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I have no idea how Oh had gotten a gun months before. Technically gun ownership is illegal for civilians in Thailand; they even blur them out on Thai television dramas. Oh had had an old rifle years before that he’d made himself out of piping, and a few of his friends had laughably ancient looking firearms he was always fascinated by. This gun he’d probably bought in June, when my husband was maxing out his credit cards buying gold and selling it back before they shut his borrowing down entirely. I couldn’t pay the card bill and was positive he wasn’t going to either.
I found out about the gun one day when Oh pointed it at both of us. Ka came over to our new Laem Sai house one Saturday to borrow the red motorbike; he had an idea about selling preserved meats and sausages in Patong where all the tourists were. Since it was a long drive down a winding road, he didn’t trust his older bike to make the haul. I do think Oh’s brother was probably coming up with a reason to check up on me; something seemed to come up every other day or so that brought him to our door. We’d moved into the Laem Sai house from the Pai Yang house in preparation for Jasmine and my mother’s arrival in Thailand in one month. I wasn’t upset by anyone checking in on me; I wanted everybody to know where we lived and to be on the lookout. Staying alone with Oh didn’t prevent outbursts. It just made them more dangerous for me when they did happen.
Oh got in an argument with Ka. I understood the gist in Thai language Ka had been messing around in the shuttle bus a few days before and had supposedly disconnected some wiring for the radio. My husband wanted him to fix that; now he was missing some sort of special fuse to get it working again.
“Gen!” Oh demanded. “Kuhn Ka he say he don’t take the fuse! You! Cleaning! Checking! Everywhere!”
I’d already checked the shuttle bus pretty thoroughly for the fuse in the morning. I didn’t know if a ghost had taken it, Ka had taken it or Oh knew where it was and just needed to see that I’d jump through hoops for him. I was annoyed when my husband demanded that I repeat the same task again and again. It always came to the same end. I could still hear Oh and Ka arguing inside as I checked the shuttle bus, under the mats and seats, yet again for the lost fuse. Far in the back under the front driver’s seat, however, I did pull out two coins near the dusty seat bolt. A 10 Sen Singapore cent coin, and one Thai baht.
I walked back inside the house with my coins in hand. “You find the fuse?” Oh asked as I walked in.
I sighed. “No same before. But I find 10 Singapore cents. And one baht.”
The blowup was like a volcano. “Fuck you! Both of you! Mr. fucking one baht man!” Oh started screaming. My husband had definitely picked up on the one baht thing. Months before Ka had said an innocent comment to me, regarding his poverty. “I have one baht. In my heart.” He shortened it later to “I have one baht.” As the law of attraction works, I had been finding a single one baht coin popping up virtually everywhere since then, to a maddening degree. Never five baht or 10 baht or 50 or 25 satang or two baht, no. Always one baht. They were hidden like Easter eggs in some online game. When I traded in the shuttle bus for the Honda Accord, there was a one baht coin found when I opened the ashtray. A one baht coin was on the seat of my motorbike out in front of a store one day just 30 seconds after I’d gone in and grabbed a few items. “Who put this here?!” I started yelling at no one. Ka found a single one baht coin when he moved one of our cement lily ponds in front of our Laem Sai house as we were moving in. “I have one baht.” He said to me then, tears in his eyes.
Even stranger was that the total cost of items I’d buy, often with unmarked and slightly varying prices in local shops, usually ended in 9 baht. I’d buy coconut milk and sugar and a little fruit drink for Eliza, say and the total would be 39 baht. Two Chang beers and a piece of candy and the total would be 119 baht. Maybe it was 399 baht, or 49 baht, or 179 baht. The end result of this was that I always received a single one baht coin as change for my purchases.
“What? I just said I found one baht and 10 Singapore cents!” I said back to Oh. Oh pushed me into the front bedroom, where Eliza was already on the bed watching something on the smartphone. A few seconds later he shoved Ka into the room with me. “You two. Stay. Until you fucking. What wrong with you?” Oh slammed the door shut with the three of us inside. Clearly he’d done something to lock it in place because Ka couldn’t open it.
