by Nancy Yeang.
I debated whether or not to buy the small, fat, yellow and black plaid pig magnet, a souvenir for my fiancé, Nao. I wasn’t sure if I was buying it out of habit because of a sentimental attachment I had formed for pigs, or if I actually wanted to buy Nao something so he would know that I was thinking of him while I was traveling in Bangkok.
My attraction to the farm animal derives from the evolution of the word “pig” in my two-year relationship with Nao. Compared to Japanese girls, I would eat so much food that Nao called me a pig. I would make fun of his round tummy and call it my makura (cushion) but I ended up calling him a pig too. I would also tease him about his Japanese accent the few times he spoke in English with me.
He would make fun of American slang and say, “Baby!”
“What?” I would reply every time.
“Baby deshou (It’s baby). Americans say it all the time ne (right)?”
“Wait, say it again.”
“No, you’re saying it wrong”
“Wait, one more time”
“I don’t like saying baby, but you can say it because it’s cute that you can’t say it right.”
The equivalent to “baby” in Japanese would be adding “chan” to the end of a word. My name would then be, “Nancy-chan” or he would say, “Baby-chan” which he later transformed me into a baby pig by pet-naming me, “Piglet.”
Since I was still fond of those memories, I clutched the pig between my thumbs and index fingers, and I could see the suspicious black pupils of the storekeeper follow me as I walked the ten steps across the tiny store. This would probably be the last pig I buy for him, I reasoned with myself, and it’s cheap enough that the purchase wouldn’t be a big loss. All I had to do was stuff the pig in an envelope, write a quick note, and this cute, oval pig with its beady, little, black eyes would be on its way to Japan to another beady, black-eyed pig.
I walked out of the store with the magnet wrapped up in a small, brown bag, and I hailed a cab back to my hotel. The cab driver tried to charm me since I didn’t know any better. He found out I was Khmer, and started saying, “La aw, you are la aw,” (beautiful). I giggled and laughed, and paid the fare when he dropped me off at my hotel. I stopped smiling when I realized he ripped me off once I did the mental calculation of currency exchange. I was still being charmed and cheated in a foreign country, even by Bangkok taxi drivers.
I walked into my hotel room, and as usual, I skyped Nao at the end of my day.
Boop, bi boo, boop bi boo, boop bi boo
The video feed popped up, and instead of Nao’s face I saw the pink-nosed, black face of the plush pig I bought him when our relationship changed from seeing each other every night, to a ten-hour drive and, once I get back to California, a ten-hour flight.
“Yo baby,” Nao said, when he finally removed the doll’s face to reveal his own round face. One of his eyes is smaller than the other, and I could tell when he is really stressed when the right corner of his mouth would twitch. He used to have an emo haircut where his stringy, black bangs would fall over his eyes, but he finally got a professional haircut when he transitioned from a student to a worker.
“Yo!” I replied back and raised one hand up. “Genki?” “I’m ok, you?” “Genki.”
“I went to the Royal Palace today.”
“Were you ok? Did people think you were Thai?”
“Yah, and yah, I was with my guy friend, so I was ok.”
“Where did you go when you went to Thailand?”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you?”
“No…you never really talked about Thailand other than you met that one girl here, got drunk and went dancing.”
“Oh…yah, I went to the Royal Palace and other places….”
There was the same silence whenever I tried talking to him about his trip Thailand, and the length of that silence got shorter every time one of us noticed why we weren’t saying anything. I wanted him to say more, to confront the issue, instead of me always pursuing the topic that was never fully addressed.
“Aishiteru,” he said to me.
No, don’t end it like this while I’m still in Thailand, I was still giving him a chance to turn the conversation around.
“I love you too,” I replied back
Say something, anything!
Really? That’s it? You’re going to leave me with these thoughts while I’m in the same place you were a year ago?
I shut down my laptop and turned off the lights. I took out the pig I bought and looked at its stupid, fat face hiding behind the plastic covering. I went underneath the blankets in the bed, and gathered all the pillows and sheets and hugged it into the comfortable shape that I was used to. I tossed the pig to the side while I sighed into the pillows, and pushed all the unanswered questions around in my head until I fell asleep.
The next day was my last day in Bangkok, and I planned to meet two of my Thai friends, Thomas and Ken, who I had met in Japan.
