Arne knew he had feelings – sexual feelings – that a married man with two point five children should not be having. He fought against the feelings for many years but, once his children came of age and left home, he decided to live the lie no longer. With as little Hollywood drama as possible, he decided to 'come out of the closet' and tell his family that he was gay. Unfortunately, his family did not share his joy and relief.
He was devastated by the reaction of the people he loved. His wife divorced him immediately and I remember his eyes moistening up when he told us that even his children never spoke to him for many years. His own blood relatives had nothing more to do with him. He felt so alone he started to believe that continuing to live the lie would have been the far better option.
Thankfully he still had at least one friend who had either known Arne was gay or at least suspected it; and didn't care. His friend told him to get out of Sweden and go to Thailand for a holiday. He said they were much more tolerant of gay people there and he might enjoy himself. I am not sure if his friend travelled with him but Arne made several trips to Phuket and Pattaya over the next few years. And he did enjoy himself.
We first met Arne when he and his Thai boyfriend rented a house and moved into our village. Our small group of friends sit outside the community shop some nights and have a dozen or so beers, and I remember the first night Arne came by. He said hello and when we invited him to join us he remained standing, smiled and apologized by saying something like, "I am sorry but I have to tell you I am gay." We all laughed, told him we couldn't care less and to sit down and have a beer. He did.
I wrote earlier that Arne was one of nature's gentlemen and that is no exaggeration. He was the most courteous and polite person I've ever met. His English was excellent and never once did I hear him swear, get angry or raise his voice. And he was always smiling. He enjoyed a few beers but he never over-indulged.
He again joined us a few nights later and introduced his boyfriend to the group. Boyfriend didn't stay long and, once he left, Arne told us how much 'in love' and happy he was. Being 100% straight, it was a subject we didn't really want to pursue, but his line of conversation was exactly the same as thousands upon thousands of old foreign men who have proclaimed true love for a young Thai lady. You know the story: met two weeks ago; she really loves me; she is different; etc.
Arne was even financing the building of a house in the province on boyfriend's land next to the family estate. When he told us we all shook our heads. With many years in Pattaya behind
us, we took it upon ourselves to let him know some home truths about the old 'house in the village' scam. We begged him to take some legal options to protect his investment, we begged him to take things slowly and we begged him to make sure he didn't spend any more than he could afford to lose. But Arne was adamant that boyfriend and his family were wonderful people who really cared about him and liked him. He was one of those people who could see no evil in anyone.
We, however, were a group of cynical pessimists who hope for the best but prepare for the worst. His nights of joining us for drinks became less frequent and he eventually confessed that boyfriend didn't like him meeting us for a chat, saying he was jealous of the time he spent away from him. We all knew that the real problem was boyfriend didn't like the idea of Arne getting advice from anyone but him.
Eventually, at boyfriend's urging, Arne moved out of our village into a larger and more expensive house in one of those estates off Soi Kao Talo. Some months later we found out that boyfriend had broken up with Arne and left him devastated. Coincidentally, it was just after Arne had handed over the final payment for the house in the province. Shocked? We weren't.
Arne went into a deep depression and, we believe, was close to suicidal. He eventually came out of it thanks to a good Swedish friend he had in our village and the first time he came back for a beer with us we all tried our best to cheer him up. Tears welled up when he told us that the money didn't matter as he was still well off; he just felt so betrayed. I think that night, thanks to a lot of alcohol, we went into Monty Python mode and each told stories about how we had been screwed by someone in the past. We were competing for the 'Most Pitiful Tale' award and it was a lot of fun.
Several months later, Arne had found a new love and was back to being his happy self. But this is when the gods can be their most cruel. Not long after that he consulted a doctor about stomach pain and discovered he had a tumor in his abdomen. We advised him to fly back home and have it checked out there because in Sweden he was covered by health insurance.
The Swedish doctors confirmed the diagnosis, telling him it was inoperable and terminal. They did eventually perform a 12-hour operation to try and remove it but they were not successful.
I don't know a lot of things and I can't say I knew Arne very well, but I can say this world is a sadder place without him.