While sitting home alone on the couch in my mom's
restricted-access, powder-blue living room with its
powder-blue curtains, powder-blue rug, and powder-blue chairs,
reading the Wall Street Journal trying to figure out the
direction of various exchange rates, I heard a loud rap at the
front door. The frizzy blonde-haired, tall, skinny caller
retreated back off the steps and back onto the grass as I
opened the white storm glass outer door.
"Sorry, bro, Don's not here," I said.
"Hey man, are you his older brother Tom? I'm Wendall," he
said as he stepped up to shake my hand.
I nodded and met his grip.
"Listen bro, you like free lobster?" he asked
"That's like asking me if I like sex," I said.
"Man, I just hitchhiked down from my parents house in
North Madison. My car is fried and I have this hot date with a
waitress down the road and I need a ride," he said.
"Down the road?" I asked.
"Yeah Old Saybrook. She works in that ritzy new Sea Breeze
restaurant. She gets off work in an hour and I don't want to
be late," he said.
"You call fifteen miles away down the road?" I said
laughing as I started to close the door.
"Come on. You have a cool car. It's a nice day. Give me a
ride. I'll make sure you have fun," he said.
He somehow reminded me of Eric's free "fuck you if you
don't like me" personality. I sighed looking out past him at
the early afternoon cloudless sky. It was indeed warm for mid
January-an indian summer. He was right. I had a nice car. It
was a nice day for a ride and there really was no need to
waste it staying inside. I wasn't figuring out too much with
these exchange rates anyway. I opened the door.
"Okay, come on in. I need a minute to change. You can call
your girlfriend if you want and tell her we'll be a few minutes
late," I said.
Wendall headed for the phone. I headed for the shower.
"Tom. It's okay. It's valet parking. You can give them
the key," Wendall said.
"Screw that. Go find your girl friend. I'll wait in the
car. I can't afford the ten bucks or the ground gears. Just
make sure that after you find her you don't forget to find me a
couple of lobster tails," I said.
"Okay," Wendall said getting out and looking around as he
leaned with his elbow on the top of the car, "Park over near
that tree and the dumpsters. That's right next to the service
entrance. We'll meet you over there," he said.
Looking at the way Wendell dressed in a flashy shirt,
sneakers and jeans, I hadn't expected that my warm up gear
would have been that out of place until I saw that it didn't
compare to the restaurant's normal fare of jackets with ties
and designer dresses adorning a predominantly middle-aged
"Tom," Wendall called out from around the corner behind a
tall cedar tree. "Over here. Come on. We have to wait for the
"The what change?" I asked as I closed the sunroof and got
out to lock the car.
"I mean the shift change. Come on we can wait inside," he
I followed Wendall down the cobblestone walkway with a
view of the sea past the well manicured lawn and sculptured
bushes into and through the rattling, sizzling, shouting
kitchen until we arrived at the employee lounge.
The room wasn't much bigger than the typical reception
area in a doctor's office but with twenty odd waiters and
waitresses changing shoes and looking for coats while girls
vied for chairs in front of mirrors to adjust their makeup it
had the feel of a big city subway station during afternoon rush
Watching the waitresses let down their hair as they
counted their tips, I marveled at how they transformed from
sterile looking matrons to boardwalk watching material. Wendall
was so friendly with all of them that I couldn't figure out who
he had come to see until I got a tap on the shoulder.
"Are you Tom?" she asked.
I turned around, smiled, and nodded.
"Yeah, you must be. You look like your brother Don. I'm
Wendy. Here, Wendall asked me to make up a doggy bag for you,"
she said as she handed me a stuffed Sea Breeze plastic bag.
"Seems a bit heavy for a couple of lobster tails," I said
exaggerating trying to curl the sack. ***189
"Oh, I added some stuffed mushrooms and artichoke hearts
with a special white wine mayonnaise sauce. They are house
specialties," she proudly said.
"Sounds yummy. I can't wait to get it home to try them," I
"Home? Aren't you coming to the beach with us?" she asked.
