Jinni had piercing brown eyes. When she looked at you could almost feel she was looking right into you. She was not particularly graceful but she had a certain style. She’d gone to the university on a scholarship. Her parents weren’t particularly wealthy and her background was not particularly promising for someone wanting to do well academically. She just happened to excel herself and impressed all the right people (she was doing a business major and a minor in literature).
Jinni was unlike many Thai girls in that she seemed completely oblivious to her appearance. Her shortish hair fell pretty much the way she woke up with it falling. She had eyebrows that had never seen a razor or an eyebrow pencil. She almost looked like one of Hemingway’s granddaughters. She wore woolly jumpers and sharp looking jeans (even though it was the fashion for jeans to look ripped half to shreds). She compounded the anti-Thai offence by never going anywhere without some well thumbed and highlighted second hand copy of Proust or Dostoyevsky.
Three nights a week she worked as a waitress at the Chang si Khao just off Vauxhall Bridge Road which she slightly resented because they made her wear a skirt instead of jeans. She kept this reservation to herself, however, smiling warmly at all the punters and laughing at their stupid jokes about Thailand and Bangkok as she took their orders.
I met her on an evening course called Introduction to C plus plus where we both succeeded in getting a D minus minus. We’d laugh about the fact we seemed to be the only two people in the class who didn’t understand what the teacher was talking about. While other people were designing little video games we were trying to figure out what, exactly, an “integer” was. Sometimes, after the class, we’d grab a coffee and talk at length about our confusion slipping gently on to the more weighty topics that people in their twenties find appealing. I didn’t know that she was some kind of prodigy at the time. I didn’t even realise she wasn’t from a family living in the LOS. Her English was perfect. So perfect that she probably only pretended not to know what an integer was so I wouldn’t feel so bad.
One day, when I’d known her quite some time we were sitting in my Pimlico flat. I was in love with her of course and felt that given time this thing between us might be going somewhere. She looked at me and emptied the last drops from a bottle of cheap Chianti into my glass before saying “I like you Turk.”
“I like you too.”
“I don’t have many friends like you.”
Then she paused and looked down at her half empty glass and said “But in two months I have to go back to Thailand.”
“I finished my studies. My visa’s up.”
“Oh. You never mentioned this before.”
“I didn’t want to mention it before… The thing is I have to go back unless… Unless I can find someone who can help me.” She leaned forward so we were so close I could feel her breath as she spoke. “I need to get married.”
I froze for a moment.
“It’s okay.” She said. “It wouldn’t be like a real marriage. It would just be so I could get a visa extension.”
“Of course. Yeah. I understand.”
“I really don’t want to go back to Thailand yet. But… I’m sorry I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
“No… It’s not. It’s bad. It’s just that I don’t know that many people who I would… I don’t know anyone else I can ask. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. It’s okay. I understand. I don’t want you to go back to Thailand either.”
She drew closer as if we were in a public place rather than my flat and she was worried someone else might hear. “Can I tell you a secret?”
“You can tell me anything.”
“I’m in love.”
My heart jumped into my mouth. I hadn’t been able to get past the friendship chasm between us but she was doing it for me. She was going to tell me how she felt about me. Maybe this was the Thai way. And I did love her. I loved her sense of humour. I loved her smile. I loved her intelligence. I loved her to bits. She seemed, in every way, the perfect woman.
“Have you ever been in love Turk?”
“When you’re in love nothing else matters. You’ll do anything… You know? Even if it hurts your family.”
“How would it hurt your family?”
“You have to follow your heart.” I said.
She sighed as if relieved that I understood her which, I’m afraid, I really didn’t. “I would ask Roberto but his wife won’t divorce him and he’s Italian anyway.”
Time slowed down and my life suddenly shattered into a thousand fragments. “Who?”
“Roberto. You know. My boyfriend. You met him before. I mean I know he would marry me if he could and I would ask him but first he’s Italian and then I know his wife won’t divorce him. If I went back to Thailand now it would kill me.”
“I guess so.”
“So you’ll do it.”
“Of course. No. Don’t mention it. I mean I don’t know how something like this works but, you know, if there’s no other way.”
“It’s okay. I have friends who’ve done the same. All I really have to do is make sure all my post and stuff goes to your address. That’s enough to prove that we’re living together. Obviously you’ll have to explain it to your girlfriends. I don’t want to cramp your style.”
“I have very little style to cramp.”
“It only has to be for a year and a bit. That’s how long it takes to get the residency visa.”
With a feeling like a lead weight lying on my chest I sat there and listened to her outlining all the details. I kept telling myself that if I loved her then it should be enough that I could make her life better in some way. Why not? So I was in severe unbearable emotional pain but I did really love her right? So I did want her to be happy.
I played along with everything. I went through the dismal ceremony and filled out all the necessary forms. After the marriage we went to some pub where Roberto picked her up and shook my hand to thank me before the two of them took off on my honeymoon. I couldn’t make up my mind if I was a really nice guy or a complete fucking idiot. There was something of both.
I kept seeing Jinni to pass on her post. We would still talk but things had changed. They do say everything changes when you get married. She seemed more like someone who owed me money than a real friend. Our chats became more and more superficial and I watched her become less of a prodigy and more of a housewife looking after Roberto.
When the year and a bit was up and she had her residency visa all sorted out we filed all the divorce papers (I cited “unreasonable behaviour”), kissed and went our separate ways. I won’t say I never saw her again but I didn’t see her much. We’d both dropped out of the C++ class ages ago and Chang si Khao had closed down to be replaced by a Chinese takeaway.
Occasionally the odd bit of information would come my way. I heard Roberto went back to his wife (and kids). By then, of course, my feelings for her were long gone. She’d long ceased to be the woman I’d fallen in love with. The last time I saw her in
Over the years I’ve often thought about her. I owe her a lot. I don’t talk about the marriage much (people who know me now never believe I would do all this for a woman I never even slept with) but I’m not ashamed of it. It was only after all that that I figured out the kind of person I really didn’t want to be any more. But not just this. I thought of how much fun it was knowing her. In some ways I had something with her that I haven’t really been able to find since.
All of which would probably make a pretty boring little sob story but for the fact that it was her that I found naked in my bed in Bangkok the day before yesterday.
How the Hell she got there is a complicated little story. I guess everybody changes.
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