Monday, 2 May 2022

Dream spell breaks (4)

Dream, left, and some of his mates

A few minutes later I made my own excuses and left. As I hopped on my bike, Lek made sure that I knew that she was responsible for Dream approaching me that night: "I am such a  good friend to you," she said unconvincingly.


The next day, I met Dream briefly as I was heading home. Now we had moved our relationship into "friends" mode, I felt relaxed when I stopped my bike and exchanged a few words of greeting.

If he was embarrassed about his drunken magnanimity the night before, he didn't show it.

Over the next few weeks, as I tried to absorb what happened, I avoided Dream's place. He had invited me to celebrate his birthday during the Songkran festival, to seal our rebooted friendship, but I did not go. I felt annoyed that Dream was so happy to monetise our friendship at Aunty Lek's urging.

What if I was to take advantage of my new status as his "friend" and turn up at odd hours asking to see him, or crash his drinking circle? Before long we would argue and go back to where we started. 

As always, my access to him would be under the controlled conditions of his choosing, and presumably conditional on my playing the game: if Lek is there, I can stop for a chat with Dream, but only if I help pay for her booze.

The drinking circle outside Orng's house as I once knew it more than eight years ago is a shadow of its old self, beaten about by the passage of time, Covid, and the sad state of the economy.

His mother, who previously sold noodles in the market but now works as a cleaner on Rama IX Road, goes through moody phases when she won't talk; nor does she drink outside her place much any more, but keeps to herself indoors.

Some of the regulars who gathered there back in 2012 have moved away (Pee Mee, a fabulous cook), fallen ill (a practical joker known as Pooh), or died (Orng's younger brother, Tong, who beat her up in my presence one night).

Lek is one of the few stalwarts left, turning up faithfully day after day and rattling about in search of paying friends. 

I have seen her pick through plates of old food left on a table after almost everyone had left for home. Why does she do it?

Aunty Lek tells me she lives with five relatives, including a young nephew of whom she is fond. Why not spend her nights with them?

now, see part 5

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