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On The Edge

  • Written by Victor
  • June 11th, 2007
  • 18 min read

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Far from the crowd of the bar and smell of a dark sea there was a small internet café somewhere in a deep soi in Pattaya. It was hiding itself away from all the lights, sounds and vivacity of the night in an obscure quiet corner of the soi with more darkness than light. Even though there was no sound of motorbikes, only the sound of traffic from the main road was overflowing into this quietness but I decided to go forward since that was the only one within a walking distance from my hotel.

When I stepped inside the café, I found the lady was about to go out at least that’s what I guessed as she was standing in front of the door. There was nobody else except her so I assumed that she was the person in-charge of the cafe. There
were six computers in total three on one side and other three on the other side placed in two parallel rows up against the walls creating a small space in between. The monitors had a screen saver running with a word “System Lock”
and I assumed that somebody would have to enter a password to unlock the screen. I asked her politely showing one of the monitors adjacent to her desk “I want to use internet?”

She was little confused about what to do. She was trying to decide whether to leave me alone in the shop or to wait for me to finish surfing and then go out to do whatever she needed to do. We both looked at each other and we both laughed a laugh which
makes you light and which breaks the barrier between two people unknown to each other. I felt she was still thinking whether it’s worth taking the risk of leaving me alone a complete stranger in the shop. Her wavering state forced me to
ask “Are you going out somewhere?”

“I want to go and buy something to eat. I feel very hungry” she said with a distinct hesitation. I thought she must have been very hungry and was about to go out to get her dinner and at that very moment I appeared and put her in a dilemma.
But I had no choice as I had to check my emails. I was expecting couple of very important emails from one of my clients.

I assured her “You can go; I will wait here for you to come back”

“Maybe I should wait”

“If you are hungry you can go and get your dinner. I can wait outside. Don’t worry” I understand that it is difficult to believe a stranger in a city like Pattaya full of flotsam of west. May be she had already seen many of them so
I could not blame her for not trusting me. In order to ease her tension I stepped outside the shop.

Then she said with an embarrassing smile “No problem. You can check internet and I will come back within five minutes”

She unlocked the monitor and I silently thanked her with a half hearted wai. She went out to buy her dinner and I opened the browser to check my emails. She came back within ten minutes with her food, steaming noodles in a white plastic
bowl. It suddenly filled the air trapped in the room with the aroma of lemon grass, a smell which always reminded me of Thailand in those days when I used to live far away from this beautiful land back in California. I asked “Arroy mak mak?”

She quietly nodded her head to tell me it was delicious. While eating her noodle she asked “You came here for vacation?”

“Yes but only for one night. My family stays in Udon. Usually I stay in Bangkok for two weeks and in Udon for two weeks but this time I have an important meeting on Monday and I had to work on Saturday as well so I was
very stressed and came here to relax for a night” Now I got time to look at her face. She did not have the grace or beauty of a Bangkok lady coming from an upper class Thai-Chinese family but her small nose, uneven rows of teeth, a golden
brown face full of acne told me that she is a simple lady from one of the Issan villages. Still there was a child like innocence floating in her eyes oozing out of her smile. Her voice was not sweet but had a strange endearing touch you
will find in the songs of the Issan farmers during harvest time.

“Good for you. Does she know you came here to relax?” she chuckled.

I got the essence of her question she wanted to know whether I am sleeping around when my wife is away “Yes she knows for sure, she only suggested me to go out of Bangkok for a night and relax. She knows last week was very hard for me. Are you
working here for a long time?”

“About six months, but it is very difficult to live with the money I get from the shop. I only get six thousand Baht but my room rent is two thousand Baht. Then I pay for food and also send money to my daughter and my parents. Before this I was
working in a beauty salon where my salary was only four thousand baht. I could not manage my life with that so I had to change my job”

“How old is your daughter?”

“She is eight years old. She stays with my parents in Chyaphum

“What about her father?”

“Her father went to Taiwan for work when she was only three months old. We thought that he will work there for two three years and save enough money to start a good life here. My father sold one rai of our farm land to support
his travel expenses. We lost our land and he never came back or sent money to support me and my daughter. After about one year I heard from one of our common friends that he has another lady, they both were working in the same factory in Taiwan.
She does not have a father who care for her”

“She does not have a father and you are also away from her. Life is really tough for that little girl. Do you miss her?”