“Eliza? You have screw?” Ka asked my daughter. We had a screwdriver in the closet Oh’s brother was able to loosen the screws on the doorknob until the block of wood Oh had wedged under the other side clattered to the ground. “Just take the motorbike.” I said to Ka as he walked into the living room. “Go Patong. I don’t know why the big problem.”
“The big problem! The big problem! You the big problem! Who am I? My motorbike! My shuttle bus! In my name! No take! Not asking me! Don’t talk!” Oh started screaming as he went to the back bedroom, slamming the door shut behind him with such energy it rattled the house. This wasn’t true; actually Ka had called in the morning and told Oh of his plan to borrow the motorbike. My husband had seemed fine with it then.
Eliza stayed in the front bedroom watching unsupervised crap on my smartphone. I sat down on the couch in the living room while Ka sat on the cement rail on the balcony out front. I could see him through the open door though.
“Gen?” Ka whispered at me from his spot. A black butterfly with white spots on its wings had landed on his hand. It seemed to be sunning itself in the afternoon light, moving its wings slowly. I smiled watching it. After 30 seconds on Ka’s hand the butterfly fluttered off. Oh’s brother put his index finger to his lips, shushing me. I looked down and smiled.
Oh had heard this commotion. He came out of the back bedroom then, gun in his hand. Where in the fuck did he get a gun from here? “What you talking about me?” He screamed. “You go! Both of you! Now!”
I got up and went out front. Ka had the keys to the shuttle bus and was trying to start it. I knew this leave with Ka thing was a trap but I didn’t want the gun anywhere near Eliza in the bedroom. Oh’s hand was shaking he pointed the gun at me first. “You go with him!” He screamed. Ka got out of the shuttle bus and started back up the steps towards us. Oh pointed the gun at him.
“I call police!” I yelled loud enough for any neighbors to hear. “I think they coming soon!” I hadn’t called the police exactly, but I’d spread enough rumors of my husband’s violent outbursts that police cars frequently drove by our house. Oh pointed the gun down and started unloading it; shit, it had been loaded. I glanced at Ka tersely; he wasn’t sure what to do. Get out of here, my eyes told him.
“Pii baa.” Ka started muttering in Thai language about how crazy Oh was. He hopped on his grey motorbike and drove off. Oh walked inside with the gun. 30 seconds later a police cruiser drove by.
I stayed out front and rolled a local Thai bijaak leaf paper and yasin tobacco cigarette. My hands were shaking. After two years I had completely quit, this time I’d taken up smoking again, but only the local Thai fare. The stress had gotten to me 3 months prior. The police cruiser rolled by again heading the opposite direction, as though they’d driven by to check on us and then turned around. It was entirely possible that a neighbor had heard the commotion and called them. Or the universe was just synching with me.
Oh was trying to sleep it off in the back bedroom. I came back livid. “I need the fucking gun gone or I will tell the police.” I said to him. This wasn’t the USA after all, and in a good way. I had been terrified to usually consider a man with a gun 911 call in America. A SWAT style response and a hailfire of bullets? I’d read horror stories about US police response. It might just turn out to be a suicide by cop. But if me or Jasmine or my Mom or Eliza got cut down in a standoff, that was just protocol. And even if things ended in a nonviolent manner, it still would be a nightmare. Oh would either be deported or put into lengthy treatment programs while my family would be monitored by CPS following the incident. I’d decided in the USA that I’d rather just deal with my husband.
But we were in his country now I had better options. I continued. “I want you out. Tonight. I don’t care where you go. Or I call 191.” I said, referring to Thailand’s emergency services.
Oh tried to downplay it. “The gun it very old! The spring gone! Cannot to shoot anyone. Why you worry?” In his defense I suppose he never once did pull the trigger on me.
