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Crammed in an old silver Toyota-Corolla, we all headed towards a movie theater. After a long hard day at work it was time to relax, refresh our mind and regain the lost vitality. Usually I work from Udon. But whenever I stay back in Bangkok for a customer meeting, I take the opportunity to meet my friends or go out with office mates. I enjoy my colorful Bangkok sojourn as well as the soporific country life.
I was seating on the front seat beside the driver Mr. Torlap, who works as a sales engineer and the back seat was occupied by three other young Thai ladies working in various different roles in my office. Ploy my secretary told jokingly “Victor, you didn’t get a phone call from your wife in the last hour. That’s a record”
And just then my phone rang; it was my wife “Where are you going Tirak?”
“Darling we are going to see a movie” I heard a chuckle from the back seat and surely my wife also heard the same over the phone.
“With whom are you going?” Her voice was serious; the sweetness which was present two minutes back had disappeared. I could feel a thin layer of tension was growing between us.
“You know all of them, they all are working in my office; Torlap, Ploy, Wan and Tom” I looked back at three giggling Thai ladies.
“Don’t sit beside a lady in movie hall na” her voice was low and tense.
“Why do you say that?” I was surprised and agitated.
“I just said what I felt in my heart; but it’s up to you” Although I felt amused by her child like innocent confession but it rang a bell within me.
That night alone in my room as I was reflecting upon the issue I realized that it was the emotional wound from past experiences making both of us so worried. They act like filters; everything we perceive goes through them and comes out with a very different form than what they really are. Our perception which is merely a distorted shadow of the truth creates fear confusion in our mind. An open heart to heart discussion is the only way to ward off the fear otherwise the issue which got buried temporarily would resurface again with more intensity and force.
The experiences from past relationships taught me that trust and freedom create the very core foundation of any long term successful relationship. We start making little adjustments without any consent of our heart, believing that those little changes in ourselves will somehow bring peace and happiness in conjugal life. And one day to our dismay we see an image of a very different person in the mirror, depressed dissatisfied. We realize that we can not accept ourselves anymore in the process of making us acceptable to others. Then the repressed unhappy feeling comes out to flood our emotion, creates a rage breaking all the bondage, leading to a self-destruction.
It was Nan’s birthday party. At that time Nan was working in a jewelry shop in Khao San Road as a sales manager. I had met her at a dinner party; she had come with one of the engineers from my office. They are neighbors and friends living in the same apartment complex. Since then we met several times; our casual acquaintance grew into a sincere friendship. We couldn’t meet for a very long period as I live most of the time in Udon with my family. Many times she said jokingly “Victor you should spend some time with your mia-noi in Bangkok”
Knowing that I was in town she invited me for her birthday party. Nan along with her friends we all went to an open air restaurant in Khao-San road. Although the music was loud, I was enjoying the vibe in the atmosphere. It was a brief colorful change after a long period of placid peaceful upcountry living. I was so engrossed watching the potpourri of people from different countries and races sauntering through the street without any objectives or destination that I forgot to call my wife to inform that I would go to my room late otherwise she would be waiting for my call. But my phone rang to bring me back to the consciousness. It was my wife’s call.
I put my index finger on my lips to indicate them to be quite. Then I accepted the call “Hello darling”
“You already came back to your room from office?”
“It is already 9 PM; what are you doing?”
“I came out for dinner with my friends here in Khao-San road. I forgot to tell you as I had to hurry to finish my work and rush for the dinner” In reality I didn’t forget but thought that I would call her after returning from the party in order to avoid any uneasy enquiry. I felt angry with myself as I realized that my fear forced me to lie to the most beloved and trusted person of my life. A thin layer of tension was growing between us with every moment of silence. I thought that unless I show myself truly to her, she will have a very different idea about who I am and I have to live for that image, not for myself. This duality will create suffocation through self-conflict leading to a disastrous end. After a brief pause I said “Actually I came to attend Nan’s birthday party”
I remembered once I had showed her a photo of me and Nan eating dinner in an open air Thai restaurant. Looking at that photo she had commented “Ladies in Bangkok likes to dress in a way that everybody can see their body” Although I didn’t refute at that time but I felt agitated as I know Nan is a good lady and a sincere friend. Moreover I didn’t appreciate her generalization.
