It’s My Affair – The End
I lay on the bed alone. My girlfriend had just told me that she carried HIV and our affair was over. ‘Mai pen rai’ was all she had to say.
My story leading up to this point was Stick’s submission of the week.
I’d played recklessly with my marriage all for the sake of a factory girl and now I was facing the reckoning. My medical results came back negative. I was in the clear for now, it would have to be confirmed later. It was like a lifeline being thrown to a drowning man. The dice had tumbled in my favour. This would be the perfect time to walk away from the car crash that my affair had become, to get back to normality, to carry on as though all of this had never happened. Given time, the lights would have flickered out on this episode of my life.
But that would mean walking away from the person still trapped in the wreckage. It would be abandoning Noi to her fate as though she had meant absolutely nothing to me at all. I couldn’t be so mean and so cruel. I couldn’t be that cynical.
Next day, I called her up. “Are you ok?”
“I’m ok. How was your night in the hotel? Did you take a new lady?”
“I don’t know why, but I gorged myself on chocolates and peanuts from the minibar. I didn’t drink a thing although I desperately wanted to get drunk. And then I fell asleep watching the movie”.
“You ok, now”
“Not ok. Monday we talk at work.”
* * *
This is my schedule for Monday. 08:00 to 14:00 make cold calls to potential staff. I must make a team or I lose my job. 14:00 to 19:00 make cold calls to potential customers. I must sell a quota each month or I lose my job. 19:00 to late, meet up with potential customers. The men always want to go for dinner or drinks in a bar before they buy any insurance policies. It’s hard work. These are my mini skirt nights. I have to fulfill a quota. Most of the time they’re wasting my time. Now I have to find time to talk with him, and time is money
* * *
I have mixed feelings about her when she arrives in my office after my staff have left. I want to hate her for hiding the truth from me, on the other hand I feel really sorry for her. We’ve had so many good times together. She made me feel so alive. Before she came I was in a slumber without even realizing it. But her presence, her proximity gave a jolt to my soul. I was feeding off her energy. But you’ve got to find out the truth, haven’t you? You know that these girls get under your skin and learn to say whatever it is you want to hear. You have to find out just what percentage is genuine and how much is fabricated. And after all, I only had her word that she was carrying a virus. I needed more information. So I hacked into her email account. I’ve no guilt in doing so. I believe every guy involved in a relationship should know what the other half really thinks, and checking out her email is one way of doing it. I did try asking around her friends. But they immediately clam up. It is a band of sisters you’re up against and they look out for one another. From her email account it was a simple step into her Facebook account to check out her private messages. I recommend everybody to do this. It’s an education.
In my previous submission, I described how I set up a spoof account on the dating website to see if she would take the bait. She did. She was inviting the spoof guy to stay in her up country home in her second email; that is without ever having chat on MSN let alone meeting him. That is perhaps all one needs to know.
But even then I was shocked. We had a rocky period around early March where she started to pick an argument with me and then shut off MSN and phone contact for a few days. Now I understood why. She’d met up with some Italian guy and spent a few days in Pattaya with him. So she was still playing the dating web sites for one-night stands. And in her private Facebook messages there were conversations to show that they’d been doing stuff over Skype. But this was minor cheating. A long message thread over several months was with her Thai boyfriend. I almost burst out laughing when I discovered this. In the Stickman world it is almost a stereotypical statement that all these girls have Thai boyfriends in the background. But brother, you’d better believe it.
And of course, the boyfriend was straight out of cartoon central. A thirty something no-hoper, split from wife and kid, no job, addicted to booze. I learnt all of this from Noi’s messages where she was continuously either scolding him for his drinking and having no job, or inviting him over to her apartment when her flatmate was away.
How many times have we read this on Stickman? How many more times will we read the same? I can hardly bear to use the term good girl when talking about Noi, but let’s say she’s a non-bargirl – as far as I know…
* * *
If only he had read all my messages, he might not have been so angry. I had to show him where I chat with my girlfriend and say I quit my gik. I chose him. I say to my girlfriend I am choosing him because I feel sorry for him. He cannot survive without me. My gik can survive without me. I can take care of him. I know he has mia already but she does not take care of him. I make sure that he diets and eats the right food. I take him to walk and push him to exercise because he needs to lose weight. I not allow him to eat chocolate or drink alcohol. He can only drink water. His health is much better in the year we spend together. When he sick I take him to hospital, his mia not care take the way I do. I check every day if he’s taken his medicine because he works so much he forgets. Now we check his blood and the doctor say everything is better than before. I ask him this question: is love when you say words, or is love when you do?
But you have gik, you have boyfriend farang, he says non-stop. He is so jealous, like a petulant baby. Ok, I know I am very bad girl. But my family all know you are my faen. My friends all know you are my faen. Is this not important to you?