I rolled my eyes. The gun was old. The fact that it might not fire or misfire or backfire or shoot at some crazy angle and ricochet off the cement and somehow hit Eliza in the bedroom did not give me any comfort at all. Or it might have just shot straight and hit me square between the eyes. Thai roulette was getting old to me. “I like to live in a world where people don’t point guns at me!” I spat back. Oh did leave that night, after I walked to a local shop with Eliza. I never saw the gun again. Unsurprisingly though, I’m sure Ka knew of its whereabouts.
“No worries Gen.” Ka said after he told me of the death threat in September. “I clear with him. Everything. He okay now he understand. Not a problem. I give him Kuhn Oh gun he swear on his life. Not problem again with him we clear now.”
I wanted to know. “Who?” I asked him.
Ka looked down and said nothing. The name popped in my head instantly. “Donut.” I said as I shook my head sadly. Ka said nothing. But I could read it.
“You think it was just some drunk mouthing off?” My ex Joe asked me when I told him about the death threat a few days later.
“No. Ka would not tell me who it was, but I have my own ideas.” I said back.
“I don’t know why he didn’t just ignore it. Probably would have went away on its own.” Joe said.
I shrugged. I doubted it, based on what I knew of the situation. Oh had looked up to this particular killer a bit too much, in my estimation. Donut had supposedly shot his best friend in the head when he was 17, in a dispute over a girl. As militaries around the world are known to do with a certain type of guy, he looked too good for them to pass up. He has a taller and thicker build much as Kuhn Pele does, more common of the native Phuket population. The Thai military jailbroke him and he went lifetime. An only child Aries with the same birthday as my Mom on April 18. He was a bit too sensitive for the position actually he couldn’t deal with the harsher aspects in the Pisces 12th house of death dying and rebirth too well. But Oh and him had talked a lot in February my husband was still on the idea then that if he ever died I could never remarry. To Donut I was probably just an abstract complete your mission thing.
“So Ka gave him Oh’s gun? Don’t you think that was a little stupid?” Joe asked me. It was a rather odd play. If somebody had sent a death threat to me with Oh my late husband would have been arming himself to the teeth preparing for Armageddon with this person. I preferred oaths to do no harm over constantly looking over my shoulder in fear though.
“I do worry it might encourage things. But I have to trust that Ka had his reasons.” It did set an odd precedent. Send me a death threat and you’ll get a free gun. But we didn’t have any more to give away I was broke but really had no use for an illegal firearm. And really Oh might have borrowed money or something towards the end that needed to be settled anyways.
I continued with Joe. “Look I’m not positive who it was. But Ka wouldn’t tell me who it was, which means I probably knew the person. Now any of Oh’s close friends like Kuhn Poth, I don’t think they would ever do that. They knew me back when I was pregnant with Eliza and stuff they wouldn’t think to kill me.”
Joe sighed. “It just sounds like a bunch of drunk drama.”
To me it was just another way to entrap and control a woman’s sexual energy, leveraging some old school quasi religious belief that my husband’s honor had to be maintained at all costs. Shit like this has been going on for centuries all around the world. “Donut didn’t even show up to Oh’s funeral. Not once in the whole five days. He should talk.” I said back to Joe.
I was siding with Ka. The air had to be cleared on this. If the death threat was from who I thought it was from, he had the means, weapons and ability to carry it out. He also was bathed in a culture that took your word promises very seriously, and then was bathed in a military culture that took those oaths at double or nothing at least. You followed orders period. The threat was legit to me, in short. Maybe if we’d done nothing to react about it, some friend would have talked him down and it would have went away. But I live in a strange world where I have to trust my actions and instincts every minute. I have to trust Ka’s too.
I knew I needed to ghost on this for a little while. That was the saddest thing to me. I had this great thing that felt like the love of my life, growing more every day we were together. Yet I couldn’t say anything it was a disrespect.
