One Night Of Hell
The text formatting in this submission is not perfect. I just don't have time to fix it up at the moment, so about 1/3 of the way in, you'll find long paragraphs that have not been separated as they should. Sorry.
Ae had a complexion like a perfectly brewed cup of tea with a dash of cream. Her wide set eyes glinted darkly and mischievously above high warm cheekbones. Curled within her musical soft voice was a sexual power that would melt most other women into insignificant drag acts. Her small frame lacked any sharp angles. Despite very little body fat she was all feminine curves. At nineteen she seemed to have hit a peak and she gloried in her ability to own every man who glanced at her. She loved the attention that came to her when she walked through Bangkok with the swing of a Roman whore on a catwalk in sheer cut lime green hot pants and a small cotton vest that left nothing to the imagination. She spoke English with a casual assurance. It was an English peppered with phrases like "man" and "bullshit" as if her teacher had been a Sixties rock star. She was lovely to be alone with but a nightmare to be out with. It was impossible for her to stop flirting. And she would eye almost every reasonably attractive man she saw with the same playful eroticism. I tried to be coolheaded about her. Play the distanced reserved Englishman. But it was impossible. The heat from her skin radiated an energy that pulled me into her like a moth to a flame and it hurt to be away from her for an hour.
At the time of this story I had been wrapped up in her for a full two days at a Chinese run short-time hotel in Banglamphu called the Gao-sip. In the street outside there was a big illuminated sign with a red 90 in sharp tall letters in case there was a cab driver in town who might have trouble finding the small soi that led to the entrance. I say it was a short-time hotel but to tell the truth there were quite a few people in residence. It was modelled on a typical American motel with a horseshoe shaped court but with three tiers of rooms. We were in one on the ground floor. There were towels and bars of soap and changes of sheets. It was okay.
For the past two days we'd left the room about twice for not more than half an hour. The rest of the time we spent in the room like a honeymoon couple. Just sleeping, taking showers and fucking. We talked sometimes but not too much. Talking seemed like a waste of energy. Talk for what ? Everything that I'd known before seemed irrelevant to me now. Everything. I thought I could spend the rest of my life with Ae just drinking her in, never needing anything else in the world.
Every time we finished having sex we'd shower and every time we finished in the shower we wanted more sex. If I looked as though I was taking a rest she'd take my penis into her warm mouth until I was ready to fuck again. If she started to look overtired I'd kiss her cunt, which had a sweet aftertaste almost, like Pernod, and her tiredness would transform into a languid lust for more.
I hadn't seen anyone. I hadn't paid my guesthouse bill. I hadn't phoned the people I was supposed to phone. I'd left everything on hold indefinitely. This was the best of times. I found myself wishing I'd lived in Thailand for my whole life. All the wasted years struggling with ambitions. Years spent having brief and half-hearted affairs with western women who found it hard to let a pleasant word leave their lips. I had spent time chasing women who weren't even the same species as someone like Ae. It was all time wasted. But I was in the here and now and the here and now was a kind of Paradise so the past could get fucked.
This day, Friday 14 December 1991, was tinged with sadness. We had to leave the room and go somewhere. Ae had made a commitment to go to her friend Noi's birthday party. So we pulled ourselves together and took a shower… together. This wasn't going to help us set off any quicker. Her soapy body was sliding up against me as we washed each other. She turned her back to me and I washed her. Soaping over her shoulders and down her arms. Soaping up her hips over her stomach and to her breasts, the hardness of nipples poking into the palm of my hand. She pushed her whole body against me as if joking but I just got this lightness in my head and it was too much to bear. I spun her around and we held each other under the smattering water. We kissed. The taste of the water mixing in with the taste of her mouth. I could feel her cunt pushing into me. I didn't want to go anywhere. I didn't want to be anywhere but here. She pulled me out of the tiled bathroom and within a second we fell on to the bed. She seemed to feed on me nibbling at me tasting me as we fucked. Sometimes sex can be a desperate rush to a climax but with Ae there was never any rush for it to end. When we did finish the sheets were just a tangled wet mass on the floor. We lay very still for a few minutes and I looked into her eyes. She had a glow and there was a sense that in a few minutes she would start up again but she smiled and slid out from underneath me. She pulled on her knickers without washing up. I must have looked puzzled because she smiled at me and said. "I want to keep it inside me. Maybe we make a baby."
