A Night at Ayutthaya by Eisuke Aikawa

(Translated from Japanese by Toshiya Kamei)

By the time I reached Ayutthaya Railway Station, my enthusiasm for wandering the world had waned considerably. It was now the fourth night since I left Japan.

 The ruins and ancient Buddha statues failed to awe me. I didn’t enjoy the inconvenience of being away from home. I brought Kotaro Sawaki’s best-selling travelogue with me, but I tossed it in a trashcan.

The tin-roofed platform was spacious but simple. I lay on an empty bench, deciding to get some sleep before the first train in the morning. Some fellow backpackers loitered at the station.

My damp, sweaty T-shirt stuck to me like a second layer of skin. March is the hottest month of the year in Thailand. Even night temperatures hover around ninety degrees. I’d lost my appetite, and my thirst was insatiable. A stray dog crossed the railroad tracks while letting out melancholy barks.

 “Excuse me? Are you Japanese?” A male voice asked in a thick accent.

A young man in a uniform stood beside me. Startled, I got up. Is he a police officer? He may fine me for sleeping outdoors.

 “Sorry,” I made a quick apology and reached for my backpack.

 “No, no, no!” He waved both hands frantically. “You’re okay there. I work at the station, but I’m just curious about your country. I’ve got a cousin who’s studying in Tokyo,” he added. Relieved, I sat up on the bench. He sat next to me, wearing a friendly smile.

I spread my world map and pointed to Fukuoka. “This is where I live.”

 “Are there train stations in your town?” he asked.

 “Yes,” I answered.

 “How are they?”

 “Very big. Millions of passengers coming and going every day. They’re part of commercial buildings. You can buy all kinds of clothes and eat all kinds of food. You can even catch the latest movie.”

 “Oh, sounds great.”

 “Besides, you can hop on a train whenever you feel like it,” I added.

He titled his neck, apparently not understanding my irony.

A sudden downpour began, making tapping sounds on the tin roof. Along with the monsoon, the stars and the moon seemed to fall. Foreign travelers soaked in rain noisily dashed toward the station, seeking shelter.

 “You can take shelter from the rain. You can get on a train when it comes. This station isn’t bad, eh?”

 “Not bad, indeed.” I nodded with a smile. The night still had a long way to go.

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