A year in Ubon (part three)
The concluding episode from a first year teacher in Thailand
I put my ear pugs gently down on my desk, stood straight up and walked directly out into the hall I marched as the crow flies to the teachers' toilet. When I got inside I went into the first cubicle, closed and locked the door. Immediately, tears welled in my eyes, I doubled up and started reaching and heaving over the pan. Two grown men, both talking about pushing a young girl that presumably had a boyfriend her own age into having sex with a divorced man more than twice her age.
At that moment, an even more awful thought ran through my mind, Milk the goodhearted girl in 6/5 had mentioned Bill more than once, how he was handsome; how he wore fashionable clothes. Surely, they weren't talking about her, she wasn't five tall and didn't weigh 7 stone - Bill is a strapping six-foot-plus.
As it were, I had a free couple of periods before my very last class of the school year. I'd go to find Milk and suss her out and if she was thinking about going out with Bill I'd try to persuade her against it.
With intention, I went up to 6/5's classroom, looked through the circular cabin ship-like window on the door and there she was sitting in her usual place at the front nearest the entrance. There were a few minutes left before the break ended, wherein I beckoned Milk to come out into the hall. She smiled when she saw me, sprung up and came trotting out. "Hi Milk, How are you?" "I fine Jockey, and you? "Yeah not bad, but I'm a little worried about teacher Bill," she seemed concerned. "What is it?" I told her a white lie, "He has two girlfriends!"
She looked shocked and a little hurt and didn't reply for a while until she said, "I think him only like one girl, I know her, he tell her, he love her." "Really!" I said, feeling that my worst fears were about to be confirmed. I took a deep breath and continued, "Don't tell her, but he told the other one he loves her too!" Now I could see the cogs turning in Milk's head and she wasn't in a good mood anymore. "Mister Jockey, she tell Bill she has boyfriend but he say he no care, I think he must very love her." Now it seemed likely that my fellow teachers had been talking about Milk and if not a very close friend of hers for sure.
I'd to choose my words carefully I didn't want to upset the girl, while at the same time I had to say something. "Bill has had many girlfriends in Thailand, and he loves all of them but he soon says - goodbye!" I waved my hand at this point to make it more belittling. "You so wrong Mister Jockey, you not understand, you so old." Milk'd never spoken to me like this before, I'd clearly hit a raw nerve. "I'm so sorry Milk, please tell your friend Mister Bill is not a good man." With that, she wiped away an instant tear while running back into her class.
After work, late in the afternoon - back in my bungalow having packed my saggy suitcase with the few items I was going to need. I sat on one of the two chromed chairs in my compacted kitchen and couldn't prevent myself from thinking about the possible impending events of this coming evening.
In case you think I'm overreacting or putting my oar in where it's not wanted. I recently read some articles on the internet on the New York Time's website that stated there are more schoolgirl abortions in Thailand per capita than virtually any other country. It's reckoned that the reason this happens is that Thai parents don't talk to their teenage daughters about sex, they just hope that they'll do the right thing. Also, the Thai mindset - I'll do that when I have to, rather than preparing for the inevitable. Another thing is that pregnant girls are thrown straight out of school and their education must come first. Even though, there are abortion clinics all over the country it is strictly illegal and therefore not monitored which leads to terrible practices.
Alarmingly, the US government has investigators here posing as sex tourists in red light areas whose job it is to entrap American citizens who have sex with minors in Thailand; in the states that's anyone under eighteen. They take the offenders back to the USA and try them by their own laws.
The more I think about it, the more immoral I feel it is. I don't want to sound judgmental but Milk's school uniform is worn and scruffy, I wouldn't mind betting that's the only one she has and that she wears it every day. I've seen Milk's mum, she introduced me to her outside the school one day. She obviously wasn't well-to-do; they're a poor family. Milk would've been influenced by Bill's expensive clothes. Apart from the fact that she's a minor according to the laws of his country, he's exploiting his position as a Westerner.
Though, what more could I do - he was almost half my age - I couldn't warn him off; he'd laugh at me. If things got out-of-hand I could end up getting hurt - I'm supposed to be going home tomorrow. And yet, I can't just leave her like that, knowing his aim, still, I'm practically an old age pensioner with a heart condition. At that moment I felt ashamed, what a poor excuse for a man I was, I held my face in my hands and began to cry. In my despair, I prayed that she might be made to understand beyond her tender years.
Just as I was thinking I'd just have to hope she would do the right thing. I remembered a sermon the dear old rector had given in our village church when I was a mere bit of a boy. Jesus' parable about the good Shepard who forsook ninety-nine of his flock on the mountains to go and look for the one sheep that'd gone astray. Divine intervention it probably wasn't whatever the ecclesiastical message was clear!
After my mother was tragically killed in a road accident, my father brought my elder brothers and myself up to be God-fearing, it was what mother would've wanted. My father taught us not only to defend ourselves but to stand up for what was right, no matter what, even at our own expense. 'Right, can never be wrong,' he used to say 'right is right!'
