A Bird Returned To Nest
This is one of those memories which float like a drifting cloud in a day when you are only with yourself, without any conscious effort mind starts traveling down the memory lane. And you feel that you are missing a touch which has the depth to warm your heart. From a very distant past it brings a reflection which gave you a glance of your being, brought your naked soul in front of a mirror. This is a story of a girl I met in my last life, a life before I knew my wife.
I was enjoying my coffee at the Starbucks on beach road, Pattaya. The ocean was turning gray, reflecting the evening sky. All the boats were anchored, swaying with the waves. Ships were motionless at the horizon where ocean and sky were merging into darkness. The flashing neon lights from floating restaurants and all the surrounding bars, gave an indication of another mystical evening, full of thrill and excitement. The pavement towards the beach was still crowded. People were returning from their trip from Koh Larn Island. Many of the freelancers were waiting to hook a passer by farang. It was mid October; breeze from the ocean was carrying a cool comfort to make you sabai. I and Nok were enjoying the nature over a latte. My heart was with me but mind was confused.
I met Nok at a bar in Walking Street that morning. I was walking and watching the crowd after a late breakfast, then hopped into one of those numerous bars. There were two three girls bubbling with laughter and eating som tam. I was not sure whether it was a late breakfast or early lunch. As I was enjoying the giggling over a Heineken, mamasan introduced me with a quiet, shy girl.
“Nok is a good lady, she is from Chiang Mai, just came here two weeks back”. Mamasan was waiting for my reply as I was gauging Nok. She was a fair skinned girl from the North, eyes full of innocence and nervousness. She looked out of place among all the chuckling Isaan ladies.
I asked hesitantly, “How are you?”
Nok smiled silently and did a wai. Probably this is the first time I stumbled and was searching for words. With my desire to enjoy carnal pleasure, I was not ready to meet such innocence. So I was feeling a little uncomfortable to start my day with a girl who might not be ready for such a ride. There was a long pause and then the reply came “I am fine, thank you. What is your name?”
“I am Victor from California. Do you know the song “Hotel California”?” By that time other girls circled around me and were listening to the conversation. One of them who wrapped her arm around my waist started singing playfully. I was hearing the sounds of pool balls and wild laughter of a farang in the background.
Nok said “I know, I can sing for you.” The breathless nervousness eased out. I saw a smile kindled in her eyes.
I asked her “Would you like a drink?” Three other girls almost jumped on me and demanded “For me also, you are jai-dee, don’t make me sad na.”
In my mind I was hesitant and confused. I was hesitant about the next step and confused about my feelings as I was experiencing a strange attraction towards Nok. It was not driven by desire; rather more of a curiosity to know her deeply as she looked so out of place among all the violent expressions around her. Before I came out after paying bar-fine, mamasan told me “She is a new, good lady. Please do not bring your friends.”
I laughed “Don’t worry, I am a good man; I will take care of Nok well.”
Since then Nok and I have been together. Initially she was hesitant and shy. But over time as sun melts the fog, occasional exchange of dialogues opened her up. I enquired about her past life. It was no different from any other bar girl, a life torn by poverty and the death of her dear ones leading to a no-choice life of a bar girl. In Pattaya, she was staying with two other girls from the same bar in a studio apartment near Soi VC. But often she missed her home back in Chiang Mai. It was in a small village near Doi-Suthep. As I had previously traveled through that area, I could picture the green rice fields stretched across the valley speckled with the occasional cluster of huts forming a village community. Also the farmers with their sickles flashing in the sun as they slashed the rice stacks, or planting rice seedlings under a gray overcast sky was a familiar scene. At early dawn the monks in orange robes like a patch of silence on a village road captured my heart.
