A Bird Set Free
A while back I had written to you about a girl named 'O' in a story "Sometimes They Really Try". 'O' was a really nice girl that my friend and I had met on a prior visit to Pattaya. Indeed, my friend had stayed with her exclusively for over one month and had a wonderful time. But all good times must come to an end, and after that month my friend returned home. 'O' was often on his mind. It was with great surprise that, one year later on his return, we discovered 'O' was no longer working bar. It was, frankly, hard to believe. But it seemed to be a fact. 'O' stayed in her apartment day after day. Waiting alone for her white knight to return. The man from England who was paying her not to work bar and who, one day, would come for her. We tried and tried to get her to 'come out and play'. But to no avail. On one occasion and one occasion only were we able to get 'O' to step out of her apartment to eat. But, she was uncomfortable about leaving her room and going with us. She quickly ate and went back home. I think she felt guilty. It seemed that we would have to forget about 'O'.
Fate, however, would lend a hand. My friend was staying in Thailand, this time for good. He was going to start a business; He was going to make a new life for himself. (This is another story in and of itself!) In the course of getting settled, he needed to find a permanent place to live. My girlfriend 'Now' came up with a suggestion. Why not rent an apartment in the same building that she lived. This building happened to be the same one where 'O' lived. It seemed like a great idea. Just off Walking Street – you just could not have a place closer to the action – and at the very reasonable price of 3,500 baht per month. But first, we had to meet a very dour landlady.
So it came to pass that one fine day Now and I were going to meet my friend at Mike's Hotel. Mike's Hotel, on Beach Road, was my friend's temporary residence. We met up and walked down the road to a little beer bar on Walking Street. The mamasan of this bar was also the landlady of the apartment. After we arrived, 'Now' and the mamasan began to talk in Thai. They talked and talked, and as they spoke the little beer bar became quiet. All of the girls seemed VERY interested in the discussion. Of course, being in Thai, I could not understand exactly what was being said. But, from the tone, the look on the mamasan's face, and her general demeanour, I could tell she did not want to rent to my friend. Finally, Now and the mamasan walked over. I tried to look friendly and had a big smile on my face. The mamasan was not smiling.
'Sawadee' was the only word the mamasan said to me. I waited a moment, then another. I was waiting for the polite 'ka' to be added. It was not. You will likely think this funny, but I was offended. I wondered, was the mamasan being rude or did she just think I was too damn dumb to know the difference? After a pregnant pause, I, still smiling, replied 'Sawadee Kap', with just a touch of emphasis on the 'Kap". Then, with a 'Check Bin Kap' and 'Kap un Kap' I left the bar. A short time later, Now and my friend joined me. Whether my walking out helped or hurt his chances I do not know. But, he got the apartment – barely. Now explained to us the difficulty. The entire building was Thai and that is the way the mamasan wanted to keep it. I enjoyed the irony – the mamasan's living was based in large part on the money spent by farangs but she did not want to rent to a farang. Only by Now vouching for my friend's character as well as my friend agreeing not to "cause trouble, make noise, get drunk, fight, yell, etc." was he reluctantly taken on as a tenant. I really did get the feeling that the mamasan did not like us stinky farangs one bit.
My friend got his keys and we went immediately to his second floor apartment. It was a tiny studio with a bathroom / shower. It had A.C., COLD running water, a bed and a dresser. That was it. I called it the 'Bargirl special', but really this was just perfect for him. After a brief inspection of the apartment we walked out into the hall to meet the neighbors. We were shocked to discover that 'O' was living in the apartment right next door. Now knocked on the door and out popped 'O'. She was surprised to see us.
'What are you doing here?', 'O' asked. My friend started to laugh.
'O', I live here. I am your neighbor! I could not help but smile. Now explained things in Thai to 'O' and a look of astonishment crossed her face. She just could not believe it. As we were heading to Big C to buy some household goods, I invited 'O' to come along.
'O', we go to Big C. Come with, we go shopping, eating and drinking.'
'I cannot. I sorry Eye.'