"And watch you two flirt with each other? No thanks," I
said now beginning to smell the aroma beckoning me from the
"Oh it won't be just us. One of the guys has a keg in the
back of his pick-up. The whole shift is going. It's so warm out
today that we are going to build a bonfire on the beach. Come
on. It'll be fun," she said.
"Beer and a bonfire on the beach in the middle of January,
okay," I said.
"Oh," she said turning back around, "Can a couple of my
girl friends ride with us? I don't think there's enough room
for everyone in the pick-up truck and my friend's old Chevy."
A couple more girls. I nodded. Why not?
While everyone ran down to set things up on the beach, I
stayed in the car with the sunroof open and the stereo blasting
finally being able to give into the pestering aroma of my Sea
Breeze treat. It didn't take long after the keg was set up and
the fire was growing before Wendy came back up the path holding
two glasses of beer and hopped in the passenger seat.
"How is it?" she asked.
"Genius," I said as I tried to lick the last bit of flavor
off my finger tips.
"I thought you would like it. I brought you some beer to
wash it down," she said.
"Thanks," I said as finished it off in one gulp with a
resounding burp, "Excuse me. Damn I needed that."
"You're nothing like your brother," she said.
"No, he's the quiet type. But he's a funny guy once you
get him going," I said.
"I heard about you," she said. "Is it really true you
married a Thai princess and haven't been with a girl in two
years?" she asked.
"Guess my brother hasn't been as quiet as I thought.
Anyway, aren't you Wendall's girl friend?" I asked.
"We're just friends," she said as she batted her eyelashes ***190
over her big green eyes, wet her lips, tossed her shoulder
length brown hair away from her pug Boston wasp nose and
stretched out in the passenger seat trying to get comfortable
revealing a five foot seven inch frame that was mostly slender
I could tell she was getting bored with Wendall. From the
car I could see him down on the beach flirting with her younger
friends not even seeming to notice that she was gone. Being
four years older than him and a year older than me, she seemed
content with only his occasional attention. I held up the empty
glass and she nodded. We walked back down to the beach
A month later I ran into her again. Her classic blue
metallic 1975 Mustang convertible with a white interior was
stuck with a flat tire on a Westbrook side street near where
she lived. She was leaning up against the back bumper with her
hair in disarray from trying to change the tire herself.
Recognising who it was, I pulled over, got out, and started to
laugh. I thought in her frustration she was going to hit me
with the tire iron until I put up my hands and said I give up.
"I know you right?" she asked.
"Yeah but I'm not into changing tires. Hop in. I'll give
you a ride to a garage. Nice car, yours?" I asked.
She nodded as she opened my door and hopped in the
"Sweet 351," I said.
"You know engines?" she asked.
I started to smile remembering driving Ta's old car.
"Are you still working up in Saybrook?" I asked.
"Isn't what you really wanted to ask me is if I am I still
going out with Wendall?" she asked.
"Girl you scare me. I'd never ask you that," I said.
"Well you're a gentleman. I'll give you that. But no, like
I told you, we're just friends," she said.
"Too bad. You look cute together," I said.
"Why don't you like me?" she asked after looking down as
she curled her hair over her breast trying to sound discreet.
"The trouble is I do," I said.
"I know about your Thai wife. Wendall told me you just got
a divorce," she said as she fingered through my cassettes.
"My brother and Wendall have big mouths. Besides it's ***191
just temporary until things can get sorted out," I said as I
shifted into second gear.
"Do I make you nervous?" she asked.
"Why would you think that?" I asked.
"Because today is Sunday. No garages are open. Guess
you're just going to have to drive me home," she said as she
stretched out in the seat.
"What about your car?" I asked.
"Don't worry about it. I called my roommate from the pay
phone before you showed up. She'll have her boyfriend and a
couple of his friends grab my extra set of keys at the house
and go pick it up. Can we go for a ride?" she asked.
"Where do you want to go?" I asked.
"Anywhere, as long as you promise to let me cook you dinner
when we get back," she said.
I had never even been interested in any other girl since I
met Ta. But the years of being apart. The divorce. The marriage
to Ed. I drove. She closed her eyes.
"Do you ever cry Tommy?" she suddenly asked.
"Sometimes when I'm by myself," I found myself admitting.
