Neither of Us Is Lying
I look down into her half-lidded eyes, and I say, “Teerak, I love you.”
“I lub you too mutss, Teerak,” she replies.
This is what I live for now, these moments when we look into each other’s eyes, both of us out of breath, both sweaty and exhausted and drained, and we say we love each other.
She means it. I mean it. I am certain of this.
There are other men who send her texts and send her money and she tells them she loves them too. Maybe she means it when she says it to them. I know that someday one of those men, probably one much younger than me, undoubtedly one who has more money to offer than I do, will show up and she’ll make an excuse and disappear to be with him. She’ll be gone a day, a week, a month.
There would be no deceit in that. Neither of us came into this relationship with any delusions. We met, felt comfortable with each other, discussed matters and came to an agreement. I swear to God, I’m not making this up: We shook hands on it.
We’ve both been content with the bargain we made. I know what she needs from me; she knows what I need from her, we’re both willing to provide what the other needs. But neither of us needs love. That just happened.
It could end differently. She could just get tired of my skinny, veiny legs. She could decide she just can’t spend the first five minutes of another day listening to me clear my throat and sinuses. She could decide she never wants to wash another pair of my boxers. She could decide that she finally has enough money to open that hairdressing shop in Nakhon she talks about, to be a real Mom to her daughters. Her parents are getting old, they need somebody around and her brother is worthless.
I could come home from running errands one day and she could be gone. All her things, gone. No note, no voicemail, no text. Just empty, quiet rooms.
It could be something else that ends it. I suppose it’s conceivable I could outlive my money. There was never that much to begin with. Or a tiny clot of blood, not dissolved by the daily aspirin, could lodge in a narrow artery in my brain. One of the metal stents in my coronary arteries could pierce the vessel wall. A ten-wheel truck could crush me as I wait at the light on Chao Fah Road, stuck between six lanes of fast traffic on a wispy 10-year-old moped.
Or I could finally take the vows at Wat Suan Mokh, which is after all what I came here to do years ago. I could leave her to spend my days preparing for the big step out of this life and into the next. I could shave my eyebrows, put on the orange robes, and give up even the memory of a woman’s flesh. It would be a relief, never again to make the shameful trip to the medicine chest to get the blue pill, wait the half-hour for it to work, explain that it’s not you, Teerak, I’m just tired today.
I once had an affair with a beautiful woman that ended with an argument about a wooden salad bowl left to soak in the sink. That woman was born in the town I was born in, spoke my language, ate my foods, worshipped my God. We were both young and at that time in my life I was healthy and athletic; the sex was amazing. But one night in the second year of our living together we argued over a salad bowl and the next day she moved out.
Things end. Everything ends.
I’ve seen friends and family die around me. I’ve had at least four separate careers, more than fifty employers. I’ve buried a dozen dogs, a dozen cats. Trees I planted when my kids were small grew forty feet in twenty years and were killed in a single season by tiny beetles smaller than grains of rice. Everything ends, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For every thing there is a season. An ending is the most natural thing in the world.
I have no doubt: This love between us will end. Maybe soon. Maybe tomorrow.
But for now I look down into her half-lidded eyes. Neither one of us is in any hurry to move. My elbows are not tired yet, we’re not sticking to each other and she’s got a towel under her butt. No reason to go anywhere yet. I can look down at her and admire the perfect symmetry of her face, the way her nose has almost no bridge at all, the unbelievable delicacy of her eyebrows. I can brush my lips across hers and feel her breath enter my mouth.
I say “I love you, Teerak.”
She says, “I lub you too mutss, Teerak jaaahhhhhh….”
Neither of us is lying.