Ka started telling me his side of the story, more and more. He’d been in love with me the whole time. All those facets of the diamond started shining through for me. On the one hand he was happy for his brother. He wanted to be close, though, and needed a cover story. My faithfulness was inadvertently restoring his trust in women, an ironic position I’ve been in with many friend zoned men over the years. They see me being loyal to a fault and it gives them hope that there’s other women out there like that. Sometimes they fall in love with me because of it, a doomed placement because the very aspect of fidelity that they are so attracted to in me would obviously have to be broken to do anything with said man. But the tension rises.
Ka would have been quietly seething over Oh’s mistreatment of me. Hedging his bets as my husband’s health and mental state deteriorated. Telling himself all the ways he’d do things better if he ever got the chance. The reason I was able to solve an abusive relationship with of all things the person’s brother had been staring me in the face. He’d watched Oh’s mistakes, as he had a front row seat to the action. It wasn’t going to work that way and he knew it.
I also realized it probably never would have worked out if Oh hadn’t died or specifically made Ka promise to take care of me the night before he died. I was on far too high of a pedestal in any other situation having sex with Ka would have led to me crashing down to earth, exposed for the wanton slut that I was. The guilt also would have likely destroyed him if Oh hadn’t specifically absolved him of it. In a way, Oh had given his life so that we could be together. There’s a reason I honor him. It was shoot the moon, no doubt about it.
I understand Oh most sympathetically as a James Dean type who knew at some level that he was going to die young, from a very early age. Ka said as much to me one night as he was reading my palm. He mentioned that Oh had a deep cut on his lifeline, a very distinctive crease that went across his hand that I remember well. When I try to come up with a composite of my late husband, I think of him like this. Put yourself inside the shoes of a very poor Thai man, who knew he was going to die young. Perhaps even wanted to die young. What choices would he make? What risks would he take? How would you leave the most impact in the shortest amount of time?
Eliza had made several Thai friends in the neighborhood and gave us a lot of time together the first weekend. We were getting lots of practice with each other. “Buy Vaseline!" Ka said one night we were still having trouble with fit. I shook my head. “No I heard that stuff actually dries you out.”
One day things just came together on their own. Once they did we never looked back. The sex was already so far out in a different constellation from anything I’d ever had with anyone before that I was going crazy. We locked eyes, trying to feel what the other person was feeling. I knew then even cats only have nine lives. There just wasn’t going to be anyone else. Normally a guy this big would just be painful Joe had been that way sometimes. But Ka was acutely sensitive to what I was feeling everything just worked like magic. Sometimes when I’m sleeping with him I can’t figure out where my body ends and his body starts. I guess I’m flexible.
Talk turned to pregnancy immediately. “I want the twin boy! Same me and Kuhn Oh!”
I hedged. “I think maybe twin one boy one girl. Same me and my brother Andy.” I said back. He marked on the calendar my fertile days and when my period was supposed to be due. It was two days late, but that just evened out my cycle to 28 days. My Mom had some pushback for Ka a few months later, when he started excitedly rambling on to her about making babies.
“Gen? Things might not work out with him. If he’s all about you having a baby and that’s it maybe he should find a younger woman. I mean you’re at an age where it just might not happen.” Strangely unreligious advice from the former Catholic nun.
“Eliza? You want baby brother or sister?” I asked her one day out front. My five year old Aquarius wanted us to get married, on her birthday February 9. She was all about it with a white wedding dress and all, just like she’d seen on that crap she watches on YouTube. I cringed a bit at the date I was pretty sure I was going to be in America without Ka then. Eliza’s Thai school had become such a nightmare that we’d withdrawn her. I decided to put her in American school in Las Vegas after Christmas. I’d tried enrolling her in Nevada Virtual Academy, but they’d ironically told me that I needed to bring Eliza into their physical location in Las Vegas before they could approve her for the program. It sort of defeated the purpose of it, in my mind.
Eliza wrinkled her nose. “Not the boy! I hate the boy!”
I sighed. “I’m sure you’d learn to love him in time.” I said to her. I never was with anyone where I really had an idea for a boy child. But I do with him, if we can break the streak. Ka has a five o' clock shadow like five hours after he shaves that’s some high testosterone.
