It is the beginning of Fall in Boston and the wind coming in the bathroom window is cold and raw. The leaves aren't falling early but it seems like a Winter wind. Maybe I am just getting old. Anyway, with the kids all grown up and gone everything is now different; slower, as if a great winding down clock is ticking away. The great adrenaline push of raising the children is now over. The wife is fat and has stopped shaving her moustache, my penis doesn't seem to be needed anymore, and the blood pressure pills will probably keep me alive for another 20 years. All the work and the worry and the good intentions comes down to this: I am a limp-dicked, soon-to-be-retiree, with disappointing children; leaning over a toilet bowl and pouring in a stream of blue Tidy Bowl cleanser. I've been in charge of the Tidy Bowl routine for 20 years. Like an unexpected asteroid burning through the atmosphere of my brain, the blue stream of disinfectant brings up memories from 35 years ago!
The best advice my father could have given me was "Don't marry a white woman". But he knew I wouldn't listen so he kept it to himself. The second best piece of advice which he did give to me was "Volunteer for Supply, son". It was the 60's and I had been drafted into the Army. The United States felt that my 5 foot body was indispensable to the War effort. My dad's parting advice was to get into Supply. I would be able to siphon off enough to fence and provide myself with booze, women, and gambling money for the duration. He was right. I made a fortune. So much that I was able to finance an R&R apartment in Bangkok for Army guys from Saigon and for guys from the Air Force Base in Korat, Thailand. Using stolen supplies and bribed military labor I had a flush toilet installed in the apartment. Water reservoir on the roof, plumbing, water pump, septic tank: all donated by the wonderful US taxpayers. The Thais used to knock on the door to watch me flush the toilet. They stared goggle-eyed as the water went down the bowl.
Well, things were going along ok for a while until some car bombs and bar bombs persuaded me that the enemy was serious. After that I started drinking. One night I got drunk and stole a piece of road grading equipment. Drunk and hauling ass down a dirt road, I came up behind a Vietnamese ancient on a bicycle. I honked. I honked again. Nothing. So I lowered the blade, knocked him down, and greased him. When I got back to the base, the Sergeant told me to take R&R in Bangkok for a week and he would hose off the blade.
Stopping at Korat on the way to my apartment in Bangkok (selling Army supplies to Air Force personnel--what a sweet deal), I met a woman named Poom. I said something friendly like "Korat was nice" and she responded in perfect GI-accented English that "Korat sucked", and she wanted to go to Bangkok! We arrived that night and I showed her the flush toilet. If I had tapped the back of her head her eyes would have fallen out. My eyes were misty. Suddenly, I was so happy.
I had driven down with a jeep pulling a trailer full of taxpayer-paid military issue supplies. Everything from cosmetics for girls to lug nuts for business to toiletries for bribes to alcohol for bars and of course furniture and towels and sheets for the apartment. Poom thought she had fallen into a money pit.
One day I was standing in the bathroom pouring in a blue stream of Tidy Bowl disinfectant. The toilet reservoir tank on the roof was filled with algae and made the toilet water smell like a klong. Suddenly, there was a scream right behind me. Coming up behind me, Poom hadn't seen the can I was holding; just the blue stream. She thought my urine was blue!
Back then I was a small, scared guy in a war zone and like a lot of young men with too much testosterone and too little experience; I was forcing myself through life with a foul mouth. It was 'Shit' this and 'Fuck' that all the time. Poom stopped that. After I finished pouring the disinfectant in the bowl, I found her in the kitchen cleaning out the container. Then she put the top back on and cut a slot in the top. That night she presented it to me in bed and explained that from now on every time I said a bad word I had to put a satang coin in the container. I never put a single Thai coin in that container. Because I never said another bad word. She just took over my heart. . . !
So now I am in Boston and I am pouring Tidy Bowl in the toilet bowl and I am wondering if far, far away in modern Siam Poom is doing the same. And I wonder if she is fat and has a moustache. And I curse my father for not telling me about Asian women. It is a cold, raw wind coming in the bathroom window and my eyes are getting misty.
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