By Tom Warren
My glass is empty.
I can’t remember how much Mekong and Coke has passed over the rim of my glass this evening but I am sure it is a considerable amount. I turn my head to either side and view a sea of people. White and yellow faces contorted in laughter but the music is so loud it almost seems as if they are crying. I am. No one notices.
I push myself away from the bar and struggle to stand up straight. The spirits in these parts are much more potent than I am used to back in the states. Finally I contain my inebriation and make a concerted effort to find the door.
The streets of Bangkok are teaming. It’s 2am on a Saturday evening, or is it Sunday morning? Or does it really matter at all? There is a parade of humanity on display. Each happy temporary couple I see is like a knife through my back. It is painful to see this much happiness when all I feel is despair. I wade through the swarm of people, bumping left and right through them like a pinball, paying no attention to the street vendors and bargirls on the make. None of it matters anymore. I used to think this was a paradise, not it feels more like a prison.
* * * * *
Aor was by no means the most beautiful God had ever graced the planet with. Neither was she the most hideous. She was plain, average. I saw her most evenings on my stroll home from my usual haunts when I would stop at her cart for a late night snack. She would gracefully bag up my selection and hand it to me with a polite thank you.
I never really noticed her much. I was too absorbed in the bright lights, loud music and easy women I had become accustomed to in my holidays in the Big Mango. Only when I had decided to make this place my home did I become to appreciate her.
The glamour of the Bangkok night life faded over the months I became adjusted to my new home. Aor just became more attractive.
“Where you go tonight, ka?” she would sing song. Her voice would lilt on the air. A sweet mixture of musical and breathy undertones. She had a voice like a Billie Holiday joint.
“I go home.” I would reply. My language had become a pigeon English/Thai mixture.
“Why you have no lady, ka?” The way Thai women utter that ‘ka’ at the end of their sentences has always had a magical effect on me. Like a wave of their exotic wand over my better judgment.
“Not want lady tonight. “, I reply.
“But I see you many times, you always have lady!”
“Things change.” I would say. And with that be gone into the neon lit darkness of the city.
This routine would be repeated several times over the next month. Only more frequently with an added wink or slight touch of the hand. Perhaps a slightly more intimate greeting or farewell. Sometimes Thai is a subtle language.
I began to make her cart a destination rather than a minor addendum to my evening. I would go out of my way to see her, and would buy more pad Thai then I could ever eat, or would care to. I became more frequently rewarded with a sly wink or slight flirtation. I came to look forward to these late night exchanges.
I looked forward to her sparkling eyes and her pleasant demeanor. Just the thought of seeing her on a given evening would raise my spirits. She was becoming more and more attractive to me after each passing week. I had found out much about her. She had married at a young age but the relationship turned south. The young man was a rather more upstanding member of Thai manhood than I had thought existed. When the split came he had provided something for her which she promptly invested in this cart. The money she made was enough to support herself and put a little away for the future. She was not wealthy through this by any stretch of the imagination. But she did manage to live a decent life by Thai standards. She was from Roi Et, had no children, and her parents who were at an advanced age when she had married, had passed away shortly after her marriage. She did have one brother and two sisters, but they were a bit older than she and had established their own lives. She kept in contact with them, but infrequently. She was alone, but her warm and friendly personality never belied this fact.
Finally I decided to give it my best effort and see if this charming young lady might become something more to me. I marched through the streets on an early summer evening. The temperature was high, but there was a slight breeze through the city that made the sweltering heat almost bearable. I arrived at her cart all smiles and with a momentary surge of bravery.
“Sawatdee krup! “, I squeaked.
“Sawatdee ka.” The ka at the end of her sentence lingering like the scent of jasmine in the air.
“How are you?”
“Am fine.” She said with a bright grin.
“I have decided something.” I said.
“I have decided that I am tired of buying food from you all the time.” I said smiling broadly.
“Why? What I do? I make you angry? “She said in disbelief. In her eyes I could see bit of surprise and perhaps pain.
“You not make me upset. I just don’t want to buy food from you tonight. I want to take you to dinner instead! “
She seemed to immediately understand what I was saying. Her expression changed from one of disbelief to a wry grin.
“You want take me dinner?!”
“But I see you many times, have many different beautiful ladies. Why you want go with me? “She asked, almost like an interrogation.
“I like you. I think you are good lady. “
“But you have many different ladies? “
“No more. “ I said, “Have no lady now. “
She squinted at me, as if this would change my attitude. She did this for a long time. Finally she responded. “Ok. I go! But I have question.”
“What is it? “
“You never say this before. See you many time. You never say before. “
“Things change. “ I said with a brimming smile.
* * * * *
After that day we spent many days together. At first sporadically, then over the next weeks more and more frequently. I became enamored of her and I think she of me. But our intimacy never graduated beyond a peck on the cheek at the end of our evening. I could feel the uneasiness in her each time we said our good nights. I could feel the pent up emotions in her. At least I thought I did. You can never be sure.
After many evenings together she finally had decided that she would move our relationship to another level.
We were having dinner late one evening. We always did. She was dedicated to the little food cart of hers and I found that to be quite charming as well as a sign of diligence. Always late in the evening, after the bars had closed and the lights along Sukhumvit burned in a lonely haze. She reached across the table as we were about to finish our meal and grasped my hand.
“Where you go tonight? “
“I go home. Always go home. “
“Always go home? “
“Yes, always. “
“Alone? “She said.
“Yes. Always alone. “
“Tonight I go with you. “She said, her eyes bright and manner confident
“You go home with me tonight? “ I said smiling a Cheshire grin.
“ Ka. “ she said. The word emanating across the table and into me like pure energy.
