Readers' Submissions

Smile




"Little rabbit Fru Fru goes bopping around the forest —(Line from a childhood song)


I cry about once a decade, and that is usually in the dark of a cinema, so when I started feeling myself cry, I expected my wife to accept its rare appearance as proof of sincerity, and so was very surprised when after opening the door to me, she slammed it in my face. Didn't she know that for a macho Brit-born, Southern California living dude like me she should be sensitive when I opened up the tear ducks?

Surprise, surprise, Filipina tampo check mated dude emorse.

It was early morn in my Filipina wife's small village outside Manila, in Rizal province, and the roosters were singing up a storm, which my hangover blues were not appreciating. In my current situation I was a citizen of Desperation City.

I was here to get my wife back. She was negatively freaked about my encounters of the sexual kind with a certain Aberdeen lass I had met in Ao Nang. While wifey was in our hotel room, one morn, I was in another one, with the fore mentioned Aberdeen lass. Blame it on a midlife crisis caused by turning thirty. Blame it on the erotic atmospheres of vacation in Thailand. Just don't blame it on a rather narcistic realhood. That would be too close for comfort. It is always easier to look the other way. Avoid the mirror.

But now I was trying to do the right thing and redeem. Ask my wife to forgive, though distractions joined the roosters in causing me to be on the last of my nerves. My kingdom for a drink; that is, for many drinks.

There was Mali the Thai girl who was now starting to text me that she couldn't stop thinking of me. She wanted to stop working thus. Could I send her a little help so she could devote freer hours to freer thinking of only me? Could it be in dollars, please?

The Aberdeen lass was, alas, also still in the distracter equation. She had just shown up in my mother's Hove residence, and somehow had become chums with her, and now the maternal element was speaking of the Aberdeen's charm. (Little did my mummy realise the charm to me was first peeps of red bush in a Ao Nang hotel swimming pool.)

I walked back to the family house down the road. My wife had retreated to her aunt's house when she heard I was coming to town. It was still early in the morning and just a few people were out.

The house was typical, with much of its concrete unpainted. The comfort room (loo) had a bucket of water beside the toilet for the full flush effect. The air always seemed full of flies. Poverty sometimes reads quaint but rarely ever is. It's always messy and needy and hungry and money is always the first consideration. I have spent enough time in this Filipino small town to wonder how anyone with options would choose to remain in these small huddles of community, whether it be in Land of Smiles or middle America.

One of my sister-in-laws was awake and making hot chocolate called Milo, and a fried egg. Her husband came in, saw me, and with his fingers made the magic sign of fingers holding an invisible beer bottle, bringing the fingers up as to drink. He knew about 5 words of English but had all the fingers required to communicate aspiration for San Miguel relief.

What to do?

I might as well drink. Habits are easy to keep. I nodded yes. But then he looked puzzled. Oh. Ok.. I get it. I pulled out some pesos. My main job in this family, I fully understood after a couple years of marriage.

As he went to get some beer from God knows where at this time of the morning, I thought about things.. I had pissed away my job in the States teaching art at a private school in Southern California. Blame it on that vacation mentioned in Thailand. I could not leave the beauty of the Krabi beaches; or blame it on the stress brought about by Scottish pubic entanglements; or hell, blame it on the 9 to 5 world I had become imprisoned in.. How many Stickmates had written of this world and then escaped to Thailand.

One problem I now faced was money, or the lack of it. What to do?

I had two things of great monetary value: both were pictures. One was a Lucien Freud portrait given to me by my father on my 18th birthday. It was a portrait of a nude old lady. She's very ugly, by the way. But the picture's worth, in the way of the art world, equals many years of vacation life if I were to sell it. The other picture of worth is one of my own. It's a bit of a joke.

I always had pretense, I suppose you might say, of being an "artiste". Of course, I've never been able to make a decent living by painting. My father, on the other hand, has prospered. I should say he started out painting his vision, but found people who commissioned portraits of themselves wanted only their fantasies portrayed. I remember very clearly the lady in San Marino who refused the picture my father painted of her. My father painted another which made her seem younger and prettier. She loved it. Lesson learned, I guess, on my father's part.

By the way, the woman is now my stepmother, and my father lives just a couple blocks away from the Huntington Library. He can walk to it, though he always takes the Lexus.

Anyway, back to that picture. My mother was always teasing me about my artistic pretensions. As a joke, for her, I told her I would purposely paint the most cheesy painting I could imagine: I painted a portrait of Christ with the features resembling me, blond hair and all, and definitely not looking Middle Eastern.

She loved it!

She hung it on a living room wall along with some of my other "real" pictures. One of her friends, a hotel owner in Brighton, had then seen it and offered me a handsome sum for it. It was the only time in my life one of my pictures had brought such a high offer.

Quite the joke, eh.

How have I ended up here: rebuffed by my Filipina wifey, with background visions in my brain folds of Aberdeen red and Mali black V hairs?

I like reading some Stick submissions to see how some make sense of their lives. There are very few happy endings, however. Damn, I want one of those happy endings, but in my life so far I can never get to those places where you can stop and enjoy the cool freeze frame. How do you get there, people?

I'm now, in this humid Filipino town, sweating, waiting for the beers, with these thoughts going in my head as I here describe, trying to figure out how to do the right things, and yet, still I gotta avoid the bleak colors that so many other people are living their lives in.

We have only one life, as the cliché goes.

I could stay here for however long it takes.

I could visit my mother in England.

I could go back to the States.

Or maybe.

I could go back to Thailand.

I smile.


Stickman's thoughts:

It's never easy when you're in a dark place. The only advice I can give is to play the long game. Temporary or short-term solutions are like junk food and provide but a short fix. Have a think about where you want to be in x years time, and then work backwards from there to form the plan that will hopefully make it happen.