They sit in silence, as they did last night and probably the thirty nights before that. She has had the fake smile and feigned interest sapped out of her; she can now only pull off politely bored. As long as it doesn’t slip into open disdain, it’s all OK.
It’s hard to tell if he’s smiling through the food being shovelled into his mouth. His shirt is smiling – it’s a big, garish Hawaiian affair, billowing over his ample bulges and monuments to breakfast buffet over-indulgence. His shorts ride up slightly too high, and slightly too tight. His white socks match the tufts of hair that remain on his gleaming, wrinkled scalp.
She picks at some fruit; he gorges on a towering plate full of everything he can get his hands on. She finds any excuse to get away and not face the feral culinary demolition in front of her – she goes for water, she goes for juice, she goes to get him more food. He sits there, shovelling without pause, legs spread wide apart. But everything is in silence.
This morning snapshot of romance take place in a hotel in Phrae, but this scene can probably be found replicated across. Older white man, and younger Thai girl; together in relationships of varying longevity and transactional ruthlessness.
There’s at least thirty years between my pair. I’d love to know what they’re really thinking. Surely this isn’t happiness? For her, it may be true love. It’s more likely to be sacrifice; a way of providing for her family, and a better life than she may have otherwise known.
For him, the emotions must be clattering into each other with stomach churning effect. There’s pride; he has to show pride. After all, look at him, he’s done well. She’s undoubtedly a catch.
But there’s also shame. He knows. He knows that she knows. He knows that every eye looking at them knows – or at least strongly suspects.
Most of all, though, it must be loneliness. And the most devastating type of loneliness there is. The sort of loneliness that comes from being permanently with someone, yet realising that there’s no genuine connection. The loneliness that has to be hidden, lest the pride that holds everything together comes crumbling down.
The silence is the glue. Better to slumber behind the mask of inertia than to discover the sharp claws of truth digging in. So, in the absence of anything better, silence it is.
All content copyright David Whitley.