It wasn’t easy finding out about Ui’s upcoming birthday. The language barrier between us makes it hard to communicate even basic information and it took a few tries of her repeating her age and the date for me to understand. But once I’d finally gotten things figured out — and confirmed she had no plans — I invited her out for dinner on her special day.
Though the last time I was involved with a Thai woman’s birthday had not quite worked out, I was confident that this time around — with me in charge — things would go smoothly. Given Ui’s occupation as a streetwalker, it seemed to me she might appreciate going out on an honest-to-goodness date. It would be a charming, romantic dinner followed by red wine and a DVD movie back at my apartment. At least that was the plan.
We met in front of one of the ubiquitous 7Elevens that dot Soi 4 and began walking up the street until we came to one of the fancier restaurants. One with pleasant music and outdoor seating underneath colorful (though slightly grimy) illuminated globes. The kind of place where one can find middle-aged Western men anxiously talking to their bored-looking Thai dates, the women surreptitiously glancing at their smartphones. Studying the worn menu book out front (Thai cuisine of course), Ui signaled her approval and we got a table.
We decided to order three simple dishes to share between us. Waiting for the food to arrive, I presented my dinner companion with a dark green birthday card that seemed to surprise her — perhaps Thais are not into the Hallmark scene. I also attempted to brighten the mood by taking a few pictures. These didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. Ui is not a bad looking woman for her age, but I was not able to capture that and after showing her my amateur results, she requested I stop shooting.
It was an awkward meal, further hampered by our inability to converse to any degree. While this did not seem to upset the birthday girl — Ui isn’t complaining type — neither was she bubbling over with happiness. Nor did the evening improve once we went to my apartment where I quickly poured her a glass of the red wine. After only a couple of swallows, she didn’t want any more and after sampling it I understood why: the opened bottle had been in my fridge for too long and had turned sour.
As a final attempt to salvage the occasion, I popped in a promising sci-fi/horror DVD I’d recently purchased. But this turned out to be so crappy I ended up tossing it into the trash. In the meantime, my date had fallen asleep (we were watching the movie while lying on the bed). She briefly roused herself for the start of the second feature — An American Werewolf in London — but soon had returned to slumberland. Ether she was very tired or very bored. Having exhausted all my attempts to make her 40th birthday an enchanted one, I let her rest.
Ui ended up leaving shortly after 3 a.m, explaining that her mother was coming into town that morning, possibly a made-up excuse to escape the clutches of her birthday “celebration”. Not that I blamed her; I had bumbled the affair every step of the way. In fact, I now suspect Ui agreed to the evening more to please me in my attempt to do something special for her than from any great desire to commemorate turning forty.
The lesson from all this is to be wary of what I’ve come to recognize as “the arrogance of good intentions”. I had assumed I knew how to make Ui genuinely happy, a notion that in hindsight was rather presumptuous. In the future I’ll try to be more realistic — and not use last month’s wine.
At least the birthday card was a good idea.