Saturday, 28 April 2007

Letting the side down

I am in trouble at Mum's shop. Her sister, Isra, has a visiting farang boyfriend who has just found out that she has two children, not one as she had told him previously when they first met a couple of years ago.

In an argument with Isra, the farang claims I told him about the daughter. Actually, I didn't: I just invited him to listen to the sound of her is so similar to that of Isra's son.

Isra, her son and her daughter are visiting Bangkok for the school break. Normally they live at the family home in Esan.

In Bangkok, they stay at a small apartment which the farang rents for her.

He pays the rent on the place even when she returns to her home province in Esan, which is where she and the kids spend most of the year.

Farang J has known about the son since the beginning, when he met Isra, a former bargirl, in Phuket.

However, she never owned up about the daughter, who is now 16, and who, since arriving in Bangkok with her mother and brother, has found herself a lesbian lover.

On the night farang J arrived, Isra told me she was concealing from her boyfriend the true identity of the girl.

'I have told him that she is my niece,' she said. 'I am afraid to tell him the truth, because I don't want to increase his financial burdens.'

At first, I went along with the joke - or should I say, the lie. However, on the second night, when the topic of the girl came up, I invited him to re-appraise his thinking about the girl's identity.

'Sometimes when I sit here with my back turned to them I hear one of the children talking...I think it's the boy, but when I turn around I see it was actually the girl I heard, or vice versa. They sound alike, and look similar as well,' I said, hoping he would get the hint.

'Isra has two older brothers...the eldest brother is the father of the girl,' farang J insisted. 'I met the girl there one day when I went to see the brother at his house in Kalasin.'

I let it go at that point, as ultimately it was none of my affair, though it was painful to watch him being deceived.

Farang M, a regular at Mum's shop and long-term friend of farang J, was more forthcoming.
He told farang J about the daughter, sparking a confrontation between farang J and Isra.

'I told him that Isra is often over at Khao San Rd seeing other men, and I told him about the daughter, too,' he said.

Farang J asked Isra angrily why he had to find out about the daughter not from her, but from a third party.

'I am not angry that you kept the girl a secret, just that I had to find out from someone else,' he told her.

A few days later, Isra's elder sister, Mum, relayed to me details of their exchange.

'Did you tell farang J about the daughter?' she asked.

Mum interrogated me for 10 minutes, while the lesbian daughter listened in. 

'No, I didn't,' I said. 'He probably heard it from another farang friend instead.'

'Do you swear you said nothing?'

'I swear.'

As I see the Thais at Mum's shop every night, I cannot afford to be seen taking sides. Mum and Isra confide in me because they assume I will keep their affairs to myself. But sometimes that means turning a blind eye to petty lies and deception, which I would rather not do.

I overhear things in Thai, which to an outsider's ears would sound terrible. On the night farang J arrived, I heard Mum complaining about her unpaid bills.

'Never mind, the money has arrived now,' said Isra, referring to her boyfriend. I would like to think that she meant that remark in an innocent rather than a cold-hearted way.

Farang J and girlfriend Isra are staying in a small hotel close to Khao San Rd.

Her children - Isra's son, so-called 'niece', and her lesbian lover - stay about 10 minutes' away, at an apartment close to Mum's shop.

Normally, Isra also stays at the apartment. However, she thought it would 'not look good' for the kids to see farang J and herself canoodling, as they would all have to share the same room.

'It would look bad in the eyes of the children to see us kissing or cuddling,' she said.

Yet those same young ones have seen it all before - the daughter and her lesbian lover can barely keep their hands off each other.

Why so many secrets?

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't lie to help any no-account Thais cover up their mistakes and so deceive a well-meaning foreigner- and I'd be even angrier at any Thais who implied I should than they might be at me for "giving away" the truth. This is one of the occasions that I don't accept Thai "culture." If they want to make mistakes and not take responsibility for their lives, let them suffer for it, not a stranger.


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