Mostly at night we drank and talked. There wasn’t going to be any top secret hidden stuff in my past. I needed it all out there this time. I’d found out the hard way with Oh that when details of my background or sexual past weren’t put out there upfront, I no longer controlled the narrative. Guesses gossip and speculation took the place of it, and the story invariably came back far worse for me than how it had actually been. Secrecy worked against me. But then again, Oh never really trusted my story so perhaps it didn’t matter.
“You number one for me.” Ka often would say.
“You number nine for me.” I said back. “But you number one now. You’re the last man I ever want to be with.” Ka had broken an ironic record for me. At seven years and counting, he actually was the guy I had known the longest before we became intimate. Two rules I tend to maintain is that guys in the friend zone stay there and I don’t go back once it’s really over. Both learned the hard way of course.
“I don’t think you’ve really been with Ka long enough to talk about marriage.” My daughter Jasmine told me recently. “I mean really you should know him for at least one or two years before you do anything like that.” Her father’s over-caution and commitment phobia is starting to bleed through her.
“You realize I’ve known Ka for eight years, right?” I quipped back. Hell I’d lived with the guy for six months total before we got together too. And counting time in America I’ve been with him for eight months now. Jasmine put the smack down when we told her we wanted to finally sign at the Amphur on May 6. “If you’re really legally getting married, shouldn’t me and Eliza be there at least?” My daughter goaded me.
“Well it’s just signing a paper at like a DMV office.” I said back.
“No Mom. That’s a marriage. He’s just your boyfriend now.”
“You’re downgrading my husband?” I quipped back to my 12 year old. “What was that blessing from the monk then?”
“I don’t know. But I didn’t see that. Mom I see him as your boyfriend.”
“Well you’re coming with me then to see us get married in Thailand. And Mom and Eliza too.” I’m not sure if Ka is my husband, boyfriend, fiancé or something else right now. I was scheduled to leave Thailand on May 7 and ended up flying out exactly in the footprint of my original itinerary. A short seven week trip was planned, in part to clear the air and mostly to celebrate our dual 40th birthdays on March 18-19. During that seven week trip, Thailand held its first national election in eight years, officially lifting the military rule that was put in place in 2014 during uprisings that I had also been in Thailand for. In 2014, me and Oh had been in Bangkok for a police check walking in the same spot where 24 hours later a bomb would go off in a mailbox, killing one. In March 2019, I sat in on Thailand’s elections as an observer, though no pictures were allowed. They use paper ballots, something I think is a better choice than Diebold machines that have very dicey built-in flaws. Voting is at a school, is compulsory, and takes place on a Sunday. I’m not sure how Ka voted his political preference is not going to sway me. This is a country that’s exhausted by civil war and happy to turn the page.
Me and Ka would not have been able to legally marry in Thailand on Monday, May 6, 2019 at any rate. All government buildings were closed and most other shops were too. That was the final day of the new King’s three day coronation ceremony, the first such event held in Thailand in 69 years. The big news story the morning of May 7 as I started my trek back to America was that the new King had poured Sacred Water over his long term consort, officially marrying her. On the same day, me and Ka had planned to do the same. So Thailand has a new Queen, apparently. On April 9 the King had been given Sacred Water at Wat Prathong in Phuket, the same place where Oh is buried at. We started stacking blocks and had them in the back of the car to make a more respectable grave marker when Mar’s health took a huge downturn, leading to her death of course. The grave markers are much more respectable now, though I still want Eliza, Jasmine, and my Mom there for final touches. What a long strange trip it’s been.
Ka sometimes shares funny stories from his past. “Long time ago I working the job in Pattaya. I cook, not chef.” I nodded. A cook is usually one who prepares Thai food for other staff, while a chef does the more high end and western fare for guests. “One night I see farang girl. She have blond hair very pretty. I drunk too much she dancing with me a little bit. She say I handsome we walk out front. I show her my dick! She say oh you big size! Can come to my hotel? So we walking to her room.”
