Stray Cat Blues
The readers submissions page has given me hours of enjoyment since I started reading it. This is my story to add to the pot. It offers no great insight into Thailand, nor does it offer a moral, it is just a story of a town and a girl.
Picture in your mind what constitutes your perfect woman. Imagine her as vividly as possible, imagine every strand of hair, her scent, the tone of her skin, her eyes, the way she moves and the way she looks at you. Imagine the most beautiful woman you can, whether you want her to be slim or plump, black or white, brown or yellow, and now imagine you met her on a tropical evening in a town in S.E. Asia. Well I met my perfect woman on a November evening in Pattaya, and this is where it led me.
I flew to Thailand for the first time in 2001. Years of procrastination and more debilitating, not having enough money had meant that I had dreamed of the country and it's women from afar but never managed to get there myself. With the sad passing of my grandfather though I was left a small amount of money, enough to leave my dead end job as a building labourer and fly east to Thailand. I bought the ticket, told the foreman to shove his job and marched off the building site on a wet October morning. A week later I touched down on a hot November evening in the City of Angels. With no plans or definite ideas of where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do, I took the easy option of jumping on a bus heading to Pattaya, a place whose reputation proceeded it, and a place I imagined to be less intimidating and a lot more welcoming than the flat, sprawling city we had flown over on our final approach.
A freeway ride and baht-bus later and I was standing in the reception of the Diana Inn asking for a room. An hour later I was washed and changed and ready to head into the night. What did this town have to offer a 26 year old single man with money to spend? It had a lot to offer! I would say that I am reasonably well travelled having lived for a number of years in Russia and India and been pissed up in the seedier parts of capital cities from Kiev to Nassau. It takes a lot to surprise me, but nothing could have prepared me for Pattaya. To a man who loved a cold beer but above all else the attention of women, I had found a place in which I would never want to leave, ever. I will not describe Pattaya because others have done so before me, and because it is different things to different people, to me it was a playground in which to live out my fantasies. The shit jobs, crap weather, boring social scene and lack of prospects of home were forgotten, I can honestly say that there was never a moment in my life that I was as excited as I was the night that I stepped out of the Diana Inn on that first evening. This town was going to give me something no religion could. I did not need the church or the mosque, I had found my place of worship, I had found Pattaya.
My next week was spent in the most hedonistic manner possible. Big bikes, big breasts and big beers were costing me big baht, but extravagance was my intent. I rang the bar bells, took girls to deserted beaches on the outer islands, drank and ate like a king and fulfilled as many of my sexual fantasies as I could. Hot tropical days turned into steamy tropical nights and I was sweating adrenalin. I cursed myself for not coming here before, the girls were friendly and beautiful and I enjoyed their company like I had never enjoyed anyone's company before. I paid well, probably too well, but I did not mind one bit. Twosomes became threesomes and threesomes became orgies, sexual conquest pushed me on searching for the best looking and most outrageous women I could find. One day I was sitting on the bike in a traffic jam on the second road. Out of a bar ran a girl who came up to me and kissed me on the lips before running back into the bar giggling. I felt like a rock star. These girls loved me, well so I thought. I was in fact just another daft f*cker on his first trip to Pattaya, naive enough to believe that he really was a velly handsome man. These girls had seen my type before, young British male on his first trip to Pattaya, they knew what buttons to press to work this ATM and they were pressing them. Inside though I was becoming jaded. Then one evening I rode my motorbike down soi 7, and that was when I saw her.
Standing outside the gogo bar at the end of the soi stood a young woman who so perfectly matched my idea of perfection that I had to do a double take as I rode past. At first I thought that I had imagined her, but I had not, she was real. It was one of those moments that you instantly realize that you will never forget until Alzheimer's sets in. Like hearing that Diana had died, losing your virginity or watching Owen score against Argentina in 98. I knew I would never forget the first time I saw Meow.
I run out of superlatives describing this young woman's beauty. She was like a porcelain Chinese doll, and the sight of her sent a lightning bolt to my balls. I wanted to take her there and then and lick every inch of her perfectly formed body. If she had gone for a shit and asked me to lick her ass clean I would not have hesitated. She was so perfect that if she had been born to a different time Michelangelo would have sculpted her, Pushkin would have written an ode to her and Gandhi would have forgotten his doctrine of no violence and fought to have her. I paid my own homage, I paid her bar fine.
