P.S. I Love You
I was in my last pre-teenage year when I first heard it. It’s one of the lesser-known Beatles songs they must have recorded at the beginning of their career. As for me, days earlier I had just arrived in a foreign country, was learning a new language and meeting lots of new people. Sleeping in a stuffy dorm room brought together with unknown co-students. Culture shock is today’s easy classification. But the wording of the Beatles song stuck. Fifty years on it came to mind and seems a fitting introduction to the following narration.
Before Stick was retired by the owners of the site a year ago, one of my last reader submissions was about Alois. A somewhat troubled, middle-aged farang utterly infatuated with a go-go dancer he’d met on a trip to Bangkok. Later he was caught totally unexpected by the pandemic related lockdown and curfew living in a rental apartment in Pattaya. The sub was called Fatal Journey. Along with Stick’s sudden, unexpected time-out some readers submissions got deleted, mislaid, or lost including this one. <The entire site was deleted. We were able to restore everything posted prior to September, 2018. Restoring all content posted from September, 2018, until January, 2021, would a hugely labour-intensive task that no-one has the energy for at this point in time – Stick> So, let’s just say this is Alois’s story, part 2.
April 2020. At the time Alois was given the opportunity to join one of the two repatriation flights organized by the Swiss Embassy. But he missed them. At least that’s what he told his wife. In reality he wanted to stay here a bit longer. After all, the virus was worldwide and changing country or continent would not guarantee him immunity or safety. But much more important to him was to feel suddenly 20 years younger again. Only Lek was at the origin of that incredible feeling and could provide it. Further, he was still due a number of weeks holidays and certainly would not waste them.
On a lazy Sunday morning, sleeping in late Alois suggested they walk along the beach and stop for an early brunch. In good times the many beach chairs along Jomtien seashore usually started to fill up early especially on Sunday. Situated at the entrance to the aligned chairs the hosts usually keep a table or two serving easy going dishes and drinks. Just what we need said Alois. The obligatory som-tam poo for Lek and two of her accompanying friends. Alois didn’t like the look of those black crabs and ordered a plate of seafood garni and beer. Later in the evening he felt weird and was off to bed early. Next morning, he was sick to the bone, additionally suffering from diarrhoea. When the condition did not improve Lek took him to the hospital. He stayed 3 days, heard a lot of medicalese about the condition he had contracted but was eventually released to return to his rental unit near the wet market in Jomtien.
I told you, Lek said. What? These beach places sell left over produce from nearby hotels they buy at a discounted rate. It’s true. She had warned him. He should have listened. Later Alois pondered over the three lost days suffering in hospital. A simple reflection would have disclosed the obvious. With hotels near empty now there must have been lots of leftovers to get rid of.
Next, they travelled upcountry. Lek’s village and the family. All of us long-time residents in LOS have taken the go see the family trip at least once, many of us several times. New environment, new habitat, new context. Unexpected impressions and conception, friendly people. No need to go into further details. Most of us usually enjoy the few days but are equally glad to return to what we call civilization. Not so Alois. He did not enjoy those days. He especially dreaded mealtimes. Everything looked suspicious to him. He could not eat. Or only very little. My intestines are more delicate than you people, he would lecture when Lek asked him what’s wrong. I cannot risk suffering more days in hospital.
Entertainment venues now closed; several European style restaurants became Alois’s evening highlights. And those with German speaking waiting staff were singled out and got his preference. If the owner or manager would make a short appearance to exchange a few words to inquire of their well-being plus if the served plates was to their satisfaction the eatery scored additional points. If Thai food was also available for Lek it made for a perfect evening at least for a time.
Alois kept in touch with the estranged wife. She was anxious to know if, when and how he would return. After all it had bin her suggestion to spend some time away from the troubled marriage and “find himself”. She also worried about the high credit card bills that appeared regularly in her letterbox. Alois had delayed his return several times already citing travel restrictions due the pandemic. But he knew sooner or later he had to own up to reality and decide one way or another.
This was his frame of mind when I met with him during one of my irregular Pattaya trips to meet with local friends. Long talks ensued. Alois was as troubled now as he was 6 months ago when he arrived in Thailand supposedly to find a solution to his marital impasse. He still wanted to be with his young lover. Even though he had noticed a certain coolness if not reluctance in her lovemaking. At the same time, he missed his family, his professional environment and to some extent the regularity of the married life he so desperately wanted to escape. In the end he was offered a return flight home by his employer, the town administration where he held a responsible position. He was informed in no uncertain terms that the unpaid extended leave-taking could not be further extended.
Alois promised updates once back home but only Paul had a short message explaining that the homecoming reception was less than enthusiastic. Especially an inflated hospital bill of 95k baht for three days of care held intrigue to the wife. Alois had neglected to inform his health insurance of the prolonged foreign vacation and they refused to reimburse.
On my infrequent Pattaya journeys we often go for an after-dinner drink in a bar where Lek has found a job. Temporally transformed into a look alike restaurant where food is served or rather delivered to oblige the current laws. But business is slow, and Lek comes to sit with us in quiet corner. In true Thai fashion she has easily adapted to the new situation. Alois continues to pay rent for the 2 room appartement and for accruing extra expenses he will also generously assist. Lek is open-minded, opens up her smartphone and lets us consult text and pics of the latest news from Alois.
Letters, even e-mail is a thing of the past. At least for Thai bargirls. Smartphone or short messages is the mood of the day. “P.S. I love you” may have been a much-appreciated endearment at the end of a love-letter. Nevertheless, there is a recurring theme or communality to Alois’s messages to Lek. It appears mostly at the beginning of the text and says, —I love you Lek, but— followed by declarations of undying love and all the many reasons why he could not currently be with Lek. Then he reminisces about all the good times they’d had on their excursion to and around Mae-Sot and Phitsanulok. The days in Bangkok and of course Pattaya.
The most recent -I love you, but- message promised a surprise. Pandemic restrictions allowing Alois’s son would visit Thailand next summer with his young family. He would present Lek with a few more of her beloved Swatch exemplars she loves and already has a respectable collection! Perhaps not what Lek expected. But she did not comment. Does the story go on? Will there be another update? Alois in Thailand part 3.
These days the Beatles experience a bit of a renaissance. The names of the two remaining members are familiar to 20-year-olds thanks to internet and social media. The word’s Abbey Road and Eleanor Rigby where easily slipped into a conversation recently I had with a Thai high school student, wow!
I have preserved two old Beatles LPs but no more decent vinyl record player. And I admit it’s easier to slip in a CD on days I feel like traveling back in my thought to those happy days. The many upcoming Beatles revival bands to be seen on social media or You Tube are less to my taste.
The author of this article can be contacted at : ILDEDEKLOTH@hotmail.com