Pon stepped out of the bright blue taxi, her pink skirt rising up and showing more than enough of her fair skinned thigh to catch the attention of the table full of office men sitting just outside the front doors of the Star Coffee Shop.

“Why? I mean maybe a new challenge is just what you need. You’re still very young… Not even forty. Sometimes you talk like you’re sixty or something and ready to retire and go sit in a rocking chair all day.”

“The promotion would have taken me to Singapore…” he said, pausing to observe her expression.

“A plane ride away… A short one…”

“True…”

It was not the response that he’d been hoping for. Only a few months ago her eyes would have been filled with tears at the thought of him leaving Bangkok, but now, despite her begging for his forgiveness for her infidelity, her heart had hardened-tempered by his verbal shots and their recent squabbling.

“What if I said,” and he paused to look into her eyes and be certain that she could feel his words, “I said that you were my new challenge. I make plenty of money, well for living in Thailand anyway, but I’ve never had a relationship worth anything.”

Her eyes closed as if she was catching his words behind her eyelids and holding them there for a moment; and then she smiled. “Maybe we could go to Singapore together? Maybe we could move there, just the two of us.”

“You want to go to Singapore?”

“Together, I want us to be together and why not Singapore? It would be the two of us; it would be the place for us to start our relationship again.”

That was it, he thought, Singapore, an island refuge from their Bangkok problems. A place for them to begin anew-be alone, without her friends and their incessant phone calls-and there his painful memories could be endured if it would finally bring about peace. Every man had to sacrifice to achieve a peaceful existence. Every prize comes at a price. And what a sweet surrender this would be for him, a doting girlfriend spurred to please him by their dependence upon one another in a city of strangers. He could picture it and this was returning some of the color to his pallid cheeks and putting a smile on his face.

“Besides,” she continued, “Singapore is a lovely place, so clean and orderly. It is the exact opposite of Bangkok.”

He hesitated, fighting an eruption, feeling the tremor before an emotional earthquake. It was his memory, that most specific and distrustful mind of his was rotating a detail-chiseling it from the hundreds of arguments and discussions concerning the boy she had given herself to, and suddenly the nation of Singapore became vividly clear. “You would like to live there, in Singapore?” he said, just as monotone as he could manage, but beneath his words was an air of suspicion.

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