I turned towards Nan and told “You folks can talk; don’t have to seat in samadhi till I finish talking”
I made sure my voice was loud enough to be heard over phone. I told my wife “I will call you after I go back to my room. It’s already 9.00 PM so better you take Nuer to sleep”
For about ten seconds there was no voice from the other end, a tensed silence was the only communication between us. Then she told “You enjoy; I will be waiting for your call” Her voice was sad and had a feeling of loneliness.
I said “Bye” then we both hung-up.
Nan understood what was going on, she smiled with an assurance “Don’t worry. Over time as she knows you better things will improve”
“I hope so” Then I asked her “Did you ever got angry or jealous like this with your ex-boyfriend?”
She smiled “Sometime”
Although I tried to enjoy the party, but an uneasy suffocating thought was always lurking at the back of my mind that there was somebody waiting for me sleepless. There was a guilty feeling telling me that more I stay late for the party tonight, the more she would have to wait sleepless. In my mind I was fighting with myself and the shadow of my wife. It was time to have an open dialogue. It was almost midnight when I came out leaving a bunch of boisterous drunkards.
I called my wife as soon as I stepped in my room. Although the call was answered, there was no voice from the other end. I knew she was at the other end lying on the bed by the side of the window. I asked in a soft compassionate voice “Are you there darling?”
There was a sound of sobbing from the other end. I waited for about thirty seconds, giving her time to gather her calm so that we could have a meaningful conversation. Talking openly was the only way to ward off fear.
I told “I am sorry darling to cut you off. I didn’t want to have an argument in front of my friends. Are you OK?”
“Yes tell me.” Her voice was clear but still wet with tears.
“Nuer already slept?”
“Yes he is sleeping by my side”
“Did I do anything wrong tonight? What do you think?”
“You have right to do what you want to do” She answered reluctantly.
“But that’s only your word of mouth, not coming from your heart. For sure you didn’t like what I did. That’s why you got angry and sad. And I didn’t feel that I did anything wrong. So we need to discuss things openly. We both suffered in our past lives, we both told each other that we want to be truly happy in this relationship, share love. And whenever we will have confusion, we will discuss openly keeping the ego out of our path. You have to tell me your true feeling, what made you so sad?”
She paused long may be to find the words to express her mind; but when she said “Why did you seat so close to a lady? It seemed like they seat by your side” it took me aback with a big surprise. Although surprised I felt a sense of ease as I realized that her every word carried the true feeling of exactly what was going on in her mind at that point in time; she didn’t took a long winding route and carefully crafted words.
“How do you know they were seating close to me?”
“I heard their voice very clearly when you were talking with me over phone. Surely somebody was seating by your side”
“No, they were seating in front of me. But is that a problem if they seat beside me? They are just my friends, why do you have to be angry?”
“I am jealous”
I exclaimed “Why?”
“I am jealous because I love you. It is very normal for ladies. If I don’t love you then why should I care whether you are going out with other ladies or not”
“But if you love me deeply then you will never try to control me; instead you will trust me more. You know that when I stay here I work very hard so sometime I need to relax. Also I need friends; I just can not go to office, work for the whole day then come back and stay in my room. I will become mad soon if I do like that”
“I trust you but I don’t trust your Thai lady friends. They know how to please a man. You know very well what happened with my ex-husband. He was a good man but when we were staying far he started going with his lady friend. And then one day he told me that he wanted to divorce me because he loves her, wants to be with her. I lost everything”
“I know that you had been through very bad experience in past life but you can not always live in that shadow. Then you will never know me truly. You can not compare between me and your ex-husband; we are different persons with very different value systems. It really depends on the man, if I am strong then nothing will happen to our relationship”
There was a long sigh at the other end “With you I got back all my happiness. I can not afford to loose you; it will be very hard for me”
“But I just can not stay in my home and be with you all the time. I work in office, meet customers, I meet many people in my life and many of them are women. Some of them became good friend over time. In my mind I see them as friend not as a woman. They are only my friends. And you have already talked with them, you know them well. So why do you fear?”
