UMM Thailand Ch. 11: Smile and nod, smile and nod.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 1: Do you trust me?
- UMM Thailand Ch. 2: If wind velocity multiplied by speed less weight equals … oh, forget it.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 3: Ham, eggs, coffee, tea, and a message.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 4: You can’t win if you don’t play.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 5: Over there. Over where? Under there. Under where?
- UMM Thailand Ch. 6: Don’t compare the you of today to the someone else of tomorrow.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 7: Trying. Trying very hard. Trying extremely hard. Trying too hard.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 8: Translation without Representation
- UMM Thailand Ch. 9: I believe it when I see it
- UMM Thailand Ch. 10: I see what you believe
- UMM Thailand Ch. 11: Smile and nod, smile and nod.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 12: Oh, one more thing.
- UMM Thailand Ch. 13: Epilogue
In horror movies, they rarely slow down or stop to explain what’s going on or what just happened. The tension builds, the monster or bad guy sneaks in and kills or maims and there’s lots of screaming and mystery. But where did that monster come from? How did he know they were in the house? Why didn’t the victim just run or drive away?
Only on those parodies of horror films did they not only explain everything — and of course completely ruin any bit of tension or suspense or fear — but they even made fun of it and gave it away in such detail that it just was no longer scary or suspenseful or even hard to believe. It was clear what happened and it all seemed logical, if completely silly, but it made it funny as they made fun of it.
Charlie wanted his current life to be a parody. He didn’t care about suspense and playing the game. What game was Mary talking about anyway and who really cared? He wanted the moment in time to stop and listen to a behind-the-scenes explanation of everything that just happened, what was happening and, while they were at it, what might happen next. He didn’t need suspense and thrill and whatever else it was all supposed to be. He wanted answers and he wanted them now.
Who was this girl and if she was so blind, how could he see what she saw? Or could she see what he saw? Even that bit wasn’t clear. Who was Mr. English student over here anyway? Was he really just a stand-in actor to make this whole thing work? Where was the screenplay? Who was the director? Who signed Charlie up as the main lead? Couldn’t he just be a dolly grip? He had no idea what a dolly grip did, but there was always a dolly grip role in the credits after movies, so why couldn’t he just do that? If he was the dolly grip, he would have a front row seat to knowing what was going on in the main character’s life.
But no, that would be too easy, too rational and clear. Let’s put Charlie in the main role but not make it a parody so he actually has no idea what’s really going on behind the scenes. Ooh, even better, let’s not even give him the script so that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, what he’s supposed to say, or what’s going to happen next. That will make it loads more fun. Well, for everyone but Charlie anyway.
As the brain can process shiploads of information in milliseconds, all of this went through Charlie’s mind in a matter of seconds as he sat in front of Somsak and Apinya.
Apinya seemed to be wrapping up her torture massage and Somsak broke the seconds-long silence with what could never have been in any script.
“Charlie,” he started and rattled Charlie from the trance he was apparently in. “Do you like snorkeling?”
Without taking even another millisecond to think, he blurted out, “Snorkeling? Snorkeling? Of course, I like snorkeling. But what I really want to know is … ” but he trailed off. Somsak and Apinya looked at him with the purest of gazes. Simple, beautiful, and simply beautiful.
“I … ” he stuttered.
“You … ” he pointed to Apinya.
“But … ” he used up his last breath.
If there was a game they were playing, it was now game over. Apinya was finishing up on his legs with soothing, long strokes on his shins that felt like silk caressing a pillow.
“Do you know Koh Tao?” Somsak asked, again back to the English lesson. Charlie had so many questions and that was not one of them.
“Yes,” Charlie answered reluctantly. “The island.”
“Yes,” Somsak said and was happy to get back to the topic at hand. “The snorkeling on the island of Koh Tao is, um, magical.”
“Great,” Charlie said. “Thank you. I will go there, Somsak. I will take my family snorkeling on the island of Koh Tao.”
“Oh, that is wonderful,” he replied.
The game was over. There was no manual, no PDF downloadable instructions, but it was clear, it was over.
“Your family will enjoy the magical beauty of the island of Koh Tao.”
“Yes, thank you,” Charlie said, doing his best interpretation of an English teacher. “My family will enjoy the magical beauty of the island of Koh Tao.”
Show her what she cannot see.
The words came up into view above Apinya’s head. Like subtitles, but above. Semi-translucent letters, big, but delicate. Charlie wanted to reach out and see if they would whoosh away like smoke.
“Thank you, Charlie,” Somsak said. “Thank you for chatting with me in English today. You have helped me very much.”
“You’re welcome, Somsak,” Charlie answered. “I’m happy to have the opportunity to help you with your English, which, by the way, is very good.”
“Oh, thank you very much, sir,” he put his hands together and raised them up near his lips and bowed ever so slightly.
“You are most welcome,” Charlie said and returned the gesture with the hands together and a slight bow.
Charlie looked at Apinya. He wanted to help her see what she could not see. As if on cue, she looked at him and spoke.
“I see what you believe,” she said slowly and clearly and in such a way that it needed no reply or commentary. She also put her hands together and put them up between her eyes, she closed her eyes briefly, then opened them. They were sparkling and swirling blue, alive.
“I believe what you see,” Charlie said back to her without thinking and thought that speaking without thinking was working out occasionally. He also raised his hands, put them together, and closed his eyes and his forefingers slid up on top of his nose and rested between his eyes.
Somsak rose to stand. Apinya rose. One more clasped hands goodbye, one more slight bow. They turned and slowly walked away.
Charlie sat in his lounge chair and without any planning or knowing what emotion, from the collection of 264 to choose from floating is his overworking mind, to display, he could only smile and nod, smile and nod, smile and nod.