Stickman Readers' Submissions April 9th, 2007

A Domestic Bargain

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• Xixi Friendship Hotel
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• Feiying International Youth Hostel
• Golden Sun Commercial Hotel

It was a hot summer night and close to midnight. The window was wide open to allow the cool night breeze to flow through from the vast rice paddies. Here in Isaan you have to use a mosquito net in order to protect yourself from dengue
fever and also to have a peaceful sleep. The moon shine peeping through the blue transparent mosquito net was lying idle on our body. The occasional sound of lizard and the constant buzzing music of various insects from nearby bamboo bush together
were playing a symphony. My son had already slept and I was in the process of slumbering. In that very peaceful and idyllic ambience suddenly I got a pinch on my back from my left side.

Knowing who was responsible for that I said “Darling, are you practicing mua-thai on me? I am trying to sleep after a long hard day”

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I glanced at her with sleepy eyes. I, my wife and the three year old monkey sleep together on the same bed. She stays in the middle keeping my son on her left side and her beloved husband on the right side. There are multiple reasons for this. The most
important one is to create a wall by her body between me and my son so that we do not play too much and for too long before sleeping, giving us enough time for amorous activities. Before agreeing to this pattern we had tried other arrangements
where my son had slept in the middle. But that didn’t work too well since I and my son are very playful, ended up sleeping after way past midnight leaving no sweet time for my beloved wife. In addition to that, another reason is whenever
I get angry she hugs her son and sleep, showing me her back. Although that does not work most of the time, but still that’s the way things are.

“Are you sleeping?” The sound came from my left side. She enquired hesitantly. With the sound of lizard again I felt a squeeze on my left hand. Although we have many lizards around our home, this particular one lives with us in the same
bedroom. We never had any problems with this co-habitant except one day it jumped playfully on my wife’s head, that was the first and last time I had seen a near death experience in my life.

I felt a little irritated as it was indeed a long hard day for me. On that particular day I had to go alone to Udon city in the sweltering heat for our monthly shopping, as my wife had to work on her school projects. Carrying big packs
of diapers, baby milk in an over-crowded local bus was no fun. In an effort to cut short the conversation I replied “Yes darling, I am talking with you in a dream” and after a pause “I just gave you the answer, one minute

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She complained “You are a very naughty man.” The apparent complaint had a touch of love and affection, and soon after that she hugged me like a pillow. Honestly I love that situation, to be nestled in her arms, as long as there is no further

But I knew that was not the end and there was something she was trying to tell me but was struggling due to a lack of self-confidence. In order to get to the point faster I replied “That was me before marriage, but now I am a good husband and father.
But darling, I know you have something on your mind. It would be easier for both of us if you can tell me that secret clearly. At least that will save you from the pain of constipation and I can sleep well soon.”

She squeezed my left hand hard. I knew that was an indication of her insecurity, an effort to come closer to my heart in order to get the approval of some unknown proposal smoothly. Then she hesitantly said “Maybe we can discuss it tomorrow, looks
like you are not in a good mood.”

“I am fine, you can continue” although I was little irritated, but at the same time I was wondering what was on her mind. My curiosity level was at a discomforting zone.

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She spoke in a more serious voice “We travel too much every week; we go to Udon city, sometime to Loei or Nong Khai to see Tuk.Tuk is her friend whose husband is a retired farang from
Arizona. They built a house on five rai of land in the middle of nowhere in Nong Khai, surrounded by jungle and rice paddies. The only way to get there is to take a SUV or a pickup truck through an extremely pot-holed dirt road.
Usually whenever we needed to meet, we had gone to Nong Khai city by bus. And they had picked us up from the city. To go to Loei we always rented a neighbor’s car at a cheaper rate than a proper car rental company.

“Yes we do, but is it a bad thing?” That was not a question rather a reflection of my anger and surprise. I was still trying to understand the core issue about our frequent outings and how it could make such a serious problem which needed
to be discussed at the middle of the night. From my experience I knew that a Thai lady would need very long foreplay before the central act. It was like peeling an onion. As you peel the dry outer layers, you smell the juicier inner layers and
by the time you have reached the core your eyes are full of tears. So by the time I knew the truth the call of sweet sleep would be gone and I would be left with a long sleepless night full of nocturnal sound.

“I never said that. But don’t you think it is always difficult to go by bus? For example we waste a lot of time waiting for the bus, if we don’t get seat then we stand in side holding Nuer.

Suddenly the confusion got melted and the clarity appeared like bright sunshine. Although I guessed in which direction she was heading I feigned innocence. I knew very well that by portraying a picture of labored travel experience by public transport
she wanted my sympathy and me to propose a more comfortable alternative solution. But as my sleep had long gone, it was time to be a little playful and naughty. I wanted her to be more direct. I said “Darling, so far we just had to stand
twice while going to Udon. And we always rent a car for convenience when we travel to Loei. So I didn’t understand your point. But if you want we can cut down our travel frequency. You know that I just love to

“Me too; I am lucky to go with you and see many places. But I am thinking that it will be better if we can be a little more comfortable.”

“How can we be more comfortable darling; the bus will not come according to our schedule?”

