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The Smile That Melted My Brain

  • Written by Ben
  • October 4th, 2006
  • 15 min read


I met a freelancer in Pattaya last October. I was 44, she was 31. We seemed to have fallen in love hard and fast. I came back from the States often to spend weeks with her. I was fortunate to be able to do so. We had many wonderful times together and with her 8-year old son from a former, long-gone jerk of a Thai boyfriend that she had lived with for seven years. I have an eight year old daughter. She wanted a daughter. I wanted a son. We got engaged the following April.

I bought a diamond ring with her at one the fancy gem dealerships in Phuket. She had a ring for me as well. We exchange rings and marriage commitments at a hilltop restaurant overlooking Phuket city. Romantic as all heck. We cried in happiness, we hugged and sighed at our great relief in our wishes coming true. We called each other "Sami" and "Palaya" respectively from then on, and all the time, and we really meant it. We didn't have a formal engagement ceremony. We didn't set a date yet for a formal wedding day, because we didn't feel the rush to do so. Our commitment was solid. We would do the ceremony and family party thing later at some point…

After we personally committed to each other, I gave many significant gifts to the family: A 4×4 pickup truck, cows, and 10 rai of additional farm land. (They're farmers in Korat, of course). This was not just as sin sot, but as a way for the family to become more self-sufficient. Additionally, I started paying the families medical expenses, which were not great. Exams here, dental work there…it was fine for me. I paid for my fiancée to have a room of her own near her brother and sister-in-law in Bangkok. I paid for furnishing the apartment, including cable-TV, computer, air-conditioning…very comfortable. It was good also to have a place to stay with her the frequent trips I made.

Over the course of the next few months, we had some misunderstandings and squabbles. I thought they were minor, but she apparently thought otherwise. On my last trip, this past July, she told me a few hours before my departure back home that she was reconsidering coming to visit with me here in the U.S. on the fiancée visa I was helping orchestrate with her. I asked her why, and she said because she "wanted a good life." That hit me hard. She wasn't talking about the financial aspect. She knew I could cover that. She had decided she wasn't happy with me anymore, couldn't live with me. I was frankly devastated.

At the airport we kissed goodbye. She said, "I guess I have nothing more to say." But then added "call me when you get back and let me know you got back OK." After I paid the Exit Tax, I turned to say one last goodbye. I saw she had a dark, sad, but determined look on her face. I felt sick.

Upon returning home, I tried to call her. No answer. Left a message..No call back. She never did. I sent her emails..No reply, ever again. I tried SMS messages…Nothing. After two weeks of this, I certainly had resigned myself to the message "it's over', although I wondered about the possibility that something bad had happened to her. I tried one last SMS message to her:

Just please tell me if you are okay.

She finally replied back:

Yes, I am okay. Thank you.

So I called her right back. She answered. She confirmed she had walked away from me. She went to the temple and prayed for forgiveness. Told everyone and anyone that she had told before how much she loved me that she was now finished with me. Her parents and most friends thought she was nuts. They all knew I was a good guy, that we made a handsome couple, and I treated her and her family very, very well. But she was resigned to her decision.

"I know I am stupid for doing this." she said. "I know I am a bad person for doing this to you", and "Before my heart is full with love for you, now only a little." She cryptically repeated "You make me think to much." I asked her to explain what she meant, but she couldn't or wouldn't.

My mind tried to grapple with all this. Finally, she gave me the final blow: the Thai boyfriend came back to raise their son, and she still loves him very, very much. "I am sorry, honey. Really, I am very sorry" she repeated. "I don't want to hurt you, but this how I feel."

So, it was that I said goodbye to her, literally floored, sitting on the kitchen tile in the dark one night. I cried trying to express my disappointment, disbelief, and how much I would miss her. After everything we had together–and there was a lot–and after everything I had given and done for her already–also a lot–she was convinced I was not her man. "But you are my palaya!" I babbled. "Can't we try and work this out??? I can come and visit you next week and we can talk about it?!".."No, honey, I make up my mind already. Maybe we try again one day, but I need time…"

We cried together on the phone. She had really loved me at one point. Now she didn't. Finished. I looked at the cell-phone I was on and watched as she hung-up and the display flashed the total talk time. It was like a ten-ton brick hit me.