I had a sort of giddiness waiting for Thomas to come to my hotel. From my memory of him two years ago, he was one of those tall, athletic, pretty-faced boys. I put on a pale seafoam green mini dress with a blue feather patterned scarf draped around my shoulders. I didn’t want to make it seem like I was trying to impress anyone, but I wanted to make sure I was still cute enough to get noticed.
Thomas walked into the lobby and was wearing a black polo shirt with a popped collar, and dark, blue denim jeans.
“Hi!” I excitedly said once I recognized his face.
“Hey!” He replied back.
We gave each other a hug, and I let his six-foot, athletic frame comfort the loneliness leftover from the stale conversation with Nao the night before.
We sat in the lobby and waited for Ken to show up. I felt the a school-girl smile creep onto my face the more I talked with Thomas. The times we met in Japan, we were always surrounded by groups of people. I was a bit awkward in talking with him, but his welcoming smile and playful voice made me more comfortable. After a few minutes, I saw Ken walk up in his plaid shirt and light-blue denim jeans. Even with his hair gelled upwards, he was still missing a handful of inches compared to Thomas. When Ken smiled, he instantly got younger by a decade on account of his braces. He fit the stereotypical engineer look, but his strong voice made me feel that he knew more than only formulas and equations.
We headed to a nearby German/Thai restaurant. While we were sitting, Ken’s girl friend also came by. It felt like a double date. The boys were busy talking to themselves, showing each other news and images on each other’s Ipad and Iphones and I tried talking with the girl. She was dressed in a knee-length, black dress with beige, see- through lace on the shoulders. Her long hair was half held up by a clip so that her face showed more, but she kept her head down.
“Hi,” I tried to start up conversation with her.
“Hi,” she quietly said back.
“How is your English?”
“Only a little.”
Were all Thai girls like this? While I was eating a plate full of rice and pork knuckle tom yum soup, she only poked around at a salad on her plate, and I felt more comfortable joking around with the guys.
We went to a shopping district after Thomas and Ken paid for the meal. They took me to CentralWorld, one of the main shopping malls in Bangkok. While we were driving through the downtown area, I didn’t see any of the cricket stalls or over-produced cheap t-shirt stands that were scattered around my hotel area. We were driving through New York-esque skyscrapers, with multiple department stores compacted throughout the richer side of Bangkok.
We walked into a model competition when we arrived at CentralWorld. I couldn’t help but compare myself and the quiet, Thai girl with the dozens of girls gracefully walking in their stilettos, wearing dark, tight clothes and showing off their bare arms. We were drowning in a sea of straight black hair and lightly makeup faces. They were all thin, towering above us, and resembled each other in some way. I bit my lip and finally saw what beauty was in Thailand. I didn’t want to keep looking in case I saw a familiar face that I hadn’t met before.
As we went up the escalators and escaped the model competition, there was another crowd of people waiting for the opening of H&M. The lines snaked around the stores for the entrance on the third floor, while another line of boys and men were outside the exit on the fifth floor. I was supposed to be in Thailand, which is rich with temples and history, but I was in the middle of brand-named stores with their white-light displays and western products that I could easily find in any urban landscape. I ended up buying a book for myself, and we left the mall to get ready to go to a Thai club, so I went back to my hotel with Thomas to get ready.
I put on a tight blue dress, that hugged enough of my skin to get a specific kind of attention, threw on some eyeliner and dark eyeshadow, and went downstairs to find Thomas.
“Ooo look at you, you’re so sexy!” the lady receptionist said to me.
“Thank you,” I giggled and smiled at her, “Did you see where my friend went?”
“Oh I think he went outside, he is so handsome!”
The other male receptionist wanted to comment too, “Yah! He is! Is he gay?”
“I don’t think so, he had girlfriends before.”
“Aw, too bad….”
Thomas walked in, and the woman smiled at me with a mischievous look in her eyes, “Have fun!”
Thomas had to take me back to his place so he could change for the night out, and I lounged on his things. His place was like a college boy’s dorm room. Shirts and clothes tossed on the floor, some weights near his mattress with no bed frame and a chair where I spotted a Napoleon Hill’s How to Win Friends and Influence People on the side. I picked up the book and started to read some of it, but I was more curious if Thomas would notice me enough to put his hands on both sides of the chair and say, “You know, you’re beautiful right?” as he brushed away the hair from my face and drifted his hand to the back of my neck. He would gently pull me towards him as he leaned down towards my face to….
