Tourist Boats. Pattaya Beach, Thailand. Photo Credit: Will Pennington
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue filled the foyer. I listened for a moment before knocking. The music stopped, then began again after a few seconds. I knocked again, harder. The door opened, and Sasi peeked around the edge of the door and smiled.
“Thomas. Come in. How wonderful of you to come.”
She didn’t appear surprised. I glanced toward the kitchen but saw no pitcher of sangria and glasses on the counter. Wishful thinking.
I hesitated to enter, unsure of my welcome. “Hello, Sasi. I’m sorry to bother you. I’m not disturbing you, am I?”
“Don’t be silly, Thomas. You are neither bothering nor disturbing me. Please come in.”
She left the door to me and walked to the piano. She sat on the bench and brushed her fingers across the keys.
“What brings you here, Thomas? I did not expect to see you outside the hotel. Is everything okay?”
I had told myself on the way over that I would get to the point, speak my mind, and then leave or stay, whatever she wanted. I wouldn’t press for an answer or obligate her in any way. That night concerned the truth: my feelings for Sasi, my brief life with Susanna, my engagement to Aida. The outcome depended on Sasi.
“I told you about Susanna the other night after I had said I was not ready to. Shall I tell you the rest? Do you still want to know about Susanna and me, and how my relationship with her affects us?”
“Oh, Thomas. Of course, I do. You — we — were in such a passion that night. I understood how deeply you loved her. I wanted to know everything but didn’t want to intrude. Please. Tell me everything.”
“Would you mind if we sat outside?”
“Not at all. I will bring refreshments. You would like sangria, yes?”
I smiled. “It’s the only thing to drink at Club Sasi.”
I stood on the balcony looking out over the city and the sea. The sinking sun would teeter on the rim of the horizon soon, before leaving the moon behind to cast a romantic glow across the land. Already, lights blinked on around the horizon, and the roar of daytime activity began to give way to the muffled, relaxing hum of nightlife.
Sasi set the tray on the table between the deck chairs and handed me a glass of sangria. She sat in the opposite chair and turned in the seat, one leg beneath her. She sipped her sangria and waited for me to begin.
“I never knew my parents, Sasi. My mother, her name was Susanna also, died a few hours after giving birth to me.” I related the story of my birth, life as an adopted child, my romance with Susanna. Sasi listened without interrupting. When I had told her of Susanna, her eyes glistened when she spoke.
“Oh, Thomas. That is beautiful. Do you think it was coincidence, or do you think you were fated to meet Susanna?”
“I believe fate destined us to be together. When we met, I knew Susanna and I had been born in love and needed only to find each other.”
“I believe it, Thomas. I believe some loves are fated, that people can be brought together and feel they have known one another all their lives.”
“Her eyes made it plain from the beginning. I knew she loved me. Such joy filled me that I couldn’t speak. Our hearts bonded, and I leaned across the bar and kissed her. Every new day brought deeper joy, and I wondered how I had lived before meeting Susanna. Life had changed from ordinary to a daily walk of inspiration, extraordinary happiness, and bliss. When we had to spend time apart, I was lost, cold, sad, withdrawn. We spent little time apart except the few occasions I had to travel.”
My eyes blurred with tears, and I wiped them away with the back of my hand. Sasi knelt and put her arm around my shoulder. “I never dreamed she would die.”
“I wanted nothing to do with women after she died. I felt cheated out of a life of happiness with Susanna, and I lost interest in a life of happiness with anyone. I wanted to love again, but I wanted to fall in love exactly the way my parents had, and Susanna and I had. It was an impossible dream.”
Sasi’s eyes brimmed with sympathy. They spoke to me from a deep well of love. I wanted her to tell me lightning struck more than twice in the same place. Her eyes spoke for her. I thought of the night we stood on the balcony looking out over the sea and the warmth that had buzzed around me.
“My grief over Susanna’s death went so deep that I resisted the will to let a woman love me. But when I met you, Sasi, the wall began to crumble, and my heart began to heal. The last time we met here, I told you what I feel for you is different than what I felt for her. I said I didn’t know why, but I do. Susanna didn’t have to heal a broken heart.”
Sasi touched my cheeks with a tenderness that reminded me of Susanna’s gentleness. She kissed my forehead, then pressed her head to mine.
“Together we will heal your heart, Thomas.”
My heart pounded as I embraced her. Her words sang in my head and gave me hope, but I had to tell her everything.
“Before we go on, Sasi, there is more you should know. I didn’t want to tell you this, but I couldn’t hide it from you. Our relationship should not begin with half-truths. You deserve to know everything so our hearts hold no secrets.”
She remained silent, watching me closely. I kept her hands in mine so if they turned cold, I would know that the other half of my heart would remain buried with Susanna.
“Before I left for Thailand, I asked my girlfriend in the Philippines to marry me.”
Her expression didn’t change. Her eyes held mine in a steady gaze.
“George and I discussed Aida a few days ago, and he asked me what I planned to do about our engagement. He knew I had second thoughts about marrying her. I told him I didn’t know what to do. When I came here the other night, I already knew I couldn’t marry Aida. I realized Aida attracted me because she needed me. After all the pain and grief over Susanna’s death, after all the failed relationships, failed because I hardened my heart against loving again, I found a woman who needed me. But needing and loving are different emotions, and I can’t marry Aida because she needs me when I don’t love her. I feel tenderness for her, but not love. It may seem strange, but I questioned whether I should ask her to marry me and compared her to Susanna even as I proposed.”
“I understand. Marrying for the wrong reason leads only to heartache. I’m glad you told me of Aida.”
“There is also a girl here that I used to see when I came to Thailand. She expected more than she had reason to. I told her there was nothing between us.”
She pressed a warm hand to my cheek. “I’m glad you told me about Lek and Aida. I know there will be no secrets between us now.”
“You knew about Lek?”
“One of the front desk clerks told me. She said Lek left the hotel crying. They were friends, and Lek told her what happened. I’m sorry, Thomas, but I am glad it is over for you.”
“Thank God. I feel a weight has lifted from my shoulders. I agonized over how to explain all this to you.”
“I knew about Aida too.”
“First, I must tell you I didn’t want to trap you, Thomas. I only wanted to know you loved me enough to tell me.”
“I understand, but how did you find out about Aida?”
“I overheard some of your friends discussing her in the lobby one morning. One of them asked the others if they knew you had asked her to marry you. They turned quiet when I entered the lobby to distribute newspapers. I didn’t give any sign that I had heard them, then you came into the lobby, and we spoke as we always do.”
Sasi kissed my cheek to reassure me. “I’m so happy you told me everything.” She picked up the empty pitcher and walked to the kitchen for more. She returned and filled our glasses. “But, Thomas, what are you going to do about Aida? How will you tell her? We cannot move forward until you resolve your affairs with her.” “I’m going to tell Aida the truth, Sasi.”