I spent the next weeks with Meow, and she had a big effect on me. I was the cat that got the cream. We spent the evenings drinking cocktails, dancing, talking and making love. We would lie awake talking until dawn exploring each others’ minds as much as our bodies. Although she had made choices that I did not agree with, I developed a respect for this young girl trying to make it in the world as best she could. She had made her choices and here she was doing a job she hated for the money she loved. Her story was a typical one of a large, poor family from the banks of the Mekong. Abused and with sisters to support, she thought that this was the best way to do it. The more she told me the more drawn to her I became. She was as honest with me as she could be without alienating her source of income. I grew to understand better her life and the lives of the girls that I had been sleeping with the last few weeks. She berated me for my naievete? of thinking that I was in a town populated by happy, sex hungry women all thinking I was a handsome man, and opened my eyes to the fact that I was in a town populated by many uneducated, poor and exploited girls, wanting my money and nothing more. I was in a theatre, and like most performances, having a glimpse behind the scenes dispels the magic. Pattaya would not and could not be the same again, it was no longer my alter. The more I spoke with Meow the more I began to reassess my own position in life and the choices that I was making. We take inspiration from the most unlikely of places. Roerich found it in the mountains of Kashmir, Theresa found it in squalor, Wordsworth in a leaf, but I had found it in a bar girl. I had spent a lifetime screwing prostitutes and knew the stories, but something about this girl reached in and grabbed me. We both wanted similar things, she a way out of her life and me a way up in my life. I made a promise to her, if I got there first I would come back and help her.
I decided to leave. Meow had stirred something inside me. This was not going to be my life anymore, the whoring and boozing was going to end. On my last evening we went to dinner. We talked about our futures. She hoped that I would get her out of the situation she was in. I could not. As much as I would have liked to have been a knight in shining armour, I had nothing to offer. I reminded her of my promise, I would come back one day and find her. My meeting with her had energized me, I would become something, someone better then the man I was, life would change and one day I would find Meow and offer her the way out she wanted. We parted and she wrapped a red piece of string around my wrist to remember her by. I thanked her and left.
So what was it about this young farmer’s girl that had such affect on me, where none of the women I had known previously in my life had? Well first I was captivated by her beauty, as said before by me she was perfect, but I had known beautiful women before, it was more than that. I was captivated by her vulnerability and strength, her honesty and humor in a shit situation. Something about her inspired me. I had not fallen in love. As easy as that would have been to do with a woman so beautiful, I could never allow myself to fall in love with a woman whose profession was deception. It was as though fate had intervened and I was meant to meet this woman to receive the kick up the ass that my life needed. It did not matter if her story that touched and inspired me was true or another bar girl sob story, the point was that it had effected me in a positive way. I would use its power to go forwards.
As I sit writing this I fail to recognize the man I was with the man I am. Upon returning to the UK I put my vow to help Meow and my trip to Thailand to the back of my mind and concentrated on changing my life. I stopped hanging around with my circle of drug taking, whoring, brawling friends. I let it be known that I did not want to be contacted, not by anyone. As a child I was told by my teachers that I was a waster, stupid, going nowhere. They were right, and if I did not change now I never would. I never wanted to go back to my life of shovelling cement on building sites all week in order to pay for the weekend's ale again. I was better then that. I was going to be respectable, I wanted to be a teacher. Only problem was that I left school at 15 with no qualifications. I could shovel cement all day long but I had the language skills of a teenager. I had only ever read a few trashy novels and the Sun. So I threw myself into reading, Bradbury, Homer, Dickens, Miller, Burgess, Pushkin, Chekhov, Gogol, Orwell and any others that I could find in my library. I flicked the pages with the speed of a Gattling gun. I still did not know what verbs were let alone phonemes so I started on the teaching methodology books, (thank you Scrivener!). I spent days and nights learning as much as possible, trying to educate myself until I felt confident enough to blag a teaching job in a distant country. I applied for jobs and thanks to a few fabrications on my CV I was offered a job at a private school in a provincial Chinese city. My life was changing, I was on my way up. I loved the job and being surrounded by decent, nice people and was offered an extension to my contract. As happy as I was, I knew that I would never get to where I wanted being a TEFL teacher, so I quit. Soon I was back in the UK with nothing in my pocket but plenty of ideas. I lived on my old man's sofa for a week planning. I bought a suit and had name cards made, then I began knocking on doors. Fate was with me and being in the right place at the right time presented an opportunity to start a business in the world of property. Six months later and I was awarded a government enterprise award for my work. The local newspaper that had previously reported my court appearances for drunken antics on Friday nights now ran an article on me and my "success". A