Walking The Tightrope
The place is Don Meuang International Terminal II on a weekday afternoon around 4 PM in 2005. Don't ask me what I am doing here at this time – I don't even know myself because my flight doesn't leave until 11.59 tonight. Why would anyone choose to kill time in an airport when one could be whiling away a few hours at some bar in downtown Sukhumvit, engaged in pleasant conversation with a beautiful lady? It doesn't make sense, does it?
I guess there are a couple of reasons why I choose to be here at this time – first, I do not like the horrible traffic crush of early evening, that gridlocks the Din Daeng interchange and the toll gates approaching the Viphavadhi / Rangsit (Uttaraphimuk) Expressway. The second reason is that I feel comfortable in this place – it feels like home. Traffic in Bangkok is something that we all accept will only get worse as time passes – but there are concessions we have to make to fit in here so that the blood pressure does not approach apoplexy levels. To keep loving Bangkok, you must go with the flow and try not to fight that which cannot be overcome. As the Thais do – bend with the wind.
My suitcase and guitar are safely stowed in left luggage and I am pleasure-bent in heading to the beer bar upstairs for a few pleasant hours' imbibing and cogitating on the mysteries of life.
The first bia Singha didn't even touch the sides so the little lovely behind the bar has replaced it with another one and an unforgettable smile. The TV sets are running but I'm not very interested in the content as I tuck into the first basket of popcorn the bar lady has left for me, leaving me quite happy to watch the comings and goings of patrons and the cute waitresses who attentively look after their needs. I like this place – it has something going for it – a feeling that one has been transported back in time. Actually, I feel as though I have been teleported back to the days of the old British Raj in India, with all these Pith Helmets worn by the staff.
Perhaps this is why I have slipped out of present time – recalling some significant events that I would rather not have to revisit:
Here I am – back in "The Dream-time" – two years after meeting Natalise in that wonderful excitement of exotic Bangkok – but I feel as though I have taken a step backward in time and I have merely exchanged my former situation of being stuck in that boring city back in Oz with someone else, only to be repeating the same exercise with Nat. I can’t understand how I have come to be back where I started, all those years ago. It’s strange but we humans seem to excel in committing the same mistakes. How does it happen? Her and that black cat – that's how it happened, I'll bet my left nut.
Here we have my friend Les, who is also married to a Thai but has resorted to extreme measures. After coming home from work and having his dinner, he grabs a bottle of Wild Turkey and motors down to a dead-end street not far from home and sits at the gate of a toxic waste dump in his car. It's the only time he seems to be able to relax with a smoke and a couple or three shots of Wild Turkey while the radio plays softly. Does it really get that bad? Perhaps Les is correct in quoting the famous line from Thoreau – “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation!”
No, that is the philosophy of a cynic. We are masters of our own destiny – frustration and doubt creep in when we fail to accept responsibility and take charge of our own lives. We must be ever mindful of our responsibility to others who depend on us and to make allowances for any misunderstandings that may creep into communication. Yeah, right – easier said than done when married to a Thai.
I don't wish to appear negative – but the last two days have left me with a feeling like I am walking on eggshells. Sometimes, just lately, I hardly feel as though I know Nat any more. She seems so moody and changeable and blames me for anything that does not produce the desired outcome she expects. It has become so difficult to talk with her about anything without getting into an argumentative situation that I am mostly at a loss to appreciate what caused it to develop.
She says that things will be different when the two children come here from Thailand but I have my doubts that she is capable of changing her basic short temper and intolerance toward anything that does not satisfy her every wish. And what Natalise wants, she wants yesterday! Essentially, I see her as a very self-indulgent person who cares little for the needs of others, mainly because she has had no life experience and knows very little about how the world operates outside of Thailand. The sad thing is she doesn't appear to want to know. Still, I must say something positive about her – she is the finest salesperson I have ever come across. She even sells add-ons to Indians and Pakistanis.
Back in the present again:
They make a very good kaeng khiaw-waan goong here and I am at one of the tables with another bia Singha, while the waitress places the meal in front of me.
Thinking now, back to March 2004:
My birthday is about three weeks away and Nat has asked me what I would like for a present. Some time back I bought her a three-baht Thai-gold bracelet down at Chinatown and she was very pleased with it so she said I should choose something in gold. I told her I would love to have a golden heart, identical to the one on Mark Knopfler's "Golden Heart" CD cover. I searched everywhere but nobody had anything remotely similar so my cousin directed me to Callum Curtis – a custom jeweller whom he knows from his days as a gold and silver bullion merchant.
