A Guide to Knowing When You're in Trouble

  • When the two of you start having things. A thing we had early on was sometimes during a conversation I would just stare at her and smile, partly because I enjoyed looking at her (she's a very look-atable gal), but mainly to annoy her, which worked magnificently. She would ask Mii arai? (What is it?) and I would play dumb and ask Mii arai? back and we'd have a little Mii arai? war until she'd get frustrated and snap Mai mii! (Nothing!) and I'd pretend to ponder over this and reach an understanding and then ask Mii arai? again. Since she's pretty stubborn, this could go on for quite some time. We also like to call each other monkey - let me explain. When we're talking, she will respond (sometimes exclusively) with an endless variety of strange noises and facial expressions, a few of which are rather monkeyish in nature. So I tell her that. She then gets offended and says I'm a monkey because I'm dark and I like to eat bananas (I defy you to name one person you know who doesn't like bananas). And then I tell her it's amazing how she sounds almost human and that she must be one clever monkey and she says the same about me and I tell her to go take a shower because she reeks from climbing trees all day. And of course there's the old fake slap and belly poke, always classy, and she'll demand to know Tammai? and I'll say because she's mai chua fang (naughty) and she'll say that expression is only used for little kids and I'll say she's so short that I can't tell the difference and this really gets her going and she'll keep asking Tammai? Tammai? and I always say Pro-waa Pa bpen Pa (Because she is who she is), after which she grunts like a monkey and I start a whole new round of making fun of her.
  • When you make fun of her for grunting like a monkey but you secretly can't get enough of it, and of all the other sounds in her animal inventory...the woman is a zoo unto herself.
  • When she comes over after having just taken a shower, the dampness in her hair lingering still, her skin freshly scrubbed and casting a faint glow, and she smells - no! I refuse to go any further! Do you see what this is doing to me? Do you? I am losing it! What the hell kind of soap does she use? Is it even soap? Aaaaaaaach! A pox on both your shampoo and conditioner!
  • When you succumb to the irresistibility of her smell-goodness and find yourself unconsciously migrating towards her, so much so that when you're strolling down the street you will slowly yet surely push her steadily closer into oncoming traffic, until she refuses to walk to the right of you altogether, whereupon you push her steadily closer into a ditch, until she will have nothing to do with either side of you since it's plain to see that neither can be trusted, and from now on she will walk ahead of you and try not to step on her heels or she'll be done with you entirely, thank you very much.
  • When you start giving each other massages. Alternatively, when you spend the entire evening doing Thai tongue twisters and you don't mind that you didn't once twist tongues.
  • When seeing her name pop up on your phone is enough to make you break into a goofy grin. When mere proximity to her makes you feel suddenly better. When you try to get as close to her as possible without actually touching her. When you make up excuses to touch her.
  • When people "start talking." A teacher at my school told me during lunch one day that she heard I made a new friend; more specifically, a puan ton yen (evening friend). At first I was pretty confused. Then I figured out who she meant and was more confused than ever. Is she calling Pa a lady of the night? Is it incumbent upon me to defend her honor? Should I defend my own? Is it because we sometimes go out for walks around that time, is that it? What exactly is being implied here is what I want to know. Evening friend...who says things like that, honestly? Answer: Thais.
  • When her mom walks in on us holding hands. Not what it sounds like, so let me explain. During one of our first chats, I fancied a bit of role-playing, so I act like we just met and stick out my hand, and she plays along and shakes it, only I don't let go (for reasons already specified). And I say Nice to meet you and she says Nice to meet you too and I say How are you? and she says I am fine and by now I've already run out of things to say but I want to prolong this moment so I scrummage around my brain and come up with Would you like to get some coffee? and she says I don't drink coffee and I laugh and say Yeah, me neither...what about tea, we could get some tea, or maybe ice cream? and she says Yes, tea and ice cream and I say Whoa there, sweetheart, you're gonna have to choose either tea or ice cream, places don't sell both, and before she can make up her hypothetical mind her mom walks in, and things get really awkward really fast, and Pa's trying to explain the game we're playing but that's only making things more awkward, and meanwhile we're still holding hands, I can't let go of her hand, I just freeze and smile like an idiot, and wait for the world to make sense again.
  • When she speaks English and you become physically incapacitated by how adorable she is. I'll ask her to read from a novel and at first she'll refuse and say she can't read, then she'll read in her head ("in her heart" in Thai), then I'll finally convince her to read aloud, and she'll get this really shy, vulnerable look on her face and go into Super Concentration mode, and it's like Kryptonite, I need to hold onto something or I'll collapse from too much cuteness.
  • When you already act like a couple. She came over one night while I was eating dinner. Afterwards we were gonna go for a walk, so when I finished, even though I always make it a point to wash the dishes, I let them sit for once, as a kindness to her for waiting. Because I'm a gentleman, and I do things like that. And what do I get for keeping chivalry alive? Yelled at, that's what. She makes me march right back to the sink and gives me a lecture about how I should be doing what I would've been doing had she not been there. And for some reason this makes me like her even more. Somebody, please, explain that to me.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.