* * *
I can’t get my head around this. She admits to unacceptable behaviour but says in mitigation that all her friends and family know about the two of us. In fact she told everybody that she is living with me in Bangkok whereas the truth is that she is sleeping on the floor of her friend's room in Chaeng Wattana. Now I’m being made out to be the guilty party because I’m kicking up a fuss that will make her lose face if family find out the truth. But it’s more than this. Even among her friends on Facebook, they too know she has a gik behind my back. I ask her if she thinks having a gik is acceptable. She says it is not.
Well, I’m not so blind in love as to not see that our relationship has become farcical. In fact, it was stupid right from the outset, but the good times were so good that I just kept it going. She carries a virus which means my little f***-bunny can no longer do her part of the business. She’s been unfaithful all along as we slid down the path to what would have been my eventual separation from my wife and marrying Noi. What bets would you place on her continuing to be unfaithful in the future? I’ve come within a whisker of abandoning my Thai family because of my addiction to Noi. Some people lose everything though alcohol or gambling addictions, some through drugs. Now I know I too had some addiction, though it’s not found in any medical textbook. But the symptoms are just the same. The thrill of the illicit, the high of the most amazing sex, the temporary freedom from all cares and worries, and the need to go back for more. And then some more, without ever completely quenching the flames of desire.
* * *
He wanted to kiss me like before but every time I pulled away because I didn’t want him to get my saliva in his mouth. He wanted to go down on me but that was totally out of the question. I was so scared of him getting infected. We made love a few times with a condom, but I really didn’t feel comfortable because I was worried about him. Not surprisingly our relationship started to falter. He was unhappy and moody. I didn’t want to be around someone ‘mai sanook’. Besides, it was difficult to make money and I worked long hours to succeed. He couldn’t control his jealousy when I went with a potential customer for dinner. He insisted I go with a girlfriend and send him pics to show I was not alone with a guy. He would send messages on my phone wanting to know where I was, who I was with, what I was doing.
One weekend my sales team had a seminar in Kanchanaburi. While my team were enjoying the time off, I spent the whole Saturday crying on the phone. He didn’t believe me anymore. I missed lunch and dinner and went to bed hungrier and sadder than I’d ever been. My girlfriends comforted me and told me to dump him.
* * *
I’d promised Noi a long time before that I would travel up to Petchaboon on Mother’s Day weekend to meet up her family. Actually her family were all economic migrants working in the factories around Bang Pa-in, so we travelled up together by pickup truck to meet mother who lives alone in the sticks. This was the great face-saving exercise for Noi, to show her mother and the neighbours that the wild child was now settling down with her farang partner. We discussed about how we would move up to baan nok and I would take care of the chickens and water the garden in the evenings while Noi ran an internet shop. We met with the local phuuyai and chatted over tea. The old ladies came by and cooed as though I was a swaddling infant. It was mentioned in passing that mother needed some hospital treatment in the near future. I could pull this stuff off a thousand Stickman submissions.
Of course, we were playing out a charade. We took pictures in beautiful locations but the smiles were hollow. I gritted my teeth and got through the weekend with as much grace as I could muster. I felt it was like a parting gift to Noi, to give her some good face with her family, even if inside it was empty.
* * *
The weekend went really well. He seemed to be on his best behaviour. My family were very happy for me. They laughed as he picked his way gingerly through some of our Isaan foods. And the squat toilet was beyond his ability. That was sanook.
I think we could make it work together back here. I would do a little business and take care of him. The food is good and healthy. The air is clean and he can get plenty of exercise. I want him to stop working. He thinks too much. I want him to relax and enjoy our years together. We don’t need a lot. We have each other. My family likes him. And in baan nok there’s no temptations to go astray. Now I’m going back to Bangkok and work very hard to make money for us to live together. I’m taking some exams to get extra certifications then I can sell different insurances and make more money.
* * *
I’d checked my diary carefully for a free weekend. I was running out of believable excuses to tell my wife why I was going away for yet another weekend. She was now telling everybody that I must have a girlfriend. We were at the ha-ha very funny stage, where she’s fishing for clues from my behaviour. I was becoming more brazen and just saying I was off without giving any real reason.
The only free time I had was a couple of weeks away and I asked Noi to come with me and spend time in a hotel. We’d been fairly irritable towards each other since coming back to the city, but spending time together seemed to smooth things out. ‘But that Saturday I must take exam in the morning for insurance certificate. And afternoon I must go sell in my old factory’, she said. ‘Never mind. I will wait in the hotel in the morning and afternoon I go with you to Bang Pa-in’. Noi agreed on condition that we had a sweet dinner together.
