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Parallel play

I was in Bangkok for 7 weeks and in that time, I went through some of the best and worst times, crammed and concentrated into a single, intense, crazy experience – but that is part of what Bangkok is like as a city, so it made sense for my narrative to run parallel to that. Had I been in London at that stage in my life, I would have slipped into a pattern of loneliness that the city has a habit of magnifying to the power of unbearable. In Bangkok, things were a more manageable and I felt as though it was saying to me, ‘Sure, you’re running around frantically on the Khao San Road having just bumped into your Swedish friend and her father wearing the same clothes as you did last night, you have 15 minutes to get to the hospital in morning traffic and the heat is already intolerable. It’s going to get crazier after this, so let’s just have some fun with it.’

That said, there were times where I was able to slow down and quietly contemplate my future. That mainly happened in the air-conditioned mecca of the student computer room. I had to send in my medical application for UK jobs (UKFPO) and I had the continual drip of reassuring emails from friends and loved ones who told me that everything would not just be ok, it would be better than ok. The Thai students only seemed to use the computers to play online games; the repetitive noises coming from the games became insanely annoying after the first minute – fortunately I had some headphones which rendered me deaf to the outside world.

One night, I was catching up with some emails and I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye. It looked like the person two seats away was jiggling their leg, but something made me turn to look anyway. I turned to see the student masturbating through his clothes. I turned back to face the computer and looked again. There was no mistake, he was definitely getting it on with his hand. I didn’t know what to do with myself; my immediate reaction was surprise but I wasn’t really offended by it. My shock came from how under normal circumstances, the students could barely look you in the eye in the surgical changing rooms if you bared your shoulder, so I couldn’t get me head round it. I guess if you’re sharing a dorm with 7 other people then it’s impossible to get alone time (bar the cold showers). In the coming weeks, I noticed that students would often engage in self-love (6 in total, including a girl) regardless of how busy the computer room was and there was never any shifting about to check if anyone was looking, nor did the other students take any notice. I wanted to know if that was because of acceptance or awkwardness and embarrassment, but it’s not the sort of thing you’re going to ask your colleagues.

Toddlers engage in parallel play, this seemed like a kinky extension of it. No, kinky is the wrong word; the students made the process look incredibly functional and routine. No noise, done through their clothes with full concentration on the computer screen (I didn’t ask what they were looking at, but was very curious).

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