The Gravity of My Hell Part 3
The safest looking taxi driver at Roong Reuang Bus Terminal turns out to be a misnomer. They drag race along Nua Road towards the Dolphin Roundabout to Beach Road and Soi 12. It has been 15 months since they had been there. Where he devised their original
plan for her to quit history’s first profession. The plan that life itself, literally life itself, had found a way to eventually derail. It seems the place for a proper goodbye. A memory of a place that the three of them could share. The
hope that their daughter might faintly remember the sensation; blue sky with the sounds of the ocean. On the beach she holds their daughter while facing away from him. She is whispering gently in Cambodian to their baby underneath the crash of
the waves. He wants to know. He wants to ask her what she is saying but knowing it better to leave their moment unspoiled and to them. He knows she is preparing in a way that will comfort her as she needs. A way in which he has no capability.
He needs to do the same. He needs to follow his own path to their conclusion. He knows that the potential energy of their relationship will only cause the fall to be that much faster and harder. He needs to find something that can alter the physics
of the relationship itself…
He turns back to his thoughts in order to find uncolored pieces from the past for an alternate perspective. Something that can both deepen and slow his shallow and rapid breaths…
…She first told me that she was pregnant to punctuate her end of an argument. Not exactly a reason to believe it but confirmation was soon in my hand. The expected due date traced back squarely to the night we had before she left for England. The news turned my life into a waiting room. Every room in my home, my office at work, my car, the treadmill at the gym; each place was the same place in waiting as I was in the same altered life no matter where I was.
Her village was her waiting room. The life she had growing within her was slowly deconstructing her family’s “face.” Girls who went to Pattaya for longer than a month lined up to receive their scarlet letter upon return to the village. They probably handed them out at the bus station. Returning pregnant was head turning. Returning pregnant and alone elicited open commentary from those who didn’t care to understand. Pleading to her mom she worked restaurant and was a “good girl” only half convinced the woman who knew her youngest daughter more than anyone. Telling her mom that she had an American boyfriend who sent her money every month convinced her mom almost the rest of the way to believing her daughter hadn’t fallen. Her mom knew that the baht used to treat her tumor monthly was coming from American dollars. It was no question for her. She was going to meet the man that was helping in part to take care of her. She was going to meet me.
Her dad did what men do best when they find themselves no longer needed or able to fix their little girl's world anymore; they fix everything else. First, and only on his list, was the pick up that even hope had abandoned years ago. Every time she wandered away to cry alone he retreated as she did, alone, to fix, replace, and repair. Resurrected. As little as she needed him then he knew that the day was fast approaching where everything would come down to him and his handiwork. Run near perfection it did as it was driven by him, shortly after midnight, for the long ride to Surin after her first contraction.
Worried looks from her were returned with knowing glances from the nurses and confident looks from the doctors. The gripping, steady and rhythmic pain was dissipated by her mom’s steady physical presence at her side from hallway, to elevator, to delivery room. Bright lights accompanied the commotion that was inherent to a baby being born at that moment, whether she was ready or not. That is until she cried a just little bit as she held our daughter for the first time…This was what I thought happened. This was the scenario that I saw in my head. This was how I imagined it. In reality I was thousands of miles away when it occurred. I received a one word SMS that caused me to only pause briefly as I gave my technical sales presentation to my company’s latest target group of investors. The two of us had become the three of us.
A countless number of assurances were made to me before I boarded my next flight to Thailand shortly thereafter. When I first met her I was told I could never ever visit her village unless I was going to definitely marry her. She said that she could never bring more than one man to her home. This was how they did things in her village. This fact paused her and it definitely paused me for sure as well from making that trip on both levels. I got mixed reviews when asking other Thai people the question as to whether this was true or not. Most that I asked said that it was true, especially in some parts of the country. I was assured by her before boarding this particular flight that this time was a visit so that her mom could just thank me in person and nothing more. More than a bit anxious to see my daughter for the first time pushed my ringing questions into the back of my thoughts.