“I am just thinking and consulting you; if we buy a car; so it will be easy and more flexible for our life. Also we don’t have to pay for car rental. We can save that money. What do you think?” Finally she gathered her confidence
to say what was in her mind. She was staring at my face very closely to observe any visible expression in order to guess which direction my emotion would flow but I was lying silent without showing any visible reaction. Failing to guess what was
going on in my mind she was increasingly getting worried with each passing moment.

Finally she broke the silence “Maybe you are thinking that you have to be careful with this lady. But I told you everything openly.”

“Isn’t it too late to be careful about each other?” I stared directly at her eyes.

I never had an experience of an intimate relationship with a more progressive well urbanized Thai lady from Bangkok coming from a wealthy family, but whatever casual interaction I had was indicative of their self-confidence. They are frank and direct
in their approach; not shy to express their mind. Less fear creates less confusion. But on the other hand the warmth and care to the point of pampering you receive from a traditional upcountry lady may not be available from an urban Bangkok girl.

One of my friends from the UK who had two girlfriends, one born and raised in Isaan, and another in Bangkok, had told me “While my Bangkok girl dragged me to Fuzi, my Isaan girlfriend sticky rice in a small bamboo basket
to share with me.” Finally he had settled down with the lady from Isaan. I joked “So you fell as well for the Isaan magic”.

She gauged me for a second then asked in confusion “What do you mean?”

“I mean that we are already married. So if I have to be careful about my wife then how on earth I am going to live with peace and happiness.”


“But we do not go to Loei or Udon city every day; so I think the rental expense per month will be far less than monthly installments for a car. Also we are not sure about where to settle down; I mean here in Thailand or
back home in California. So who is going to use it if we move back; also we have to save for Nuer’s education. How can we buy a car at this moment?”

“So we will be like this forever? You don’t want your family to be comfortable? Now we have enough savings, more than other people. We can sell the car to my sister before going back to the USA.”

“Yes we have savings but not sure whether more than others or not because I never saw their savings account.”

“I just want little more comfort. In our village, all other teachers have a car and easy life. And we earn much more than them but do not have any comfort. We can not say anything about our life, we may die tomorrow, and so we should enjoy our
life now.” I was deeply surprised and amused as well by her statement. Being a daughter of an Isaan rice farmer she never had the habit of spending abundantly. Moreover, after her ex-husband’s death she went through
a severe financial crisis which made her even more conservative in terms of spending money. The suddenness of that event taught her to be more future centric, not to blow away every resource rather conserve sufficient to encounter any such disaster

“Darling, I didn’t know you understand this great philosophy so deeply. We had so many arguments over this, I told you let’s enjoy life little more but you told me to save money. I must say that I am very surprised, thinking maybe
I am with a mia-noi.” Amidst all those drama my son was still sleeping peacefully making me jealous. Apart from us talking, our native Thai dog Jiji barked couple of times, an indication of a kamoy hovering
around the neighborhood.

She laughed loudly. “I told you already that I do not need any assistant. If you have another lady then you will lose that thing.” Then showed her open palm like a blade of a knife.

“Well that’s not good for you either, isn’t it? Well darling, it’s not particularly easy to manage one with so many demands so I will not dare to have two to double the trouble.” So far our conjugal life is blissful
except the occasional misunderstanding mostly caused by a vast cultural gap.

As we both laughed together at our jokes, she embraced me in her arms and said in an endearing tone “I never demand anything from you; don’t talk like that. I don’t buy gold, expensive dresses or never go to beauty salon, expensive
restaurants. I am just looking for a little comfort for all of us. Do you think like me?”

“Well honey, you are a very sweet lady and also an excellent wife. I sincerely want to give you a comfortable life but I am concerned about the money. A new car will cost a lot.”

“I don’t want a new car; second hand, third hand, fourth hand anything you buy. I just want to have little comfort for all of us. And I know that after we buy, you are going to use it more than anybody else.”

“Well let me think, maybe we can buy a second hand car. You can take half of it as a bank loan and the rest we can pay as a downpayment. We can go to Udon to visit all the used cars tents.” I sighed.

“You are my sweet fat ugly man” her flattery lightened my face with a grin. Sometimes the feeling of being possessed is so blissful.

“Well baby, back in Bangkok all the ladies in my office tell me that I am handsome.” I tried to defend my physical appearance. Despite doing regular exercise it is getting increasingly difficult to control my weight due to regular intake
of khao-neao, the famous glutinous sticky rice, I guess the spirit of Isaan. I feel it has something which is more addictive than ya-ba.

“They try to please you because you are the boss, but I tell you the truth because I am your wife.”

The lizard forgot to make any sound as it was watching the conjugal drama. I took her hand and touched her palm; the roughness had a tale of a long grinding Isaan life. Yes, it would be nice to have a little more comfort in our life since
we can afford it. I was feeling a warm happiness thinking that next time the three of us would travel in our own car. And I smiled silently picturing the countenance of my wife and son. Through the window the moon was like an over used five baht
coin under the veil of early morning mist and inside the room in the soft darkness I felt sabai in her arms.

Stickman's thoughts:

A nice tale. I was waiting for her to start saying something along the lines of "no car, no hanky panky!"

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