UMM Thailand Ch. 4: You can’t win if you don’t play.
“Uh, I’m fine, but did you order all of these ham and eggs?” his wife asked, clearly ready for the day to begin. “The kids are never going to eat this.”
“I’ll eat them,” Charlie said trying to think of the fastest way to just make the whole questioning go away. He smiled at her as to follow up his claim with the resolution that he’d actually do it.
“OK,” Jacqueline said and was about to turn away when she looked at the receipt sitting on the blanket.
“What’s that,” she asked.
“The receipt for the breakfast,” he said as simply as he could.
“But it’s,” she said as she looked closer.
“It’s what?” he asked although he quickly realized he should have just said nothing.
“It’s,” again with the pauses. “It’s blank.”
“Oh, right,” Charlie said with a much larger sigh than he meant to let out. “That’s the back,” he turned over the paper, hoping, now holding his breath, that it would just be the regular curly script and the bill.
“Oh,” she said as the other side of the paper was just the list of the breakfast items. “OK.”
All he wanted was for her to go back to her bed. As much as he loved her and usually enjoyed her company, he had living ink and encrypted invisible messages to decipher.
“Your new girlfriend is a busy bee, isn’t she?” she said before she turned away, which apparently was going to happen sometime between never and eternity.
“My girlfriend?” he said a little too obviously playing dumb.
“You know, Mary?” she gave a little friendly nod and jiggle of her head.
“How do you know her name?” he asked crisscrossing his memory for how she would know.
“Because you’ve said it at least eight times just this morning,” she was smiling, which was a good sign.
“Oh, that Mary,” he said, looking around his brain for a bigger shovel because he was digging himself a deeper hole by the second.
“She’s doing a great job with those ham and eggs, coffee and teas.”
“Absolutely,” he said and immediately regretted it as he never used that word. “She’s the best. Top saleswoman in seven counties in Thailand,” somehow came out of his mouth as if reading from a script — a really dumb script that someone found in the garbage can. But it seemed to do the trick as Jackie finally turned away and headed back to her side of the train.
As if he had something to hide, Charlie fell back onto his pillow and let out a deep breath. Did you need to know what was going on before you had anything to hide? He closed his eyes. Just a few minutes of peace and time to think about what to do.
“You get the message?” were the words that shot into his ear like a bullhorn. He didn’t have to open his eyes to know with all certainty that Mary was again at his side, within ear licking distance from the guy who just wanted to sleep or close his eyes or maybe figure out what the message meant.
“I got it, Mary,” he said without opening his eyes as if they had been through this whole routine dozens of times in the past. But there comes a time when you’re just so tired that you just want it to all go away.
“I don’t know what message says,” she continued, not getting the hint that the eyes-remaining-closed was trying to send.
“I do,” he said.
“Oh good,” she kept going. Maybe she just liked talking.
“Who are you?” was what he asked next, too worn out to beat around the bush any longer.
“Ooh,” she shrieked. “I’m just messenger.” She seemed to pause but he could feel that she hadn’t left. He didn’t know whether to ignore her, strike up a conversation about ham and eggs, or rattle out of her everything she knew.
“You know what they say about messenger?” she asked and he wondered how she knew such phrases in English.
He did know, but he thought he’d rather hear it from her.
“Don’t shoot the messenger,” she said and continued without missing a beat. “But this messenger you pay! Seven hundred twenty Baht for you, Charlie,” and she cackled and guffawed again so much that Charlie could no longer keep a straight face. There were even some other people in the car who were laughing at this point. He opened his eyes and turned towards her once again.
“Thank you, Mary,” Charlie said.
“No, thank you, Charlie,” she said. “You thank me and I thank you, but you see that we both win.”
“Win? Win what?”
“The game,” she said so quickly it was as if she knew what she was talking about as if this happened to her every week. Maybe it did.
“How do I win?” he asked.
“How do I play?”
“You got the message?”
“Play the game,” she said and then as if to emphasize. “Play the game, Charlie.”