The next few weeks were torture. I couldn’t work, sleep or eat well. I couldn’t get myself to the gym. I would toss and turn in bed and wake up crying. I reached out to some local friends, both farang and Thai, and all they could say was she was not a good soul, that she was same same as other BG’s, only more style, and that I deserved better. This didn’t make me feel better. It just made me more bitter, confused, angry and sad.

In my desperation, I went to a local Buddhist temple in my town. It was Laotian, but the same as the many I had prayed and received blessings at together with my fiancée all over Thailand. I prayed for understanding, quick healing, and even some unlikely idea of how to turn-it around. The Buddha just smiled at me calmly, as if saying, What is done, is done. Accept, find peace, move on…" The head monk took pity on this distraught farang and spoke with me in broken English. At first, he assumed the same as my friends, that I had been basically taken for a ride. But as he saw how much I had loved her, he asked me and odd thing: he wanted to see a picture of her. Turns out there is a study of faces that some monks learn, and he wanted to offer an opinion of her character to me.

I returned the next day with a photo of her. In it, she is smiling her huge warm grin and her eyes are sparkling with happiness and contentment. It is a very attractive photo of a very attractive woman. The monk looked at it and grunted to himself. He looked at me at pronounced I would have love again with her. Astonished, I asked how that could be, and he said I must go talk with her face-to-face, better with her son present. I was stunned. I was doubtful, but I was willing to try. I figured I didn’t have much more to lose. I felt I had hit bottom already, and couldn’t sink any lower.

The crazy romantic in me kicked in. I looked-up online how to send flowers to her in Thailand. I found a service that looked reasonable and reliable, and I sent her a small bouquet of white roses tinged with pink. A small attached note read “Would you please meet with me next week just to talk?”

I got a call the next day. “Hi, honey. Thank you, I get your flowers. But before your flowers make me so happy and my heart if full, but now only jep (pain).” I was crushed. Again. This wasn’t good. She continued, “You just come to just talk? You can do that? If you come I not stay with you. Yes, this I can tell you for sure. But I know your heart. I not think good for you. I tell you before I need time, but I think about it. I call you later”…

A week later I spoke with my young daughter and explained that my friend and I were no longer friends, and we’re not going to visit her in Thailand. I gathered all the little personal gifts that my “Ex” had given me: a small Buddha she had been given as a child by a grandparent. A small good luck necklace she had since a teenager. A yellow rubber bracelet commemorating the King’s 60th year on the throne, little origami birds she had made for me and my daughter, a beautiful sarong her father had given me when I went to tend the cows with him on a beautiful sunny day, a birthday card and love note she had sent me with a picture of us on which she wrote “…we are happy…" I packed these things in a box and added a small note:

Thank you for these special gifts.
But if you want me to forget you,

I have to return them.

Good luck.

With very mixed emotions I sent the package. I cried once more but felt a healthy measure of closure.

It’s been two months now. I have had time to heal and reflect. The photos are gone. All emails deleted. I buried one last picture of us deep in storage. But my mind still wanders to her. She told me she was going to do non-P4P Thai massage. Her sister-in-law her teaches and works at Wat Po, a big school and center for Thai massage in Bangkok. I suspect at night she at least supplements her income with freelancing again, looking for a new, more suitable Farang perhaps. I will never know.

I think back, against my will, mostly in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, to what caused the relationship to crumble. What turned her off so much? There is one specific event that I come back to.

