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I’d never seen Helena so angry. Hell, I’d never seen smoke actually coming out of someone’s ears before. She was supremely pissed. But it wasn’t so much anger as being frustrated, annoyed, irritated, and fed up. A full mix of broiling emotions in any case, and none of them were positive.

We were having dinner at a riverside restaurant, our last night in Chiang Mai. Earlier in the trip, Noom – my bar boy friend and current love of my life – had hooked up with Pom, a local lesbian we’d met on a previous trip north, to pick up some Yi Peng lanterns so the gang of friends I’d hauled along on my year end trip could experience the joy of letting them sail off into the night sky lit up and trailing fire as they soared above. It turned out Pom was actually a chef and in our absence had finally landed a job making sushi for a local restaurant. We were dinning there to celebrate her good luck. And our love of sushi

Helena’s angry state was, undoubtedly, my fault. At least indirectly. One of the things I love about Helena is that her buttons are large and obvious. It’s easy to know which to push to set her off. And I do. Frequently. She goes batshit then, before remembering who she is dealing with. So the effect is never long. But glorious nonetheless. I’m sure she wouldn’t put up with that crap from anyone else, but she knows I love her. And I’m one of the few people in her life who will call her on her shit. When you are a goddess, you need someone who will haul you back to earth every now and then.

Noom is exceptionally intuitive. He’d picked up on Helena being the person in the group best to razz. And lit into her unmercifully. Almost more often than I did. But Helena gives as good as she gets. It was always (mostly) in fun and the two of them were enjoying trading bitch slaps throughout the trip. At least for the first two weeks.

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The night before we were shopping at the Sunday Night Market and Helena found a blouse she liked. She tried it on and then asked Noom his opinion. He looked at her, and then reached over and adjusted her tits before standing back to see if the new arrangement was more to his liking. Helena’s jaw dropped. And then Noom gave her his opinion: “You too fat.”

Ouch! In the West when a women asks a man how she looks, we all know by the age of three the only appropriate answer is, “Beautiful!” In Thailand, the locals are a bit more honest in their assessment of others. It’s not unusual for a Thai to comment on your weight, age, nose, ears . . . they don’t consider pointing out the obvious as being rude. Helena couldn’t decide which offended her more. The fat comment or Noom’s familiarity with her breasts. Walking away from a blouse that obviously didn’t get bought, she grabbed me and said, “You need to have a talk with your boy. My tits are off limits.”

Normally I’d have agreed with her. But the gang, after Dee had started the tradition, all decided the best New Year’s Eve picture they could take in Bangkok was of each taking turns sucking on one of Noom’s nipples. I couldn’t disagree. I’m rather fond of doing so myself. And Noom didn’t mind. He thought it was pretty funny. For Helena that had progressed to grabbing his ass.

Noom’s ass is a work of art. It’s like chiseled stone. Michelangelo’s David brought to life. Helena was impressed, and fondled it frequently. That Noom didn’t differentiate between her familiarity with his body and his with hers didn’t surprise me. “Sorry,” I told her. “If you have a problem with that, talk to him yourself.”

Not being the brightest bulb in the case, she gave it a try. Using far too many words. Noom didn’t understand what she was trying to tell him, did understand it had something to do with her breasts, and since he’d only been kidding around anyway, gave them another adjustment when she finally wound down.

I laughed. Helena slapped Noom. He giggled and lightly slapped her back. Game on. The two were soon dancing down the street, Helena trying to get in another blow, Noom laughing his ass off while easily avoiding her slaps. Eventually Helena’s anger turned to laughter and the two ended up walking down the street hand in hand chuckling. Payback came the next day.

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Riding home from a long trip north, Helena was sitting behind Noom and reached up and messed up his hair. Helena is no slouch in the intuitive department herself and had come to realize Noom is quite vain. With good reason. And he didn’t like having his hair messed with. She laughed. He patted it back into his preferred style for the day. And then she did it again. Noom did not think it was funny.

I’ve only seen Noom angry a few times. It is usually due to some other Thai not affording him the respect he feels is his right as a fellow Thai. He gets quite incensed when that happens and his scowl makes his anger obvious. The look on his face from Helena’s efforts was damn close. At first, I thought it an overreaction. But then it dawned on me that the problem wasn’t vanity but religious belief. Thais consider the top of the head as the most sacred part of the body. It has something to do with being the closest part of the body to heaven and the gods. Helena wasn’t just screwing with his hairstyle, she was screwing with his karma.

“Uh, H, that’s not really a good idea,” I warned her. And then briefly explained the Thai head touching avoidance thingy to her.

“Yeah, I know,” she said and then reached out and did it again.

