Walking Street was crowded with drunken marines, dok thongs, Englishmen on Ecstasy, tattooed go-go girls, shouting Arabs, Amazonian transvestites, and wide-eyed Chinese tourists. These diverse groups threaded through the gauntlet of dueling music from various beer bars and discos. The heat was driving everyone insane and alcohol was behind the wheel. The collective madness left me in the dust and I realized vengeance was better suited for the Bible. All I really wanted was a cold beer.
Sam Royalle was at Hot Tuna with his wife.
"How's it going?" Sam Royalle glowed with love.
"Everything is fine." I resisted asking, if they had seen Ae.
They would never have said yes or no, for a strange etiquette in Pattaya is that no one ever snitches, if someone’s girlfriend or boyfriend is with someone else.
I ordered a beer. It went fast. The next three disappeared even faster. Two tequilas and a whiskey broke my laughter dam. I played snooker against Pi-ek, the owner, and beat him three games to none. The most beautiful girl in the bar invited me to take her home. I was drunk enough to think it was for my looks.
Pi-ek nodded to warn of approaching danger and I turned to see Ae strut on high platform shoes into the bar. A hair stylist had affixed waist-long hair extensions. Her red satin short shorts left nothing to the imagination and a scarlet halter top covered her flat chest. Her nipples showed through the gauzy material. They were aroused by anger and she demanded, “Why you go with other lady?"
The free-lancer recognized her services for the evening were required elsewhere and fled the beer bar. I should have followed her, but this scene had been rehearsed too many times in my head to not let it play out with my body.
"She only friend."
I had heard someone tell me this before. I was too drunk to remember who.
"Why you not wait me?” Her eyes were on fire.
“Are you fucking mad?”
“Bah? I not crazy.” Ae spat with slurred hatred.
"Not crazy. I'll show you crazy."
A demon was demanding Ae’s sacrifice. The word murder strangely reversed into “Red rum.” Jack Nicholson had said something similar in THE SHINING and I remembered an editor of Heavy Metal magazine introducing me to the author as a fellow Mainiac.
Stephen King had sneered upon hearing I came from Falmouth Foresides, as if anything south of the Bath Iron Works wasn’t Maine. I never read his rip-offs of HP Lovecraft afterwards and wasn’t going to kill anyone with “Red rum” rummaging through my brain.
“You better go with your Italian.”
"You no love me no more?” She was surprised by my surrender.
If I kept my mouth shut, she might walk away, instead I said, “No, I don’t anymore.”
“Ko-hok.” She knew I was lying too and wheeled away onto onto Walking Street in triumph over another crushed heart.
"I'm not a liar."
"You lie me. You lie you too." She gave me the finger. People laughed at me. This scene was played out on Walking Street several times a night, if not more. My audience waited for the one of the two typical responses. The first was to beg her to forgive me, but I had done nothing wrong.
At least that's what I told myself, so I opted for reaction #2.
I grabbed my beer bottle from the bar.
Her Italian stood on the opposite sidewalk. His two friends were laughing at him and me and Ae. So were two transvestites. I didn't see the humor of the situation and drained my beer.
I was free of Ae. I bore no more responsibilities to her or her family. I was the God of my future.
"Fuck you, 'good-bye'. You not done me." She stuck out her tongue like a 12 year-old girl threatening to run away from home.
"Fuck you too." I chucked the beer bottle in her direction. The bottle shattered against the wall across the street. Ae ran to the Italian. He held her in his arms. It was the last thing I wanted in this world and it was all my fault.
Time hit fast-forward speed, when he charged the bar. His friends scrummed with Pi-Ek and Sam Royalle, plus several of the bar staff. The Italian threw an overhead punch. I partially blocked it with my forearm. His fist cracked on my cheek. He had a hard hand. Stars fluttered in my eyes. Ae stopped his second punch.
"Yet mung." Ae led him away from the bar. She had lose face, but if the police would show up if this altercation continued any longer and they would be looking for 'sin-bon' or tea money to squash any charges. That money was better in her pocket. She had a family to feed.
"I get you." The Italian was hot. I would have to watch my back until he left town. Once he and his friends accompanied Ae into the Marine Disco, I went over to Sam Royalle and Pi-ek.
"Why didn't you stop me from talking to her?"
"Mate, it's your problem." He ordered the bar a round of tequilas.