I saw a shadow of a girl from a small farming village from the North in her being. She used to get up early morning with the sounds of the roosters. Then she and her father would feed the chickens with rice grain and corn before starting the daily chores. She studied through to primary school level then had to help her father in rice and corn farming. Life was not perfect but it was flowing with happiness from one day to the next. But like many other alcoholic Thai men, her father died of cancer. Being the eldest of all five siblings, she had to find a way to support the family. With the help of a local pimp, she found her way to Pattaya. I asked her “If you get a chance, do you want to go to school again?”
She replied “I haven’t thought about it, maybe not. But I want to go back to my village and open a small shop. I do not like this life.” All of them had the same dream when they come first but as they sip the juice of sex, money and an easy life, dream becomes a tool to earn money from farang.
Before going back to the hotel I wanted to check her age as she looked awfully tender “How old are you?” I didn’t want to have sex with an underage girl and end up in a Thailand jail.
“I am nineteen.” At that moment I could not remember the age related rules I had read in a web site in distant past but nineteen sounded safe.
Till that point there were other people around us, but back in the hotel room it was only the two of us. I was holding her hand as we approached the window and looked outside where we could see the swimming pool and part of the Beach Road; after that a vast darkness carried the ocean and the sky together. She asked me “Can I switch on the TV?”
“You can, I will take a shower and do some work”
“You look tired, after the shower you should sleep. Do you want to go out again at night?” Her voice had a caring touch.
I was curious “Where do you like to go?”
“I don’t know any places; I can stay here with you.”
I smiled and kissed her gently. She took my hand and kissed my palm, I felt the touch of her soft moist lips. I gave her a quick hug before going for a shower “Will you take a shower now?”
She replied “After you finish.”
The first thing I heard after I got up from a deep sleep was the sound of the TV, then a whisper “You get up?”
I enquired “What’s the time baby?”
“Almost eleven, do you want it now?” I tried to see her face in the light peeping through the window. I saw the same smile I had seen in many photos of Buddha, like a blooming lotus. I nodded my head and pressed her hard in my arms. She said “Wait for a moment.”
She took the towel and went to other side of the room. “Please don’t look at me now, I shy.”
The notion of time is relative, one minute can appear as an eternity while the whole body and mind is waiting with a throbbing expectation. How long I had to wait in that suspense I’ll never know but when she reappeared I saw an angel standing in front of me wrapped in a white towel. Then she slid inside the blanket, unwrapped herself and threw the towel on the floor. She pulled me over her nineteen year old body and locked me in her arms. Then our bodies and souls moved in unison.
After the climax, came the moment of deep relaxation. She pulled my hand and whispered “Please stay near me”. Her eyes were closed. In that soft darkness I could feel the vibration of her deep slow breath which reminded me of the waves of a river I had seen up North at Loi-krathong. I could see drops of sweat on her forehead. I wished if I could just freeze that very moment to be my entire life span.
“I will stay by your side darling” I wrapped my arm around her body in a warm hug. In silence I was enjoying the togetherness. I felt it was her way of transforming the sex into love-making. Maybe she could not accept the fact that it was a service; I felt she was trying to establish a deeper connection, searching for some self-respect. May be that was the only way she could accept this life.
For me, it was more than an experience. She was like an ink on blotting paper, slowly absorbing me with her tenderness.
Next day morning she dragged me to a road side restaurant near the Thai market opposite the Wat. That was the first time I had Jok. Initially I was hesitant to taste that slimy rice soup, but Nok shoved one spoonful into my mouth and started watching me with an amusement the same as I watched our dog eating sticky rice back at my in-laws’ home. I cried “This is not my food baby; I may die on my way home”
She broke into wild laughter. “We all eat this everyday.” It was nice to see her in a relaxed mood and to feel her playful personality.
I announced, “Now its time to go for a trip”
She asked “Where?”
“Well, we can go to Koh Larn for a day trip. We can come back by afternoon so that I can go back to Bangkok this evening”, I suggested. She was quiet for a moment, thinking about the inevitable separation.