“I miss her with every breath but I can not bring her here. I can not afford her school and also I work everyday very late so I can not take care of her properly”

“I can understand it is difficult to take care of a kid and work long hours simultaneously”

She continued “The problem is we are very close to each other. I did not work till she was four and gave all my time to her but I have started working again once she started going to school. That’s why we miss each other so much”

“It is very hard for a mother to be away from her kid. Sometime my wife stays back at her school when she has to attend a seminar or finish her project work along with her colleagues. She will call almost every hour just to check what my son is
doing”

“Yes mothers are like that. Their heart always stays with their kids”

I was thinking about the little girl back in Chyaphum who would spend her childhood without her mother’s hug. I could see a baby girl looking through the window for her mother with the warmth of hope in her little heart. Her eyes
looked beyond the road, beyond the rice fields into the sky where everyday the silver moon rise and fall silently. She never heard the bed time stories form her Khun Ta and Khun Yai. By the time the wind carried the murmur and
the humming of cicadas rose from nearby bushes they were sleeping and snoring after a hard day’s work.

When I am away from my family and away from my little one he always tells me over phone “Pa is coming and Nong Nuer is waiting for Pa”. He tells his heart that his father is on the way and it is just a
matter of time before he arrives and hugs him tight. Sometime he goes out of the door and searches in the darkness of night for me. Sometimes he sleeps near the door getting tired of waiting for me. And in those nights what he dreams I don’t
know.

The little girl in Chyaphum probably also followed the darkness and silence of the night in search of her father till she got tired and slept near the door to accept one day the fact that the road to her village is too long for her father
to come. And for the man who went to Taiwan and never came back, do come back to see the scars you left in these two lives. You never dared even to write a letter to your daughter who now goes to school and can read.

I still remember the first time when I took my son to show sea, he was speechless at the sight of that vast expanse of endless water with multitudes of approaching waves. He did not know the name of her so he only could point towards it with his finger
and jumped in joy. Then I and he rushed into the waves with childish madness. Thus his life got nourished with another sweet memory. That was the first time he learned the word Thalay with a very sweet memory attached to it. With
all those memories his innocent soul would be nourished to create a person who can share love in future.

And for this little girl with every day passing by without such a loving memory life will leave a void which nobody can fill. How she will evolve as a person in future I don’t know but for sure it will have its bearing. But she is not the only
one who is growing up away from her parents, if you ask any lady over twenty five from Issan working in a bar or in a normal job most of them will say that their kids are living in her village with their Khun Ta and Khun Yai.

“Do you have a boyfriend? Most of the single ladies in Pattaya have a farang boy friend”

“Yes, my boyfriend is from Norway”

“How old is he?”

“He is fifty two, an old man. Old man is better they will not butterfly and will be more responsible” she laughed.

“How old are you?”

“Thirty one, old by Thai standard”

“May be you are old by Thai standard, but still young and attractive in my standard”

She laughed loud “Really?”

“If you don’t believe me then you can ask other man”

Pakwan

“Do you like your boy friend?” I asked.

“Yes I like him but he does not send any money. He told me that he is not rich. May be I am a stupid lady to believe him. The ladies from bar who come here to check email also tell me stupid. But I am patient, may be he is really poor but have
a good heart. He told me that he will take me to Norway. Then I can work there and earn money and I can give my daughter a good life and a good future. What do you think?”

“For me it is difficult to comment on your situation. But if you two are in a serious relationship and if he loves you deeply then he will feel for your daughter too. I mean you two will start taking responsibilities of each others life. That’s
the way your relationship will grow”

“Do you think I should look for another man? He will come again in New Year, may be I will wait for him till that time. If he does not do anything then I will finish and look for other man. I don’t know sometime I get headache. What should
I do?”

These were the questions of life for which she would have to find an answer by herself. I felt she was terribly confused probably by comparing her own situation with the ladies from bar who always enjoys financial support from multiple distant boy friends.
She was caught between a rock and a hard place. I said “You have to know your heart. You know your man more than me. If your heart can trust him then wait and see where it all leads to. As I have said you are still young and you have time”

“Many ladies who work in Bar come here to check email. They tell me to go to bar and work with them. But I don’t want to do that. I can not go out with many men. I scare I never can sleep with a different man every night. I am not a lady
like that”

“If you work in bar then let me know. I will bar fine you whenever I come to Pattaya”

She slapped on my back “Naughty man”

After a pause she continued “May be I should work in bar but not go out with man, may be some other work like accountant. But my friends tell me that if I do not go out with man then I can not earn much money and it will be same like here”

I said “Yes that’s probably true. Unless you go out and sleep with man you can not earn a lot of money from bar”

“I don’t know how to take care of our life. I don’t know whether this man really likes me or not because I did not stay with man for long time so I don’t know how to take care of them, how to please them. I scare may be one
day he will get bored and look for a lady from bar and you know it is very easy in a place like Pattaya” Her voice had the same helplessness of a drowning man who is desperately trying to hold a straw. A shadow of despair paled the brightness
of her face.

