Agile men and women in orange vests streak through choked roads that once were waterways, helpless drivers left behind, stuck, to envy them. Barreling through Bangkok, undeterred by the traffic, I whisper an ode to the motorbike taxi drivers: Ye humble warriors of the pavement.
Day and night you linger, seeking solace in street corner comradery while awaiting your next 30 baht fare. Shrill laughter always carries from your clusters, my pasty white skin offered freely as the butt of your jokes. Nothing you could do to offend me. Forever you have my respect.
Sometimes I stare from afar, concealed by the shadows, fascinated, as the tension of your afternoon chess match reaches a pinnacle. You, the winner — ruler of the hour — extra sassy in that bright violet vest.
Cuddling with your rough torso, a whiff of mildew and stale cigarette amid the wind. Spill of the morning whiskey, perhaps, renders exhaust drinkable tonight. In the twilight of a traffic light, pork ball dinner again.
Veteran in your faded sherbet hue: Sage of the streets, steady as you go in a lifetime of velocity. And how I feel for you fledglings, vests so stiff and bright, fresh off the farms of Ubon and Chaiyaphum. So carefully you steer, putting all of us in danger!
Rebel rider from the country, fake Ray Ban’s and sak yant the only protection you need. Hi-so women swoon, secretly, as you take to rush hour like it’s an open road back home. Slender legs of an office worker dangling, sidesaddle, elegant as a cheetah at full speed.
You few strong ladies who take on the vest: Always an honor to see your faces. You greet the men in their surliness, earning their respect with a spit and a swig. Yet away you meander, gracefully, like a dashing maiden of the equestria.
In the mirror of your minds, your gentle ma’s and paw’s, or perhaps a wife rearing your children as you ride. From the bottoms of your windswept pockets, your contributions greet them like a bittersweet grin from afar.
When you rest your heads at night, in the hush before the morning rush, I hope you dream of rice fields rather than roads crammed oh so tight. Buffaloes instead of buses; lotus ponds in lieu of canals. But again, you must awaken, so the city might function once more!