I met My Friend while teaching on the weekends at a private center in the south of Thailand. I had a part time / full time job (part time hours, full time salary) during the week at a rural government school and took the 2nd job in the city to pay for
pizza, beer and hotels while saving most of my government salary. We were both from the same state in the US. Both of us were former military and still looked the part. We were asked on a regular basis if we were CIA. We always thought this strange.
I guess it was because of our military looks, we were in the south of Thailand where Muslim terrorists tend to shoot people and blow stuff up, and there aren’t a lot of Americans there.
We hit it off really well from the start. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night we made the circuit of the bars. These are actually real bars. I’m sure plenty of the girls would play for pay if asked discreetly but it’s nothing like the Bangkok scene and there certainly wasn’t anything like bar fines or lady drinks. If anything, the girls we talked to were more interested in becoming our girlfriends than getting short-term cash and the stigma that comes with prostitution. Any way, we’d let the girls know how pretty they were and they seemed to like the attention and the nice tips.
My friend was married with a baby on the way but his wife was staying in Malaysia with her family. She’d call while we were drinking and he’d step outside for half an hour then come back and we’d continue. He got around with the girls a lot more than me. I mostly would flirt with just one or two of the pretties but it became evident that he was quite the man about town with these girls. It got to the point where there were certain bars we couldn’t go into and certain routes we couldn’t take to the bars because one of these girls worked in a shop along the way and he didn’t want to run into her.
He’d often complain about how dishonest the girls were and how they seemed to just want to play games. At first I just sipped my beer and nodded my head while watching the cute girls dancing. After hearing so many of these stories about multiple women and the routine calls from his wife, I started to think maybe it was him that was playing games (I actually hate the term ‘playing games’, so I apologize for using it). I told him he needed to take a break from all women and just chill for at least a few weeks.
I should stress that these were some of my best times in Thailand. I finally had a good buddy / partner in crime / wingman. The nightlife is about ten times better in Thailand when you’ve got a good friend to take it all in with you and it’s a lot safer too. Easier to let your guard down when someone’s got your back. If my buddy was a bit flaky with his family and the ladies, so what? He was my buddy and we were living many men’s dreams.
I always made it a point to shower and change after a day of teaching. I liked to be fresh and clean but I also didn’t want to look like a teacher even if I was one. One night I went out with My Friend. As usual I was dressed in shorts (sorry Statler) and a nice short sleeve shirt and My Friend was still in his teacher uniform: dark slacks, long sleeve shirt and tie, with a pack of some sort. We went to drink and to watch a strip show at one of those fishbowl houses of ill repute. We walked past the fishbowl line-up of girls and into the bar area where the strip show would take place. There were about 10 girls behind the bar waiting for customers to invite them for drinks. The girls glanced at me hopefully as I walked past before all their attention focused on him and, more importantly, what he was wearing.
They started shouting, “Teacher! Teacher!” “I’m fine thanks and you!” “Sit down, please!”, etc. If you’ve taught in Thailand, you know what I’m talking about.
He turned beet red while the bargirls, staff, customers and I all laughed at him.
It was funny as hell at the time but later it saddened me when I thought about how much those girls sounded like my students and I’d hate to ever see one of my students end up in a place like that.
My friend often complained about how Thai people lie and cheat. I never saw anything happen to him but I just agreed and nodded as usual. He’d tell me how Thai women always disappointed him in the end. I wondered how they could end up disappointing him when he’s sleeping with as many women as possible and was married with a newborn kid he hadn’t bothered to cross the border to visit. Not to mention that all the girls he went for were the more questionable of the waitresses (one had a Japanese fiancé, another was his ex-roommate’s ex-girlfriend and another was the sort of waitress who didn’t hide the fact that she could be had for some cash).
He’d tell me how they always wanted his money. Maybe that’s why I would usually foot the bill for drinks. Some drama came up and he needed to borrow money. I lent it without hesitation. He was my friend. We kept hanging out and soon I was footing the bill all of the time for drinks and dinner. He was my friend. I’ve done the same for friends in America and they’ve done the same for me when someone’s between jobs. Just because a friend has money problems doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be able eat pizza, drink beer, and admire the ladies with you on weekends.
Around this time, he told me that he had an acquaintance who headed security for a foreign company with business dealings in the south. His friend was looking for guys like us, former military, to add to his security team. The pay was excellent for Thailand standards plus a nice apartment and other perks. He told me that he was working on getting us a contract and paid in advance but if we took the job we’d have to accept immediately and quit our jobs. I wasn’t too happy about this prospect because it would mean ditching my students a couple of months before the end of the term but the money was good so if someone showed me the money, I’d probably take it.
He’d tell me each week that he was close to getting us a deal. After a few weeks, he said he was going to a meeting and the guy wanted verification of our military backgrounds. I gave him my old military ID and he told me he’d return it that night. When he met up with me at the bar he had forgotten it. The next day at work, he had forgotten it. The next day at work…you get the picture. At this point I’d had it with him. I was going to report him to the police if I didn’t get my ID back the next weekend. I got it back the next Friday evening. I stopped hanging out with him and he avoided me at work.
He asked me for another loan. I lied and said I wouldn’t have much left until payday. Payday comes and he doesn’t pay me back. It’s not the money that bothered me; it’s just that I’ve met so few Westerners here that I could call friends so this was turning into a major disappointment. The next payday came and I asked him if he could pay me back. Not yet but he had family in town and was going to get it from them that night. We went to a club and ordered drinks. His phone rang. He said he was going to meet up with his family and would bring them back to the club. He said his uncle was loaded and loves to party so the night would be on him. I told him if something went wrong or he wouldn’t be able to make it, to text message me so I wouldn’t have to sit alone. I sat there for the rest of the night waiting. The waitresses kept asking me where my friend was. “He’ll be back later,” I’d tell them. He never showed up and he avoided me the next day at work.
The next weekend he didn’t show up for work. No one knew where he was. He wouldn’t answer his phone but we knew it was working because we’d call and he’d turn it off after we tried a few times or he’d pick up and say “hello”, pretend he couldn’t hear us, then hang up and turn his phone off. We had to teach his kids. No problem.
I call him during the week and get a “Hello? Hello?” from him and then a hang up. I call again, no answer.
After a week, I call and he finally picks up the phone.
Me: “What’s up, man?”
My Friend: “I’m sick of everyone’s lies and games. I’m going home.”