The Tale Of Piyamit
One of the most fascinating aspects of living in Thailand is that you come across so many people who can touch your soul deeply with their sincere unconditional friendship. You get to know their lives and at the same time get the opportunity to share yours. And a relationship is born through mutual sharing of true feelings without the worry of being judged.
I knew Piyamit through the same internet dating site where I met my wife. In Thai Piyamit means dearest friend. For some unknown reason it didn’t click between us so we remained as good friends. Piyamit is a single mother of a six year old girl. She got divorced at the time of her second tri-mester when she accidentally discovered one day that her ex-husband kept a mia-noi in a nearby apartment. Life was not easy as she went through rest of the pregnancy alone. Also she was continuing her job as a manager in an export-import firm and was doing a part time master degree in psychology. But she told me “I tried to relax more during that time because my baby inside is sharing the same mind. My parents were with me during Tulip’s birth. After that I moved into my sister’s apartment. But I knew deep down that I hadto raise her all by myself. Since then I gave all my heart to my daughter.”
Although we met many times over dinner or lunch I never went to her apartment. So I was really excited when I got her invitation “Are you busy this evening?”
I answered “I have always time for you.”
I heard she was laughing at the other end “Can you come over to my room after your office? We can have dinner at the nearby Vietnamese restaurant. And this time I will pay the bill.”
I said “Thank you in advance. My day started with a gloomy cloudy morning but hopefully it will end with a bright note. I will head towards Sathorn after work.”
As I entered her room I noticed there was a bonsai of cactus on the table; a clay pot filled with soil, white stone chips were scattered around the plant. It created a sharp contrast with its rugged beauty amidst a neatly decorated environment. Small flower tubs were lined up on the balcony. Wind chimes were playing music in rain filled air from the river. There were two beds and a book shelf; the top rack was filled with books about export import law, the next rack had couple of books by Dalai Lama, mostly Thai translation and the bottom most rack had Tulip’s books neatly arranged. There were three huge teddy bears placed on one bed and another was empty. There was a laptop on the table with a screen saver of their photos running. It appeared to me that the life they were leading together was very simple and loving.
I looked around the room and with a surprise noticed that Tulip was not there. I always met them together. I asked her “Where is Tulip?”
“She is with my sister; she picked her up directly from the school. Tulip will be staying with her tonight so we can talk more comfortably without Tulip disturbing us. I do not have to give her any attention” Piyamit laughed.
“I enjoy time with Tulip also. You are lucky to have such a sweet beautiful daughter. I pity her father that he does not have time to enjoy her childhood.” I looked at a framed photo of Tulip kept on the table performing a Thai dance with her classmates. I thought to myself that she will make many guys head over hills for her in the future.
“I always want my ex-husband and Tulip to be close so that she does not feel that her life is different from other kids. It makes her sad when she observes other kids walking together with both father and mother. She asks me why papa does not see her during weekends. Whenever I ask him to come and take Tulip along with him, he will give some excuse and avoid the responsibility.” By that time I knew the nature of many Thai men very well. I had seen them drinking till late night with friends while their wives were busy doing housework and taking care of children.
There was a doubt living with me for a long time. That was about why we couldn’t make it through despite a deep connectivity between us. I never got an opportunity to get a clarification, but I could not throw my question at her directly. In order to create a context I asked her “Do you remember how you got scared when I called you the first time?”
“Yes.” She smiled hesitantly. I felt she was not feeling entirely comfortable as she understood which direction the conversation would lead.
But I was a little desperate. “You sounded very confused. You told me that you are looking for a new job. Also you are in the process of moving to a new apartment so you are not ready.” I paused for a moment and continued “Frankly I thought maybe you didn’t like me.”
“No; that’s not true.” She was looking through the window in order to avoid direct eye contact. The steel gray sky was looming over the city taking away all the colors.
She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath to stabilize herself. Then she started with a low soft voice “I was going through a very bad phase in my life. I was very confused and did not know what to do. I had a boyfriend from the UK one year before we knew each other. Peter and I got along very well. He was in the export import business of jewelry items. Tulip also liked him.”
Piyamit is a very honest and sincere person so I was very surprised “Why did you separate?”
“Because he has a virus.”
I couldn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. Although her words entered my mind the brain was not responding quickly which left me in utter confusion. “What virus?”