“Okay! I’m ready, let’s go!” Thomas announced as he got out of the bathroom.
We caught a taxi to the club, and looked for Ken once we arrived at the club since he was our connection to cut the lines. As we walked inside, we weaved around the crowds of people. There were low wooden tables that reached to the height of my knees, with alcohol in a bucket of ice per group huddled at the tables. There was a cover band singing familiar Maroon 5 songs and top forty English music, and everyone was bobbing their heads to the beat.
We found our table, where I met a few other people whose names I didn’t find important enough to remember. They handed me a small glass already filled with ice and alcohol. My cup was never empty, I was getting groped on my butt by Ken’s round friend, Ken kept pinching me on my side, and I kept looking for Thomas to take care of me. Thomas wouldn’t take advantage of me, he seemed like the innocent one. But he would make sure my glass would always be full and instead of questioning how many drinks I had, I ended up drinking more.
I caught a glimpse of the quiet, Thai girl from earlier in the day but she was bouncier and livelier in the dim lights of the club. I got closer to Thomas and when “Gangnam Style” played, I linked arms with him as we did the horse part of the dance together. The band started covering Thai songs so I was lost in the excitement of the crowd, but still found the beat to jump to. I was getting sleepy and started leaning on Thomas to rest my eyes. I think it was Thomas, sometimes Ken, but definitely not their groping friend. Through the blur of the night, Ken and Thomas started exchanging suspicious looks and saying things around me in Thai. At some point of the night, we decided to leave the club.
We all walked towards the same cab, but Thomas stopped in the middle of the street. “Ken will take you back to your hotel,”
“Awwww noooo, so we have to say bye here?”
I hugged him around his waist while the cars were passing around us. He gave me a tight hug back. I didn’t want to let go, more so because I wasn’t sure what Ken’s intentions were, but even more so because the moment was perfect for an epic, romantic scene. The scenario dissolved once Ken hailed a taxi and called me out. I got in the cab and waved goodbye to Thomas through the window as he ran off across the street to get his own taxi heading in the other direction.
Ken and I went in the taxi cab and I felt so sleepy. I put my elbow on the crack between the leather and the window to support my head on my hand. I was taking deep breaths so that I wouldn’t feel like hurling all the questionable alcohol in the backseat. Ken laughed and scooted closer to me and put his hand on top of mine.
“Are you ok?” he asked, as he scooted closer to me.
“Yah, just sleepy,” I lazily replied back.
He smiles and laughs, then starts to stroke my arm and caress my hand with his fingers, and I let him. Was this how it starts? The warmth of his hands and the feeling of being wanted and taken care of in a strange country, in his country, made me more curious if this was how it happened.
As I walked through my hotel, the receptionist stopped me, waving his hands and stuttering to find his English.
“Ah! uh, guest, pay!” He points to bronze plate on the desk saying that overnight guests would have to pay eight dollars more.
I waved my hands as slowly as the words came out of my mouth, “What? Him? Nooooo, no guest.” How much did I drink?
My friend and the receptionist continued to speak in Thai, and although I was a little suspicious about why they were talking longer than they should be talking, I stumbled towards the elevator, with my friend making hand gestures towards me, and the receptionist was looking back and forth between me and my friend with wide eyes, probably playing out an inappropriate scene in his head.
We walked to the elevator, and I held onto my friend’s arm and leaned my head against his shoulder. He walks me to the front of my hotel room, I finally open it, and I turn around and hug him tightly, grasping both my arms around his neck and lifting my feet off the ground so that he was holding all my weight. “Thank you!!!!” I hold on to him a bit longer than I should’ve and I pulled back to look at him, gave him a smile and released my hands to go into my room.
I closed the door and placed my forehead against wall.
