I Broke All The Rules
This is not a Thailand story but a Philippines one. There may be some points in common, because the Thais and the Filipinos are similar people. I am no spring chicken and I have, at one time and another, lived in mainland China, in Hong Kong, in Singapore and in Manila. I have spent time in Thailand, in Vietnam, and in Cambodia. I liked to think I knew the ropes.
Twenty years ago I married, on my second attempt at connubial bliss, with an ex bargirl – and all seemed well, for a good many years. I had done all the usual things, like putting her through college, building her a house in her hometown, and so on, before proposing, and we had children. Six years ago, and four years after her nice new Passport, she announced that she no longer loved me, and walked out, leaving me with the children. I still have no idea what was really going on.
So I did the single parent thing. I have to travel to East Asia on business, and when these trips came up I arranged cover for the children. One day, finding myself in Hong Kong on a Friday with nothing to do till my scheduled flight left on Sunday night, I phoned an old colleague in Manila and we arranged to meet.
My old chum met me at the dreadful old airport, and his nice car and driver decanted us to a rather fine hotel. Over a late Japanese lunch I remarked that I had not been laid for some years, and wanted to see if everything still worked. He was “in a relationship” but happy to help.
So we had a siesta, followed by a good Italian, and embarked on a tour of Manila’s more salubrious pick up spots. Nothing took my eye. In desperation my companion ordered his driver to P Burgos St, home of the most overpriced and hassle-intensive girlie bars in Manila. In the third bar that we tried we were transfixed by an absolute stunner – cheekbones, eyes, smile, hair and a half mile of leg, wearing what I can only describe as a couple of yards of pink string, and with a terrific line in repartee – which is what you don’t get in Thailand, and I had missed from Long Ago in Wanchai. She was fluent in English, and very funny. How sexy is that?
So I broke Rule One – never take the prettiest, or the most popular girl* – she was both – and barfined her. I promptly broke Rule Two** – never take the cab outside the door of the bar – and back to the hotel we went.
It was very soon apparent that, whilst she had been bar fined before, this had always been with other girls, to go to a disco and flatter an East Asian ego. She had not been into a hotel room with a Caucasian, and had never set foot in anything like a five star hotel. The kid was terrified, but trying really hard not to show it.
So we sat down, I poured her a beer from the minibar and we talked, then we did the other stuff. Having failed to specify “long time” I had only myself to blame when she did a runner at 4 AM. Not back to the bar, though. Her kid was feverish, and she had gone with me so that she could leave early and in the hope of a tip that would buy medicines. I astounded her by seeing her into a cab, and got her phone number. Rather sweetly, she told me her real name, followed by her bar name.
Well, of course… with a little help from resident friends, I got her out of the bar and set up sharing an apartment with a regular girl, at a safe distance from Manila. Several happy holidays later, with her now in a rented house on her own, with the now school age kid, and with, as I thought, wedding bells all but in earshot, having met the family and so on, I broke Rule Three***.
Having told her that I was hoping to find work in the Philippines at least until my divorce was done and dusted, I then told her that the job I had been hoping for would not eventuate, and until my divorce was absolute I could not bring her and her child to my own country.
Big mistake. I had destroyed her trust in me; she now assumed that no divorce had ever been on the cards, that I was a serial liar and had just been using her as a bit on the side. Revenge was to be exacted. She still liked the ATM, of course, so she embarked on a hidden (from me) campaign of spending my money on drink, drugs, parties and inevitably, in due course, a handsome, but idle and penniless, young punk.
Well, gentlemen, I broke Rule Four****.
I set out to win her back. Which is ridiculous. Given the ocean of local talent, why waste a moment on a woman who has deceived you? But I did. I have been at this for a year, now. In the course of that time, something that I had not foreseen happened. Her extended family lined up solidly on my side. No surprise, if I was their ATM – but I wasn’t! They had never asked for a peso, and when I had once offered to pay for an operation, I was told that they could not accept, as they could not pay me back. In the immortal words of Captain Queeg of the USS Caine, “I kid you not, gentlemen”. I thought I knew all about East Asian peasants. I was wrong.
And the end of the story? Dunno. Work in progress. Rebuilding broken trust on both sides, over a few thousand miles, is … difficult … but fascinating. She is a highly intelligent woman. I am learning stuff I never knew that I needed to know. Maybe she is, too.
* She will give you a dose, as she is too busy to go to check ups.
** The driver will rip you off, for sure.
*** Long distance relationships don’t work.
**** Clean break, pay her bills up to date, for the sake of your nation’s good name, and walk away