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And suddenly there appeared a distraught young woman at the bottom of the steps leading up to my verandah. She was holding a handful of cigars.
“Paul left these,” she said. “You like cigars?”
“Not especially,” I replied.
"Paul left them."
"You mentioned that."
"He's gone now. I took him to the airport three hours ago."
"Yes. I was there. Remember?"
"Oh right. Well, I just thought you might like these cigars. I mean, if you don't, that's all right. Paul didn't leave much behind. A few books, a smelly old T-shirt and . . . and these damn cigars. Oh Jesus . . .”
And then she began to sob.
"Take it easy, Jill. Give me the cigars and have a drink. Beer or wine?"
"I'm so sorry," she said, still sobbing and struggling to catch her breath. "Feeling sorry for myself I suppose. Maybe a glass of wine . . . if it isn't too much trouble."
"No trouble at all."
Actually, it was a bit of trouble because I only have one glass and I was using it. I slipped into the bungalow, poured more wine in the glass for Jill, and grabbed a bottle of beer for myself.
"You remember that song, 'Breaking Up Is Hard to Do'? she asked.
"Not if I can help it."
"I'd say so."
"You're right. I've got to stop feeling sorry for myself. After all, we weren’t completely happy together. One thing used to piss me off a lot. Paul had been living here for five years and he's got quite a few friends. I just moved here seven months ago and the only people I know are his friends. Anyway, what pisses me off is that every time I meet one of his friends they say, 'Wow, Paul. Nice looking girl you got there.'"
"Why would that piss you off? You should be flattered."
"That isn't what pisses me off. What pisses me off is that Paul always says, 'Thanks, mate.' You know, as if they were complimenting him instead of me, which is what they probably are doing."
"Right. I mean why does he say 'Thanks'? It's like Paul is taking credit for my good looks. Most men do that, come to think of it. You're a man. Why do men do that?"
"Because we're vain, insensitive, dominating, insecure louts who think a good-looking woman on our arm is something to show off for the sake of rousing the envy and admiration of our pals."
This seemed like the tactful thing to say, though of course, I have never behaved that way myself. Then again, I never had much luck with good-looking women.
"Exactly," Jill agreed. "It's like I'm some sort of stuffed doll he won in a shooting gallery at a carnival. What right has he got to take credit for my good looks?"
"That's what I say."
"What else? I'll tell you what else. He abused me . . . physically."
"Yes. He hit me, beat me . . . called me a bitch."
"No excuse for a man to hit a woman."
"You mean 'cause I'm a bitch?"
"No. I didn't say you were a bitch."
"Well, Paul did."
"You're his friend. You probably think I'm a bitch too."
"No. No. I wouldn't say that. Even if I did think you were, I wouldn't hit you.
"I simply don't hit women. My father beat that into me at a very early age."
"I'd like to meet your father."
"Too late. He's dead."
"Why did you stay with him for so long?"
"I don't know. It just seemed like we were destined for each other. I mean, listen . . . I knew Paul's sister in Tokyo for five years before I ever met Paul. His sister kept telling me what a great guy he was, and she wrote to him about me. She thought we would be a perfect match. Then I came to Samui for a holiday and out of nowhere this guy walks over to me on the beach and says hello. He was really nice looking so I asked him to sit down and we talked for hours. All at once I realized this guy was Paul, the brother of my girlfriend. Isn't that amazing?"
"Turns out we both came to Asia the same time. And, not only that, it was the same day, June 6th, 1990. I landed in Bangkok on my way to Tokyo and Paul landed in Bangkok on his way here. Isn't that just so bizarre?"
"Then I find out that Paul graduated from college the very same day I graduated from high school. And get this, that's our birthday, and the date was June 6th. We're exactly three years apart in age."
"Yeah. Well, I went to a tough high school."
"But, isn't that incredible?"
"You know what Paul's favorite color is?"
"What's your favorite color?"
"I'll bet Paul's favorite color is . . . turquoise."
"Jesus! How did you know? Isn't that just too much?"
"It is too much actually. I give up."
"Well exactly. That's what I thought. We must be meant for each other."
"You'd establish a relationship on the basis of coincidences? You can take any two people on the whole damn planet and find something similar about them. Maybe they both have an aunt named Mabel. Does that mean you're going to fall in love and get married?"
"Of course not. Paul doesn't have an aunt. But get this . . . he did have a dog named Turk, and my aunt who lives in Vancouver used to have a cat named Turk."
"Wow. Your aunt's name is Mabel?"
"No, but never mind. You're just making fun of me now."
"How about some more wine?"
"Well, okay. You sure you don't think I'm a bitch?"
"Paul said I complained too much. Said I was always griping about things."
"Yeah. But, I mean, why can't I speak my mind?"
"Is that what you've been doing?"
"Sort of. Does it bother you?"
"Not so far."
"Good, because this wine is awfully bitter. Is it from a jug?"
"Jug wine with a screw-on cap."
"Oh . . . that's all right."
"No. Thank you. It's very nice of you to put up with me this evening, and as a matter of fact, I'm starting to feel a little better."
"These new cushions you got here?"
"Not exactly. I bought them two months ago."
"But they still have the plastic covering on."
"Aren't you supposed to take that off? I mean, it's kind of shabby leaving the plastic on for two months."
"The cushions last longer that way."
"These cushions only cost about two dollars apiece."
"So live a little . . . take the damn plastic off them."
I ripped the top off another bottle of beer and thought of my father for a moment.
"I'm sorry," she said. "See, there I go bitching about things. That's what Paul said. I'm always bitching . . . then he'd smack me."
"Did you stop bitching when he smacked you?"
"Oh sure . . . I'd start crying."
“We’d make love . . .”
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