Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Squid reflections

At 4am, Mum had just returned from the fresh market. She took a seat at the bench of her shop to cut up ingredients.

First, she took the stalks off mushrooms. Then she started cutting up squid.


It was comforting to take a seat next to her and watch her work. It reminded me of when my Mum does the same thing.

Earlier, she had scolded me lightly for staring at the handsome young men who walk past her shop.

'You need to find more friends,' she said.

I do, indeed. The night before, Mum attempted to hitch me up to a boy, one of a group of three young ones who dropped into the shop.

The girl and two boys ordered Pepsi in a bag. One young man was the odd one out, as I could tell from their behaviour that the girl and the other boy were a couple.

While Mum was getting their order, she asked the boy without the mate if he fancied me. He looked me over, while his friend whispered something (no doubt unflattering) in his ear.

I was a little shocked Mum would attempt to hook me up with someone so young, so jumped in before he could reply.

'How old are you?' I asked.


'You should find someone younger,' I said. 'I'm too old.'

'What does age have to do with it? You still want a friend,' said Mum.

As the group walked away, the boy shot me a look which said he was disappointed that I had knocked him back.

Last night, Mum's sister, Isra, was also there. School is out, and her two children have come back with her from the provinces to Bangkok.

Her son, who remembered me from last time, gave me a wai. I saw Isra tell her daughter, who I had yet to meet, to do the same.

The boy, Bon, 12, likes to play games. We erected structures made of wooden building blocks, and pulled out the pieces, one by one, trying to keep the thing up as long as possible.

Then, when we tired of that, we played a board game with playing pieces that have coloured dots on them.

Players vie with each other to connect the pieces together, based on their value, until they have none left. If my piece does not have a corresponding value, I have to pick up.

A Thai guy sitting next to me offered to help, as he could see young Bon was too good for me.

Then the newcomer suggested that he and I play, with a beer wagered on the outcome. I called on Bon to play on my behalf. He won one game, then lost the next. Bon then called on the help of his Mum, who has played her son many times before, and is an expert. She won the next four games in a row.

I bought a consolation beer for the Thai guy, and he bought one for me.

Farang M, 47, a former drainage engineer from Britain, was there. He marvelled at my inability to distinguish the colours, connect the dots, or do anything else competently.

'Next time, its naughts and crosses for you,' he said.

Still, I enjoyed playing games - it gives us something to do, other than talk.

I also liked seeing the kids there. It brought out my paternal instincts - my desire to be a Dad, which I assume men carry with them in their genes.

'The gay lifestyle is boring, and lonely,' I told Mum, who comes from Esan, and is my age. 'I want to be a Dad.'

'Wait until my husband is dead, then we can start again,' she said.

Mum and her husband, a former army man in his 50s, work alternate shifts. He looks after the shop during the day, and Mum comes out at night.

They have a son of her own, a bright, overactive child who is approaching his teenage years.

'We see each other every day, and you have an optimistic personality,' Mum said, while barely looking up from her squid.

I am sure there a few drawbacks there, too, but we didn't go into them.

It was time I went home to bed.


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