It takes 24 hours, give or take, to go from home to hotel in Thailand when flying from the U.S., a whole day essentially. A day and half when including the time difference. She met me in Pattaya for the bus ride to Surin. What a difference a day makes. During the bus ride bouts of questions and silence between us, my questions and her not answering, brought forth that indeed her mom was planning. Relatives had already been informed and friends were to be there. The pig’s head with incense had already been arranged with the hen and the rooster coming next. Money was expected from me to her parents and she wanted her parents to look good from this respect. She didn’t have the will, way, or the words to explain to her mom that this was just supposed to be a visit for me. She took full advantage of the 10 hours it took to get to Surin. She had extracted the favor from me by the time we passed Prasat. For us to have no marriage expectations between us but for me to help her and her family save face by being there for her when no one thought I would ever come back for her. We were to go through with the ceremony for those negotiated reasons. We arrived at her village, which was actually about 40km outside of Surin, to questioning surprise but approving smiles from most. I saw my daughter and touched her head briefly before she was hoarded away by the women there. I had been traveling for 40 hours, U.S. to Bangkok to Pattaya to Surin to Village, and I didn’t have the will at that moment to figure that one out. She took me to her room where she slept for a rundown of what I was to do for that whole day. She got through about 1% of what I needed to know before my fatigue and the start of the ceremony interrupted her together. I understand some Thai. Everyone spoke Cambodian. I was lost in a “Central World” of Babel. I wai’d and knelt and wai’d my way through the prompts and motions. The pig head with burning incense between us, her parents, and Buddha. I stopped asking her to interpret as she stopped answering early on. We knelt before her parents with our heads bowed and our forearms together as yellow dyed strings, with 20 baht notes attached, were tied to my wrist and to hers. The mood change painted the anticipation. Her grandmother, while spitting some red chewing material, said something. The first time she had chosen to speak that day. I heard her one word above anything else because it was a Thai word. I finally grasped something that was said for the first time that day. I slowly turned and looked at the girl whom I was tied to. Who then had yellow strings on her wrists identical to mine. She answered the question that she knew was coming before I even asked. “Yes, we are married now” she said. Those were the only words I could get out of her.
There was however a situation that I more than fully comprehended that day. Halfway through the drinking and wai’ing of the ceremony a man walked into the room and stood to the side away from the activity in the center of the room. He paused, surveyed the scene, and then casually strolled back outside. He was not the least bit interested in what was going on with his niece and her visitor from who knows where. I knew exactly who he was. She didn’t need to prompt me. I slipped the small booklet, with the 10,000 baht tucked in the middle, from my back pocket into her hand. She was up and out of the door before I could even pull my hand back. She was quick, she was crafty. I liked these things about her. She was already back at my side from meeting her Uncle outside before I could even finish that thought. No need for formality at that point. I was to meet him later….
.…He instinctively places his hand on the similar booklet that he has in his front pocket now. She is still by the ocean. Still whispering in Cambodian to their baby but this motion from him grabs her attention above all else. She looks out one more time over the ocean before taking his queue to stand and go. The beach chair vendor is happy enough to be fully paid for the only 15 minutes they were there. He hails a taxi for them. She slips inside the open taxi door still holding the baby, still looking out over the ocean. He pauses before getting into the taxi. He looks in the same direction in which she is looking. He finally sees it too. Finally coming close to understanding. This is their proper goodbye they sense together. He joins her in the backseat. The vendor watches the airport taxi out of sight as it rides away with the three of them. No one else on the beach notices.
The driver could care less that the man and woman in the backseat of his taxi never said a word to each other, never faced one another during the trip. She is quiet. He is silent. He wants to leave the image in his mind of her gazing out of the window on the bus just a few hours before as is. He still has a secret. His silence the whole way to the airport is his concerted effort to keep it to himself. Any sound from him and the words he didn’t want to imagine saying to her now will escape between anything else he would have said. Besides, they have already said goodbye. He can say what he has to say only one time for now he concludes; just one shot and he decides that she wouldn’t be the one to hear it just yet.
