Three weeks ago, and two days before my birthday, I received another card from Sai. Unlike the previous seven cards that were sent from Frankfurt, this one was postmarked in Berlin, leaving me in the best of moments—and they come infrequently--to happily if perversely wonder if something in her marriage took a wrong turn. Perhaps, I want to believe, there is a sliver of hope that I might once again spend the kind of nights with her that I pine for daily, and which I shall cherish until I die.
Oh, how I treasure the memories of our times together, and all the cards she has sent these last years! Three each year since I last saw her there in the hall outside my Nana hotel room, saying goodbye as she always did with her inimitable smile and a two-fingered kiss from her lovely lips. The very first card I received from her had come at Christmas—to my surprise (I still don’t know for certain how she got my home address, though I must have given it to her and forgotten); and the second, to my even greater surprise, on my birthday (another surprise for I had never given her my birth date, or had I?); and then the most satisfying card of all, and those I treasure most, the cards commemorating the night I barfined Sai and our odd and very satisfying relationship began.
From the beginning and right down to the last time we were together, our times and memorable moments were notable for the long silences, how little we talked. We could not, for then and now I spoke no Thai, and Sai, who had been working in the Dollhouse in Soi Cowboy less than two weeks when we met, neither spoke nor understand half a dozen words of English. Over the next two and half years or so when I would show up unannounced and barfine her, her English had not notably improved. Or rather I should say that by the time it had we had come to an unspoken agreement that a good bit of the magic in our relationship had to do with how little we verbally communicated. And yet, while I could never tell her this, I could not bear the exchange of so few words for more than two or at most three days. Then I would tell her that I had business in Vientiane or Jakarta or Phnom Penh. Sometimes I would indeed have a plane to catch to one of these or other foreign destinations, but as often as not I’d simply stay away from Soi Cowboy and take a girl from Nana Plaza or Patpong. Or get on a bus and go to Pattaya for several days until I then flew to another country for what I told one and all was business. The business of feeding my addictions, of course, which is another story...
From the first time we were together, I felt that we were simply what I would think of as a “great fit.” Sai was warm to a fault. She loved to touch and be touched, and to wrap herself around me at night. Not once can I recall the slightest hint that she wanted to leave me or be with someone else. For a reason I never understood--and perhaps she did the same with others--when we were together there no other world to which she related. Or rather she never revealed that she did, for how is one to ever know, and especially when we had a relationship where so few words were exchanged? Sai had a cell phone, as might be expected, but it never rang, and if she made calls or checked for messages when with me it must have been when she went to the bathroom.
How much we managed to share in all those silences, the eight or ten times we were together for one or usually two days at a time! The loving glances while we drank, the way we laughed at people around us, and then that specialness when we made love—softly and sweetly, on some nights all through the night, I swear. I get bored easily and yet with Sai she had a way of making love that always seemed fresh and exhilarating and different than what we’d done an hour or two earlier, or six weeks into an unmarked past that I would come out of, to suddenly surprise her at the Dollhouse or Long Gun or one of the other Soi Cowboy bars to which she had moved in my absence.
I often thought that Sai was needy, and that in small but important ways she thought I met those needs. Maybe, as I now reflect on the matter, it was no more complex than the desire to be constantly touched, and held, close, enough to catch my every breath and feel the warmth of my body. She insisted, for example, on putting her head on my shoulder at every opportunity, sitting beside rather than across from me in restaurants, wrapping herself around me when we slept. What she seemed to want most of all—to which I never objected—was to literally lie on top of me for a long five minutes or so and put her lips on mine and look into my eyes and not move. Not an inch, until she rolled to one side and waited expectantly for me to begin kissing her all over. I’ve thought about this peculiarity of hers often, and in all my years of whoring and philandering, I only knew one other woman who behaved this way. And she—my second wife, like Sai, made me feel as though nothing imaginable was more important that this peculiar show of affection, one that I am sure most men would find suffocating.
Yet, Sai never once said she loved me, nor did I even attempt to verbalize such a sentiment.
There is so much more that others might find strange about how Sai and I carried on. The first night I took her I gave her 1,000 baht more than the going rate, and as the expectations changed during the time I knew her and before she went to Germany with a man about whom I know nothing, I followed the same pattern. In the morning, while she was in the bathroom, I’d put the expected amount in her purse, with the extra 1,000. She never said a word about how much I paid her, and I never once saw her check before leaving to see how much she had gotten or even if she’d been paid. The fact is that money, as a topic of discussion, or something that she wanted beyond what I gave her for the night, never came up in our relationship. The sole exception was the time I took her to Patpong to see some ping-pong and dart and balloon shows, and when we headed for a taxi on leaving she wanted me to walk down the street to get a cheaper fare.
It never occurred to me to take Sai shopping, for the reason I guess that I have never taken any of these girls shopping no matter how much I’ve liked them. Nor have I ever spent an afternoon with more than one or two of them through the years. They were all told, including Sai, that come noon I wanted to be alone, that I had business to take care and I could not have distractions around me. The truth is I never had business of any sort; this was just a well-worn excuse, a lie that allowed me to be free to spend time with drinking friends. Or as often as not by late afternoon go on the hunt for a new girl that I might keep for the afternoon, sometimes all night. If Sai suspected this about me, that I was as unfaithful and fickle as they come, she never let on.
How little we knew about one another! I had her first name, I knew that she had no kids, and that she worked as a dancer because of a crippled father and a mother unable to work. I also knew her age. She was twenty-seven when we met. What did she know about me? Almost nothing. My name, the country I call home, and that was about it. She never asked my age, and I never told her. She didn’t know my marital status, or whether or not I was a butterfly, or what I do for a living. It was the kind of indifference or lack of curiosity that would disturb many people, even mindless mongers like myself. But it didn’t bother me, though perhaps this is the reason that at one point, and in my small insecurities and need for more from her, I must have slipped and given her my address. Or did she come upon it in my luggage one day when I was in the bathroom? And that is also how she learned when I was born, all there on my passport or the Xerox copies of the passport that I kept everywhere.
Ah, the cards she sent, each one funny and expressing affection if not love in a special way. A rabbit chasing a rabbit. Two little kids under the age of six or seven and wearing funny hats, hugging and kissing. One card that was covered edge to edge with a heart, and in the middle were the words: You & Me.
Yes, the cards, so consistent, and so mysterious, for each had only three words on it: I MISS YOU. There was never a signature, no hello, nothing about how she was doing, no questions about what I was up to, and never a return address that I might write to. And then on this last card that I got just about three weeks ago, she added the arresting, the frightening words: PLEASE HELP ME! This was followed by a cell phone number.
But, alas, something is wrong. Perhaps even more than I can imagine. I do not know if Sai got one or two of the numbers wrong. Or if something serious has happened to her and I will never hear from her again. I have called the number she sent a good two dozen times, at all hours of the day and night. The phone rings three or four times, I hear a voice and I say hello, and then someone shuts off. One time I think it is Sai’s voice, the next time I am not sure. I do not know what to do. I secretly cry for her. I now want to talk to her as I never did before. Words and sentences. Endless paragraphs. On and on for hours. But now, I fear, it is too late. There will be only silences. A death surely, the product of my promiscuous imagination.
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