“So what happened?” I wanted to hear the end of this story.
“So I go. But Gen. I drunk too much. She drunk too much. She sleep on the bed. I sleep on the floor. I wake up. How I get here? Oy.” Ka shook his head. “Gen I very very shy. I a virgin, you know?”
I nodded. “I know.” I was curious though. “The farang woman. You remember what country she from?”
“Sweden, I think.” Ka said back.
I shook my head smiling. “Those crazy Swedes.”
How a man could stay a virgin for 39 years in a country crawling with bar girls is a real mystery, but I understood it. Ka was too sensitive and traditional for bar girls to be appealing just to pay for sex, and then he felt burned by one to a degree that turned him off to the prospect outright. Bracketed between a bullying older brother and a manipulative younger brother, caught in poor circumstances, the very few women who worked their way to the bottom of the food chain would be scooped up in one direction or the other. And most of those women, as Oh noted about brother Tee’s girlfriends, were the “junkie girl” or the “bar girl.” I understood that like attracts like and there’s a lot of overlap between those two types the world over. It’s a hard life; addictions become the norm in many circumstances. Tee’s taxi job was regular, stable, decent paying enough work to support him and someone else, making him the most appealing choice by far. And he’s the tallest of the three brothers, close to my height. But drugs have never been my scene; I think he’s best left for a recovering addict. And Pisces and Aries, as astrology matches go, has some latent sadomasochistic stuff that doesn’t benefit me.
Of course this admission put me under the gun. “Why you love me?” Ka has asked me several times. I knew I had to bring it to this question if he doubted or didn’t believe or whatever it just wouldn’t work. I’m the one with the long sexual past, a lifetime serial monogamist with two children with two different fathers. I’ve had a husband, three long term boyfriends I stayed with, a baby daddy, a booty call, and a couple of one night stands. I’ve had four different men I referred to as fiancée, not counting Oh who became my actual husband. Two of these guys I doubt had the slightest knowledge or inclination towards marrying me ever. I called Eddie Cherry my soulmate, redwingsmike and Num were both fatal attractions. Joe and Steve were true loves; the list goes on and on. I’ve used every romantic term in the English language to refer to someone in my past. What’s to say I’m not going to change my mind later, when this one’s Given Me a Million Reasons already?
We’ve given each other all kinds of reasons why we love each other Ka likes to mention that same birthday thing he says he fell in love with my heart. “You good heart.” He tells me. I tell him I understand him and there’s a lot of truth to that. In romantic terms according to my favorite professor’s book the number of matches predicts outcome better than the quality of those matches. In other words, if two people both had a dog named Blackie, when they were growing up, know how to play bridge and have the same favorite food, that’s better than only having two matches, and so forth. Statistical improbability also plays a role; high school sweethearts going to the same high school together aren’t going to even consider this as a match. But if two people meet on the other side of the country years later and find that they both attended the same high school, now that’s interesting. I always find new weird quirks with Ka like that; the scar on the bridge of his nose is from an incident that happened when he was 21 years old, which led to five stitches. I also have a scar on the bridge of my nose from an incident that happened when I was 21, that led to five stitches.
But really my story of why I love Ka goes something like this. I think I tolerated an insane amount of bullshit in my prior relationships, and every single one of those jackasses was in some way necessary to lead me to him. I think God chose him for me at this time, and I am spiritually mature enough to see that through all the way to the end. But sometimes in this things get too deep for me.
“Why you love me?” Ka asked me for the 100th time shortly after Mar died.
I rolled my eyes. “I just like the sex! You big size! Can’t I be shallow for a change?” Maybe I do need to start calling him boyfriend. It’ll keep things young and hip.
Ka looked at me. “What’s shallow mean?” I sighed and explained the term. More talking. You teach me Thai, I’ll teach you English. The whole why I love you thing might be a long story.