favorite places, after Ladakh). My true love’s family found me a lawyer who got me permanent residence: it was a lot easier in those days. So I married her, learned the language—everyone was astonished at how quickly I picked it up (I had the weirdest feeling that Walter was helping me out with the tones from beyond the grave) and eventually graduated from one of Bangkok’s finest universities with a first class law degree, all financed by my Thai in-laws, who then set me up in a tiny office off Silom and left me in no doubt that it was payback time. They even posted spies: any working hour I spent away from the office, unless on business, was reported to my wife who reported back to me in chiding tones.

And they sent me clients. You need to have practiced law to really have a feel for just how low, dirty, petty, vindictive, fascist, sociopathic, paranoid and sick the fabulously rich really are: every client they sent fit into that category. Oh yes, and there was another unspoken condition attached to the generosity they had shown me: certain cases I had to win, no matter what. Bribing became my principle forensic skill. I’ve been doing it for so long now, I could do it standing on my head. I can even do it without saying anything: I know all the tea ladies in all the government and corporate departments who are trusted to take brown paper envelops from one office to another, concealed under the dish cloths on their trolleys. There are a lot of wealthy tea ladies in Bangkok.

Now even my enemies say I’m more Thai than the Thais and if, in middle age, I am suffering from the self- disgust that lawyers like me need to feel in order to convince ourselves we’re still part of the human family—well, I have two trump cards left to save my soul. One is Uncle Walter—just recently I’ve taken to reading his diaries again, I even had them copied onto Microsoft Word so I can study them at work without the in-laws suspecting: they still post spies, I’m pretty sure my second secretary is in their pay. My other solace is Om.

Okay, you’ve guessed that Om is not my wife. True. Neither is she one of the over-paid whores at the over- priced brothel I have to visit every Saturday night with my brother-in-law Niran as part of our family male bonding ritual (it’s that or snort cocaine with the middle brother, or get drunk out of my mind with the youngest). Om is my innocence, Om is my soul. She came into my life mysteriously (she drove her trolley into mine at the big delly in the basement of the Paragon: a clear violation of aisle eitquette I thought, and said so in gutter slang; she stuck out her chest and tongue at the same time as putting her thumbs to her temples and wiggling her fingers: it was hilarious).

I don’t share Om with anyone. I even take precautions when I visit her in the condo I bought her, which happens to be one block away from my office. I go to her via the supermarket which has two exits onto two different streets… She thinks it’s funny the way I always arrive with unnecessary groceries. She loves nature, by the way, especially trees, and is gentle to a fault. I also supply her with marijuana that the cops give me for free: I’m far too good a customer for them to even think of charging. Not that she uses it much. In fact, I’m not sure she ever really wanted it—with her infallible intuition she saw that I needed to smoke a single joint with her as part of our Friday afternoon loveins, when I shut out the world and everything that has happened to me since I first arrived. And if that’s not impressive, let me tell you: her intuition is not limited to minor bad habits: in bed she knew, from the beginning, exactly what I needed. Not many men have experienced that level of service, so allow me to report: it’s irresistible. Don’t look for it unless you want to be an emotional slave for life. Om knows all about Uncle Walter, of course; I had to tell her so she could be included in my secret life. She reads his work as part of her English language studies.


Om comes (she says) from a very small village on the Cambodian border where everyone is tattooed and speaks Khmer as a first language. Her tattoos are in an ancient Khmer script and, I do believe, are faithful reproductions of still more ancient Hindu spells and magical incantations that can be traced back to the Arians and the Vedas. When I first slept with her she watched the expression on my face when I found the tattoo on her upper left thigh about two centimeters from the entrance to her vagina. I still have no idea what it says and I don’t know why I gulped when I saw it. How can a single syllable in an alien script make anyone gulp? It had an effect though. After the first time I saw it, I became very horny—outrageously so for a man of my age. Since then the tattoos have increased. At the time of writing she owns another at the small of her back, one on her left shoulder and one more about half an inch below her navel. So far as I know they are all ancient Khmer script and represent Bronze Age Brahmin magic.

There’s another curious thing about Om: she loves the shrine to Mae Nak not far from On Nut Skytrain station on the Phrakanong canal. I can’t remember how many times I’ve gone there with her. She always buys candles and incense and spends about fifteen minutes in profound meditation whenever she visits. You know the story of Mae Nak of course? That brave and noble Thai wife for whom death was no obstacle: she continued to take great care of her husband and family even as a ghost. For my money Mae Nak deserves the title as patron saint of Bangkok, considering how popular she is; there’s always a crowd of women at her shrine when Om and I visit. Everyone remembers the punch line: one day while the ghost Mae Nak was preparing nam phrik in front of her husband on the floor of their wood house, she dropped a lime through a gap in the floor boards. The lime landed in the cellar below and, without a thought, Mae Nak effortlessly extended her arm to a length of twenty feet to retrieve it. Her flesh-andblood husband saw, realised he’d been living with a ghost and freaked.

Okay, I’m going to make a confession here: on the morning of the day Om and I first made love together Om took me to Mae Nak’s shrine and as we were both kneeling she took my left hand and pressed it on her upper left thigh. I wondered what she was doing; then, later that day, when I saw her naked I realised she had pressed my hand on her tattoo. I bought her condo a week later, because I knew even at that stage I could not survive without her.

Now, so far nothing I’ve related can be said to be totally out of the ordinary; a little eccentric, perhaps, with plenty of Oriental exoticum, but nothing to which you wouldn’t lend credence, right? So here’s the stretcher: last Friday afternoon when I visited I saw she had been busy redecorating the condo. Well, maybe redecorating is an extravagant word for the half hour she must have spent with a felt tip pen and a spray gun. They were everywhere. What were? The tattoos, of course. The one on her thigh was reproduced above the front door and again on the bedroom door. The others, those on her back, shoulder and belly, appeared in either black or red at various places all over the flat. Then there were the sculptures: carefully carved and polished pieces of blackwood all about twelve inches in length, all on wrought iron stands, all highly artistic threedimensional reproductions of the tattoo on her thigh, placed at strategic positions near doors and windows.

Yes, I was taken aback, but not overly so. If she had been practicing black magic on me, I was pretty satisfied with the result so far—I don’t want to sound mean spirited, but compared with the sex life I’d had at home for the past decades… So I made no objection and even confessed that simply seeing that single ancient Khmer syllable (whatever it meant) in black over the front door was giving me a hard-on. But the magical inscriptions were only a tiny part of the shock to my sense of reality that day. Instead of taking me straight to the bedroom, as she usually did, Om gave me a special excited smile and showed me where she’d reached in Uncle Walter’s diary, which she was reading on her laptop. She had taken the trouble of inserting an electronic book mark, so that as soon as she had started Word, we were taken to a paragraph in Walter’s diary which read:-

Spent all day yesterday at Mae Nak’s temple at On Nut, right on the Phrakanong canal. I don’t know what it is about that myth that grabs me. Hallucinations all night, and I haven’t smoked a thing. The sorcery is so strong, the whole stretch by the canal, with the flowers, lotus buds, incense sticks and the statue, radiates power. I know Thai women feel it, however vaguely, that’s why there’s always such a crowd.

Now, the problem was that such a passage did not appear in Walter’s diary, although it is a pretty good imitation of his style. I ought to have known, for at certain times in my life I’d spent whole years reading him, I knew his masterpiece by heart, and such a passage did not appear in it. Rather than argue with her, or allow myself to be distracted in any other way from the jolt to the crotch that her redecoration

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