"I would never make you cry," she said now trying to look
in my eyes.
"Why would you even care?" I asked.
"Because you seem like a nice guy and someone broke your
heart," she said.
I found myself grabbing for the warmth of her barely
manicured hand. She looked down, leaned over and put her other
hand over mine. I didn't look but I could feel a surge of
warmth all over. She leaned closer and blew in my ear making my
whole body quiver. I smiled and shook as she laughingly did it
"I can tell you haven't been touched in a long time," she
I couldn't deny it. She was right.
"Pull over," she said.
"Tommy, I don't want anything from you. Just maybe we can
spend some time together. Don't do it for me. Do it for
yourself," she said as she ran her fingers through my hair.
I dropped my head so she wouldn't see the sting of tears
coming to my eyes. She pulled my head up and put it on her
shoulder before lifting it up again for our first kiss. ***192
All the time I had spent going places to try to recall
my youth thinking that would help when what I really needed was
to be touched to feel like I was needed. That was the one thing
about Wendy that brought me back. Just when she got pregnant
and I had a chance to get back with Ta I didn't know how either
one would react.
Ed was delusional if he thought that because he had told
Khun M. that he had always wanted to marry Ta that Ta would
care about him once they did even though she didn't even like
him as a friend. He seemed to forget she had never gotten a
divorce from me first and their marriage was a farce or why Ta
had agreed to the marriage at all. And Ed being impatient
didn't take long to express what the marriage meant to him
trying first as Ta's husband to order her to change her name
and to turn over to him all her bank accounts. To him she was
just a means to access the family money he thought that by now
But Ed didn't just get mad about a prenuptual agreement
Ta had drawn up to thwart that plan. Now he was mad that she
wouldn't live with him and was still trying to get a visa to
the states until the consular said the charge had been changed
from narcotics to prostitution. But this time he had made a
mistake, this time he had gone too far, this time he had
affected the whole family. Now noone could go to the states.
With all the notarised papers I was sending into the
American Embassy in Bangkok and all the notarised papers I was
sending to Ta and her father to prove that none of the
accusations for refusal of visa for reasons of first narcotics
and then prostitution were coming from the states, there were
two papers that stood out that Ta didn't want her father to
But Khun P. went with Ta to talk to the consular on this
particular day and the consular spent a lot of time getting Ta
to explain our marriage and late filed divorce. So much time
that Khun P. with his broken English was able to understand
what they were talking about and interrupted the coversation to
have Ta explain in Thai the whole story. And after being
satisfied that he now understood everything he just had one
question for her. He calmly asked her why had she kept the
marriage a secret, he and Khun M. would have accepted her
Easy to say now but what would they have thought way back
when? I still remember getting chased out of the house with a
gun just because some servant accused me of kissing her.
After countless trips to and interviews in the consular's
office, the family had convinced the embassy staff that the
charges weren't coming from the states but were coming from a
Thai policeman who kept sending information into the consular's
Khun P. confronted Ed who denied everything daring Khun P.
to go find his name on anything. It was the first time I gained
respect for the old man. Ed asked Ta's father why he thought
it was him and Khun P. said it was because Ed was afraid Ta
would go back to be with me again if she ever got another visa
to the states. Ed said that as a man Khun P. would probably have
done the same thing. That for us as Thais he should accept what
Ed had done.
Khun P.'s words were golden, "That's for me as her father
to decide not you."
After that, with Khun P.'s influence having gotten newly
elected to parliament Ta got her divorce without having to wait
the customary one year and the prostitution charges against the
family were dropped. But Ta's visa problems weren't over yet. Ed
had left one obstacle in the way. Because my divorce papers had
been a few weeks late in finally getting processed the American
Embassy had a new reason not to give Ta a visa this time
charging her with bigamy.
As for Ed, in one last act of defiance he stole Ta's newly
imported Chevy Camero but Ta didn't press charges she was just
happy to get rid of him. And Khun P. made sure he wouldn't be
coming back telling him if he ever showed his face again Khun P.
would have him thrown in jail for good. Now with Ed gone he was
ready to accept his real son-in-law.