It had to happen sooner or later. While the head office remains in Bangkok, contractual work in the provinces is a fact of life. And as sometimes does happen, your permanent presence on site is required for the duration. How long for? The boss says, twelve months, probably not more than twenty four at the most. A shrug of the shoulders.
After a brief study of the situation, I ruled out a daily commute of more than three hundred kilometers. The company transport stays on site, says the boss. Your car, your gas, your money. Just from the transport aspect of it – cost of gas, regular servicing and a set of tires every three to four months – plus the time spent going up and down would just not be worth my while.
My wife and I finally came to the conclusion that it would be better for me to work there during the week, and spend the weekends with the family in Bangkok until the end of the contract. There wasn’t a problem with the kids; they have the school bus pick them up and send them home. Also, my wife didn’t have too far to go to work, and public transport is easily available at all hours in Bangkok. If, during the week, I felt the need to spend a night in Bangkok, it wasn’t too far away, and I could always make it back to work early enough the next morning. Just not every day.
Now, I’m quite a simple guy. In my younger days, I used to like camping out near the beach with my brothers and some friends over the weekends, and the fishing was great. All you needed was the tent, your fishing equipment and a sleeping bag.
So I’ve got my sleeping bag, enough working clothes to last me the week, and an electric fan packed in the car. I left the tent at home, I'm not that cheap. I planned to scout around for a rented place near work, as it would definitely be cheaper than staying in a hotel long-term. My wife has other ideas.
Dahling, you remember so-and-so? Mmm, sort of. One of the relatives you run into at major functions like a provincial wedding or a funeral. Well, she and her husband have a nice bungalow that is not being used, can you help her out by renting it?
What has happened is, her husband (on my wife’s side of the family) had passed away not too long before. She worked as a nurse at the local provincial hospital, and was staying in the nurses’ quarters, so the house was not being used. I guess I didn’t have a choice in the matter, as any contribution to any relative is considered a good thing, and you wouldn’t be totally ‘out of sight’ in my wife’s eyes. Women.
I find my way to the hospital where she works in the morning of my first day in the provinces. Nid (not her real name) is waiting, she’s just off night shift and is still in her nurse’s uniform. She’s of average height for a Thai, and quite plain-looking. Still, she’s quite trim and attractive for someone in her early forties. It must have something to do with all the walking they do. Which brings us to the legs. Nurses have legs made for walking. It goes with the job. Not unpleasant to look at, just… err.. most Thai ladies have nicer legs. But I couldn’t fault the posterior. After all the waiing and pleasantries have been exchanged, she goes to get her motorcycle. I then follow the little Honda in my car. First a left, then right.. the road is getting narrower. Then across a wooden bridge onto a laterite road that follows a small klong (irrigation canal). Past two rows of shuttered shophouses, and finally, the Village.
The house is a double storey bungalow on the edge of the development, each one next door a clone of the other. It’s not very old, but there’s a thick layer of dust on the floor, and another motorcycle with two flat tires in the middle of the room. It, too, is covered with dust. The house is actually quite comfortable, with a modern kitchen and satellite TV locked on just the Thai channels. At least there’s a bathroom upstairs. I decide on the front room overlooking the gate and the carpark. I give her the deposit for the rent, she passes me the keys, introduces me to the owner of the only provision shop in the vicinity, then I’m off to work. Well, would you know it. It’s forty kilometers one way to work. Women.
But the house was spotless when I got back late that evening.
As with most Thai houses, there was very little furniture. The TV sat on a heavy wooden rack just wide enough to put the satellite receiver side-by-side. Opposite this, a long, low bench with a mat on top. The only Western-style furniture was the dining set (also made from that heavy, polished wood that takes a buffalo to move), and a bar counter dividing the room.