He thumbs yet again at the yellow strings on his wrists as they approach Suvarnabhumi Airport. She is doing the same, identical. It has only been 2 days since they were tied together in marriage to each other at her village. Tradition dictates they keep their strings tied for 3 days. Touching his has a grounding effect for him. Anyone with a keen eye would notice the difference between them and the other mixed couples at the airport. Most farang leave their crying Issan Princesses at the door of the taxi as they enter the airport. His crying Issan Princess enters the airport with him. There was no discussion. There was nothing to be said that wasn’t already clandestinely laid to bare. It was her plan in fact. She was a smart girl. She knew that staying in her village yielded no money and a poor education for their daughter. She knew going back to Pattaya would yield shame on her from her village as a new wife. It was easy for her to get a visa back to England as she had been there before. Her sister in England provided the funds. Her sister’s husband, an Englishman, provided the sponsorship. Her uncle, recently promoted supervisor at Suvarnabhumi passport control, would provide the way to get their baby to a better country….her words, not his. He was still in love with this amazing, paralyzingly-beautiful 19 year old girl from Kap Cheong. Cupid’s hollow point had done its internal damage that day on Walking Street 15 months before. She did not betray him but his heart stopped anyway. The 3 of them separate through passport control.
He boards his flight a short time later. 28 hour time travel. The decision to fly to Toronto first and then drive to the U.S. from there only added meaningless hours to his journey. Arriving home he stops short in his kitchen. He places 1 of the 2 things that he has brought with him on to the floor. The other one he places into his lap as exhaustion, in its purest uncut form, sits him down at his kitchen table. Everything feels heavy to him. He finds the courage to finally look at the newer and thinner of the two small blue booklets in his front pocket. The one he pulls out and opens is the one that her Uncle had slid across the counter, as planned, to him at passport control in Suvarnabhumi just 28 hours before. Having been born a few weeks before his daughter, his niece’s U.S. passport bore enough of a resemblance to his infant Thai daughter. The 10,000 baht was no longer tucked into the middle of the passport but a Thai visa stamp stating that his “daughter” had “entered” Thailand with him just the week before was in its place. They received their identically dated exit stamps in their separate passports together as he cradled her in one of his arms while standing in line. The Uncle was steadfast in his manner as he worked the computer and their documents. He looked up for just one brief moment, only to motion the next in line; not at them. Her plan. She wanted their daughter to be raised in a better country. Her words, not his.
He cuts a yellow string from just one of his wrists and ties it to one of daughters wrists; symbolizing their union. She looks at him and smiles in such a way proving Thai girls are born to smile the way they do, magnetic; genetic. He doesn’t look up but he takes note of the headlights sweeping a slow arc across the front of the house. A car door closes outside. He begins to feel even more weight. He knows that it is time to give away his secret. He whispers it to the tiny infant in his lap, the only person he decides to tell. The weight increases across every sq. inch of his body triggered by the keys meeting the lock to his front door. He looks to his right, off into the dark empty of his family room. He looks to his left into the kitchen. He oddly notes the father’s day card that still hangs there from months before. Similar to the 6 he has received in years before from his daughter and the 4 that he has already received from his son. The moment thrust a slow temperature elevation across his body as the weight persists. His pocket vibrates incessantly with unheard unviewed voicemails and text messages from England. He doesn’t respond. He has already told their daughter his held back words. She is 9 months pregnant for the third time and is off balance a bit, feeling the kicks of the baby inside her no doubt. This is the only reason why his wife of 10 years isn’t already through the front doorway of their home. She eventually enters; setting bags down to the side of the entrance and straightens to greet him from his business trip to Thailand. She is cut off by the tiny cry coming from his lap…
This is the gravity of my hell.
Very nice story.