and was also, thankfully, fluent in English. For another thing visiting was a lot easier now, compared to the good old days as described in the soon to be released Angel of Bangkwang. There were phones instead of having to shout a conversation through two walls of wire mesh. The heat, however, remained the unbearable same.
We were kept waiting for 30 minutes. One of my group was an Asian woman who had recently married a guy inside. He was a young, unruly character who unwisely, but understandably, repeatedly lost his temper with the prison guards. She was punished by having to spend a half-hour of their hour-long visit waiting for him, and we were punished because we were with her.
They all arrived together; the angry young husband along with my prisoner, a veteran after seventeen years there with no end in sight, and an elderly wrinkled prisoner who was HIV positive. Jag and I covered many subjects in half an hour watched politely by this old guy. He seemed lost. His wife last visited him two months ago, his grown-up sons never visited. At one stage I smiled at him, Jag told me that he was a great singer, and he waved as hard as he could before settling into himself again. He was asked if he needed anything from medicine to cream cakes and he said no.
The more Heineken I drank the more vivid this old guy’s face swam in front of me. He was too gone to be angry like the raging husband and too gone to be hopeful like the patient Jag. He had just slipped quietly down between the cracks, and bars of Bangkwang. Probably gone forever. - Nicola Pierce, author.