I had just my sleeping bag and the fan in the bedroom. The guitar sometimes would accompany me on a particular trip. Even with the TV, there’s nothing that interests me on the Thai channels. How people put up with that drivel is a wonder. <SO true! – Stick>
I finally get settled into a routine where work is concerned. I leave early and come back typically after dark. Sometimes, after a couple of drinks with colleagues, really late. The long drive to and fro is beginning to irk me, and after a couple of beers I don’t particularly like long drives through deserted roads late at night. I don’t see much of Nid – she comes in during the day when I’m not around to clean to house and is usually gone by the time I get back. If I did run into her, it would be because I got back early, and she would be tending to the garden, in shorts and a T-shirt. Nice posterior, could have had better legs.
I start looking for accommodation nearer work, as my present location does not offer alternative means of transportation should my car break down. I also get the distinct feeling that the immediate neighbours do not like my presence. I’m the only farang for miles around, a single female owns the house, what else would they think? Definitely not a relative, even if they were told so. Nid has also started coming to the house more; the fridge is better stocked and signs of the kitchen being used are apparent. Since I’ve been there, I’ve put in curtains for the upstairs bedroom, and a water heater for a nice hot shower. It’s not my house, but slight improvements are appreciated and I intended to leave them when I eventually left.
Nid seems happier these days. Someone at work has shown an interest in her. Well, good for her. I eventually met him one day when I came back early, guess he came to help with the garden. She does sleep over once in a blue moon, if she’s been working late on the garden and she’s not on night shift. On these occasions, she sleeps in the back room. Alone.
She’s also quite a thoughtful person. One day I had a really bad bout of diarrhoea, so decided to stay in. She dropped by later to clean the house, and on finding me not well, she went out, got me something to eat and some medicine too. One good thing about nurses, she had a really well stocked medicine cabinet that included bandages, gels and ointments of all kinds.
I get back towards evening one day, it’s been a reasonably good day at work, I’ve got my latest magazine, so I’m looking forward to a good read. From the looks of it, Nid has been here earlier, and must have been in a bit of a hurry as she’s left the remnants of a half-eaten meal still on the table. No worries, if she doesn’t show up I’ll just clean it up later.
Well, I’ve finished another article, and it’s time to refill the beer. It’s getting dark, no sign of Nid, so I resign myself to clearing up the table. Looks like she’s spilt some liquid on the seat of the chair in her hurry to leave… Eh? But there’s no water or soup on the table..? I look a little closer. A clear.. sticky..? substance on the edge of the chair. Closer, closer. Ah. I can now make out the shape of a crevice, a slight flow line towards the back of the chair, spread out a little on either side towards the center. Tch, tch. Nid’s been a naughty girl, and has forgotten to clean up in her hurry… Only then do I notice a fairly large supply of petroleum jelly in the medical cabinet…
I clean up everything anyway. It’s her house, nothing more will be said.
On another occasion, the expanse of floor in front of the TV was really greasy, and the reflection of light indicated definite human occupation of the area, definitely too much area for just one person. Indications of movement – groping, sliding, squashing? I’m not a big fan of the program C.S.I., but it was food for thought. Besides, I didn’t have enough string. But I now wonder, even today, what these nurses really do when not on shift?
One night, I get back really late, well past midnight. I’ve had some beers, and come back to a locked house, with lights on in the back room, and two motorcycles parked in the porch. Oops. Probably her new boyfriend is over. They probably think I’m away for the night. I’m not going to spoil it for them. I call my wife and just say I’m locked out so I’m coming back to spend the night in Bangkok, which I do. But that late night drive is not something I recommend on a regular basis.
I did the only correct thing to do, that next week. I rented a place ten minutes from work and within walking distance of the beer shack. Then I put the sleeping bag, my clothes and the fan in the back of the car, and left an envelope with the months’ rent and a thank you note for everything, and that I would be shifting closer to work. I left that and the house keys on the dining table and let myself out for the last time. But no matter how hard I looked, I could never find the rectal thermometer in the medical cabinet.