All That Glitters

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 aĀ gold necklace. I justĀ smiled and shook my head.Ā 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 sinceĀ I’d lastĀ visitedĀ Sports Academy ā€” got out of the habit ā€” 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 generosity. Fortunately I was able to get back into the holiday spirit.

Nui and I go back aĀ few years. I first met her in 2011 when she worked at another pool bar. The womanĀ then dropped off theĀ radar for a long while before surfacing atĀ Sports Academy. I’ve found her to be a capableĀ 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 inĀ for a few games.

There’s never been anything more than casual flirting between us, Nui being married. However, it now sounds like sheĀ is on her own. BecauseĀ I appeal toĀ Thai women who have troubles, our recent Eight Ball matches have been sprinkled with playful hints advertisingĀ her availability. For example, instead of going home with me for theĀ night (a favoriteĀ joke of ours), maybe we couldĀ 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. Itā€™s near impossible to tell where oneĀ stands vis-a-vis the husband, who might decide to show up at saidĀ suitor’sĀ door some night in an unpleasant mood. Since I prefer to keep my teeth, Iā€™ve found it easy to resist Nuiā€™s overtures.

On the positive side, Nuiā€™s feelings have provided me with a handy tool to discourageĀ money requests. After I’d gone the restĀ of October without stopping by, she came up to me, a littleĀ upset, and asked where Iā€™d been. I replied I didnā€™t have five thousand baht, so I couldn’tĀ make an appearance. Translation: pester me about paying for that stupidĀ necklace, and our Eight Ball matches will become few and far between. Soon after that the solicitations ceased.

Nui used the Christmas moneyĀ I gave her to getĀ some special medicine for her mother. Or so she says. Regardless,Ā it smelled to me like clever PR work. WantingĀ to be backĀ in my good graces for the next time she passes a jewelry store and something bright and shiny catches her eye.


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