In Part III of our exclusive extract from Jim Algie’s new book, a fallen rock star wonders if his love life is as expired as the life of his musical mentor
The change happened as slowly and mysteriously as a wrinkle appearing on his face. Lek couldn’t remember how old he was—thirty-nine? forty-one?—when the Thai-Chinese girls in his local shop began calling him “uncle” instead of “older brother”. Only around then did he first notice that younger women were looking at him, if they looked at him at all, in a different way.
It was difficult to read the expression on their faces and in their eyes. Was it something maternal? Was it mockery or contempt? Some kind of fear that he was an aging lecher? Indifference or pity?
Maybe it was some mixture of these emotions that he’d never seen before. Whatever it was, he was far beyond the young man’s fantasy of seeing his fascination or desire reflected in their eyes.
For his age, Lek didn’t think he looked that bad. Not for a musician who’d played as many sold-out concerts, done as many drugs and downed as many drinks. At the very least, he had never displayed the most overt warning signs of ageing, heterosexual males: letting their wives or girlfriends pick out their clothes for them, or looking so slovenly and unfashionable that he wished they had a woman to pick out their clothes for them.
Yet nothing he did, not the workouts, the facials, the expensive haircuts, or abstaining from drink and drugs, seemed to help: the ruts corrugating his forehead continued to deepen; the iron filings kept salting and peppering his black hair; and younger women continued regarding him in this strange way.
It wasn’t until three years after his divorce, when he volunteered to let his son practice his new interest in psychology and relationship counseling on him, that Lek realized he’d reached a turning point of no return. Getting his twenty-year-old son to advise him on women? This could only be the onset of a full-blown, mid-life calamity.
“Do you think your teacher and I formed some kind of connection right from the beginning?” asked Lek.
“In about two minutes I’d say.”
“That’s all it took? I guess so. After that I couldn’t seem to stop it.”
“You could have, but you didn’t want to.”
“That was my fault?”
“Both parties are to compliment or blame in any love affair.”
“Is that what it was? I’m not sure it was love or even an affair.”
“Could you please stop pacing the room and chain-smoking and have a seat on Dr. Dee Dee’s couch? Good. Thank you. Now let’s go back to the beginning when she came over for my first conversation class.”
“Doctor, didn’t she seem kind of obnoxious to you at first? I mean, polite and obnoxious.”
“Sir, were you or were you not wearing ripped jeans, a studded leather belt, and a T-shirt for the death metal band Cannibal Corpse?”
“Are you supposed to be a relationship counselor or a prosecuting attorney?” They traded smirks.
“Answer the question, please.”
“Oh, I see where you’re going with this. You mean, right from the start I gave her a license to say and do pretty much what she wanted.”
“Exactly. That was your first, and maybe your most powerful, connection. So let’s rewind…”
Lek was going to make another pot of Dragon Well Green Tea when Dee Dee walked into the penthouse with a petite blond. “This is my new conversation teacher, Professor Edana,” he said to Lek in Thai. He turned to her. “This is my father, Lek,” he said in English.
Immediately she smiled and put both of her palms together and raised them in front of her face. She said hello and asked him how he was in Thai. Not many foreigners pulled off the greeting and sang the correct tones like Edana did. Most of the ones Lek had met didn’t even bother trying. Her performance was all the more impressive when he recalled Dee Dee telling him that she’d only lived in Bangkok for a few months. Because of their size, white women had often intimidated him, but Edana was a few inches shorter than he was and just as slender.“Nice to meet you, Khun Lek,” she said. A smile split open his dark and leathery features.
“Cool to meet you too. Lek is fine. I try not to put on any airs or graces.”
Dee Dee rolled his eyes and said, “I need to start the class soon. I got shit to do tonight.”
“Saying ‘shit’ around your teacher is not that polite. You could use ‘things’ or ‘stuff,’ you know.”
“That’s okay. I talk shit all the time.” Edana’s smile forced her dimples out of hiding. Until then Lek hadn’t realized how pretty she was, nor how a smile filled those big blue eyes with pinpricks of light. Her voice rose. “So let’s get the fucking class started, shall we?” Her laughter was surprisingly girlish.
Shaking his head and grinning, Dee Dee said to his father in Thai, “Remember? I told you she’s cool.”
Edana pressed her knuckles against her hips and glared at him like a schoolmarm. “No speaking Thai in my classes.” She softened the rebuke by smiling at them, first Lek, then his son; she understood the Thai hierarchy too.
For such a pixie, Edana had a commanding presence that she turned on and off at will. Lek was mesmerized by this tiny woman with the big mouth and long platinum hair, fine as a child’s and parted to one side, so he couldn’t think of anything to say, until he finally managed, “Excuse me, but where are you from? I can’t put… I can’t place your accent at all, and I’ve never heard the name Edana before.”
“I’ve lived all over the world, but I grew up in a tiny village in the mountains of Norway where it can rain or snow for almost thirty days straight.”