“Pattaya is not a good place to start a family life. It is better if you two live somewhere else, may be in your village”

“Lets see. Also I scare that he may not accept my daughter. It will be hard for both of us” then she became silent for a moment in thoughtfulness “But may be I have to accept that. I can not give her what she wants but at least I
can send her money and she can have a good future”

At her tender edge probably she is not looking for a future, she can eat only sticky rice with fish sauce everyday with a smile but without her mother’s hug her heart will be lonely, her spirit will dry up. But that is only true when I think with
that little girl’s mind. But we the responsible adults would have to think for future which she may not be able to understand now.

The man from Norway who would come unaware of these dreams may peruse another lady from the bar which would enervate her spirit. Then one day the wicked soul of the city would enter her heart and take away this smile of innocence from her lips. For the
man from Norway, if you do love her and seriously considering a long term relationship with her, let me tell you that love is not a luxury in this part of the world but a necessity. It is difficult for you to understand what I am telling. May
be at your next trip take a bus and visit a place far away from Pattaya to an unknown unnamed village somewhere in Chyaphum. When you reach there just seat and relax take a deep breathe and look deeply into the eyes of that girl.
You can see her dream her love and how her love is connected with the love of her mother. You can trace back her mother’s dream into this reality. You will experience how they all are connected with one soul called family. Then in future
when you see her you will remember her mother and when you see her mother you will see the shadow of her daughter.

She told “It is already midnight. Now I will close the shop and go to my room. Your hotel is on my way”

“We can walk together up to my Hotel” I said.

We both came out and slowly started walking towards the main road in the darkness occasionally disturbed by the street lights. The main road which runs parallel to the beach road was bustling in light sound and wild screams from the adjacent bars. May
be they all had come to this city from east west north south of Thailand with a hope, with a dream and probably they had tried too but slowly the loveless gloom of the city devoured their dreams like a python consumes her helpless prey. We were
both immersed in our own thoughts, wandering in our own world. May be she was pondering over her dilemma whether to work in a bar or not or whether to look for another man who can support her with money. Suddenly she said “This is your
hotel”

I became conscious; yes we were standing in front of my hotel. I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I was walking like a somnambulist totally unaware of the surroundings. She smiled “Good night and if you come to Pattaya again then drop by to
my shop”

She was thoughtfully quite for a moment then lifting her head she said in a dream like voice as if she was talking with herself “I still wonder how could a man do such things to somebody he loves? I don’t understand what I didn’t
give him so that he had to look for another lady. He never came back to touch his daughter, so lovely baby” It was not a question for me and I felt she already had the answer. It was just an echo of her dreadful experience and feeling of
not being loved. The question started vibrating within me with all of its strength. And then with more intense force the question came out of the narrow boundary of the relationship between her and her ex-husband and threw itself on the face of
all the men who left their family in pursuit of pleasure.

“I don’t know. May be he never loved you deeply or may be he was not looking for love in a relationship. But there are good men in this world. Do not loose your faith. I hope that one day you will meet a good person with whom you can start
a warm family life”

“That is my dream” she said with a long sigh.

Then she smiled a smile from the very depth of her heart, a smile not driven by thoughts or motifs. It was just a simple smile which stays with you like a feeling of peace. In my office I have seen many well educated urbanized Bangkok girls, they think
before smile. They measure how much to smile and how to smile before they smile. And I find it often claustrophobic and constipating. But for her it was natural like music of a flowing river glistening with tiny waves. You can see the riverbed
through the transparent flowing water. It was a smile without a reason like a morning due drop on a blade of grass fresh and beautiful.

“Good night” I saw her back slowly disappearing in the darkness. I stood there in front of the hotel alone for a while. There was me and the darkness which took her away from my sight. I looked up for hope in the star filled sky and there
was a silver moon just coming out of the gently moving clouds. Let me stand here for a moment and savor the memory of the time we just shared, let me take the fragrance of her life full of hope and fear through my breath since tomorrow I have
to go back to a busy life which may wash away all these moments of deep connection.

I said to myself I know life has pushed you very hard to the edge but I will not accept the end of your dream, a dream of a family, and a dream of a simple loving life. I know even if you are drowned in darkness you have the strength to come out with
a pure heart. I have seen a smile on your face which can endure many more pains than what you went through in your life.

Stickman's thoughts:

So Victor, the big question is was this fiction, or a true story? If fiction, you got the characters down pat!