We were in a dance club in Chiang Rai. The live band was fantastic. We were having a great time, which was a relief, because we were a bit stressed from some mixed-up travel arrangement earlier in the day. I was the only Farang there. After some sets, the band leader/lead singer started bantering with the crowd and, of course, he picked me out…started making good-natured jokes with me in decent English and Thai. It was funny. May was laughing so hard, I thought she would have an accident. I was very happy. After the final set, I went up to the stage and handed the guy a tip. It was dark in there and I was a bit drunk. I meant to give him 100baht, but instead as it left my hand I saw it was a 1000baht note. I was surprised, and so was he. We both composed ourselves. I figured, what the heck, I had a great time. I could afford it and it was worth it for me anyway. The crowd murmured. “How much you give him, honey?”, my fiancée asked? “I wanted to give him 100baht” I answered somewhat defensively. “I think you give him 1000baht, honey.” I shrugged and tried to smile, feeling like an idiot. “It’s okay, we had great time.”

“I want good tip like that, honey! You have more for me?”, she smiled a devilish grin.

“Ha, ha”, I thought to myself. Very funny. “Sure, honey,” I said, “For you I give double that.”

“No, really, I want good tip like that."..she kept going on like this. It was very weird. I knew she was a bit drunk, and in hindsight she was also probably stunned at my generosity, if not proud–but her harping on it was beginning to irritate me. Actually, I thought the joke was a bit in bad taste, being how we met and what she had worked at for the last four years. ‘Please, honey,” I said, “it’s not funny for me. Please no more about the tip.” She smiled and shrugged.

The band leader came over to say thank you. He spoke with her in Thai, asking her, she told me afterwards, if I was her boyfriend. “No, he is my husband!”, she stated proudly. He thanked her, and She told him to thank me instead, which he did. We shook hands and I thanked him for a fun time.

She started joking about the tip again. In the tuktuk back to the hotel, I tried to explaining to her why I wasn’t comfortable with the joke, but so oddly, she continued with it. She either didn’t get it or I didn’t get the innocence of it, but I was just really annoyed she wouldn’t stop it. We got back to the hotel, and she flopped on the bed, falling asleep immediately. I sat on the couch right next to the bed, still feeling drunk and very annoyed. All the fears about engaging with a woman who had worked P4P that I had successfully pushed out of my head came flooding back into my head. I didn’t take them to heart, but it made me feel like very uncomfortable. I decided to just let the alcohol and feelings run their course. In the morning I would be fine. I fell asleep on the couch.

In the morning, my fiancée woke to find me on the couch. It kind of freaked her out waking up to an empty bed. “What happened, honey?” she asked sincerely, “Was I snoring?”…”or are you still angry with me from last night”? Man, I had a hangover, and I ached from sleeping on the couch. She came over to hug me, but I was reflexively resistant. “Yeah, you were snoring badly…I tried to tease…but added, “No, really, I had to just get over my feelings. I was angry you didn’t stop joking about the stupid tip, but I’ll be fine after I get up and have some coffee.” I tried to smile reassuringly, but my head, my whole body hurt.

After coffee and some solid food, I felt much better. I went to give her a hug, but she stiffened and rejected it. We had a tour planned that day up the river to see the Hill Tribes and an elephant camp. The scenery was great, but she was cold and distant the whole time. She stuck with the Thai tour guide, walking up ahead with him. I tried many times to be affectionate and apologetic. It was now me apologizing for my reaction. She didn’t give for the rest of the day. Only in the evening, she finally let her pride down and succumbed to my love again.

I thought things afterwards went back to the way they were, but they never did. She told me she never forgave me for scaring her that way. In hindsight I sincerely wish I had not reacted the way I did. If I had not fallen asleep on the couch that night and been grouchy that morning, there is a very good chance we would probably still be together. But no second chances. It’s now 11:54 am and there is only a very good chance she is in partying with another Farang now.

The final time I spoke with her she was at a bar in Bangkok at 10pm. I called, so stupid but human of me, just to confirm with her there was no chance I could come and talk with her. I wish she wouldn’t drink anymore, because I paid for complete diagnostics for her and we learned she had HepB and some liver damage already. “I have so many friends now” she said. “Later we go to a pub”…”now I drink a lot and I dance much better. Oh, I am smoking also now!” she seemed to add meanly. “Now I can do what I want, and dress how I want, and drink what I want. She sounded very happy. “OK, I said, "I don’t want to take you from your friends. Goodbye.”

Wow, I thought to myself. This is what I had loved?

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