I had drawn up 3D outlines of what I wanted and supplied him with photographs. Callum said it would be no problem to make but he advised me to go for 18-carat instead of Thai gold because he said that would wear very quickly. I went and bought the 1 oz ingot and supplied him with it so he could make the alloy and he said the job would be done in a little over a week. The total cost was just over $1100 (plus the cost of the ingot I purchased) and it was just perfect when I got it – even the engraving was spot-on – a beautiful, heavy solid gold heart. I was so happy with it – but Nat was not happy. I don't know what the problem was with her but this took the whole magic away, knowing that she was not happy. I felt awful. That ruined everything.
They say it is the little things mounting up that cause dissatisfaction in a relationship – but I have always believed that honest communication is the secret to enabling harmony to prevail in any relationship. The problem is, how do you do that when the other partner refuses to face things and merely wishes to "sweep problems under the carpet"? My basic nature has always been to identify the problem and then find a solution that satisfies all.
It is now April 2004 and life is becoming increasingly difficult with Natalise. She told me things would be fine once the children were here with us from Thailand – but that is not the case. She is becoming more volatile and so short-tempered – not only with me but with the kids as well. Since she obtained her driving licence and has started working at the motel, we are only doing the markets at Chinatown on the weekends. I think we will shortly close down the market business and cancel the ABN as Nat wants to work full-time at one of the big hotels in the city where she has been offered a job. Market sales have been tapering off for a while now. I have lost count of the times she has started to pack her belongings and threatened to leave. It's almost as if she is trying to provoke me to engage in physical assault – she has struck me on a number of occasions but I have never – and will never respond. I have never hit a woman in my life and I never shall.
Last night, however, I had to get out of the unit for a while to try and get my thoughts together – telling her I would be back a little later.
I walked out into the cool night air and strolled down to the railway station, trying to fight off the urge to scream. It was fairly quiet out on the street and the tears were streaming down my face by the time I reached the station. Sitting down on one of the bench seats I thought about the things that were happening and I felt so hopeless that I just wanted to die. My love for Nat is very strong yet I had this urge to jump in front of the next train that came into the station – and that is very wrong to think along those lines. It was now about 9 pm.
Near to where I was now sitting I saw an emergency phone and picked up the handset. A voice on the other end asked what the problem was – but I said I didn't know except that I felt like jumping in front of the next train. The person said to just sit down for few minutes and help would come. After 5 minutes or so two policemen walked on to the platform and came over to me to ask what the problem was. I told them I am just so stressed I don't know what to do. They gave me a frisk search and said they would take me to hospital and a doctor would see me. I asked them if they could just come to my home and talk to my wife but they said they were obliged to take me to the hospital. I didn't really care. They were very courteous and we chatted during the journey and then they checked me in to emergency and left.
It took some time before I saw a doctor and still some hours before they were satisfied to let me go home. It was 3 AM before I arrived home in a taxi. Nat never even asked me where I had been. She behaved as if nothing had happened the previous evening.
I thought that perhaps things can get so bad as to make anyone want to go at night and sit outside a toxic waste dump in the car, drinking Wild Turkey and listening to music on the radio. Unfortunately, I had no toxic waste dump near to where I lived.
Back in the present: The waitress has come to pick up my used dishes, so I asked for check-bin, finished off the last bia Singha and left the money owing with a good tip.
On the way down to the lower level, I began to think about how lucky I am to have my freedom to choose what I do with my life and not have to answer to anyone. I retrieved the suitcase and guitar, then headed over to check-in – then through to Passport Control / Immigration. I always like it when I am on the flight-side of departures – all the formalities are now over and one can settle down to wait for the boarding call. This visit to Oz will not take long – a few matters to tie up and I will be back through here again on my way to Chiang Mai.
It's amazing the shit some people put up with in relationships and while perhaps my observations are biased given I have spent more of my adult life in Thailand than in the West, it does seem to be rather worse when she is Thai. I think if we enter long-term relationships with an acknowledgement that long-term and marriage are not necessarily forever, despite what society tells us, then we are much better equipped to deal with the bumps along the way – and are willing to walk away if need be. Staying in a relationship which in which you are miserable is not healthy.