I was prepared for a joke or a piece of gossip– not the heart-stopping story that followed.
“You remember those sacred tattoos I got by that monk in Thailand?” he asked. “They’re called Sak Yants. One was done with tiger fat mixed with oil, and the other was with ink with ashes of dead monks.”
“Of course,” I said, vividly remembering his description of the gigantic needle piercing the ink into the skin dot by agonizing dot.
Anish went on. “Well, after Ajarn Thoy Dabos, the monk, did the Sak Yants, he handed me a copper amulet on a chain: a Por Gae. The monk told me it was for protection. I put it on and wore it every day after that.”
I remembered seeing the copper necklace in all of Anish’s photos from Muay Thai boxing camp in Bangkok, where he trained for a month, and from Phuket, where I first met him and his friends. “Where is this story going?” I asked, feeling uneasy.
Anish typed: “On the way to the Bangkok airport to fly home to my family, the car in front of my taxi spun out and we crashed head on.”
“WHAT?!” I typed, horrified.
“I was in the back seat,” he continued, “and I hit the window and then the seat in front of me. I don’t remember much. I remember seeing the car in front spin around, seeing the headlights, and saying “Oh no!” I remember hearing my driver scream.”
My heart raced. “Were any of you hurt?”
“WHAT?!” I cried, “and what about you??”
Anish typed: “I walked away from the accident with only minor injuries to my shoulder, a small scar, some glass in my head, and a few cuts all over. Everyone kept telling me it was a miracle I survived the crash. The taxi had no seatbelt.”
I stared at the screen. “And… the amulet…”
I felt dizzy.
Anish continued, “So I woke up with blood on me and the amulet gone. The medics wanted to take me to the hospital, but because my flight home was in two and a half hours, I decided not to go. I told them to clean me up in the ambulance and get me to the airport. They wiped off my cuts and put me on the plane to New York.”
“Have you had any trauma since?” I asked, shaken.
I almost knew the last part before Anish typed it.
“My friend went back to the monk, Ajarn Thoy Dabos, and told him what had happened to me. The monk explained: the amulet broke because it served its purpose.”
Thank all the powers that be that it did.