BROKEN-HEARTED WEED KILLER
By Andrew Biggs
This week I made a mercy dash to Chantaburi after receiving a disturbing phone call Sunday evening.
“Lersak’s tried to kill himself,” Samai breathlessly told me over the phone. “He drank weed killer at your house.”
Not the kind of thing one wants to hear after settling down to one’s first Sunday screwdriver; I was in my car and on the motorway in no time, hurtling towards the eastern province at a speed that would have required 100 Baht firmly attached to my driver’s license had the cops pulled me over.
I have a modest wooden house in the hills of Chantaburi, a province nestled on the Cambodian border. It’s very peaceful except that it’s right near one of Cambodia’s bigger casinos catering solely to Thais, who make the 250-km trek from Bangkok in hundreds of rented vans every weekend.
It’s the casino that regularly harbors Thai politicians when they need to make hasty escapes but besides this attraction, Chantaburi is also a picturesque corner of Thailand with lots of fruit groves and rolling hills.
My Chantaburi village friends are so nice and friendly and accept me for all my faults and eccentricities, especially if I turn up with a bottle of 100 Pipers and a dozen soda waters.
One of my best friends there is Lersak whom I have known for nearly 20 years. Thirteen years ago he fell in love with Hattai, an 18-year-old local girl. They never married; Hattai moved to Bangkok and got her degree, while Lersak stayed in Chantaburi running his rubber plantation.
In retrospect what happened was clear to see, though not for us who were so close to the events. Hattai grew out of Lersak. Recently in the Bangkok office where she worked she met a guy and, well, Lersak got sidelined. Two weeks ago she broke it off with him.
“Lersak’s over at your house … dying,” Samai explained over the phone as I reached the halfway mark of my mercy dash.
Dying at my house? Crazily I’d forgotten to bring my camera along. And besides … what is it with Thais killing themselves to get back at their lovers?
Despite the proliferation of massage parlors on every corner of this country, there seems to be a strong commitment – or perhaps it is a sense of ownership – when it comes to finally meeting up with one’s life partner. The commitment part is good; but thinking you can “own” anyone is dangerous, and this is clear when someone in a relationship here wants out, but the other doesn’t.
Over the years of reporting the news in this country I am baffled by the constant recurrence of one particular news item and it is this: Thai man has girlfriend. Thai man has relationship with other woman. Thai girl kills herself to “get back at” the Thai man.
It’s been my experience that being alive is far more disturbing to an ex- than being dead. I just need to get this idea through to heartbroken young Thais who want to die to revenge an ex. This usually takes the form of jumping from a great height from one of those dreadful suburban apartment blocks.
I once met an American man here who lived in a nice apartment who had a Thai girlfriend who was a university student. They’d been together six months. He met somebody else and decided to call it quits, so the next time his girlfriend was visiting, he told her the news. She nodded and took it in with an ashen face.
He went to the kitchen to get a drink, and when he returned she was gone. There, on the balcony, he spotted her shoes. She had jumped from the 15th floor.
Now if Hercule Poirot or Nancy Drew had spent any time in Thailand they would have spotted the important discrepancy in this story. Any Thai would have left her shoes by the door when she came in to the apartment. Why were they now out at the balcony? Simple; while he was in the kitchen she’d taken them out there before jumping. It was a sign. She was going to show him; teach him a strong lesson. She was going to kill herself and make sure he knew what she’d done!
The poor girl. There’s a match for any old boot, as my mother used to say frequently, but that is beside the point; she left that balcony and hurtled down through the atmosphere thinking “Ha! This’ll show him!” Thwack.
It’s all too tragic to even think about.
If it’s the guy who’s hard done by, he’s more prone to act like Lersak and drink the local version of Drano, or worse, murder his girlfriend for daring to be with another guy. Such is the heart of we humans, especially when we delude ourselves into thinking that we can really “own” somebody else.
I am telling you all this because, after 250 kilometres breaking the speed limit, I arrived in my little home of Chantaburi to a very-much-alive Lersak, sitting under his house with a glass of whiskey in front of him and a forlorn expression.
It turns out he’d trudged up the mountain with his bottle of weed killer into the forest where he couldn’t be found. And then what? Unscrewed the cap and chugged it down, sputtering and choking on the poison as it wrested the very life out of him?
Hardly. He telephoned Hattai.
“I’m up here in the forest … about 20 metres diagonally to the left behind Andrew’s house. Next to the single mango tree amid the rubber trees. You’ll never find me. I’m about to drink weed killer. I’m ending it all because of you, Hattai. Goodbye!”
All he needed was a swelling of violins and a commercial break to complete the picture. Hattai of course quickly called Lersak’s mother, who called his best friend Wan, who happened to be at the rubber plantation, who sped over on his motorbike 30 minutes later with a gaggle of locals to find Lersak sprawled out under my sala with a hardly-touched bottle of weed killer.
I was furious.
“I … drove … three hours … for this?” I snarled. “This isn’t a suicide attempt! It’s not even a cry for help! It’s … pathetic!”
Lersak to his credit didn’t disagree. I actually felt sad for him, having been jilted then having staged a very bad suicide attempt. Haven’t we all felt like him at some stage in this life?
Lersak got over Hattai. In a short while he met a new girl, from Sa Kaew province, and now they have a beautiful daughter, a girl who was but a bottle of weed killer away from never existing.