“I already told you that I fear because I scare that I will loose you again like my ex-husband. You know well that I don’t like to go out and I don’t have many friends. I have only you and Nuer but they go out so they have many friends”
“It’s not about them. It’s about me. I need my own space. This space is necessary for my growth. May be you also should make some friends; sometime go out for dinner or to sing a song at a karaoke with them. You are not just my wife or the mother of Nuer, you have a mind soul of yourself. Knowing more people will broaden your view and understanding of life. More over that will help you to understand why another person needs that space. So it’s not only me, in future when Nuer will go out with friends to have fun, you can accept that with proper understanding. Khao Chai?”
“For me friends are not important. I am happy with my family that is you and Nuer. But I understand that you are not like me. I will try to be patient but don’t stay late. I scare accident. It is almost 1 AM so lock the door and sleep”
I said with an affectionate voice “Love you sweet heart; bye” then we hung-up.
I came out in the balcony. The neighborhood was slumbering under clear night sky. The soi which was busy with food vendors, noisy with the sound of machineries from the shoe factory was lying idle like long black hair of an Isaan lady. The crescent moon was stuck between the branches of a tall tree. Except my mind everything else was still in the breathless nature. In that quite moment I felt that beyond her fear lays a heart full of love and compassion. A memory from distant past carried her voice “I am a weak person; please don’t leave me” I never fully understood what she wanted to say at that time. But at that very moment of quietness, I realized that she knew well that her fear made her a weak person. But what she didn’t know is that her awareness of that fear also is her strength to bring the change.
Sometime I enjoy spending quite time with myself; reflecting, reading books on a beach, walking alone on a road just observing the crowd and colors of life around. It’s a way to nourish life with new experience. I don’t know about other people but I need that little extra space, it helps me to grow and to know the most mysterious person who stays always with me, that is I, and to experience the thrill of knowing the unknown and seeing the unseen. So when I stay back in Bangkok due to work, sometime I take the opportunity to go out to a nearby beach resort during week ends.
On that particular occasion, on Thursday I was suddenly informed by my boss of an urgent meeting to be held on the following Tuesday. Instead of going back to Udon for only two three nights, I decided to stay back and relax in one of the nearby beach resort. I booked my hotel in Pattaya via internet, bought couple of books from Kinokunya and was ready for my brief week end sojourn. As I was about to head towards Ekamai bus station, my wife called “We have kathin festival this weekend; I am planning to go to temple with you and Nuer”
“I am not going this week end. I have a meeting on Tuesday so I don’t want to go to Udon only for two nights” My answer was very short and to the point. May be I became little apprehensive about another misunderstanding.
She asked in a playful voice “What will you do during week end?”
I vaguely answered “I am not sure, may be I will visit a nearby quite place. But for sure I will not stay in Bangkok” after a pause I continued “I love ocean so thinking of going to Jomtien or Pattaya ”
She just said “OK. Just be careful if you go out at night, don’t stay out too late; I scare for accident and one more thing” after a brief pause she said slowly “You can do whatever makes you happy but please don’t forget your family”
“Sure, I will give you a call. And I understand what you have said Tirak” I assured her.
“You called me Tirak after a long time; I felt very warm” The touch of sadness in her voice suddenly made me very affectionate.
I said “Tirak sounds very sweet, same as Narak” We both laughed. I felt in her laughter the same sweet lively lady whom I met first time in Chiang-Rai airport many years back in a cold winter evening; her voice was very refreshing without any shadow of suspicion.
She asked me “What will you bring for me?”
“An old fat man with very young heart” I answered.
During the day long exposure to tropical sun on the beach had rendered me exhausted. With the night fall a balmy breeze came from the ocean to rejuvenate the fatigued body.
