My Christmas gift to Nui almost did not happen. Back in early October, she had cornered me and asked for five thousand baht (around $150) to purchase a gold necklace. I just smiled and shook my head. Only a few weeks before, after returning from my U.S. vacation, I had given Nui and two other girls who worked at the pool hall two thousand baht each. It had been over a year since I’d last visited Sports Academy — got out of the habit — and the money was my way of apologizing for the extended neglect. To have Nui trying to finagle even more struck me as greedy and for a while had me considering cancelling my planned Christmas gener-osity. Fortunately I was able to get back into the holiday spirit.
Nui and I go back a few years. I first met her in 2011 when she worked at another pool bar. The woman then dropped off the radar for a long while before surfacing at Sports Academy. I’ve found her to be a capable Eight Ball player, making (and missing) the same kind of shots I do until she becomes annoyed, at which point I’m in for a thrashing. Always serious, she’s my opponent of choice whenever I stop in for a few games.
There’s never been anything more than casual flirting between us, Nui being married. However, it now sounds like she is on her own. Because I appeal to Thai women who have troubles, our recent Eight Ball matches have been sprinkled with playful hints advertising her availability. For example, instead of going home with me for the night (a favorite joke of ours), maybe we could spend a full month together? She even seems to have developed a crush on me, confessing that she arrives at work every afternoon hoping I’ll show. Sad in a way.
Becoming involved with a married woman in a foreign culture is both messy and dangerous. It’s near impossible to tell where one stands vis-a-vis the husband, who might decide to show up at said suitor’s door some night in an unpleasant mood. Since I prefer to keep my teeth, I’ve found it easy to resist Nui’s overtures.
On the positive side, Nui’s feelings have provided me with a handy tool to discourage money requests. After I’d gone the rest of October without stopping by, she came up to me, a little upset, and asked where I’d been. I replied I didn’t have five thousand baht, so I couldn’t make an appear-ance. Translation: pester me about paying for that stupid necklace, and our Eight Ball matches will become few and far between. Soon after that the solicitations ceased.
Nui used the Christmas money I gave her to get some special medicine for her mother. Or so she says. Regardless, it smelled to me like clever PR work. Wanting to be back in my good graces for the next time she passes a jewelry store and something bright and shiny catches her eye.