Is this how it happens? How easy it would have been. I only needed to linger a few seconds longer with a slight lean forward and give him a slight tug towards my door. It’s crazy that I even know the steps to take it that far. That would have been it. But I chose the route to prevent anything from happening. I could use the excuse of being drunk and he was being so nice to me. That’s what Nao said right? So that meant that I had the right to say the same thing too, didn’t I? If he can cheat on me, in this same city, then doesn’t that mean I could do it too? It should be something from karma, what comes around goes around, or was it supposed to be a more natural force instead of a purposed intention? I could’ve played out the scenario running through the receptionist’s mind and left them all here in this dingy three-star hotel room in Bangkok, and it would have been a secret with me and the employees. I just had to walk up to the reception the next morning to pay the extra eight dollars, check out, and leave. But I couldn’t do it. Why couldn’t I do it?
As I passed through my doorway and locked the door, I jammed the key in it’s place to turn on the lights, flipped open my Macbook being held together by the security stickers from my luggage that went through Cambodia, and waited for the laptop to load.
Why? I was being too good for someone who didn’t deserve me. I wanted to end this love repetition in my life that wouldn’t go away. I could go through the list of boys in my relationship history, who could all justify this one night of lust.
1. Andy, who said he liked another girl more than me, so he decided to end our relationship.
2. Roy, who said he wasn’t ready for a relationship, but decided to date another girl who I introduced him to while we were dating.
Okay, those were only high school relationships, so I can excuse them.
3. Justin, who was dating my other friend at the same time he was dating me, then dumped me saying, “I’m 99% sure I want to be friends, and 1% sure I want you as my girlfriend.”
4. Bruce, who decided to cheat on me three weeks after we lost our virginity together.
5. Greg, who dumped me at his friend’s wedding.
6. Jacob, who chased after me so hard after he left a girl he dated for 5 years, only to drop me after he had finally gotten me to be his girlfriend; my first experience being a rebound.
7. And Nao. Nao, who I shared the same bed with for two years, who slipped a band on my left ring finger while the sun was setting on my last day in Japan. The same guy who swore the only thing he did was kiss the girl, but I found a Thai condom among the souvenirs he had bought.
All these boys compiled together would merit me one single night of adultery, that probably wouldn’t even last an hour on the account of how drunk I was. If they could all do it, then I could do it too, and I could abandon my morals to finally understand why a fleeting action is worth risking the promise of growing old with someone. I wanted to dive deeper, thinking I could finally understand the reasons and actions of these boys from my past, and the boy from my present, by switching my role to being the cheater. Maybe I could finally accept and forgive my unfortunate history of relationships that was distancing me from real love was in my current relationships.
I waited for the habitual blips and boops to connect me to Nao in Japan.
“Are you drunk?”
“Maybe a little.I’m sad”
“You should go to sleep and you’ll feel better in the morning.”
“No, I mean, I don’t like it here…I keep thinking about what you did”
“You’re thinking too much, just go to sleep”
“But I can’t stop thinking! What if I run into her? I keep seeing you two together in the restaurant or taxi rides, or having drinks together, or shopping together. I saw that shirt you said you picked out for me with her. I thought about how you two were here, which bar you went to, how many drinks you two had…”
Trust? This constant second guessing of what he was doing when I’m not there, who he was really texting and talking to, the never-ending feeling that he was lying to me. What will make me believe that anything he has to say was genuine if he had already said and done the same exact words and motions with another girl? Why was I always that girl who fell in the middle of a guy’s life when he has no idea what he’s doing, and the minute he makes a regrettable choice is when he figures out how much he wants to be with me?
“Did you hold her hand? Which stores did you go to? Did you pay for her food too? That happened almost a year ago, and I can’t forget what happened…How long did you dance with her?”
“You’re drunk. Just go to sleep and you’ll forget it all”
“You never told me anything that happened or what you did in Bangkok, but you came back here twice. But I knew that something was wrong, why didn’t you just tell me? I had to find out myself, it was so obvious, why else would you visit a country twice and not want to travel with me…”
“Go to sleep.”
I hung up, threw all my clothes off, took a shower, made sure that everything was packed away nicely and went to bed.
The next day I went to the reception to check out. The same girl was there and smiled at me.
“So where is that handsome guy?”
She smiled and giggled about something that didn’t happen the night before. I smiled back. I hailed a taxi to the airport and made sure the meter was running.
“I need a dollar for the toll booth, but if you only give me 5 dollars, then I can turn the meter off”
“No, meter on, and give me back my change.”
I really hope this is the last time I get cheated.