Stickman Readers' Submissions June 8th, 2004

Thai Party Part 6

Her breasts rise and fall with each breath. In the quiet of the morning I am content to lie awake and watch her as she sleeps. This is my last day in Khorat. In order to return to Bangkok and then on to Salaya, I should catch my bus sometime around 5:00pm…a short eight hours from now.

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She will always be a special woman to me. Do I love her? I wrestle with that as I watch her. I don't think I really know what love is. I have just ended a twenty-two year marriage and sort of escaped to Thailand to teach English. I do know that this last 36 hours has been more satisfying than any I have experienced in the last 15 years of married life. On the physical side, I have made love more times in this visit than in any year during the final years ending my marriage. There I was limited to begging and mechanical sex.

I have no illusion that I am viewed as a meal ticket to most Thai women. I hope that Lek has feelings beyond that but really I cannot tell. I have seen changes in her attitude to me during this weekend. I have seen her business side but also had glimpses of her vulnerable personal side as well. I am not comfortable with her business, however I realize that given her economic situation that it is one of necessity for her. So…is it Love.I don't think so…is it Lust…(hahaha)…most definitely…but at the very least I have a very strong affection for this woman.

Her nipple is as inviting as a cherry atop a chocolate sundae. I lean over and pluck this cherry between my lips as her eyes flutter open…

"Sawasdee khrap, Lek"

"Sawasdee kha…my silly farang" she giggles, as she pulls me to her lips.

"We only have this room for about another hour before we have to leave…I think we should use it wisely", I smile.


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Later we shower, dress, pack up and leave the hotel just before 11:00am.

My travel bag in hand we take a tuk-tuk back to her home so that she can do some business. While having a short lunch, Toon and Num drop by to see us again. I am a little antsy as I don't want my final 4 hours spent sitting in this house, but I don't really know Khorat well enough to suggest anything and for a little while I am just stuck here.

"What would you like to do, Neil?"

"I really don't know, Toon. I like history…is there a museum in Khorat that displays the history of the city?"

"Do you know of the woman who is the savior of our city?"

"Yes, Lek and I visited the Thao Suranari Memorial last night"

"There is a temple that is dedicated to her…we could go there!"

Well I have been pretty well templed-out during my stay in Thailand but there didn't seem to be anything else to do…so, yes…why not!…let's go.

Lek smiles and gets on the phone. Within minutes a car pulls up to the back door and the four of us pile in. We travel to the outskirts of town and then down a rat's warren of back lanes with high concrete walls. Suddenly, a large gate opens and the car smoothly enters a pretty green meadow with a graceful pond in the distance and three thatched huts across the tee of the road leading to the pond.

"THIS IS NOT A TEMPLE!" cries a shocked Toon.

Laughing at her, Num announces, "No…is Thai Party!"

I look closer and see about 15-20 people around a table under one thatched roof, a refreshment area under another and at the far end a rest area with small tables and chairs. There is only one way in to this area. I turn around to see three teenagers closing the gate. The whole operation reminded me of scenes from an episode of The Sopranos.

Toon is clearly uncomfortable, while Lek and Num exit the car easily. We first walk to the rest area where we are served a cool drink. I have no intention in gambling, at least at this point. I suppose Lek and Num saw my little card magic show for the kids yesterday and judged that I like to gamble.

The truth is…I do like to gamble. In Canada gambling is legal. There are at least six casinos in my city of one million people. Unlike most casinos in the United States, the casinos in Canada are non-profit with the money over expenses going to the provincial government for distribution among charitable programs as well as being shared with a specific registered charity represented at that casino for that evening. These charities depend on this revenue and can make as much as $20,000 or more on a good night. So while I don't directly support specific charities, I do so through playing at a local casino. {smile}

My game is blackjack. I am not a card counter but I play a very good basic strategy game for 4-6 decks. Usually I play for 3-5 hours in a night once or twice a week and make or lose about $20-$40 each time. I play for fun, not to make a fortune. Blackjack is a social game to me. The casino I patronize has about ten tables. After years of playing the game you get to know who are good players and we gravitate together. The table stakes are $2-$50/bet…I can make $40 (my limit) last at least two to three hours…usually more.

I don't play poker of any stripe. I watch roulette trying to figure out how to play the game without just shoveling money onto the table as most do. I like watching craps too, though truth be known I have no clue as to how to play the game. Baccarat is very interesting to me…I don't play but watch it intensely. Baccarat is a big money game. Huge sums of money are made or lost in a short time. Part of me thinks there must be a mathematical system that can be used here since you are allowed to take notes on the game as it is played (unlike blackjack). Finally I do have a computer algorithm for choosing lottery tickets (six numbers/ticket from a 1-49 pool of numbers)…It is not just a random number generator. There is some past performance analysis behind it. I can guarantee you 1/3 to 1/2 of your money back over time (tested in an office pool)…but {sigh} this is still a losing method. I feel that I am close to something here but there is just one ingredient to add to have a winning lottery ticket program. My father never approved of lotteries…since the money goes to the government, he called them "a tax on fools".

So…am I interested in this game? Of course I am!! But I have a few rules that I abide by before I play:

1. I play for fun and relatively low stakes.
2. I must understand the game and its strategy
3. It has to be an honest game.

Num has already walked over to her friends. Lek is with me and Toon reluctantly seated as far away from the action as possible. I start towards the table with my digital camera in my hand. Christ! What are you thinking! I mumble to myself. You don't take a camera to an illegal gambling game…stupid! I walk back to Toon.

"Could you look after this for me, Toon?"

"This is forbidden, Neil! It is not legal…these are not nice people."

"I understand Toon…I'll be careful." I said as I walked away…I don't think I could have chosen a better person to look after my property.

