Profile – Carlos’s Curse
Carlos first came to visit Thailand in 1999 when I was still a relative newbie to the area. We’d never really been friends but rather strong acquaintances who lived near each other and had some common business interests. Carlos inherited the family business which was a ski shop. Seasonal in nature he’d make a lot of money for about seven months of the year and then spend the next five months doing a combination of traveling to trade shows and making deals for future stock and of course personal travel. I’d always admired his wife who was a few years younger but very grounded with her own career. Large house with a pool, nice cars, business owner, he was one of those guys set up through family who seemed to do very well. We’d talked about him visiting Thailand before, but I was a bit surprised when I met him at the airport and he was alone and a great deal thinner and older looking than I remembered him not even a year earlier.
Hollow sunken eyes with black circles, grayish skin, gaunt even, he just wasn’t the same handsome picture of health and fitness that helped make him successful. I tried talking to him but he was tired and distant and said he just wanted to sleep. Remembering my first trip over I understood and having already arranged a small apartment for him at Greenery House I had the key already so I just let him in and left him to get some rest after making sure he knew what room was mine. Later the next afternoon he knocked on the door and apologized for the night before. He explained that his wife learned she had ovarian cancer right after I left the area and six months later had died. Since her death he suffered personally and his business wasn’t doing well either. He’d failed to get all the newest lines in stock and according to him this last year his shop was mostly empty as his customers headed for the competition. He’d started drinking, left his church, and basically fell apart. Knowing his wife I could understand his loss, but having never been in his shoes refrained from passing judgment on the way he was handling his grief.
That first night we hit Patpong and we spent the first 2 – 3 hours going from bar to bar as I explained to him about barfines, scams, and how everything worked. Whatever you do I said, don’t bring any one-nighters back to the condo, instead rent a short time hotel where you can walk out and disappear the first time you get the urge. Eventually we ended up over in the Cowboy and I think it was at Suzie Wong’s that he first showed an interest in one of the girls. We’ve all seen the new guys in the bars, they can’t take their eyes off the dancers as they look almost hypnotized by the flesh and lights. He looked more like he’d just been raptured. Love at first sight? Maybe. Lots of guys were falling in love with Nid that night. Long lean body with small B cup sized breasts and hair all the way down her back in her beauty she almost looked out of place in a bar. Not a single tattoo, piercing other than her ears, or any real signs she’d been in the bar scene long at all. Many guys asked for her, but she said she only danced and didn’t “go with customers.” Carlos couldn’t take his eyes off her and she was all he could talk about in the taxi back home. He’d tried to buy her a drink and she’d refused which I thought very odd, and was more than a bit confused when the mamasan appeared to dress her down for refusing the attention she was getting. I remember thinking that if the police were putting female undercover agents in the bars she would fit the profile.
The next day early I was out doing my daily swim and Carlos came out looking quite different than the day before. His eyes were brighter and his step lighter and he had that look of happiness so many men get during their first days at the theme park. He kept asking me questions as I was trying to swim my laps so I finally had to stop and tell him not to get so excited over one girl. I told him the bars were full of girls and we could go to more bars tonight. He wanted to go now. He actually wanted to get to the bar before they opened and talk to this girl before they opened and it got loud and busy. He wouldn’t listen, and later I found a note on my door saying he was going to do just that.
Two days passed and I didn’t see him so I started to worry. Security said he hadn’t been back for two days so that night I went looking for him. Inside Suzie’s it was business as usual but Nid was absent and so was Carlos. I showed the mamasan a picture and she made a face and said the “baa farang” had insisted in paying her barfine for the entire week and couldn’t wait to get her out of there. I asked how long Nid had been working in the bar and was told she just started the night before we first saw her. She must have noticed the look of disbelief on my face because she insisted it was true.
Nid had come from “up north” sad and crying and out of money and wanted to work but never went with anyone before Carlos. Why Carlos I asked? Did she even speak English? She called over a dancer who spoke decent English and said she’d interpreted for them. The dancer told me Carlos didn’t want her to work there and kept talking about the life he could give her in the USA and about his business and big house and nice cars. The mamasan looked at me and basically said “You’ve got a problem.” Boy did I.. Now what?
So.. I’m thinking.. “What if I was Carlos..” With his money and my warning not to bring bargirls back to the condo I suspected he’d just check into a familiar hotel. On one trip we took together in the states I remembered his preference for the Sheraton so that’s where I headed. I showed his picture at the front desk and to my relief the receptionist immediately recognized him. She rang his room and waited and then told me he was out. I took a seat by the front door sand waited. About three magazines later in he struts with Nid on his arm who’s carrying shopping bags full of new clothes and whatever else. He saw me and looked a bit embarrassed and handing her the card to the room told her he’d be right up. We sat there and talked for a while and he told me how it was “love at first sight” and how she was perfect for him. He said she wouldn’t even sleep with him, that she was “different” and had only just started working in the bars. That confirmed what the mamasan had told me but still.. I tried to talk some sense into him but he wasn’t listening, he had his mind made up that she was the one and made him feel good again and there was no convincing him otherwise. I tried to get him to read some of the stories on StickmanBangkok.com but he said none of that mattered, that I didn’t know Nid. Indeed I didn’t.
