Six Aprils ago Nick and I were drinking beer in Buffalo Bar to celebrate Beermas. It was a holiday for every day of the year. We never go to go-gos, since disco music wasn’t conducive to meaningless conversations.
The DJ was spinning an insipid boy band tune, which was the perfect background music for our argument about the merits of Nick's relationship status.
"I have the perfect girlfriend." Nick contemplated his argument with a long drag of the cigarette and then said, "Annee goes to school most of the day, she spends her nights with her sponsor from Belgium. I get to see her a couple of times a week without having to spend any money other than sexy knickers."
"You don't want her for a girlfriend?" Annee was a nice girl other than her cheating on her Belgian beau.
"What and ruin my beautiful affair with her?" Nick considered her bigamy a bonus. "Plus you're not one to criticize anyone's relationships around her."
"Keep me out of this." My ex-wife was up country and the present love of my life was down the street with her friends. We hadn't spoken in two days. Mam hated my having an ex-wife.
"I ain't ever been married and I'm never getting married either. You're the same."
"I don't believe in marriage." It worked for my parents, but no woman stay with me long.
"Could you two talk about something else." The Aussie army vet was fed up with our banter.
"What's wrong, Sammie? You hearing something you don't like."
"Yeah, both you jokers are over 40 and never been married.”
“It's not a crime.” I was over 50, but rarely told anyone my age.
“No, but neither of you idiots have nothing to complain about?” Sammie was 65 and his expansive gut attested to his dedication to letting himself go to ruin..
“Who was complaining?” Nick protested with a scrunched forehead. “You’re not married either.”
“Of course I’m not married and I’ll tell you why.” The army retiree signaled the girl behind the bar for a round on him. “I had a mate. A fellow Aussie like myself.”
“A convict.” Nick couldn’t resist the dig, but the old geezer had a perfect come-back.
“Better than being a Pommie bastard. Cheers.” We toasted Sammy and he lit up a cigarette. “I first came out here in 1969 with Pat, a mate of mine. We were on R&R from our second tour in Vietnam. We had a great time; girls, booze, and a beach. Couldn’t ask for anymore. We would have stayed here forever, but didn’t want to be considered peaceniks, plus we had wives back in Oz. Both of us knew after being here that would last forever and about ten years ago we got divorced. Wives hated us and I couldn’t blame them. We retire from the Army and moved here. Far from our exs. We swore never to fall in love. We had had it with being suckers for women. We knew the score here. Same as Oz. All the women were out for your money or blood.”
“Where this going?” Nick had a date with his girlfriend and he had a new flimsy undergarment for her. If I was lucky, he would show me the cell phone photos later.
“That’s what I hate about you young people. No patience.”
“I’m not young.” I stopped being young after 40.
“You’re younger than me.” Sammy was old enough to have danced the Twist in its heyday. “Like I said my mate swore not to get involved, but he met a lovely woman. Had an angel’s smile, was about a third of his age, and danced at the Tahitian Queen.”
The mention of that bar brought out a groan. I had met my first Thai girlfriend there and my friends had elected me #1 sucker of 2000, but there was no way his mate’s story could be worse than mine. I was wrong.
“Pat decides to get married. I tried to talk him out of it. He wasn’t listening to reason.”
“Maybe she gave him a love potion.” Mine had and weird thing love potions stick with you a long time. I still think about my poisoner, although mostly bad thoughts. “Was she from Isaan?”
“Yeah, it would be the first time.” The northeastern plateau was renowned for magic. ” Pat decides to make this a wedding to remember. He hires a hall in the Royal Cliffs. Brings down the family from the rice paddies. Dresses them up. Puts on a feed. Everyone eats like they’d been starving for years. Everyone is happy. He retires to the wedding suite a happy man. In the morning he wakes and his wife isn’t there. Her clothing. Her gold. Her clothing is, but not his lovely bride.”
“Let me guess.” Having been burnt I had a good idea where this was heading.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll tell the story.” He sipped at his rum and coke. “Pat goes to the hotel staff. They haven’t seen her. At least that’s what they say. He goes to the police, thinking she might have gone for a midnight swim. They laugh and say she’ll come in with the tide. He returns to the hotel. The family has decamped. He calls his only friend. Me. He goes on a woman hunt. We go to the Tahitian Queen. No one knows nothing and saying less. A week passes. Pat is beside himself. Then one night the hotel door opens and in walks his bride.” Pat’s so happy to see her, he almost doesn’t ask where she’s been, although she’s wearing 5 baht of gold. His bride confesses that an old boyfriend called on their wedding night. “I go with him one week. He pay for everything. Now have 5 baht gold. Good idea. Now we go on honeymoon.”
“I would have killed her.” Nick had no time for fools.
“Not Pat. He went on holiday with her. Came back, stole her gold, and went to live in Phuket.”
“Her name wasn’t Vee?” I had to ask.
“Just asking.” I was happy to have escape Vee’s fiendishness.
“Well, now you know why I don’t get married.”
“Same goes for us.”
Nick bought the next round. I got the next. We drank ourselves into a state of blissful beerdom, which is where every man should live worldwide. Unless he falls in love. Then it's every man for himself on Beermas.