I spent the morning of 2008 on a Thai island called Koh Samui. It was charming and picturesque and it fulfilled its quota for pearly beaches and golden Buddhas for the hordes of tourist. I was not a tourist. I was not a local either. I was a contradiction once more: a temporary resident.
Our lives on Samui veered between the East and the West. We ate on the street, we knew the names of our barmen, we began knowing when to expect rain from the colour of the sky but we also ate french fries after a night out, and bought souvenirs and visited all the touristy sites.
One day we hired a banana-yellow jeep and drove around the island. A team of giggling girls who wanted to see butterfly farms and elephants. We wanted and we got; instant gratification. Isn’t that the way of the West?
One of the places we visited was the monastery of the mummified monk. Luang Pho Daend (1894-1973) had predicted not only his death, but the fact that he wouldn’t rot. It’s been over thirty years and he’s in pretty good condition.
I related immediately. Not the whole being mummified thing. Rather, I have always harboured a deep desire for anything macabre (I’m peculiarly morbid for a vegetarian). Furthermore, I could feel all the positive energy eminating from the grounds. It calmed something in me. When I saw that the mummified dude had the same sunglasses as me, I was sold. This temple and I were in sync. It was special; I could feel it.
After a one-sided conversation with Luang and the optional (re: mandatory) donation, I sat down to be blessed by a monk. This consisted of tying a skinny ropy bracelet around my wrist and chanting some Thai: Goo lak tayu, goo lak tayu.
I learnt two things after this experience. Firstly, you’re supposed to wish for something. The bracelet is tied intentionally lax. The idea is that when the it falls off, your wish has been granted. Secondly, the monk dude wasn’t chanting in Thai. He was saying: Good luck to you, good luck to you.
I am a fucking idiot.
Flash-forward to that fateful day in February.
I am in the emergency room. Less than an hour ago I accidentally set myself on fire. I am shaking so hard that the doctor can’t treat me. I need to concentrate on staying still; he needs to cut off the skin that has melted off my body and is hanging in long black shreds. He stands me over the sink so that I can keep my hands under running water. It’s the only way to stop me feeling like I’m not still burning. He sees the bracelets on my wrist, dirty-white and charred and sticking to my skin: I need to remove these. Is that OK?
I am still shivering violently. I can’t breathe. I manage to utter my consent. Then I insist that he keeps them for me. I make him promise. After all, I have been wearing them for two years and one of the knots is just about to untangle itself. I want my wish.
I don’t see the bracelets again but I don’t realise this until days later when the shock has begun to subside and all my energy is chanelled into healing.
Three months on and I’m a happy little fucker. Much happier than I was before the accident. When the it falls off, your wish has been granted. The funny thing, this is what I wished for: Mummified dude, please, I just want to be happy.
It’s crazy and incredible how wishes come true. Universe, don’t get me wrong, my accident was worth it but… this is not what I had in mind!