I could imagine just what he'd say today. 'Call yourself a teacher now, do yer boy? A teacher! What sort of a teacher are yer? Yer've turned a blind eye on the one student that needed yer the most. Yer left a defenceless young gal in a situation with a man more than twice her age and size!'
With certainty, I knew now just what I'd to do. I wasn't going to face my fine father in heaven nor in hell with him knowing that I'd turned my back on a young person that had shown me nothing but kindness.
Rising, I stood and took a couple of steps to the cast kitchen sink and opened the rickety old cupboard door below, I stretched down and picked up the heavy steel wrench that I'd bought to turn the water off when I changed a tap washer. I held the blunt object while studying it with tired eyes as I experienced an empty void in my heart. Irrespective of whether I'm much older than Bill - this ought to even things up.
Lost in thought, I went out without even locking the front door behind me and stood by the side of the main road - I hailed a motorbike taxi, telling the rider to go to the Lotus House, a drinking hole Bill always uses after school.
Soon after, when I arrived there I saw Milk and a girl called Nahm Pung, dithering outside, debating whether to go in or not or just pluck up the courage to enter - I don't know. Moreover, I'd never seen them in anything but their smock-like school uniforms, this afternoon they were wearing makeup, tight-fitting white T-shirts and fashionably torn jeans. I was shocked by there frames - little more than skin and bones they'd easily pass as twelve in the UK.
Cautiously, I stood just outside and looked through the black wrought iron gated entrance onto the terracotta-paved patio and saw that Bill wasn't alone, his sidekick Taffy was sitting beside him on a wooden bench at an oblong shaped wooden table shaded by a pea green Chang lager circular canopy. Metaphorically, you could see the bad coming off those two like smoke-off a fire.
Argo, my ticker was racing, I could hardly breathe, I had one thought. I'm not a man who likes to swear and I might well be beaten here, yet I'll be the best second these two bastards have ever seen!
Gradually, I pushed the gate aside and I staggered on in, I was feeling more stressed with every step closer to their table. When Taf, looked up and saw me, "Wha du ya think ya gonna do wit that old timer?" That was enough for me, I put the wrench up above my shoulder and ran towards them while swinging the wrench across the table where they were sitting - smashing both bottles of their beer to smithereens - with a hay-maker. Taffy and Bill jumped up in astonishment, caked in shafts of glass, soaked in beer and Bill shouted, "What the hell is happening?"
Standing there holding the wrench at my side in my right-hand I felt exhilarated and explained, "I heard your little conversation this afternoon, the one about seducing a minor with a pair of gold earrings." Bill and Taffy looked as if they were trying to think of something to say. Milk and her friend were standing not too far behind me now, having followed me in - both were witnessing the spectacle.
"I never took you to be a gentlemen Jockey," said Taffy with some sarcasm. "Right, boy!" gaining eye contact "That's because it takes one to know one." Taffy wasn't looking so smug now, meanwhile, Bill had thought of something to say in his own defence. "So, what if you did eavesdrop on our conversation," belittling my concern "can't I buy my gal a gift and she's legal at seventeen." going on with his explanation. "In fact, fifteen is the consensual age in Thailand."
A strong assertive voice came from behind us, "Not-for-you, you're an American citizen!" It was Pete and he was holding out his iPhone, he'd been recording everything. He continued, "Fifteen is the consenting age for a girl with a Thai partner, it's eighteen if she has a foreign partner." laying down the law. Bill, trying to save his skin again, "I'm sorry, I didn't know that before." Pete, this time with a little anger, "You said enough and if I so much as see either of you two arseholes again - I'll take this recording to the American Embassy in Bangkok."
Bill, cool and commanding, "You won't be taking it anywhere, give it to me, I'll erase it and you have my word there won't be any more problems." Peter enraged at being taken for a fool, leaping towards Bill - whilst holding up his mobile "You so much as touch this phone," now standing toe-to-toe "and I can guarantee you I will break both your arms!" Peter is naturally a very well-built man of Slav decent and a match for anybody. Bill considered his options, then glanced at Taf, they momentarily walked away in different directions.
Coincidentally, in case your wondering I had sent Pete a long text message, an hour or so earlier, informing him of the events of the day as he'd gone to the Thai immigration office after lunch. Plus whilst I was sitting on the back of the motorbike coming here, I'd sent him another telling him I couldn't just do nothing and was heading to the bar alone - very foolishly I know - there's no fool like an old fool.
Encouragingly, Milk was happy with the outcome, she seemed to understand that she was a very lucky young lady. She's promised to stick to boys her own age in future.
Finally, Peter's reaction was in part due to the gravity of shock and disgust he felt at my revelation. Further, increased by the fact that he is an eleven-year veteran teacher in Thailand. Peter has taught at five different high schools in four other provinces including Bangkok, and he assures me that before today. There was never a time when he so-much-as suspected that any of his fellow teacher colleagues were praying on students.
To conclude, I have informed our agent and they are going to do the necessary to get the despicable duo blacklisted so that they never work here in Thailand again. Here's to all's well that ends well!
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