Romantic meals were not enough to paper over the cracks of a disintegrating relationship. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong. It was as if fate was chiming the last orders bell. She met up thinking that we would be staying together just the Friday night, whereas I’d booked for two nights, so she had no extra clothes to wear. Although I’m not so big, at 92 kg, when I checked in to the hotel the chair on which I was seated tipped over backwards and I smashed my head on the hard floor. Noi freaked out. ‘Whenever we’re together you’re always having accidents like this. But when you stay alone, you’re ok’.
As we set off for our romantic dinner, the heavens opened up to a massive downpour and we were forced to eat in the hotel’s crowded restaurant. Noi spent the whole time grouchy with her phone glued to her ear and then complained that the glass of wine she ordered cost the same as four lunches in her canteen, even though she was not paying a dime of her own money.
Instead of a nice, cozy double bed, the hotel put us in two singles and claimed the place was full and we couldn’t change. Noi needed time to study for her exams so I left her to her own devices while I watched the movie with the sound down so as not to disturb her, only to find when I glanced over to see her laptop she was playing an internet game. About midnight she took to one of the beds and began her exam studies, around an hour later she was asleep. I took her books away, placed them on the table and closed the TV. Our romantic first night saw us asleep in separate beds and neither of us really caring about it.
She’d already left for her exams by the time I’d woken the Saturday morning which gave me plenty of time to gash my foot on the bedframe and watch as the blood poured forth. The gods must have been really pissed off with me, but I managed to stem the flow and clean up the floor before she got back. Needless to say she saw my wounded big toe and that set off another quarrel that I couldn’t be left alone for five minutes without doing something wrong. My bad, the kind of arguments you have with the wife, not the lover.
So we made our way to Bang Pa-in by MRT, and minivan and taxi and she made her sale and got her 3,000 baht commission which cheered her up a little until she figured that it was costing us around 1,000 baht in return travelling costs. Well it was costing me a grand, but somehow she was still in this you-and-I-are-one frame of thinking when it suited her. The rain kept her in a foul-mood and every step I made seemed to splash her, and the restaurant we chose was full with an hour-long waiting list and our second chance at a sweet dinner was lost to a fast-food joint where she proclaimed the plaaraa was off. It sure did stink more than usual but she managed to eat half of it even though I warned she’d have a bad belly by the time we’d got back to the hotel. Just petty point-scoring now. The weekend, put simply was a disaster. When Sunday morning came round and she asked me what I wanted to do I said I wanted to go home. It was true. I couldn’t hold this together any longer.
* * *
I told him how the exam scoring system worked. If I got 70% in part one, then they marked part two. If I scored 70% in the second part I was certified to sell all kinds of different insurances. I was going to make a lot of money. With his business contacts we could do this together. We’d put the past behind us. It was all about the future now.
Then my customer from yesterday called me. He’d had second thoughts and decided to cancel his policy.
* * *
A couple of evenings later Noi send me a message. She’d failed her insurance exam.
I replied back that I was so sorry. Don’t be upset, you can take the test again next month.
Her response was forthright. She’d failed because she hadn’t enough time to study the night before the exam. I’d distracted her all evening.
I called her. I blew my top. Very unThai to lose one’s temper. Actually, in private they do. Just like us farang. I asked Noi whether playing Facebook games might have eaten into her time. Perhaps if she had shown a little more responsibility she would have passed. I chucked in a few bad words.
In the year we’d been together, she’d cheated on me at least twice as far as I knew. Perhaps there were others. She’d tried to cheat on me with the trap I’d set for her. Each time, she’d asked for forgiveness and each time I forgave her, mainly because I hadn’t invested a total commitment to her, although I’d come very close to doing so. But strangely as much as I could look past all her flaws, it was this – blaming me for her exam failure that finally closed the door to my heart.
I felt it was somehow unfair that this intelligent and sharp young woman did not have the same opportunities in life as more fortunate people. Her family was poor, she came from one of the poorest parts of Isaan. Her father had died young and she’d been abused in her relationships with Thai men. In a better set of circumstances her cleverness would have taken her far. It’s a tragedy of Thailand, a tragedy of all poor parts of the world, that so much latent talent never gets utilized. So many bright young people never get the chance to improve themselves, their families and their nation. I admired her family so much. All of them employed, grafting out a living in an honest way, for little personal reward other than the possibility that their children might be able to escape a low income existence and exploit their talents to the full.
To be honest, perhaps I was exploiting Noi at the outset of our relationship. I was certainly dishonest and lied about my marital status and kept hidden my private life. Perhaps I was leveraging that fact that I had money and was a farang in order to bed her. But instead of remembering the 3F’s rule, I really began to like her and certainly admire her to the point where I wanted to help her make a good career for herself. There were a hundred exit points that I didn’t take and I allowed myself to be drawn in so deep that I would have divorced the wife for her. But Noi made a fateful mistake. She bit the hand that fed her.