There was a part of me that would have been fine with this. But I laughed, maybe a little nervously, and said "What ?"
"If your wife find out you have a baby with me what she do ?"
"I don't really have a wife." She stared me out.
"I know. I'm married but it's not like she's my real wife with…" She mimed a throat cutting and laughed silently. When she laughed you could see there was a tiny gap between her two front teeth. She pulled on a pair of fashionably tattered faded jeans that fit her snug as a glove. As usual she checked the look in the mirror that ran the length of the bed. She loved the look of herself and I loved the way she loved the look of herself. She didn't put any make up on but just brushed damp curls back from her forehead while she held hairgrips in her teeth. Once a section of hair was back she pinned it and repeated about five times.
"Come on man." She said. "Time to go. We late already." She straightened my collar and brushed creases out of my shirt, then took me by the arm and led me out.
I didn't say anything but she justified us leaving saying "Noi's a good friend to me. I can't miss her birthday." The air outside was just as warm as the air inside but it was sad to step back into the world of other people. We walked out passed the reception desk getting the usual disapproving glance from the ageing Chinese lady at the desk. A lot of women seemed to dislike Ae on sight. I thought it might have been jealousy or that Ae didn't wear a bra under her thin chemises, T-shirts and vests, or that she flaunted her sexuality like it was a gift to the world. I didn't know so much about Thailand, Thai people and their prejudices back then. I'd find all that out soon enough. Holding hands we strolled out the soi and on to Ratjadamnoen Klang to hail a tuk tuk.
I knew Noi. I'd met her once or twice already. The first time had been after a kind of accident I'd got caught up in. I'd slept with this girl called Pow who I'd first met on the same night I'd met Ae. It sounds absurd to say it but I really felt that my sleeping with Pow had been a complete accident and I was in no way to blame. Ae had been away taking care of some business on Koh Samui. But that's another story. Pow had spoken no English and I had spoken no Thai. An easy way for misunderstandings to occur. The morning after this misunderstanding Pow had taken me back to the place she was staying. It was a small room in an area of cheap housing just off Soi Ruam Rudi. Ruam Rudi, for anyone who knows this part of Bangkok is quite a plush soi with the odd colonial style mansion and a few expensive boutiques. But there is a point where the narrow street hits a sharp corner. If you walk across a small bridge over a tiny khlong at this corner you immediately get to see how the other half live. It's like a low rent village for people who have only arrived in Bangkok because of the availability of labouring jobs. It has it's own little provision shops just like the big fancy apartments. It was also one of the first places I got used to hearing farang spat with real racist venom. The room belonged to Nan and most of the stuff in it was Nan's stuff. I'd met Nan the night before. She had gone to great pains to tell me she was crazy and couldn't stop herself from saying weird things. Nan had suffered a lot in life and had taken self mutilation to a point where you could almost consider it an art but that, too, is another story. I liked Nan but she scared me. She resorted to violence easily when Pow stepped out of line and often spilled over into a fear inducing passion about the hurt that was present in life after quite a small amount of alcohol.
Anyway, I didn't know any of that when I first went to this room. In fact I didn't even know it was Nan's room. Nan hadn't been there. In fact all I saw when Pow first took me in there was a couple, Thai girl with a farang, in a semi sleeping embrace on the higher of two single sized mattresses. I barely glanced at them before Pow was on a stool rooting around on a high shelf, pulling out a medium sized green tin of glue. Once she had this she plucked the top off it and peered inside as if it were packed with gold and precious rubies. Then she buried her head inside and started sniffing it. She offered me a sniff as if she were offering me some kind of rare delicacy.
"No thanks." I said. "I've been trying to give it up." So she decided she'd have one more sniff before putting it away.
