After my youngest brother died of AIDS in 1995, I traveled to the holiest shrines in Asia. The ancient temples salved little of my grief and I switched to worshipping the high heels of the go-go girls. Vee danced at the Baby A Go-Go in Pattaya. She had one eye. We had an affair. The word ‘love’ was traded between us many times. My money ran out before Christmas and a 747 flew me back to the States. My vow to return was a lie. Friends phoned to say she was seeing an Englishman. It seemed better that way.
A year later I took a plane to Thailand. The taxi ride from Bangkok lasted two hours. I stayed at the same hotel. A knock sounded on the door. It wasn’t room service. Vee hadn’t changed much physically, but told me she had AIDS. I said I would help her. We went up country to see her baby. She said it could have been mine.
The math didn’t work out, but I was glad that the child was healthy. The farm had prospered. Vee and I slept in the same bed. She wanted me to hold her. We did nothing else. The next morning I looked for water. No medicine filled the refrigerator. Vee put the child on my lap. She had told her lovers the same story. It had been a test.
I was the only one who passed this exam. The memory of my brother stopped my strangling her. The baby cried as I packed my bags. Vee asked if I was angry. My answer was a weak no and I caught the next bus out of town. Forgetting her lie was much easier in Pattaya as was everything else, because life is too short not to forgive and forget.