It is 12 o'clock in the night and I'm eating Phad Thai on Sukhumvit road. My girlfriend Si is working in her bar and I return to her apartment to go to sleep. Her apartment is one 16-sqm room (and a bathroom) which she shares with her "young sister" (who is not her sister of course) and Joy. Si told me that tonight the mother of her girlfriend Joy would come to Bangkok with the 2-year old baby of Joy (who is now 18), that is raised by her mother in Buriram. Calculation figures out that she had a baby when she was 16 and probably became pregnant when she was 15. A great start to life, isn't it? Well, that happens in the rural rice fields of the Isaan.
When I arrive at 1 o'clock in the night "young sister" is sleeping on the floor (because the floor is cooler than the bed). So I go to sleep on the bed where later also my girlfriend and Joy will sleep. Around 2 o'clock someone arrives at the room and "young sister" opens the door. Two older women with a 2-year old baby come in. They settle down in the room and I fall asleep again. At 3 o'clock my girlfriend and Joy arrive in the room and they start chatting and playing. Despite the fact that "young sister" and my girlfriend and I are trying to sleep the baby is allowed to play with an electronic sound machine that makes a lot of irritating noise. Then also "sister Lek" arrives and it seems that the other older woman is her mother.
The next time that I wake up it is 6:30 in the morning and the beautiful sunlight of the sunrise is shining through the door into the room. I overlook the room and see "sister Lek" sleeping like a baby in the arms of her mother. Her arms are around the body of her mother as though she never wants to let her go again. Is this the same girl I saw last night dancing in a go-go bar and making a lesbian show? My girlfriend sleeps in my arms and next to her is Joy. Her face is in the morning sun and she looks with a smile to her baby in the arms of her mother. That is the place where her baby feels at home and safe now, not in her arms anymore. Then Joy turns around and when I look at her I can just see that she tries to hide the tears in her eyes. No, she will not show those tears to her baby, her mother, or anyone else. She has to sleep, so she can "work" again the next day to earn money so her baby can have clothes, food, and hopefully an education.
After breakfast my girlfriend calls back home to talk with her mother. She is happy to hear her mother and the screaming voice of her just-born baby brother. Then she is quiet for a minute and then she closes her little eyes and tears are rolling down her cheek. When I ask her what the problem is she just says 'Mai pen rai, it’s only me". But later when we are at Klong Toey market I see that sad face again and now she tells me. Her younger brother (who has been monk for 3 months) is now living and working in Bangkok also. And, as she loves her family and her brother very much, she would like to see her brother again after one year now. But her mother told her that her brother told nobody where he works or lives because he does not want to see his sister anymore because she is doing the work she does. And I always thought that family ties in Thailand were so strong nothing could break them? Well it seems that doing “bad” work can break it easily. But bad work of which he himself has probably eaten the fruit.
Will I ever learn to see what is behind that smile?