Interestingly enough in one of the Facebook chats with one of her girlfriends a few months ago, she said exactly the same thing, but I couldn’t figure if she was talking about me or her gik. If it was her gik to whom she referred, and he was living off her income, then she really should have known better not doing the same with me. If it was me she was referring to then she was biting my hands for a long time and fully aware of what she was doing.
What do I learn from this experience? Well, first of all, they’re not different. If yours is, then good luck because you have found one outside the normal parameters. I once asked Noi in casual conversation if she’d ever considered entering the p4p scene. Her answer was quite revealing. One of her factory friends had done so, but she was very pretty. She’d gone to Phuket and found a husband within a month. Her friend is now in Australia and six months later has moved on to her fourth man. As to Noi herself, she thought the chance of finding a good man through the bar scene was about two in a hundred.
So Noi had considered the bar industry and her motivation was to find an economic way out of her situation through a farang. But she didn’t mention the thought of sleeping with several men for money was an issue for her. She didn’t say the p4p lifestyle upset her, neither did she talk about the risks involved to her health or mental well-being. Presumably, had she thought the chances of finding a ‘good man’ high enough then she would have entered the industry.
They’re all motivated by the need to get out of the current economic situation and they see you as part of the solution. It’s not difficult to understand their point of view. Thailand is a country without a welfare net like most parts of the developed world. Even for middle-income people the chance of an accident or illness taking away the chance of you earning a living are very high. Most people live on a very slender thread hanging between day-to-day survival and the very real threat of losing absolutely everything, and that thread can be cut through no fault of your own. It concentrates the mind on the here and now. And while us farangs can safely think about high-minded ideas such as culture, arts, or one’s own importance in the great scheme of events, in Thailand the superficial is much more important because superficiality is much closer to home.
When I stayed at Noi’s home in baan nok, there was a picture of her late father in the bedroom. I asked Noi, what did she think remember about him. Well, she said, he was very tall and handsome and had many giks.
If someone had asked me about my late father, I might have mentioned the many charitable deeds he had done, of how he had served his country in time of war, perhaps how he had served his local community throughout his life. But Noi had look of pride on her face as she spoke her father’s misdemeanors.
For Noi, life wasn’t about western style romance, it was about finding someone to take care of her. I was one option, nothing more, nothing less. She wouldn’t have considered it as cheating to have other men in her life, they were simply options and she was going to work out which was her best choice. But I think the process doesn’t stop there. I think Thai women go on looking for better options even if you think you’re the one. And since Thai women do prefer Thai men, despite what they say, because Thai men and women understand each other and do not have the communication barriers and all the frustrations that go with, it makes sense for a Thai woman to have a farang husband to take care of economic needs and a Thai husband to take care of emotional needs. If they think they can juggle the two, then why not? Noi would have fallen into that category. That’s what we are to them. An escape route, an option.
Another thing I learned is that I am a hypocrite according to certain standards. I want my girlfriend to be faithful to me while I am being unfaithful to my wife. It is true but in mitigation, I still give my wife the same as before. I haven’t abandoned her or cut off her money supply, I’m still the hunter-gather and in Thailand that counts for much more than romance. Maybe not fair but that’s the way it works here. A shitty deal for my wife, if she was aware of what’s going on, but people get hurt. We all get burnt.
Do I regret getting involved? No I don’t. When it was good, I felt so alive and invigorated. I got in touch with stuff that was just slumbering away inside. Noi woke that up in me. I reassessed who I am and what I’m doing here. Where before I was bumbling along, now I’m more focused and have rediscovered dormant energies. There was a side of Noi that really was tender and did care for my welfare. There was her amazing sexual appetite. But the longer our relationship went on, the sexual side started to wane and then went over a cliff after the news of her virus. On the other hand her caring side increased. Noi was turning into a regular wife, and I had one of those already!
It was a fantastic journey we had together, and at times I was hanging on for dear life. But we all have our needs to satisfy in the long term and our needs were not compatible. I wanted a sex-kitten, Noi wanted a provider. I put up with her infidelity and her superficiality. I tried to support her and encourage to strive to break free from poverty. In the end I couldn’t give her what she wanted. In her eyes, I had failed her. That’s what she really meant when she said she failed her insurance examinations. It wasn’t that I distracted her the night before the test. It was that I distracted her from the moment we met. She’s one year older. At thirty–five her options are running out. If I were to point this out her response would be ‘mai pen rai’. It’s a poor person’s response to those things that they cannot control. Because Noi can handle only the superficial, because her world is the superficial, from how much money is in her bag, to what she’s going to eat for lunch, to what internet game is sanook the most, everything else doesn’t matter.
But it matters to me. It matters a lot. It’s all gone now, except the hurt.
Thanks for the follow up, a most interesting story. I really think you dodged a bullet!