The next day he brought Nid back to the condo and she moved in with him. They became a regular fixture out at the pool and came over a few times to share meals with me. She’d started English classes and seemed to be learning quick. Really, she didn’t have the habits or mannerisms of a bargirl and maybe for those reasons I started to warm to her a bit. More, Carlos was starting to get a tan and his skin color was returning to normal and his voice took on the familiar confidence that helped make him so successful. Carlos was back to his old self and Nid was the reason. My warnings became less strong, my dislike for her turned to admiration, and towards the end of his month in the Kingdom I was actually starting to think maybe she was different. The only suspicion I had was one day I was out walking the soi and I saw her on her mobile arguing in Thai with someone, quite an emotional conversation. I wish I had understood Thai back then.
With four days left before he had to go Carlos knocked on my door and told me he was gong to Chiang Rai to get married the next day and wanted me to be his best man! I really tried hard to talk him out of it. I told him to come back in a month after he’d thought about it, that he could leave Nid in the condo here and just get some separation and time to think. He wasn’t listening. He told me he needed to get back because the ski season was starting and he needed to get married now and get her visa started.
The next day we landed in Chiang Rai and were met by Nid’s family, mom, pop, sisters and brothers. They all seemed happy and welcomed Carlos and me to their village and homes and over the course of the next two days there were celebrations, dinners, and the ceremony as Carlos once again became married. On the second morning I was out walking early before it got too warm and ran across Nid and some guy about her own age engaged in what appeared to be a big argument. When they saw me they stopped and she introduced him as her cousin and said they disagreed over what kind of alcohol to have at the ceremony and party. On reflection I really wish I had learned more Thai by that point, but I’d barely been here a year myself and was involved in other activities that didn’t leave me much free time. Mostly, I enjoyed the trip and had a great time.
Two days later Carlos was on his way back to the States and a visa agent was handling their paperwork. I gave Nid my phone number and told her if she needed anything to contact me, but she never did. Every now and then over the last 6 – 7 years I’d get an email from Carlos telling me how happy they were and how great things were going. I started to think that maybe I was wrong, and chided myself for being so suspicious.
Last year the emails stopped and Carlos didn’t return my calls. At first I figured he was busy or traveling like he did before. By the beginning of last summer I was starting to worry but since we were never close friends I didn’t think about it much. I figured maybe they relocated or maybe even moved back to Thailand and just didn’t tell me.
When I made my last trip home in July I decided to swing by Carlos’s home and see if he still lived there. Pulling into the drive I noticed a new Lexus and a BMW X5i in the garage and smiled to myself thinking he must be doing much better than before. Walking up to the door I reached out to ring the bell when the door opened and standing before me was the man I saw Nid arguing with that day in the village. Surprised a cousin could get a visa so easily but stranger things have happened. I asked for Carlos but he acted like he didn’t understand me and closed the door in my face! WTF? Getting in the car I drove down to his ski shop only to find it was now a bagel bakery.
Later that night I was having dinner at another friend’s house whose wife is Thai and I brought up Carlos and the entire table went silent. Rob said we’d talk about it after dinner when the kids were in bed. We finished eating but I could sense the festive mood and happy feeling were gone. Everyone was looking at the plate and wouldn’t look me in the eye. After dinner his wife shuffled the kids off for showers and bed and Rob and I took some ice tea and sat out by the pool.
Rob was just looking straight ahead and saying nothing. Sitting there for a few minutes pretending to watch the fake waterfall the silence finally got the better of me and I asked him straight out where Carlos was. Rob looked at me and started the story: The entire Thai community thought Carlos and Nid the perfect couple, throughout the first five years she was always well behaved and did everything possible to gain his trust and respect. Last year they’d planned a surprise party for the day she was to be sworn in as a US Citizen but Carlos and Nid didn’t show for their own party. The next day in the paper they read that Carlos has committed suicide. When the truth finally came out months later it was learned that on the day she became a citizen she had Carlos served with divorce papers alleging physical and sexual abuse and demanding half of everything and an impossible amount of alimony. Carlos in his grief locked himself in the garage with the car running and drank until he passed out. Everyone thinks he was probably waiting for Nid to come out of the house when she heard the car running and she’d see how much he loved her.. but instead Nid sat in the house and waited till morning to call the police.
Carlos’s will was clear. She got everything. Nid made a trip to Thailand weeks after he died and six months later her “cousin” followed and took up residence in her home. Through the Thai grapevine everyone learned that this was her husband all along. She went to Bangkok and the bar hoping to find some guy to marry her with the plan of being a good wife just long enough to get citizenship and then to divorce the guy and bring her real / first husband over. In four more years her “cousin” will also become an American citizen. With the money from the sale of the ski shop and with his house paid for, these two will never have to work again. From Thailand to America, from Rags to Riches, and all it took was the life of a really good hearted generous man.
Until next time…
"She is different." Hell, that is the red flag of all red flags! What an absolute disaster. The thieving wench.