cheesy photo of me in a cheap Marks & Sparks suit graced the inside pages of the county press under the headline "Local businessman wins enterprise award". The reporter sat in my kitchen and over a cup of tea asked me what had brought on my metamorphosis in the last 18 months. I live in a small county and he knew me of old. He never liked me back in those days he said, and I can not blame him. I did not like myself. I had gone from an unhappy, drug abusing lout, constantly in trouble with the police, to being a regular member of the community, embarrassed by his past. The only thing that could make a man change so drastically was either bad news from the doctor or a woman, he suggested. I took a sip of tea and regressed in my mind until I reached back to Thailand, to Pattaya, to Meow and I remembered my promise to go back and find her. I had been so caught up in my own lifestyle change and it's trappings that I had forgotten my promise. I wanted to tell the reporter that I had been inspired by a prostitute in Thailand, that she had moved me and that I owed most of my success to my meeting with her. Instead I told him my pre prepared story that I thought the local grey haired reading populace would appreciate and that was more becoming of a local businessman. I told him how I had wanted to put something back into the community, blah, blah, blah. How I wanted to be at the forefront of redeveloping this decaying seaside town. It was what they wanted to read, the reporter knew me too well to believe that. As soon as the interviewer and photographer had left my home my mind wondered back to Meow. Should I try to find her? What was the point, she would be long gone. She did not believe me when I made my promise to her so no harm done if I did not follow it up. Bar girls are lied to and let down all the time, it's their fate. Besides I was just another customer, she would not remember me. Everything I had achieved was down to me, not her. How could I be inspired by a bar girl? What kind of sad f*ck was I? I had however made a promise, and therefore had to keep it. My metamorphosis had been down to my meeting with her. My business, car, home and happiness were linked directly to the nights I spent lying awake talking to Meow. My intention to change had been there for years before I had met her, however she was the spark to the flame that I needed to kick me out of my stupor. And whilst I was living the life I had always wanted she was probably on her back with a fat sex tourist humping her for $20. I did owe her and I would try to repay her.
So how do you go about finding a girl you have not seen for 18 months? A girl whose real name you do not know, and whose place of work you can barely remember the location of, and who is thousands of miles way? Well if I had met her in the US or Mozambique or Albania I would not have known what to do. However she was from Thailand, I needed to enlist the help of someone who knew both Thailand and the bar scene inside out. Someone who knew English and Thai and would accept the challenge, I contacted the only man I could think off, Stickman!
I had read Sticks site since it's earliest days and had seen the advert for his investigation service. So I sent him an email. He replied and soon he had agreed to go down to her bar to look for her. I described its location the best I could and scanned him a photo so he knew who he was looking for. Then I waited to hear from him. Two days later Stick wrote back.
He had found the bar, but not the girl. Some months previously she had found her saviour in the form of a young brit who had taken her out of the bar. Nobody knew where she had gone and they did not have a contact number or address, the trail had gone cold. She had found what she wanted. That was that then, I had done all I could. That week I slept uneasily. Would I just leave it at that? Just because she had left the bar it did not mean that she was happy or found what she was looking for. I still had to find her, I needed to ease my conscience. I contacted Stick.
I think he was surprised at my determination, or stupidity. I posed the question. What could we do to find her? If I was to invest a few thousand pounds in the search would we get anywhere? Now Stick really thought I was stupid. He did however agree to help. He would go to Pattaya again and offer some money to the mamasan for any info she could give us regarding Meow's location. If that failed I would fly in to meet him and we would go together to the bar, maybe the mamasan would be more inclined to speak if she remembered me. I waited to hear from him.
Stick's report arrived a couple of days later. He had been to the bar and done all he could, but nobody knew anything. The mamasan wanted to help but genuinely could not. None of the girls working there knew Meow and new ownership had meant that there were no records of her that could help. A true brick wall had been hit and there were no paths around it. There was no point in me flying in. The search was over, Stick had done all he could.
Well readers this is where the narrative ends. All avenues, and there was only one, have been explored and so fate must decide. My life was changed by my meeting with Meow. How much of that was down to her and how much was down to me is open to interpretation, she undoubtedly had something to do with it. I hope that she found what she was looking for and her life is now as different from the time I knew her as mine is. Although the narrative ends here I don't think the story does. I have a strong belief that chance will play a hand and one day, maybe many years from now we will meet and I will repay a debt to the person who touched my life, Meow.
Chok dee krub!
She really did have quite an effect on you. It's so nice to see that your liaison with her moved you to change your lifestyle and it is such a shame that we could not locate her. However, from all accounts, she is now doing ok too!