I was sauntering through a dimly lit soi in Pattaya, motor bikes were zipping passed dangerously. Girls were clustered in front of the bars perusing farangs to step in and share a lady-drink. The flashing jolly neon lights, sound of hard rock music and their wild laughter melted in a sensuous potpourri to nourish the soul of the night. As I was walking in front of a bar, one of the girls came out, gripped my hand tightly and dragged me in. I felt that same old excitement; every moment was full of possibilities.
There was a farang seating on a bar stool keeping his right arm on the table, facing the door. His long uncombed white hair came down on his forehead and obscured part of his left eye. Looking at me in a drunken haze he said “Looks like you have lived here far too long; in land of smile”
“Yes, I am living here from another life” I answered jokingly.
“Then we met each other before in that space” he broke into a wild laughter.
My girl hit playfully on my back, and then motioned me to seat on a bar stool. She was a typical Isaan girl in her early twenties with a perfectly round face, emerald green skin. Her eyes were playful and smile was intoxicating. And even in Pattaya, in a bar full of farangs I could smell the green rice in her slender body, which emanates a warmth more than just cold professional sex of west.
There was no need to start a conversation with “Why did you come to bar?” as I knew all the probable answers. More over instead of reminding her of a solemn past I thought it would be more appropriate to enjoy that moment of freedom. Why to fill a moment with sadness when it could be filled with the nectar of a pleasant playful conversation and may be more.
Looking at her round face and the flat nose I said “I am sure that you are from Isaan”.
“I am from Buriram. How do you know?”
“You have an Isaan nose and an Isaan smile”.
“And pumpui” She motioned my hand onto her stomach. It was her naval that I touched. I felt the soft round flesh with my finer tip; then started moving my hand gently around her waist. There was no iota of fat. I felt a smooth green rice field went down the valley I dared not to venture. We looked at each other’s eyes; and we knew what we were looking for. I felt sometime language is a barrier in communication.
She kissed my hand with her thick warm lips, put her arms around me and rested her forehead on my shoulder. “Do you like me?” It was not a question which needed an answer.
Nestled in her arms, I was melting like a Swiss butter; I whispered in her ears “Suai mak mak; you are very beautiful” She giggled.
“You can speak Thai very well. Do you have a Thai wife?”.
Although the question was very innocuous and customary, it hit me like a rock. With its underlying truth it brought me back into reality. I felt I was standing on an edge of a gorge, beyond that there was only darkness. I looked back and there was she standing far away trying to tell me something. I barely could hear her voice. The wind blew to carry her words to me “You can do whatever makes you happy but please do not forget your family” And then the mist slowly filled the gap between us leaving me alone at the edge of the gorge. A sudden feeling of helplessness shuddered through my body.
I said “I have to go”.
Then I ran out of the bar like a mad man leaving the wild laughter behind. That was to escape from myself. The empty road was laying in front in a drunken stupor. I called my wife, heard the phone rang; each ring was like my heart beat.
“What happened?” Ah, it’s the same voice full of warmth and assurance.
“Where are you?” I asked, I was panting, almost out of breath.
“I am here darling” a sound of laughter, so natural and authentic.
I closed my eyes and told myself “Yes I know now, you are here very close to me”.
“You don’t have to call so often. We are fine. You went there to relax, enjoy your time” I heard the sound of her breath during a short pause, then she told “I trust you” I felt her voice was very deep coming from the darkness in front, like sound of waves on the shore.
Before I could say that I don’t trust myself, she told “I have to take shower; I will call you later” and we both hung-up. Was it the same lady who was jealous and angry with me for going out with friends? The serenity in her tone was an indication of her trust and stability. May be over time the faith had been restored, she found the inner strength to believe that she will not loose me.
The night sky full of stars left me alone. The darkness descended as I closed my eyes. I sighed and told to myself “Darling, I am a very weak person, much weaker than you. Please stay always by my side and share your love. It’s your love which keeps me awake and it’s your trust which makes me responsible. I hope, slowly over time with you being my side I will get the courage to trust myself”.
Very nice. I like your writing style which I find rather quaint.