Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Manat Nixes Marriage Designs

Manat Nixes Marriage Designs

Khuk Khak, Thailand - According to the fortune teller in Bangkok back in January, I was supposed to meet my new wife within the next few weeks, and get married. Digger and Mel were there. I got witnesses.

A Thai woman, he said, but not necessarily so, so I was really keeping my eyes peeled in understandable expectation and joyful anticipation. Staying on the lookout, keeping a 'heads up', staying on my toes, shaving every day, attending to nose hairs.

Well, it didn't happen. Had to go back and check my fortune teller notes for a clarification. When, did he say?

Among chiefs and sun dancers, widows and orphans first, they say, so maybe it could've been one of the widow ladies. Pen, who lost her husband last year, showed up at the dinner party with a new dude, so I figured it couldn't be her, nor P' Su*, who gave me my Thai name, 'P. Yai',** and whom I had befriended last year after she and her husband, P' Ton, were involved in a head-on traffic mishap with a truck while traveling down the mountain from the former Volunteer Center site.

P' Ton was trapped in the vehicle, pinned up under the steering wheel and dash, and I really didn't do much but give him water, check his pulse, check for injuries, and stay with him until real, practising, licensed medical personnel arrived on the scene.

With the help of a log chain, a pickup truck, and about thirty hollering Thai men, P' Ton was eventually freed from his smashed van, and the next day, he greeted me, showing me his bruised legs, and later that weekend at a cookout, he invited me to join his table, that was later disrupted by Eileen, the drunken Scottish woman who overturned the table and ended up in the hospital before being deported.

That was about the extent of it, until I learned upon my return to 'The Land Of Smiles' that P' Ton had died of a heart attack over the summer, and P' Su invited some of us old-timers from the TVC (the vol. ctr.) to attend his 100-day memorial at P' Ton's mother's house way out in the sticks.

Since then, I'd stop at the relocated, down-from-the-mountaintop Vol. Ctr. in Khao Lak to see P' Su, who operates a small Thai restaurant and speaks only Thai, and 'Canadian Karen', the English teacher (as opposed to 'Craftshop Karen' [from England]), the only two people I knew from the early post-tsunami days, besides Tilo, who finally went back home to Colorado after over a year of tsunami relief work and losing all his body fat.

So, I kept keeping my eyes peeled, expecting my new wife to surface at ANY TIME, NOW. There was this other lady...two of 'em, in fact, both Chinese, who were my girlfriends; one, the Bamboo Lady, in her mid-thirties, and the other twenty-nine; only thing was, they didn't know it.

And besides them not knowing it, one of 'em was married (I didn't have no designs on her, I just liked the way she said, like she was hurt, "Mr. Wic. I bring bamboo to your ban. Mr. Wic no hab," meaning, she brought a bamboo chair to my house and I wasn't home), and the other one had a boyfriend in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was too close for a serious plan, but far enough away for me and Choi, disguised as production assistants, to casually crash a British movie production company seaside dinner party at a five-star hotel on a Saturday night. Good wine, steamed vegetables, and smoked Salmon. Just look and act like you belong there; a little arrogant, a little pompous, a little annoyed with something.

So I kept going into Manat's Honda shop just to see the smile on the face of his receptionist. I never did get her name, but that girl's smile lit up the whole iridescent, beaming, irresistable, indescribable smile.

After about the third or fourth trip in there, I felt like I should buy something...a helmet? A decal? It was a Honda shop, right? Manat sold me a tsunami bike, fully broken down and restored, at a very reasonable price, free maintenance included, an offer I couldn't refuse, a better price and 25 CCs more than my monthly rental. Only thing I had to pay for was the oil and the 1,000 kilometer checkups.

After about the third checkup, I finally got up the gumption to ask her to marry me. Went right up to her desk, smiled, and when she recognized me and smiled back, I asked her.

'Will you marry me?'

Can you fall in love with just a smile? Never mind the insurmountable language, race, age and cultural crevasses. You can smile your way across those minor things.

She smiled and gave me a look of incomprehension, since she was from Takuapa and didn't speak a lick of English. I went on with my usual business with Manat, who always had one of his staff serve up coffee and cookies while we chatted for a half hour or so, about this and that and his daughter Toey's TOEFL scores, which should have improved after the English tutoring sessions, but didn't, leaving me feeling like a failure as a tutor and unworthy of the 1,000 Baht per lesson he paid, not to mention the free lunches and mangoes, nor the case of Singha and three bottles of wine he sent for the dinner party.

The third time I asked her...well, the second time I asked her, she gave me the same look of befuddlement, and the third time I asked her, Manat was standing right there, and someone must've told her what I was saying, because her face flushed red and she glanced away, shyly.

"She's got three kids," said Manat, laughing. "Her husband is a cop in Takuapa."

So, I guess that's that.


* P' Su, who always feeds me for free and gave me a special amulet of the King, right before my planned return to the U.S., asked me, and I don't know how she did, since neither of us knows the other's language, but she asked me to take her someplace on the bike...out to her mother-in-law's house, I think, about 25 kilometers to the south. At five o'clock. I told her I would. She said her boyfriend's mom told her son that she, P' Su wasn't good for him since she had two small children.

"Finished," she said, angrily, her eyes welling with tears. So I figured I wouldn't be intruding on anyone's toes when she hopped on the back of the bike and we headed out.

We needed to make a stop, she indicated by pointing, just south of Lam Kem, the next town south of Khao Lak, where we stopped to get her sister-in-law, it must've been, and after the two of them collected some greens for a tea for P' Ton's mother's arthritis, from what I could gather, there we went, with those two Thai girls (I'm not so sure that P' Su is Thai, with her sharp features and bracelets and bangles and all. The Thai are much more round and soft-featured. And those CDs she had were from India. She could be from India, maybe Nepal. I really don't know) on the back of my bike, about 25 k. per hour, the tire nearly flat, knees aching all the hell of the way south on an hour/plus ride to P. Ton's mother's house out in the sticks.

Fortunately, P' Su had her motorbike there, and after about an hour there on P' Ton's mother's porch, she and her sister-in-law rode together on the way back, their tire going flat after about five kilometers, delaying us for another hour in a small village. We dropped off her sister-in-law back in Lam Kem, and when we got back to P. Sue's shop in Khao Lak, her boyfriend was sitting there waiting.

So I guess that's that.


**'Mr. Big', literally, but after several months, I learned that culturally, it means, 'Big Brother'.

So I guess that's that.

The fortune tellers have a spot on the eastern end of the Pranam Phalong or whatever it is they call the big parade and ceremonial grounds adjacent to the Royal Palace in Bangkok. That's where I saw that guy two days in a row, and where he gave me my 'new wife in nine weeks' reading. I looked for him when I returned to the capital. He wasn't around.