Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Where heroes are made

Bangkok Yai canal, which runs through Talad Phlu 

'Can't you just polish the old ones?' the boyfriend asked the optician hopefully.
She shook her head. No, you can't.

He tried again.

'Can't you just put the new lens in the old frames?'

'No - I want new frames,' I said.

Maiyuu and I visited an optician at the local shopping mall yesterday. I need a new pair of prescription glasses. He was determined to part with as little of my money as possible.
Of course he asked the questions in jest. However, if they had replied 'Yes', I might have had an argument on my hands.

For someone who has good eyesight like Maiyuu, all this fuss over glasses is hard to understand. I buy a new pair every 12-18 months.

I chose a new pair of frames, with his help. Actually, he went straight to the cabinet where the cheapest frames are kept, chose one for me, and pronounced they would look 'perfect'.

Actually, they do not look too bad, if a little on the trendy side.

'I am too old to wear these,' I said.

'They will make you look younger - and they are cheap,' he said approvingly.

We did try on a few others, but settled for the pair he liked which will set us back the least.

The young woman serving us enjoyed our exchange: the farang urging the Thai to spend a little more on his eyes, the Thai keeping his purse strings closed.

They also tested my eyes. My eyesight has grown worse in my right eye, as I suspected.

My new eyeware, with a new pair of lens, will set us back B7,300, which is not so bad really.

Maiyuu put down a B4,000 deposit. 'You can find the other B3,000,' he said.

I talked him down from that lofty position by agreeing to buy him a present at the local bookshop - two cooking books, worth B600.

Long-tailed boats bring tourists with their bikes to canalside eateries
I met bad boy Kew at the riverside eatery for a drink.

He wanted to meet in Pin Khlao, where he could pluck my guitar moodily on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, but we decided the local eatery by the canal running through Talad Phlu would be easier.

He turned up shortly after 2pm, the first time we had met in four or five months. The last time I saw him, I brought along a straight friend of mine, farang C.

At his request, Kew took us that day to a forlorn part of town where men pick up girls off the street.

Yesterday, Kew was in a subdued mood. His mother had bought a desktop computer, and then a laptop computer, for the use of his younger sister, who is still at school.

'My sister wanted the laptop so she could show off to her friends,' Kew complained.

Kew knows he is his Mum's favourite, but is having trouble communicating with her. He says she should have saved for a rainy day the money she spent on the laptop. Kew's parents left each other years ago, and his mother is not well off.

My young friend is close to his younger sister, who shines academically - or did, before she became hooked on her friends.

'She told me to butt out of her business. I cried,' he said.

Kew's former girlfriend is also causing him problems. She is 18, and has made herself pregnant with a man she befriended in the provinces. Kew worries about her, as he fears she is too young to raise the child herself.

'I tell her to stop smoking and drinking, so the child has a chance of being born normal,' he said.

I felt sorry for my friend, who came close to tears a few times as he told me the sad stories of his life.

Kew, a security guard, works for a local car firm. He can look after his own needs financially and is even managing to save money, he says, so life is not all bad.

While we were drinking, a fight broke out at a nearby table. A small man in his 50s started shouting at a woman. I don't know what the fight was about. Kew could see more of what was happening from where he sat.

'If I intervene, will I get thumped?' he asked.

'Don't do anything - just sit,' I urged.

However, we were both on our feet a few seconds later when the man pulled out a paper cutter. The sound of the blade sliding out of its metal sheath is unmistakable.

One of the women at the table was trying to restrain him.

I was the first to arrive. 'That's enough,' I told him firmly.

Kew did much more. He put himself between the man with the blade and his female target, and threatened to take the knife off him.

The little man with the fiery temper agreed to put his cutter away. The woman he was scolding fled the restaurant, and life returned to normal.

I was proud of Kew. On his feet, coming to the rescue of a woman, he looked tall and strong.

'You are the hero of this shop today,' I told him after we had returned to our table.

'You're my hero as well.'

Kew and I have known each other since he was 18. He is now 25, looks harder in the face, but is still handsome.

While we were drinking, three long-tailed boats pulled up at the pier outside the eatery - a small restaurant with open sides perched on the banks of the canal - and disgorged their passengers and bikes on to the rickety pier next to us. 

Under the bridge, close to the canalside eatery
They were tourists, who had come on a bicycle ride around the market. Before their ride, they drop into the restaurant for a bite to eat.

I spoke to one of the guides, a tall Thai woman in her early 20s.

'I like girls like that - if I didn't have Maiyuu, I might be with her - she suits my specs,' I announced.

I would like to think it could be true. Who knows.

Kew, for his part, decided he liked the look of one of the Dutch girls in the tour group.

An hour later, as another tour group was getting back on a long-tailed boat by the wooden pier, having finished their ride and their snack, a Thai tour guide chatted to Kew through the open sides of the eatery.

She was on the pier, piling bicycles onto the boat.

After she left, a member of the waiting staff told Kew that the girl had left her phone number.

She must have liked the look of Kew, but was too shy to ask for his phone number herself.

Kew called back, but did not sound interested, as his moods were still flat.

My young friend has depressive tendencies, but I am not sure how to help him feel better.

'Can I kiss your forehead?' I asked. 'It looks sad.'

'No - you're mad,' he said, laughing.

Postscript: Happy New Year to readers.


  1. i am a contact lens guy... i hate having the trouble of choosing which pair would look good on me...

    that reminds me, i need to have my eyes check again...




  2. that was a nice story, thank you

  3. Glad to hear that Kew has cleaned up his act, and that you are still friends. Happy New Year!

  4. Faraway Friend: I hope you enjoyed the Kew stories, and they did not make you feel too depressed.

    He has cleaned up his act to some extent: Kew is aware that he is getting older, but that his life chances still look dim.

    'I was a bad boy when I was young - now it is catching up with me,' he pronounced heavily. 'It's fate.'

    His Dad has offered to put him through a training course of some kind. I hope he accepts, as it may help him find a better job.


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