Vivian scoured Khlong Toei until a vaporous gloom heralded the oncoming evening. She was no closer to finding Camilla than she was when the sun gleamed across the collective of metal warehouses and shanties. Several times she followed the sound of crying in the hopes it would lead to her lovesick friend. Instead, she encountered too many dead ends or concrete walkways leading to the swampy canals.
Camilla may not have wanted to be found, but Vivian was all too acquainted with the dangers of isolation and grief. Combined with a setting like the slums, no good could come of it. Khlong Toei wasn’t the most hostile of areas, but neither was it the most inviting for an unaccompanied woman.
At times, the roads were narrow and piled with garbage, making it almost inaccessible for motorbikes and foot traffic, but Vivian managed to squeeze through.
A few select routes were so haphazard that she couldn’t determine whether to turn left, right, or continue straight. More than once, she spotted a building that reminded her of her illegal squatting days as the Red Widow. Perhaps it was the garish blue paint on the exterior or the malfunctioning lights, but it brought a taste of bittersweet nostalgia of her independent, if not troubled, existence on the streets.
The rain felt purifying against her skin as she entered a labyrinth of outdoor tunnels assembled from sheets of cardboard, recycled debris, and tarps. Steel wires provided the skeletal framework of the tunnels, propping up blankets and wooden panels on either side.
As Vivian traipsed through the puddles, a high wind kicked up and tossed the sheets draped over the walls. They resembled unsettling apparitions barring Vivian’s path, but she hardly noticed.
She found herself returning to the conversation she shared with Camilla at the bar in Pattaya, particularly her advice about not being afraid to fall in love again.
The problem was that Vivian didn’t know if she was dating for the right reasons anymore.