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TILTING AT WINDMILLS


I only drink when I'm happy and when I'm not. Today I'm not. The random mixture of liquor that I'd consumed last night, while doing nothing to dispel my melancholy, had left me with a surprisingly durable hangover today and a headache that felt like a concussion. My faithful friend and companion, Pancho was now forcing me to eat a sumptuous meal at his Spanish restaurant in Jomtien while commiserating with me over my latest break-up.


WindmillsAlways looking out for my best interests, Pancho chastised me saying, "Don, I know you've lost your appetite but you cannot substitute cigarettes, alcohol and stress for three of the four basic food groups! You must eat real food! And while you're at it, why don't you look for a nice lady this time? When will you stop tilting at windmills and forget those venal, grasping strumpets from the go-gos that you are so enamored with? I'll introduce you to my wife's cousin Tu; she's only just arrived in Pattaya from Issan. She's a lovely woman, 37 years old, no kids and never married. She's perfect for you. What do you think?" Groaning, I replied, "Only if she's a rich nymphomaniac who owns a liquor store." I thanked Pancho for his concern and escaped before he could set a wedding date.


While I aimlessly wandered the lonely streets of Pattaya, it came to me that certain things are constant in the universe, like Pi, gravity, time and my ability to always choose the most stunningly beautiful but incredibly flawed and wrong lady for me. I tallied up the score of my lengthening string of failed relationships. Thai bar-girls: four---foolish falung: nothing, nada, zero, zilch.


First there was Noi from Rayong. She was smart, tough and charming with a body to die for. She drew men into her orbit without to batting an eye or flashing a smile. After a year together her desire to maximize the dollar figure of our relationship became more vital than I realized. Eventually her greed and cupidity drew her into the greener pastures of another man's bedroom.


Then there was Aee from Chang Mai, a woman of uncommon beauty and funny as Hell. She kept me laughing until I discovered that, to put it mildly, she was something of a tempest. Calling a disagreement with her a row was like calling the Second World War assault. After nearly a year, Aee's irrational temper drowned out both her beauty and her sense of humor.


Next, came Tik from Burriram. She was as cute and adorable as could be and could talk the ears off a brass monkey. Unfortunately her middle name turned out to be duplicity. Happy as the six months that we spent together seemed, she was just biding her time, waiting for an American marriage visa to come through before running away to California.


Last there was Fon from Udon Thani, another magnate for men. She was elegant, classy and gorgeous all at the same time and she exuded a sexual magnetism that couldn't be ignored. After a year and a half of misleading me for money, I learned she had an insatiable appetite for gambling and just wouldn't stop.


Even though each lady was distinctly different, they had much in common. They all had faces and bodies that would stop time, worked in a-go-gos, deceived me in some way and left me in sorrow's clutch. Perhaps if I'd only bothered to read the classic Greek tragedies, I'd have known that the gods could be very cruel, especially when it came to the hubris of men. Had I been blind, stupid or delusional believing that goddess like beauty could be happy with a mere mortal? Or like Pancho had claimed were my actions just the futile gesture of a Pattaya based Don Quixote charging at errant windmills? Had I set my sights too high with my predilection for flawless faces and fine figures? Would the gods continue their wrath and smite every future romance I ever had? Lost as I was in these thoughts, I'd unwittingly wandered onto Walking Street and couldn't keep the a-go-go that I was fast approaching from looming larger and larger in my peripheral vision. I knew the answers I sought weren't inside but that was no reason not to look.


The combination of beer and high-octane tequila that I'd lapped up since entering the bar had my mind nearing that place I so desperately wanted it to be, a place where booze actually elicits clarity of thought. It was difficult to both achieve and maintain and very easy to overshoot and get lost in the sluggish lethargy of drunken stupidity. But after a dozen drinks, I'd missed the mark and completely overshot. I was absolutely soused and hadn't even managed to drink my despair into submission. I finished the evening under the table. Pancho rescued me and mentioned he'd arranged a meeting with Tu for the very next day and wanted to know if I'd show up. Like the sensible drunk that I was, I slurred, "Sure, why not."

When Pancho collected me for the blind date, I inquired, "Who made me drink all the alcohol in Pattaya last night?" With little sympathy, he replied, "That was all your doing. How's your head?" "I'm stunned I still have a head left," was all I could say. Then Pancho in a tone reminiscent of a kindergarten teacher scolding a slow student said, "Remember, Tu's no bar-girl. She's a very nice and very attractive lady. Behave yourself."

I sat in Pancho's restaurant not really paying much attention to anything when Tu entered along with Pancho's wife. Without really looking, my first impression was she's not exactly a lottery win but at least she didn't waddle up to the table. However, I'd noticed over the course of the meal that Tu wasn't your typical Thai female --- desperate to impress, heavy handed with make-up and jewelry. In fact, she wore none of either. Everything about her face was attractive; smooth copper colored skin, almond eyes, high cheek bones, sculpted lips and a really spectacular smile. But all her features just didn't add all the way up to beautiful.


Physically her arms and legs were very thin and her torso lean, but ironically, her entire body was very well proportioned with lovely curves in all the right places. Personality wise, despite her poor upbringing, she had an air of unpretentious class and oozed that friendly charm found only in country folk, which instantly made everyone, including me like her. All in all, she carried herself with dignity, was attractive if not pretty and her body was undeniably thin but well shaped. For a woman nearing forty I was impressed.


The next day I met Tu for a movie. Watching her in front of the cinema she embodied grace and poise and stood out like a cloud on a sunny day. She was, I thought, one of those rare women who seemed to only get better with age. With each successive encounter, I became more and more attracted to Tu's pleasant personality and before long, I felt a sort of bone deep peacefulness that made me feel complete whenever I was with her.


Over the months, I saw a lot of Tu and every time my entire body tingled with adrenaline and my face beamed like a somewhat battered sun. Somewhere along the way my opinion of Tu was altered, yet I couldn't recall when she had changed from skinny and plain to beautiful and sexy. But she had. Daily I marveled at the hint of deviltry in her dark sparkling eyes and the impertinent cast of her mischievous smile. There was not a bar-girl in Pattaya that could hold a candle to the woman that sat before me. I no longer felt the need to tilt at windmills because I was truly content with this unassuming woman from up-country.


One year later, sitting there where it all began, Tu and I lapsed into a delighted silence holding hands over a table at Pancho's restaurant and like a pair of simpletons we just sat there and gazed at one another in the warm air of Jomtien Beach. Why, because today the perfect woman had just said yes to my proposal of marriage. I was certain that the gods were now pleased and had blessed our relationship. So, I ordered a drink because today I was truly happy.