The Enigma by Colin Cotterill

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It has been suggested that I flag my blogs with a “LITE” icon so you can skim over them if you want to get to grips with ‘issues’. After a heavy blog week I find myself sniffing at the rear end of religion and homosexuality. We don’t have any religion or homosexuality at our house and we are, it has to be said, very light on heavy. So I shall continue to press a subject that is close to my heart. Me!

I am, I must confess, a terrible disappointment in real life. In fact in unreal life I’m not that shit hot either. I’m not just saying this in a flurry of false modesty. I have empirical evidence. Take, for example, the Bloggs (I have changed their name from Delainy here to avoid a lawsuit because THEY ARE, OR, WERE, AMERICAN.) The Bloggs wrote to me often when I was still living in Chiang Mai to say what HUGE fans of the books they were and that they would be in Chiang Mai for a week and would LOVE to meet up and have a glass or two. Jess and I met the Bloggs in a bar/restaurant which has since been taken over by red-shirted fascist anti-royalists – first the Cozy Corner, next the country. (I have meandered from the point) The Bloggs drank with us, took hundreds of photographs, and allowed us to book them a spa massage and arrange for a tooktook to transport them there. Either they were kidnapped mid-route and sold into elderly white slavery or they had not been impressed by our company…because they were never seen again.

On one other occasion, a fan vanished without trace in the middle of a frenzied Mekhong whisky night at a local hot spot. It wasn’t till the following day that our fuzzled minds brought him back to life and phone calls were exchanged as we tried to piece together the exact moment he’d disappeared. It turned out he’d paid the bill for our group and left a tip large enough to refurbish the bar and send the owner off on an overseas trip. But this character too was ne’er seen again. I felt a lump inside my rebcage that was certainly growing into a complex.

We moved south to a place that wasn’t on any tourist routes, nor did it crack a mention on the Thai National Thoroughfare Atlas issued by the Ministry of Transportation. I heard from a fan in Taiwan, an Englishman who wanted to know when I’d be in Bangkok next because ‘he would fly down to meet me’. I didn’t believe it. I went to Bangkok. He flew down to meet me. We had lunch and lots of drinks at the Oriental. He was loaded any way you looked at it. We shook hands and he vanished from the face of the earth like the rest of them. I was starting to feel grateful that Thailand didn’t have a functioning Federal Bureau of Investigation because an awful lot of people were disappearing and, in every case, I was the last common denominator. If I’d been more certain I hadn’t killed them (large amounts of alcohol, dark periods of amnesia, unfamiliar items of jewelry beside the bed in the morning, blood-red nail polish around my finger cuticles in the shower, dogs too full to eat breakfast, etc.) I might have even made this a plotline in one of my novels. But you never know who’ll read it. A cousin of the Bloggs picks up my book from the discount bin and recognizes his relatives who haven’t been seen since their trip to Thailand. Puts two and two together. There I am in handcuffs.

It was all getting a little creepy so I decided to become an enigma. It was time to pull myself from the celebrity author circuit and become ‘interesting’. Aloof people, even the most insufferably dull and spineless characters on the planet, tend to sit back and watch a mist of fascination swirl around their ankles merely as a result of their incommunicadocity. It is far better to be perceived as odd and quirky and eccentric than to have people meet you and realize that you are merely thick. It doesn’t take long before the birth of rumours.

“I heard he’s living with a seven-foot transvestite voodoo priestess.”

Can’t do book sales any damage and no evidence to the contrary. Your reputation takes over where you left off. Yes, that was the way to go. Invisible. Not contactable. Where is that mysterious masked pen wielder? And it was working. At last, I was out of the limelight looking forward to a life of anonymity. Until Brian.

Brian wrote to me from Cape Town. Young, innocent, persistent Brian. “I’ll be passing through Pak Nam Lang Suan”, he wrote. The only way to be passing through Pak Nam Lang Suan was if you were on your way into the gulf. The tide was high. The waves were wicked. I knew it was a ruse. He wanted to see me and confirm all those rumours circulating around South Africa that I was on life support and writing my novels in steam on the interior walls of my glass bubble. I ignored him. He wrote again. I ignored him again. It’s what enigmas do. Then in one desperate email he mentioned,

“I have no living relatives, I’m wealthy, single and nobody knows I’m going to Thailand.”

“I’ll meet your train,” I wrote back and twirled my metaphorical moustache.

Poor Brian. He’s been in our soundproof cellar for a month now. I gave him my autograph. Or perhaps, ‘branded’ is a better word. I’m an enigma so it would be worth a lot on Ebay if he could ever sell it.

It doesn’t matter how loudly you scream during the monsoons.

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