I strolled up to the playing area to watch the action. I have never seen this type of game before. It sort of looked like Baccarat in a way. The large table had about 10-12 playing areas all of them occupied by players. The dealer was a beefy woman who was at least 250 lbs, next to her was the "bank".a man at least 300 lbs with a satchel of money draped over his body from shoulder to hip. These were not the good looking dealers you see at a normal casino…rather they are certainly chosen for their ability to handle themselves and their customers if trouble occurred.

Only the dealer received cards, like baccarat, and the players bet on the outcome of these cards. So in my mind criteria #3 was satisfied…if I played, I would be playing the same cards as all the other players.unless they were all in on some kind of farang scam (a possibility I suppose), I would have the same chance as any other at the table.

I watched the game in action. The minimum bet around the table was 500 baht! Wow!…this translates to about a $20 Cdn bet…far beyond my comfort zone even if I had the cash on me. There were some players around the table who looked like they could afford these high stakes but most didn't. Criteria #1 certainly didn't pass here…100 Baht/bet and I might try it but not 500.

I continued to watch trying to figure out strategy. Each hand lasted maybe thirty seconds, enough time to play the cards, pay out winners and collect losers. For the life of me I could not figure out what constituted a winning and losing dealer hand…and no one there had enough English skills to properly explain the game and its strategy…so criteria #2 wasn't satisfied either.

"Farang…..farang…play!" one of the male players motioned me over to take his place. Another beautiful tall woman also encouraged me to play beside her.

I looked at them and smiled. "Mai…mai…" I shouted over the noise waving my hands. They all laughed with me (curiously not at me). They were all winning. Actually the beefy bank guy ran out of money and had to go somewhere to refill his satchel…hence the players were in a good mood, not really anxious to give up on this streak of luck.

Num had a spot and won three times in a row…why? I could not figure it out but she is all smiles.

"Look Neil…my profit!", as she fans her winnings before her.

I laugh, "It is only profit when you step away from the table, Num."

Lek doesn't gamble. She just watches and laughs with me. She does know some of these people but I think it was Num's idea to come here. I am glad Lek doesn't try. These are outrageous bets. In a ratio of incomes between Canada and Thailand, this would be the equivalent of a normal office worker in Canada plunking down $100 bets/hand. Sure it happens to those addicted to the game but it certainly not my idea of fun. I survey the gaggle of laughing gamblers. A few are dressed well enough that they can possibly afford this vice but most are not. Where do they get their gambling money?…I probably don't want to know. here I come from, since gambling is legal, the high rollers are often drug dealers laundering their ill-gotten gains.

After watching the action for twenty minutes or so, I have had enough. I am pleasantly surprised at not having pressure applied to have me take part in the game…basically I was good for a laugh, then ignored while they attended their game.

Num stays behind but Lek and I wander slowly back to Toon. We have another drink and I retrieve my camera. Ten minutes later Num walks back as well. She is a bit disappointed as she lost her "profit" and then a bit more. Lek speaks a word and our ride arrives. The three teenaged lookouts dutifully open the gate and we continue on to the temple.

The temple was little different from others that I had visited. It was not as opulent as some and the grounds featured a small pond of fish with a monument in the centre. The pond contained a weird creature. A creature is my only word for it. I didn't get a clear look at it as I only saw some kind of snout peep out of the water. However, an unwary pigeon took a drink, was grabbed, then dragged into the water by this thing, not far from where we sat. Several people came to the pond area to meditate. They either brought a caged bird or small bag of tropical fish. After a short meditation they released the bird or fish to freedom…a touching thing to watch really.

I say my good-byes to Toon and Num when we return to Lek's house. They are sad and ask if I will be returning soon. I explain that I am returning to Canada in four weeks. It is possible I will be able to have another short visit but I cannot promise.

It is time to go to the bus station. I have a quick kiss and cuddle with Lek in the privacy of her home. Nothing serious…just feeling the closeness of the other, not wanting to let go.

The tuk-tuk ride to the station was quiet. Her outdoor "face" was on. I could hold her hand while we sat but this was discrete…out of sight of any on-lookers.

She walked with me to the ticket booth and made sure got the right ticket and bus. Of course, it would have to leave in a few minutes. We couldn't even hug. I wanted to hold her one more time but that was not possible in ublic. Was I coming back? I truly didn't know at the ime as it depended on the outcome of other plans I had made for my final days in Thailand. She gave me her business card so I would have her address and telephone numbers. An awkward touch of the hands and I boarded the bus. A wave from a window as the bus pulled away and she disappeared from view.

I stared out at the scenery and lights of Thailand vendors as the bus traveled through the night. I wrestled with my emotions. Lek was an incredible woman for me. I didn't want to just dwell on the sexual aspect of our relationship but the truth be known, I never experienced such complete and utter satisfaction as I did in her arms. It is very hard to pen words to this feeling. Contentment is a single, very inadequate word that comes close. Knowing that someone wanted me, literally 24/7, was something I had never experienced in my life before. Certainly there was a reason to her attention, that always nagged me but then I also had my reasons for my attention to her. I needed her and she gave herself to me with no strings attached. Other than trivial gifts and stocking the larder, which frankly as a guest I could hardly refuse, she made no demands on me. She didn't ask for money, didn't ask for extravagant presents in order for me to "prove" my feelings for her.

However, I had to be realistic. We lived in different worlds. Her business was not something I wanted to be a part of and it seemed she had some kind of relationship with savory elements of Khorat society ( later on she would excitedly e-mail me that she branched into a new venture…loaning money for one month receiving ten percent interest for that loan…she had become a loan shark {sigh} ).

So I rode back to Bangkok, alone in my thoughts, wondering if I could meet another girl like Lek.

The End

Stickman's thoughts:

Thoughts to follow….busy, busy!

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