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page 26

                                                              *
     "Tommy, you have a phone call from Ta," my mother said 
calling from an open family room window as I sat on an empty
five gallon plastic jug in the driveway trying to paint double
gold racing vents on the side of my new car.
                                                              *
     "Hairy?" she asked.
     "Hi Charlie," I said.
     "Why did you send me divorce papers?" she asked.
     "Because you gave up," I said.
     "I didn't give up," she said.
     "Fine, then I did." I said.
     "Hairy, I love you," she said.
     "Sure, while you kiss everybody elses ass. When am I going
to be important enough to you that you stand up for us? You
know that filing those papers as husband and wife was our last
chance to be together and you're afraid to do even that," I
said.
     "Hairy, it's not that easy," she said.
     "Don't talk to me about not being easy. I almost took a
bullet for you and you're still worried about spending your
life with me?" I asked.
     I didn't wait for an answer. I hung up.
                                                              *
     I heard the echo of the phone ringing again from outside
as I got in my car just wanting to take a drive hoping that
would clear my head. I didn't know all the things I had kept
inside, Ta would now be revealing to my mom.
     While I was negotiating the curves of old route 79 and
pondering over the words to a James Taylor song she would be
relaying a tale of our desperate frustration. My mom would hear
the story about the gun going off into the ceiling and about
the fights. How if Ed ever saw me in Thailand again he'd finish
what he started. And how he had corrupted the visa application
process. She'd shed tears when she explained about her father's
mistress and what her father had become. How her mother was all
alone and couldn't function without her. Finally admitting she
was afraid of what her parents might do or say if they knew we
were married.
     I know how my mom being of hard-core, no nonsense, old
Catholic Irish, Brooklyn stock would have reacted. She would   ***180
have listened quietly offering a consoling thought whenever Ta
hesitated urging her to continue. Then when she thought she had
gotten the full story she would have answered very bluntly
saying what she really thought.
     Upon getting off the phone, mom would have put the kettle
on the stove to prepare two cups of tea before calling my dad.
After all, he was the thoughtful type and seemed to have most
of the calming, logical answers. Then they'd discuss the
situation until they were both satisfied; ending in a relaxing
chat about trivial things while they waited for a chance to
talk with me.
                                                              *
     After driving around aimlessly for an hour I ended up at
Chatfield Hollow-a secluded national park in the forested
foothills just north of town. Its crystal-clear, olympic-size,
sand-rimmed pond-fed by a vein of underground springs-mirrored
the surrounding connifer grove that had generously layed out a
bed of pine needles like a padded rug on the living room floor
of nature.
     It's where I used to go with my summer friends-a quiet
retreat away from the noisy crowded ocean beach. It's where
I'd first gone skinny dipping with Amanda Kawalski, a blonde,
17 year old, Polish girl who had been one of them.
     Strange that I can still remember her name. Maybe it's
because I discovered the park riding around exploring old   
country roads one afternoon with her. The one leading into the
park was just another one to take, that was until we saw the
small secluded lake. She really was a crazy girl. Not content
to just lie out on the sand getting a sun tan to the lyrics of
Jethro Tull blasting from the eight track, vibrating through
the trees, as soon as the sun slipped behind the curtain tips
of the connifers she was out of her clothes and into the water
asking me if I wanted to join her for a swim.
     I didn't stay long. I wasn't there to disturb the quiet. I
just wanted to cruise one time around the park with my windows
down letting the sweet smell of pine remind me of those summers
past of my crew from Boston, of first Marlboros and ill-gotten
Budweiser. The pond was just starting to glaze over. By next
month the ice would be hard enough for the park to fill up with
hockey players and figure skaters. Coming back then it wouldn't
be the same. It wouldn't have reminded me of where I'd been.
                                                              *    ***181
     Still thinking about crazy Amanda as I opened the front
door, I could see that my mom and dad were sitting at the
kitchen table with cups of tea waiting for me like I had been
out past curfew.
     "Why didn't you tell us?" my mom asked as she came over
to meet me as I walked in.
     "Tell you what?" I asked as I tried to walk up the stairs
to my room.                                                       
     "The truth. Noone should have to go through that alone,"
she said.                                                     
     "Mom I love you but it's my problem. Don't get involved.
You couldn't understand it anyway," I said.
     "Tommy. Don't be an ass. Anything that involves the safety
of my son is my concern," she said.
     I stepped back down the stairs and stroked my mother's
cheek, "Mom, it's over. It's done. I'm home now," I said.
