Danny stopped at the Happy Bar in Karon for a drink on the way home. He ordered his usual Sang Som and soda. There was a figure slumped over at the far end of the bar. It was hard to tell but he looked strangely familiar. Danny picked up his drink and slowly approached the man. My God, it was his friend Mac. Danny sat down next to him, wondering how he was going to get the guy home. Just pick him up and take him he supposed. ‘God, he looks like hell. He’s been here three days I bet, just laying on the bar like that.’
Danny pushed away the empty bottle of Mekong and wiped away the cigarette buts and ashtray. He put his arm around his friend and lifted him to his feet. ‘Mac, wake up. Time to go home.’
Mac lifted up his head. His face was a stubble of beard and his breath stank of booze and stale cigarettes. He stared at Danny through unfocused eyes. ‘What happened? I know she loved me. I just don’t know what happened,’ he mumbled.
‘Looks like Jasmine Fever is what happened pal. Time to go home now.’ Danny hoisted Mac up and headed towards the silver Toyota with Mac muttering every step of the way. He eased Mac into the passenger’s seat and walked around to the driver’s side of the car in time to see his friend Peter headed towards him. ‘Holy Smokes, what happened to Mac?
‘A bad case of Jasmine Fever.’
‘It’s like getting Malaria and Dengue at the same time. Comes on all at once and there’s not much you can do about it. First it affects your heart and then goes into your brain. You start having wild delusions, imagining all kinds of things. You lose all sense of reason, start acting irresponsibly and behaving strangely. Usually newcomers to the Kingdom are the most susceptible but I’ve seen guys here eight or ten years come down with it.’
‘Wow, sounds bad. Is there a cure?’
‘No, there’s no cure, it just has to run its course. It can leave you a battered and broken man. Just look at old Mac there. Well, if you catch it early, there’s a slight chance. What you have to do is stick your head in a bucket of cold water every morning, drink a cup of strong black coffee and smack yourself in the face a few times.’
‘How did Mac get it?’
‘It shouldn’t have happened to him. He’s been coming to Phuket on vacation every year for the past six years. He should have known better. As he told it to me, the last thing he remembers is strolling down the beach in the moonlight holding hands with his Thai girlfriend. She reached up and put both arms around his neck and told him that she loved him more than anything in the world. He remembers the sound of the waves and the smell of Jasmine in the air. That night after a round of great sex, she wrapped her hard twenty-three year old body around him and said that she wanted to take care of him and stay with him the rest of her life if only she could find a way to support her mother after she quit working in the bars. The next day he woke up and had it full on-Jasmine Fever. He thought that he could live happily forever after with a Thai bar girl.
He went out and bought a restaurant for a half a million baht, put it in her name, the poor guy. Two weeks before the grand opening she went out and bought a big stereo system and a television too. Spent a fortune-his money of course. He hit the ceiling, started to argue with her that it was too much money to spend. She picked up the phone and called the police. She had him thrown out of the place. He couldn’t believe it. You know how big Mac is, don’t you? Well a little Thai cop, must have weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet, came and shoved handcuffs into Mac’s face, said if he ever saw him on the street again or if he ever set foot on the property he would take him to the airport and put him on the first plane out of here. He’s been at the bar ever since, can’t figure out what happened. But enough of this, it’s too depressing. What about you? What have you been up to?’
Peter hesitated a bit. ‘Funny that you ask. I’ve decided to move my girlfriend in with me. She’s going to quit her job on Soi Sea Dragon and live with me. She’s really a very sweet girl and wants to stop working in the bars. She’s a good girl, not like the rest of them.’
‘Hey, Peter. You know that I’m your friend don’t you? And that I love you like a brother,’ said Danny taking a step closer.
Danny grabbed Peter by the shirt and slapped him hard in the face, twice, with his open hand, SMACK! SMACK!
‘Well then, Wake up for God’s sake.’