That night we shared our built up passions. I t was one of the most erotic evenings I had ever spent. We explored each other for hours. Soft kisses and gentle caresses gave way to more physical and almost violent movement at times. It was like we were trying to cram a lifetime of intimacy into one night.
We lay together for a very long time talking. She confessed that she had not had a man in many years, since her failed marriage. Many farangs had tried to pick her up, but she was not a bargirl. She turned them away time after time. She said this not out of conceit but matter of factly.
“ You never make love with a farang before? “ I asked
“ No. Never. “ She said
“ So I am special then? “ I replied. Very cheekily I might add.
“ Yes special. I think have good heart. I see you very big playboy. Many ladies before. Not see you with lady for very long time. “
“ Yes, have not had lady for very long time. “
“ I think you are good man. Big butterfly before. But now I think you better man.”
“ Yes tilac. Things change. “
* * * * *
We were nigh inseparable from then on. Our days were spent together and evenings, after work spent in comfortable and passionate embraces. I felt better than I had ever felt in my life. When in the USA I would look in the mirror and see an average man. I look in the mirror now and see someone different looking back. This magical place had changed me, and so did this wonderful woman.
I had worked for years in the USA for a long time with nothing much to show for it. After my first visit to the Land of Smiles I fell into some money. It was not millions of dollars but enough that properly invested I could live rather carefree here in Thailand. I began to redirect my efforts here. I rented a house with intentions to buy in the future. I began to setup my quarters for happy domestic life. We planned this together, Aor and me. And were very happy doing so. We furnished the house, complete with spirit house and shrine for Buddha. Everything any farang or Thai could need. And we were happy. For a very long time.
“ Are you happy darling? “ she would say.
“ Yes! Am very very happy! “
“ You not happy before me? “ she would ask with her wry grin again.
“ No not happy before you. “
“ Why you happy now? “ she whispered.
“ Things change! “ And with that I would kiss her passionately.
* * * * *
Our lives seemed to be a happy adventure together. Things were never better for me. I was happier than I had ever been. And I think that she was as well.
But that was about to change.
I met her one night, as usual at her cart to take it back home. She was distant and would not respond to me. Something bad had happened. Something very bad.
“ Why you lie to me?! “ she growled.
“ What? “ I was in disbelief.
“ You lie to me! I think you are jai dee! You are very bad man! “
“ NO NO NO! What are you talking about?” I felt wounded.
“ I know. She tell me. You hurt me!” She was crying now, screaming. Tears were rolling down her face in waves. “ I not want to see you again. EVER! I hate you! “
She stormed down Sukhumvit pushing the cart in front of her, screaming back at me the whole time. I ran after her and pleaded with her that she was wrong. She would not listen. She turned to me and physically pushed me away. By this time many passers by had begun to see what was happening. A few Thai men started in my direction, I tried to follow her, but they descended upon me. I saw her fade down the street and away from me. The Thais got very aggressive towards me and as much as it hurt me, I ran the other way. All the way home.
I sat on the steps of what a few hours ago was one of the happiest places I could ever have been. The tears came then. Tears of rage. Tears of pain. What happened? Why did she act like that? It had shaken my whole world down.
“ Things change. “ , I sobbed to myself. “ Things Change. “
* * * * *
My days descended into a mire of alcohol and seedy bars. Those same seedy bars I was happy enough to spend my time in not six months ago seemed like a hollow facades now. How could these farangs be so obliviously happy? Didn’t they know any better? I was trying to drown my sorrows in the very same cesspool that brought me here in the first place.
I found through the bargirl grapevine that one of the first girls I had spent an illicit evening with a few years ago had seen us. She took it upon herself to tell Aor that I was spending all my time with her while Aor was at the food stand.
I was in disbelief. Why would this woman do this? Was it jealousy? Or just maliciousness? I continued to spend my days and evenings in a whiskey induced fog. I tried finding her but could not. I tracked down her siblings and explained to them what had happened. They had not spoken to her since our breakup. I was at a brick wall and had lost the one thing I had found in this place that made me a better person. And I wanted it back.
After many weeks of searching for Aor through the streets of Bangkok and drowning my sorrows in the bottom of a bottle, I finally found the offending girl. She was dancing at one of the upstairs bars in Patpong. The short time between our meetings had hardened her. She was cold, and hard. Why had she done this?!
Her reasons were jealousy. I was livid. I vented my rage upon this girl for her evil actions. I begged her to correct her malicious deed. I pleaded and finally I retreated again to my bottle. Many more weeks passed. I continued to wash away my loneliness and despair with rivers of alcohol. Which is where I find myself now.
I stumble through the streets towards my vacant house. Not really wanting to go, but knowing there is nowhere else I can go. I smell something familiar as I climb the stairs. I can’t quite place it and continue on. As I reach the top of the stairs I fall, and lay there for a moment I wallow in my own selfish pity. I finally get to my feet and continue on.
My key turns in the door and I fumble through the dark hallways. I don’t even bother to turn the lights on. I just shuffle along to my bedroom. I disrobe and climb in, pray for a quiet night and peaceful sleep, unburdened by nightmares of lost love.
There is someone here.
Tears begin to fill my eyes.
“ Hello darling. “ I hear her voice say. She is crying, the tears streaming down her cheeks.
“ You came back? “ I am choking now, barely able to get the words out.
“ Yes darling. Am home. “ I can see a smile in the shadow.
“ You were so angry! I search everywhere for you! “
“ I know. My sister tell me. “ she says. “ I talk to lady in bar too. “
My lips quiver a bit and I can hardly say anything more. I am so happy she is back.
“ She tell me you. She tell me truth. “ Her sweet voice touches me like a soft hand.
“ She tell you the truth? “
“ Yes darling. “
“ And you come back to me! “ the words barely escape. A mixture of disbelief and happiness.
“ Yes darling. Things Change. “