     "Tommy, you are so full of shit. You love that girl and
she loves you. I'm not going to let you quit. Now come sit down
with me and your father so we can talk," she said.         
     I stared at my mom for a long time before we both started
to smile. "God mom you're a pain in the...," I mumbled under my
breath as I followed her back into the kitchen.
     "Tommy, I had a long talk with that girl after she called
back and I couldn't find you. Listen to me son, not many people
are as lucky as you two are to find your true love in life.
Sure, you may find another another girl to replace her but she
would only be a second-rate substitute who couldn't possibly
live up to your expectations of what you had with Ta," she
said.
     "Mom...," I started.
     "Let me finish. You'll have plenty of time to think and
talk after she calls you back tonight," she said.
     "Ta's calling back tonight?" I asked.
     "I asked her to give me some time to talk to you first.
Believe me. After she told me what had been going on over there
I had a few choice words for her, too. You have been keeping a
lot inside my son. I had no idea," she said.                   
     "I didn't think you would understand. I'm totally confused   
myself," I said.
     "She is really trying, you know. But you have to be strong
for her now. If she is ever going to get the strength to face
up to her fears she has to know that she can rely on you. We   ***182
both know that she's afraid to give up the comfort of what she
has grown up with when she doesn't know what kind of security
she will have with you. You have to let her know you'll stand
by her no matter what. Up to you Tommy. I know you're hurt and
I'll stand by whatever you decide. Just think about it because
I don't think you'll ever be truly happy without her in your
life," she said.
     "Okay mom. I'll give it some thought before she calls    
back," I said.
                                                              *                      
     When Ta called back we talked for a long time. There
really wasn't a need to rush the divorce; maybe things could
work out. I had to take a chance because noone gets to see what
could have been. If you want to know that you have to be
willing to hold out until the end.                      
     Getting off the phone I not only felt like I had a second
wind, but a new sense of direction. As long as I was going to
continue to wait, I thought about putting the time to good use.
Instead of just looking for a temporary job, I decided to go
back to school. The University of New Haven had an MBA program
where I could study international finance at night and be free
to find work during the day.   
     At the time it seemed like a good course to follow
because, knowing Ta, if we ever got back together again, there
might be any number of places we could choose to live and any
number of things we might want to do.
                                                              *
     After a bar on the docks, a couple of cape coders, a
chance meeting, and a few more rounds might have it, I landed
my first job on a lobster fishing boat. Seems skipper Willy had
lost his only mate who had taken a job at the local Pond's
cosmetic processing plant and he needed someone to take his
place.
     Being at the dock by 5am and getting home by noon, I had
plenty of time to study. But being out on a lobster boat in the
Long Island Sound just as the sun came up was a life all its
own.                                                              
     Our boat wasn't much bigger than four row boats lashed 
side by side and end to end. With a cab, catch box and swinging
motorized pulley there wasn't much room for two people to
stand. And though only a hundred yards from shore, in the
shallow rock infested water it was like standing balancing in a ***183
floating bathtub. But hooking the buoys onto the pulley and
cranking up the lobster crates was like pulling up a treasure
chest. You never knew what you might find. Seems lobsters are
strange creatures; they find something shiny and they want to
carry it around.
     One thing about lobster traps most people don't know, they
don't just catch lobsters but lots of mussels, as well. And
being that Willy only cared about the lobsters, I had buckets  
to bring home to boil open and deep fry. Every day that was
lunch.                                                          
     It was fun work until the weather got cold. Facing those
unrelenting December winds with the freezing water constantly
splashing over the side was more than I could take, even with
the free lunch.   
                                                              *
     Before I'd found another day job and after I'd finished a
school semester, Ta called me. It wasn't that I was surprised
to hear her voice, she usually called me once a month and sent
me a letter every two weeks. But this call was different; it
really made me feel the chill of the December winds.
     It seems that her father was getting better and had been
making advances to reconcile with her mom. He said that he
wanted his family back and wanted them by his side when he
returned to politics. He wasn't interested in being a mayor in
Bangkok again. He was going to run for a seat in parliament. It
would be expensive financing a campaign and helping to get
their party leader elected but the opportunities to promote pet
projects and earn huge commissions were endless. All that he
needed before deciding whether or not to run was to have the
family name intact. And that meant, if Khun M. would have him,
his wife back.
     I don't know if Khun M. understood his motives; maybe she
didn't care. But she knew if he wanted to run for high office
he'd have to project a good image and that meant he would have
to behave. I know she was tired of the fight, the loneliness,
and the despair; maybe getting involved with government again
and the details of putting together viable projects would keep
him too buzy to think about more destructive things, so she
reluctantly agreed to give their relationship another try.