"Yes, never step between man and woman. Bad luck." Pi-ek was wise to the ways of Walking Street. “Good, you not hit her. You hit her and have big trouble with police. Expensive. Maybe go to hospital.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.” Ae’s brothers had killed fellow Thais for 5000 baht. My life was worth more than $125 and I kept telling myself that, as Ae staged several comebacks before finally leaving for Italy in late August. She appeared at my house for sex, while the Italian was at a disco. The hour was usually past midnight. She never stayed for more than an hour.
"Boyfriend smoke too much ganga. Sex not same you." Her body shone with sweat. A shadow against my white sheets. "I not finish with him. Finish with you every time."
"I know." It was a good lie and one I told myself was the truth listening to her pleas for more. Ae was a good actress and I was a better audience.
"I go soon." She didn't know the date.
"I'll miss you."
"Not yet. We do again."
She called two weeks later from the airport. Her plane was leaving in the afternoon.
"Please come get me. Take me back."
"Go outside and get a taxi."
"Can not do. He and friends watch me."
"Sorry." Three Italians versus me was bad odds. Ae actually coming back to me were even worst. I stayed where I was.
Ae called me every day from Italy. Her boyfriend was a drug dealer. No one spoke Thai. The food was not spicy.
"Come get me, please."
I would hang up the phone before saying something I would regret, because while she might have left Pattaya, her soul was still in my heart. I went to a travel shop on Walking Street. The agent told me the cost of a ticket to Milan. I told him that I would think about it.
Coming out of the travel agency, I spotted Nu heading to work in her waitress outfit. I called her name. She didn't stop walking and I ran up to her.
"I hear you and girlfriend fight." She shook her head.
“I’m an old fool."
"Big fool." Nu turned her head. Her eyes were filled with disappointment.
"I don't know why I did that. I wanted her to go. I did everything to make her go. It's almost like she did a magic spell on me."
"Magic?" This word stopped Nu from entering her restaurant.
"Yes, like love potion." The words to the Searcher's song LOVE POTION #9 rambled through my head.
"You drink something funny?" Nu was serious. Thais are big believers in magic. Ghosts too.
“I think so too.” The green liquid in the glass. “I drank this water once. It tasted bad. I saw a green stain on the glass."
"You drink aa-kom." She was horrified by this love potion. "Your girlfriend from Isaan. People from there have big magic. Not good magic. Bad magic."
"Do you know how to stop a love curse?”
“Have to have old lady make rice. She stand over rice and let sweat fall into rice. Then you eat. Love potion finished.”
Her next day off Nu brought an old lady at her apartment building to cook the rice and stand over the steaming pot. I thought they were joking, but both of them watched with interest as I drank the antidote. It tasted terrible. I didn’t sleep or eat two days, but afterwards I didn’t think about Ae. In fact I didn't think about any of the women I had loved in my life.
This was good magic, except I still realized how much a fool I had been.
“Everyone can be a fool sometimes. Only all the time is bad.” Nu still refused any intimacy. “I have been a fool one time too. Maybe have big heart. Same you.”
We spoke about the potion, Ae, or us. Nu’s husband had left her for another woman and I wondered whether there were any happy endings in Thailand. She said, “Happy ending are good in movie. But only in cartoon.”
Nu accompanied me to Don Muang Airport, saying in Thai. “Thailand is very beautiful.”
“I’ll remember it that way.”
“Maybe you come back one day and you kiss me.”
It was sweet to hear after my year and a half with Ae. “I’ll be back soon.”
“I’ll pray to Buddha you do.”
“Krup kuhn kap.” I wai-ed her, because she had smoothed over a rough spot in my soul. I couldn’t wait six month. Her lips were tender. The kiss was a short one.
My name was called for final boarding.
Nu smiled and I released her hand. I was going to America. Manny would hire me to sell diamonds for Christmas. Sherri would laugh about the love potion. Ms. Carolina would take me skiing. Maybe Bill could convince Monty to make a movie about the Italian Plan.
I would be back in Thailand for the New Year. All I wanted was a little love. It wasn’t too much to ask from life. Not in Pattaya or anywhere else in the world. Even for a fool, especially after being freed from a curse, then again everyone is a fool when it comes to love.
AO, MAI AO - want, not want
A-RAI - what?
BAH - Mad
CHING CHING - True
CHOK DI - Good luck
DOK THONG - slut
FARANG - Westerner
FEN - Boyfriend
FIN - Opium
JUM JAM Pawn shop
LAK KHUN love you
KHUN-GARH Old man<
KRUP KHUN KRAP Thank you