I wish I could say that Newt, a lady masseuse who works at Friend’s Thai Massage in a nearby hotel, is a person I have a good rapport with. Like so many single Thai mothers, she is struggling to raise her children while working in a field bereft of glamour or good pay. Yet despite knowing her for over four years, things between us have never advanced beyond brief hellos and semi-annual massages in my room.
I think it stemmed from the second time I had Newt over, way back in 2012. As described in Making the Rounds, she wore a seductive dress and coyly let me know what the rate was for a beyond-the-rubbing roll in the hay. I was of course tempted — a woman does not get through the door of my apartment without having some physical appeal — but this time I hesitated. My lover-to-be hadn’t shown any real affection or desire during the massage and was now viewing me in a rather cold, calculating manner. Waiting to see if the mouse would take the baited cheese.
I ended up declining, though it was a close call, and from then on kept a certain distance. Our rare massage sessions remained pleasant enough; at times I found myself enjoying her company. Things just never advanced beyond that.
It was during one of our get-togethers back in June when Newt showed me a sore bruise on the back of her head. Apparently she has an abusive boyfriend who had slammed her up against a wall. Knowing the limits of what I could do in this situation, I nevertheless provided her with some extra money in order to return to the doctor. After we talked a bit more, I also decided to include cash earmarked for her son, advising her to go to a bank and put it into a savings account. During my half-decade in this country, I’d heard far too many unhappy stories about negligent Thai men and what absolute turds they could be. Better to keep any windfall out of his sight.
Two weeks passed. Then late one night, well after midnight, there was a soft knock on the door. It was Newt and a friend, both holding grocery bags filled with clothes. Newt had decided to leave her boyfriend as well as her dead-end job and was stopping by to bid me farewell. She was also clearly hoping I would provide some more money to help facilitate what sounded like a courageous move. No hay problema! I got dressed, took her down the street to an ATM, and withdrew twenty thousand baht (almost $600). She then hailed a cab to the bus station at Mo Chit, on her way out of the city.
Before she departed, I got Newt’s phone number and asked that she text me the number of the savings account she’d opened (at Siam Commercial Bank). It was my plan to provide her with special assistance once she had resettled with her family(?) out in provinces. She obviously needed time to get things sorted out.
And that’s when it all got strange…