|Man, showing off the tatts|
Make friends but please do not give them money. These people will take everything you give them, start to expect it, and become resentful when you stop supporting them.I was to take their advice, as I didn't feel comfortable handing over money. Man was able to help himself before I came along; even if he had to ensure a bit of hardship, I am sure he would have coped. I replied:
I am not prepared to just cut off support as he won't have petrol to get to work nor food to eat. However, I am sure he can make do with a bit less than I have been giving. When this is over I will confine my help to meeting them as a group for a meal.
After Man's finances improved, I started seeing him less, as he was working long hours. However we kept in touch for a time on social media.
At first man was responsive to my messaging; one day he posted sadly about loss of his Mum and I suggested he light a candle for her and wai before her portrait, as I had seen him do previously on Facebook.
A year later, on the anniversary of her death, he posted a similar message and I left a similar suggestion. By this time I had stopped giving money and Man ignored my advice. In fact, he didn't even bother with a reply.
This did not really surprise me: I always get the impression with social media addicts that they would rather be talking to someone else.
The friendship had started to peter out well before then, when I visited the gang at our old haunt on Chua Phloeng Road one night and saw them in a different light: just a bunch of tatty teens.
"Man's here, Man's here," his mates said, ushering me towards a dark corner where I found him sitting in a smart soft collared T-shirt and pair of shorts. They knew we were once close, and recall that I supported him for many weeks when he was in need of help.
I had also help steer him towards young adulthood, in the brief time we were together, encouraging him to come off the drugs, quit smoking, eat properly, get sleep...
Despite his financial problems, Man always looked well dressed. When I asked him about that once, his reply was frustratingly, vintage Thai: "I am up all hours of the night and day. No one understands how I live."
On this occasion, I barely talked to him. He gave me a big smile but somehow looked less than the person I had known previously. Everything, in fact, looked diminished.
It took me 10min to cycle there from work, but surveying the uninspiring scene before me, I lost interest in conversation and decided to leave.
Man looked shocked when, with barely a word, I turned on my heel. He could see the spell was broken. I see him pop up on social media, but we have not seen each other in the flesh since.