She took time to prepare herself to tell me something very grave. “I never told anybody about this not even my parents. That time three of us went to Phuket for a holiday. And Peter told me that now we should plan for our marriage and start family. I was very excited. We talked about buying a condo and a car. I had a good job so I could manage Tulip’s expenses. I felt together it would be a comfortable life. But two days before we were supposed to fly back to Bangkok, he got a phone call on his mobile.” She was breathing heavily. She was trying to concentrate all of her energy into her voice to tell me something which had been kept secret within her own world for a long time.
She continued “Peter went out of his room to take the call. And when he came back I saw he was trembling in fear. His voice was choked and his face was pale as if there was no blood. I was very surprised thinking to myself that what can happen within these twenty minutes.”
She continued the narration “He told me that Marlu called. She was detected with AIDS. Marlu was Peter’s ex-girlfriend from Philippines and she used to work in bar. Initially I couldn’t believe my ears. But Peter repeated she was detected with that virus last week. So she told me to get checked as soon as possible. We came back to Bangkok the next morning and went to a hospital for the test. He was detected positive but I was safe.” I was trying to visualize the situation in my mind. Just twenty minutes back she had a promise of a stable family life which she dreamed of all her life. But that brief period of time had changed the whole course of her life into a very different direction. Sometimes we are so busy in living life that we all forget that impermanence is one of the world’s greatest truths realized by a man more than three thousand years ago.
“Does Tulip know about it?”
“Nobody knows except you. I saw many deaths in my life but never saw fear of death. That was the first time I experienced it so closely in another person. Although the doctor told us that his health is very good but they can not give any assurances. But if he exercises and keeps himself in good health then he can live longer.”
I said “But he never can have sex in future; and never can have a family life with a good lady.”
“Yes I know. That time I could not share his fear but I was part of the pain. Peter was very depressed and used to stay all the time in a room. I could not put my mind at my work so I left the job, was staying with Peter full time so that he feels that he has somebody to share his feelings with and he is not alone.”
I was not sure whether it was raining outside or not but I heard the sound of rain in my heart. An inner voice whispered in my thoughts “Ain’t love great?”
“Did you talk about your future plans with Peter?”
“I still wanted to marry Peter.”
I was surprised “But without having sex how could you have a family life?”
“Sex is important but not the first priority. I told him he can talk with doctors about test tube baby. And he will have to do life insurance for me and Tulip so that if something happens to him I can raise the kids comfortably by myself.”
I muttered “That’s crazy.”
“You will not understand a lady’s heart, Victor. When a Thai lady gives her heart then she gives it all, we call it plong jai rak. But Peter did not agree with my idea. He didn’t want the whole world to know about his disease. He was very ashamed. I understand a man’s needs, so I told him if you feel the sexual urge you can go to a bar, just do not tell me; because I will be very sad if I hear it from you.”
“What did he say?”
“He cried and told me how can I go to a bar if you tell me like that.”
“I can understand Peter. It’s like you gave him the knife and then told him to cut your throat who he loved most. How is he doing now?”
“He is doing fine. He goes for regular check ups. The doctor said he is in good health. Now we are good friends. Whenever he is in town, we go for dinner together.” Piyamit smiled. Then cupping her chicks within her palms and looking at me directly she said “Now you know the reason why I sounded so confused at that time.”
“Yes I can understand now. I must say that you are one of the most amazing Thai ladies I have ever met in my life. For whatever reason we could not share our lives together but I still feel very fortunate to be your good friend.” It was a sincere statement, not a mere adulation.
Whenever life comes across an event of joy or sorrow, heart wants to share it with a true friend. So many times it happened with me that after a long absence of any correspondence suddenly one day I felt a deep longing to talk with her and then I received her phone call. It’s a fact which I can not explain by any rationale. Maybe there always exists a hidden thread of communication beyond the realm of consciousness which connects us together. And whenever there was a tension at the other end, I felt it within myself.
She was looking through the window where sky is fresh blue after a brief spell of shower; the glass panes of high rise buildings were reflecting the orange glow of the setting sun. And there was a lonely bird chirping over one of the flower tubs. “When ever I feel very down I hug Tulip. She is my medicine. Her love gives me energy to carry my life through the difficult times.”
“I can feel that she is the music of your life.”
There was a silence very deep and long only carrying the sound of our breathing and the ticking of the alarm clock. There were no words after that because the very pulse of her life also stopped for a while as her mind wandered in past. Daylight was scarce inside the room but neither of us felt the necessity to switch on the lights. In that twilight I saw drops of tears shining on her cheeks. And a smile was floating on her lips like an early morning due drop, reflecting the most cherished memories. Looking at her face I realized that beauty only manifests over time through the deep understanding of other’s goodness.
Very sad indeed.