Aree Manosuthikit’s translation of this short story by renowned Thai writer Wanich Jarungkitanand takes us to the urban slums of Bangkok, where a university student falls in love with a young woman who lives in his neighborhood. A poignant commentary on the social ills facing contemporary Thai society, “We Both Live Here . . . in the Same Soi” is one of Jarungkitanand’s best-known stories.
My house is in a soi (a narrow street branching off a main road). It’s like a thousand other cramped and congested sois in Bangkok’s Thonburi district. Since I have no time to mingle or make friends with anyone, I know only two people in this soi: the lady owner of a coffee shop and another from a small restaurant I frequent. We’re just acquaintances. Though I know them both by name, I don’t see why they should know mine or why I should bother to identify myself.
This soi is like all other sois, harboring boisterous gangsters and delinquents. They sit idly around in the coffee shop waiting for the weekend to come. Then they scoot over to the racecourse, come back flat broke at sunset, cry like babies over the money they’ve just squandered, and then plot a way to get it back in the darkness of the night.
This soi is a safe zone for drug pushers and addicts who abuse all sorts of illicit substances, from painkillers and marijuana to opium and solvents. It’s also a haven for all classes of thieves, from bandits-in-chief to rookies and the whole gamut in between. Frequenting this coffee shop has given me the idea that if I wanted to get involved in illegal activities, I could be an agent for the experienced criminals infesting this soi who steal cars, burglarize, brawl, rob, and murder. Once I witnessed two nonlocal gangsters getting beaten to a pulp right in front of the coffee shop.