After we returned from our trip, I called the reception and requested a taxi to the airport. We both knew that time was running out, almost reaching the point of no-return. We both knew it had to happen but we did not dare to talk about it openly, keeping an elusive hope of some miracle by which I could stay back. She then looked at me; there was no question or any expectations in her eyes. It was sad and a solemn reminding of life of a very different kind waiting for me on the other side of the ocean. Suddenly I felt very helpless and told her “I love you.”
She took a deep breath and said “No. You can not love me.”
I looked at her face with a surprise. She continued “You don’t know me. You can not love me in two days. But I am happy with you, you are a good man.” Her voice was like due drops from the early morning, fresh and cool. It reflected her wisdom like the first gentle rays of sunshine. Even though we were naked, and had made love, it was only skin deep and she was honest about it.
I was silent for a couple of minutes, thinking about what she had just said. It hurt my ego but it was true. My love was an expression of a momentary emotional outburst. Till today the experience of that moment is fresh in my memory. Tranquility of her voice, gentleness of her smile washed away many of the footprints life left on my soul.
I asked her “What will you do now?”
She turned her face and looked through the window where sea was still catching the last glance of the setting sun. Then she looked at my face and smiled. Although a smile was floating on her lips, I knew what was going on inside her mind; I could hear the sound of rainfall. She said “I will go and sleep for some time. Then put make up and wait in bar.”
My mind said “Whether this is what I wanted or not, her life will follow this path of self-destruction and there is nothing I can do about it. At her tender age she should be going to school, enjoying time with parents and friends. But an unfair start at the very beginning forced her to accept a life without real love and affection. I am not in a position to make any commitment and give her hope. Maybe over time she will accept herself in this situation more and can live with less sadness, and I can accept the fact that I cannot save this world. We both will have to go back to our respective lives with the memories of pleasure and pain.” An uncontrollable pain was pushing through my throat, choking my voice. It was so spontaneous that I could barely control it.
She paused for a moment and asked “When will you come back to Thailand?”
I said “I don’t know, maybe after six months, I really don’t know when I will be back next. But whenever I come, I will look for you. May be you should go to your room now otherwise you will be late. I will wait here for the taxi.”
She replied “I will wait here with you, I have time.”
I said “I can drop you at your apartment”.
She replied “No need, we can just seat here and wait for taxi”.
I said “Thanks”.
I was holding her hand and trying to control my tears. We were both silent. We were unknown to each other just two days before, but during that parting moment I felt she touched my heart with her honesty. She is not an unknown face anymore, her smile, silence and tears brought a meaning to me. The telephone rang; the receptionist telling me “Sir, your taxi is waiting.”
Time and understanding is the best healer of pain. Back home a busy life with work occupied my mind which left little space for Nok. I did not have her contact information, so any kind of communication was not possible. Slowly, as every day passed by, the force of life took me far from those memories. Only after a long hard day when my mind and body needed a tender touch, the memories appeared like the music of wind.
After about a year I got an opportunity to visit Pattaya again. I went to that bar as soon as I arrived there, but mamasan told “Nok went back to her village; she never could adjust to this life. The other day I heard that she got married and is now pregnant”
She smiled. “I told you she is a good girl; but I now have many other girls you can choose.”
I looked inside, some of them were having lunch and others clustered around the pool tables with farangs. I was expected to walk in with a beer and start the same old conversation with one of them but I paused and said “If Nok ever calls you, please tell her that Victor wants her to be happy.”
With a surprise mamasan told me “Sure I will tell her Victor came looking; how long will you stay in Pattaya this time? Do you need a good lady?”
Unsure about what to do next, I laughed and told her “If a good lady comes with me then she will go away from you like Nok. Before sending them you better train them first.”
As I was walking down the street and reflecting upon those moments, I realized Nok had taught me many things during those two days, the most important was that love grows only through knowing each other deeply; it is not a momentary emotional surge. I felt deep respect for her courage to find the way back to her nest.
A touching story.