     Everyone in the family was happy except, of course, Ed. He
knew that if Khun P. and Khun M. got back together he couldn't
continue to act like the grand protector and there would be no ***184
more reason for him to stick around. He had to do something    
drastic and he had to do it now. If Khun P. came back and took
over the office, Ed knew, after what he had done to harrass
Khun P.'s mistress, he'd be the first to go.
     So he did it that night. He went to the police armory and
checked out an M-16 automatic rifle and six clips of ammunition
with the excuse that he wanted to go to the firing range the
next morning early to work on his marksman qualification. Then   
he went home and after dressing all in black he hopped on his     
motorcycle and headed for a hill overlooking Khun P.'s
mistress's house. She had armed guards; he didn't care. After
blackening his face so the guards flashing lights couldn't
recognise him, he left the motorbike in the bushes and climbed
down the hill as far as he dared. Having set two extra clips on
the ground to insure rapid fire, he sat down with the strap
wrapped around his forearm and the muzzle in the fork of a low
hanging tree branch to steady his aim. He was too excited
thinking about Khun M.'s eventual praise. He breathed heavy
once or twice to relax before pile driving holes between the
first and second floor of the bitch's house. He hesitated a
moment to admire his work but by now the guards were swarming
around like he just downed a hornets nest. Laughing and running
back up the hill he went. He couldn't wait to get back to the
office with the good news.
     Not even trying to hide what he had done he strutted into
the office, gun totebag in hand, and preened up to Khun M.
dropping the gun on her desk. He said something about this time
he really scared the bitch and relayed in detail what a brave
deed he had done. Khun M. just looked up at him with sad eyes
wondering why. Everything was getting back to normal; how could
doing anything like this help? He knew the look and how to play
up to Khun M. He got down on his knees and put his head in her
lap like a misunderstood five year old. He said that he did it
because he thought it would make her happy and he couldn't
stand to see her heart in so much pain. He continued that he
hadn't told anyone beforehand because he thought she would
enjoy the surprize.
     Ed's plan almost worked. He had Khun M. convinced that he
had done it for no other reason than to help her. But he
couldn't have gauged Khun P.'s reaction. Though he might have
expected Khun P. would be furious, he was surprized that
Khun P. singled him out and was threatening to get him fired ***185
from the police force and thrown in jail.
     Ed had counted on Khun P. thinking it was Khun M.'s idea
and, instead of blaming Ed, he'd just run back to be with his
mistress so there wouldn't have been a family reconciliation.
     But Ed underestimated Khun P.'s resolve and aspirations to
get back into politics. Khun P. wasn't about to let anything as
insignificant as a mistress jeapordise that. In fact, the whole
incident brought Khun P. and Khun M. closer because what
Khun P. did now would show more than mere proclamations and
promises that he was true to his word.
     Ed knew it wouldn't be long before he got hung out to dry
so he did the only thing he could do. He crawled back to
Khun M. begging for help. He pleaded his case how for the past
six years he had devoted his life to helping her. Was she now
going to stand by and let his life be ruined now that Khun P.
was maybe coming back?
     Ta knew Ed was playing to Khun M.'s kindhearted weakness.
But she never could have guessed the solution her mother would
finally come up with.
     If Ta and Ed got married, Khun P. would never have his new
son-in-law prosecuted. A scandal so close to elections would
not be in his self-interest.
     Ta reluctantly agreed as long as they wouldn't have to
live together. But she wasn't doing it to keep Ed out of jail.
She was doing it to insure her parents stayed together not yet
knowing that this charade had been Ed's intention all along.
     I couldn't speak. I just listened. I was numb.
     Ta continued with a choking voice. She said she had talked
to the consular who said that if we finalized the divorce and
she married Ed she would probably have a better chance at a   
visa to the states and then Ed couldn't stop us from being
together. With those words I reluctantly said yes.    
     I asked her when they were planning the ceremony to which
she said next week. She said the marriage would be front page
news in all the papers and society magazines so the embassy
employees would surely see it. She thought that since I had
already started the divorce I could get it finished quickly
and there would be no problem. Trouble was finalizing the    
divorce took more than a week.
     And as if by some weird coincidence our conversation ended
with a twisted sense of deja-vu. The movie Khun M. had
financed. The movie that Mike had starred in so many years ago.   ***186
It had now become the trailer of my real life except to this
wedding I wouldn't be invited. To this wedding I'd be staying
home. To this wedding I really felt I was on my own.
                                                              *
    

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