The sea is still. The vast expanse of it fills half of the horizon. A large motorboat appears from the right and powers diagonally to the left. Two little figures move on its front deck. Very soon it disappears behind the viridian leaves of a tall tree. A solitary boat is left. A fishing boat returning late from the fleet that lit up the horizon last night.
A loud mechanical whirling sound rises all around the timber hut perched on the side of a steep slope. Hundreds of cicada wings are rubbing, the forest of sounds undulating and at times reaching a crescendo. Like an orchestra of new music made with innovative metal instruments.
From the sound of the buzzing music and the shapes of the sun patches on the curtain, Liv knows what time of the morning it is.
The evening cool was so soothing last night. As usual, Liv let the cool night caress her body, bared of all its cares. With the thin mosquito net wafting in the breeze, protecting her from unwelcomed pricks of the insects seeking her blood, Liv let her limbs go into strange, abandoned positions on the bed like a dancer in a contemporary ballet, flipping over, crouching, or spreading her legs. She was free..
She washed this body well just now. The strong shower water, tabbed directly from the waterfall, was clouded from rain washing in mud. But it felt soothing. There was a flabbiness and wrinkles of age now where firm, rounded and tanned flesh used to be not all that many seasons ago.
This trusty body was still working well. As is her custom, she washed the more sentitive parts of it, rubbing and manipulating until so very soon, they again brought her to the aching and noisy peaks that vary in their intensity each time. This time it bent her over where she stood, the water cascading on her back as if she was standing under the Thansadet waterfall herself.
Then there was again a noise that she had heard before in the roof. It was not the scurrying of feet that the many rats that lived around here made but more like a dragging of something with weight across the thin material of the ceiling.
As Liv laid facing up on the bed, the sound moved to where there was a largish hole in the ceiling. She waited. The night also paused and waited with her.
In the dark cavity, she imagined that she saw a flicker of a tiny red tongue as it felt the air. Soon a nozzle and a large head showed themselves then slid ever so slowly over the gap. The thick trunk of the beautiful body of an obviously large snake was revealed section by section, the white skin underneath shiny and almost wet.
Liv shuddered. She loved all animals but snakes terrified her the most. This particular one now felt so close, as if wrapped around her leg or her loins. It felt like a visit of an expected lover. She felt the way its long shape move and could feel it tightening its muscles around her, intrusive and yet strangely protective and reassuring.
Liv had been without that reassurance for some time now. Coming back to this virgin island had been her aim for some years. As she walked to work through a thick curtain of snow and wind, through the grey and uncaring streets of her hometown day after day, she often thought of the her first soft summer nights on the beach on Panghan Island, half way around the world.
Often late at night, she would sit by the glowing ambers of her fireplace, looking out to what she could see of the snow outside. In the street light, more snow would fall in a white shower that she loved.
Yet this white world of home was as lonely as it could be. In this bleakness, words from her sister about the Thai hidden hideaway that she had just returned from held promise of at least a temporary escape from this grey routine. As soon as she could save enough, she eagerly handed her money over to the village travel agent.
The tropical night welcomed her within its fold of humidity. The friendly smiles and laughter of the Thai people came as an unexpected but much-needed bonus. Very soon the hidden beach of the green island clothed with primary forest became a home that she had never known.
Her Thai god appeared out of the velvety night very soon after her arrival. He was simply the handsomest man that she had ever seen.
He materialised from the darkness of the beach to greet some Western girls at the next table in very good English. The girls were obviously well within the circle of his charm.
Other girls or no, Liv knew immediately that before the night was out, he was going to be sharing her bed in her bungalow on the beach and slip straight into the empty room in her heart.
By the light of the moon later, Liv sat with her chin on her folded knees on the bed. The beautiful nude man lying on the bed, his dark muscular body shining in the moonlight, was no less than a god who came to reward her for all her years of deprivation.
If she played her cards right, she will make him her life companion, father of her children, her most treasured possession, her life, her all, her main reason for living.
As the halcyon days and passionate nights passed, he became more entangled in the auburn strands that she was able to twirl around him. There he would be each day, besotted. She became the protective flesh wrapped around him. In her life, Liv had never known such attachment and devotion to a single person.
Her god was in bed with her every night since that first night. Even when sweat ran in between their limbs, she still did not let him out of her tight embrace. She had found her life-saving ring. She would not, under any circumstances, let it go.
She loved to watch him rise, pulled on his shorts and stride out to the white beach for his first swim of the day. They shared long morning swims in the cool water of the wine-glass shaped bay that was like the surface of a mirror. Their new laughter rose to greet the tiny swifts whirling in the bright sky, then floated further up to the blue beyond.
With great difficulty and perhaps against her better judgement, Liv was able to persuade Som to return home with her after her long holiday.
The poor man had never left his village by the placid sea. The long days of the German summer at first suited him. Like home, the forest to one side of her old stone village was green and the river flowed sweetly when they rowed on it. They loved to walk through tracks in the surrounding gold of wheat fields, Sting's song about love in a field of barley, sounding in their ears.
They loved to walk through the ripening heads of wheat to the ruin of a castle on the hill. There they would sit and lean their backs on a wall and watch the long summer evening leave the earth.
Then the cold winds came. She and her god danced in the thickening carpet of gold and red leaves while more floated down from the trees ablaze with autumn's gift.
Then the trees became bare, their dark branches and twigs stark against a cold, grey sky and Som's exuberance shrunk to the same sparseness.
Liv would leave for work with the sorry vision of Som trying to keep warm in their room, sitting by the white-frosted window of their living room. With his chilled fingers, he was drawing with sure lines the rich tapestry of foliage of the forest of his island.
When Liv came back from work the picture was finished, each tiny leaf systematically hand-coloured in water colour the deep hues of greens and blues, vibrant when viewed against the frosty white background outside.
Then through the window she sees him trudging back from his walk, the collar of his jacket turned up and his covered head bent into the jacket as a snow storm gathered in the perfect dark grey sky.
She kept his watercolour picture framed and hung near her bed for a long time. Not long after that, it was all that Liv had.
Her Thai god simply was not home when she returned, dispirited and cold, from work one dark night. A short letter arrived much later in early spring to say that he had returned home. It did not ask her to join him there.
Long and tortuous years have passed and Liv does not fully understand why she is now again sitting near the restaurant when she and Som first met.
Like the first time, her man arrives as the socializing warms up, coming to a table full of party-goers. He looks well but has probably had too much to drink.
He holds the hand of a pretty Thai girl, being pulled timidly along behind him. Her beauty is stunning.
She makes sure that Som does not notice her and slips away quietly herself, walking back in the dark towards her bungalow up near the cliff face.
In that still cool night, all is certain, for the very first time in a long time.
The last chapter of a wonderful book is being finished by its author, the only one that she would ever write. It is a love story, the likes of which the world has never seen., even if it has known about it. The likes of which that she herself would ever see.
It is the best that she could have managed.
Liv touches the familiar leaves, some dark green, some striated with yellow and red. Flowers are also blooming on this last pathway and she touches them also. A feint perfume from another flower wafts by for Liv to breath in deeply.
Life continues, as vibrant as ever in this part of the world that she is not destined to know.
It is dark in her bungalow. Liv leaves the door open, so that from the bed she can see the vast expanse of sea below her where she also glimpses her wheat fields at dusk.
Liv puts on her favourite dress and wonders whether the cobra's poison would be cold or warm as it enters her blood and how much its fangs will hurt as they pierce her skin to deliver that poison.
She hopes that it would be gentle with her.
She has done it and its world no harm.