'Please', I said in my most pathetic begging tone. 'O', I will buy you whiskey, all you want'. I shook an imaginary whiskey bottle back and forth in my hand. I knew full well that 'O' had a weak spot when it came to whiskey. Many times the four of us had gotten sloshed on cheap Thai whiskey. From the look in her eyes I knew she was torn.
'Eye, I cannot. I so sorry.' She was frowning.
'That's O.K., I understand. When we come back, I will bring a present for you. (I had purchased a one litre bottle of whiskey at the duty free shop on my trip into Thailand just for her.) 'O' smiled. We left to go shopping. As we walked away I could not help but notice that once again 'O' watched us from her apartment window. Yes, somewhere out there was an Englishman who was going to be very unhappy. His little bird was about to be freed from her cage. Of course, what he did not know would not hurt him!
A T.V., stereo, DVD. player, and other household goods had been purchased and even delivered. When Now and I met up with Bryan back at his apartment, I was not surprised to see that 'O' was already there. After all, they were neighbors. Nothing wrong with a neighbor dropping in to borrow a little sugar. I could tell right away that 'O' was already a little bit drunk. She was drinking whiskey and coke.
'O's face shined with delight when I showed her the gift. A one litre bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey. For my friend a bottle of Southern Comfort was produced as well as a bottle of my own personal favorite – 18 year Glenmorangie single malt scotch. We put on some music and the house warming party began. As we sat in the little apartment drinking, talking, and laughing it took me back to a time long ago. It reminded me of my college days – sitting in the dormitory rooms, drinking and bullshitting until the wee hours. It was a very good feeling. I felt young again. I felt like I had not felt in years.
Soon, there was a knock on the door. My fear that the mamasan had come to evict my friend was unfounded. It was just a couple of other neighbor girls coming by to see what was going on. We invited them in to join the party. More and more people came by as the party continued. Soon, there were six or seven ladies, two farangs, and one cat (the apartment mouser, I suppose) all packed into the little room. I developed a craving for pizza (college flashbacks again), but none was available. We settled on some Thai food brought by one of the ladies, which was delicious. After eating and finishing off all of the booze, we decided to take the party on the road.
By this point 'O' was more than just a little drunk. She was, well, pleasantly drunk. There was no mention by 'O' of not coming along. The gang left the apartment and went to Tony's Disco. A couple of tables were put together for our party, but we did not sit for long. After a couple of quick shots of whiskey, we were all on the dance floor. It was quite a sight, I am sure. I had a great time. Yet, it was 'O' who had the best time. This was the first time she had been out to a club in weeks. She needed a little sanuk.
After the club closed, the gang broke up. Now, my friend, 'O' and I stopped for a while at the little beer bar where 'O' used to work. It was still open, and everyone was glad to see 'O' again. We sat down and drank a few more beers. 'O' began to talk. She was drunk, and she opened up. She spoke of her fears. Would he not come for her? Would she find England too cold? Would she have to work bar in England? (I did not tell her that bars in England were, well, a little different than Pattaya.) Would it work out being married to a man who was much older than her? She spoke of her hopes. That she could send more money to her family. That she could send her sister to school. (Her sister, aged 13, lives in Isaan and 'O' hopes she will have a better life than her.) It seemed to me that 'O' had a lot on her mind. Many burdens, for one so young.
We left the beer bar. Now and I walked back to our hotel. My friend and 'O' went back to the apartment. My friend's apartment to be precise. 'O' did not want to sleep alone that night. The little bird, having been set free from her cage, was not eager to go back into it. Yes, sometimes they really do try, but we are all human. I wonder, if her Englishman knew would he understand? Would he really try?
I don't know why, but I have really mixed feelings about this. I have always said that pursuing relationships with bargirls is a bad thing, but it seems that this girl had done so well and was baited by someone… You could of course argue that she would have gone with someone else, but if the this story is a good indicator, then it seems that she was on the "road to recovery". The analogy that she was in a cage is not a good one, nor appropriate. I don't know, but I just do not admire guys that knowingly chase another guy's girlfriend, irrespective of the situation…