Maybe she is a slouch in the intuitive department. The look Noom gave her should have been enough. But it wasn’t. She went for it again. Fortunately Dee figured out the joke had turned ugly and grabbed her hands before she lost them. Noom was not a happy camper. And avoided Helena the rest of the day.

But all seemed to have been forgiven by the time we headed out for dinner. The restaurant was nice, a beautiful setting along the Ping River, an open air deck lit by candles, a soft breeze blowing in from the water kept the bugs to a minimum and the temperature pleasant. It was great seeing Pom again and she was quite proud of being able to show off her culinary skills to the farang. And gained major face points with her boss for pulling in a good sized group for dinner.

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During our first dinner at the beginning of the trip, I’d suggested we order and eat Thai style. The group was large enough we could order several dishes and then everyone share rather than each ordering a separate plate. I like that custom, it gives everyone a chance to try more dishes without having to order something you may end up not liking.  Unfortunately, Cheap Chris put a kabosh to the idea. He consistently ordered a fried rice dish for his dinner because it was always the cheapest item on the menu. And he didn’t want to share in a bill for more expensive food. No problem. His loss.

When Noom and I eat together we order separate dishes but then end up eating off each others’ plate anyway. He often orders food I’m not familiar with, so I like to try his. He eats his weight in food at any meal and that usually means he has to eat half of mine to reach his quota. Food is serious business to Noom. Once he starts eating, the world could end and he’d fail to take notice. He enjoys food, but views it as fuel for his body. And he is quite serious about his body and its upkeep.

As often as we’ve dined together you’d think I’d be used to the amount of food he can pack away. But it constantly amazes me. If I ate that much I wouldn’t be able to move for at least two hours. His body seems to process the food as he eats, the benefit an immediate reaction. Considering the amount of enjoyment I get out of his body, I’m always happy to do my part in providing it with the fuel it needs.

Chris got his rice that night and the rest of us ordered a variety of platters filled with different types of sushi. Pom’s sushi making skills kick ass. Everything was perfectly prepared and beautifully presented. Noom slipped into his usual ‘communing with the food’ mode and the rest of us followed suit. Conversation went by the wayside with the only noise being an occasional grunt of culinary satisfaction as we quickly emptied the platters of delectables.

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Soon the common dishes were picked clean, the only food left being what we each had on our plate. Noom finished his sushi off and then reached over and snagged a piece off of Helena’s plate. A common event in my dining life with the boy, I thought nothing of it. Helena though, was a bit put off.

And then, oops, he did it again. “Hey!” she complained. “That’s mine!”

Noom nodded in beat with his chewing, swallowed, and grabbed yet another piece off her plate.

“Damn it,” Helena cried. “Leave my food alone!”

Noom ignored her. I considered explaining to Helena that that was customary for Noom. I considered reminding her that perhaps a few less calories might be in order since she’d been too fat for the blouse she’d tried on the night before. I also considered telling her that when Noom’s mouth is busy with food, he’s deaf, so she might as well save her breath. But one look at H and I could tell she was pissed. So wisely I took the opportunity to gaze out over the beautiful night scene of the river sluggishly crawling by instead.

The battle for the food on Helena’s plate went into full gear with both combatants quickly shoveling sushi into their mouths. Helena with much intent, Noom nonchalantly reaching over and spearing another piece as he finished with the last one he’d grabbed. Helena’s chewing was fast and fierce with an occasional exclamation of, “Bastard!” Noom seemed completely oblivious. Noom enjoyed his meal. I don’t know how Helena could have enjoyed hers as she was frothing at the mouth in anger over her food being ripped off right in front of her eyes.

Noom chewed. Helena complained. I enjoyed the scenery. Dee finally offered to order more food, playing peacekeeper as usual in their relationship. Helena wasn’t buying it. “That’s not the point,” she bitched. “It’s MY sushi.”

I ended up ordering another platter of sushi. Not to make up for what my boy had ate, but rather because he still seemed in need of more sustenance. Helena, still quite irritated, tried to turn the tables, grabbing food off Noom’s plate this round. Noom ignored her, reached out and helped himself to more from the middle of the table and smiled at me contented, his stomach reaching its required fuel capacity.

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Helena stayed pissed off the rest of the night. Noom never seemed to notice that a problem had occurred. But when we snuggled into bed that night he said, “I tink Helenda angry.” Noom could not keep the girls’ names straight and had settled on a never ending roster of odd combinations of their two names.

“Yup, I don’t think she enjoyed her dinner much,” I replied.

Noom nodded a few times mulling it over, smiled, and then savoring his night out with Helena and the sweet taste of payback said, “Good.”

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