The girl on the bed started stirring. This girl was Noi. She turned to me and smiled very sweetly. She was small, even by Thai standards and had long tousles of black hair. She had clear darker than black eyes and a tight lipped smile that was a hundred percent genuine. She prodded at the man she was with and he woke up. This was Peter. He shook off his grogginess and we shook hands. I liked him immediately. He had not an inch of defensiveness about him. We just chatted like we'd been mates for years. He was a forklift driver from Australia. He'd already gone past the date of his return ticket twice and had missed the return date to go back to work.
"I don't know if I'll still have a job when I get back. I'll have to think up some major bullshit. Trouble is I just can't seem to get away from here." Noi had really gotten under his skin. Not in a bad way either. She was treating him like a King. "This place is a bit of a shithole. But I can't complain. Bed and board for free. I give her a bit of money for her son and stuff."
Noi started telling him she was going out to get some food. She asked me what I wanted to eat. I said I was fine but thanked her all the same.
"She's always feeding me up" Said Peter. "When I first came here I was a reasonably slim bloke. Now look at me." He held out his gut. "Look at that. I feel like I'm being fattened up like a big sacrificial Ox. I've never eaten so well in my life." Pow curled up in the corner and went to sleep. She opened her eyes every few minutes, looked at me, and smiled, then closed her eyes again. Real glue love. Noi returned with a couple of chickens sliced, barbecued, and stuffed into little plastic bags. She also had a wedge of sticky rice. She divided the food out on to two plates, gave one to Peter and one to me and said "Eat eat eat." She wasn't going to take "no" for an answer. Noi was one of those few people you meet in life who are on the up and up. She wasn't sneaking around or lying. Peter knew everything he wanted to know about her and right from the outset she'd be pretty frank with me too. In later years she gave me some serious pointers and stopped me from stepping into some nasty traps. There were times, however, when she'd get the wickedest look in her eyes. Like she could kill somebody just for the fun of it. "One thing I don't understand," I said to Peter glancing at Pow and Noi. "No offence or anything as we're clearly highly desirable blokes…but what the fuck do they see in us." "Beats me mate. But for now, if I were you, I'd just go along with it." "I don't know." I said. "I've been here for three weeks or so. My whole world's been turned upside down. And I find myself waiting for the bill to arrive. The bit where you have to pay. I just wish I could get inside their heads. See what they're thinking. Understand what makes them tick." Peter just smiled and gave me a beer.
Ae stopped the tuk tuk at some point and bought this huge white plastic clock. It was the type of clock I had watched ticking on the wall of Mr Beckley's geography class when I was about Fourteen. It was odd to be thinking of Mr Beckley's mind-numbingly dull lectures on arable lands and rotation farming while I was zooming through the streets of Bangkok in a speeding tuk tuk next to this beautiful woman who I loved and who seemed to be love me back with a large plastic clock on my lap, but the human mind is a strange thing. We were heading, not to the place I had first met Noi off Soi Ruam Rudi but to the place in some strange part of Bangkok where her kid was being raised by aunts and cousins and neighbours and whoever else was in the vicinity. Ae knew the address, or had been told the address. She had some idea of where we were going. But she hadn't actually been there before. So when she told the tuk tuk to drop us off she didn't have an exact idea about which way to head. First we walked due east towards one soi. Then we turned around and walked due west toward another. Ae looked around, read a couple of road signs, and then turned to walk east again. The clock started to get heavier. She tried asking some people but this didn't seem to do much good either. At one point we seemed to be walking up and down and round and round looking for a place that probably didn't exist. I figured that Ae had overlooked the possibility that the only way to Noi's place was through a trans-dimensional gateway but I didn't think it was worth bringing up. "I'm hungry." She said. I was hungry too but didn't like to say anything while she was growing intense over her inability to find the place she was supposed to be going. The odd misplaced word can lead a woman into an irrational fury so I had kept my gob shut. We opted for kuay tiaw at a small roadside stall/restaurant that spread across the pavement with white plastic tables. Ae ordered two bowls. The food came swiftly and I remember it being particularly good. Strips of pork, luuk chiin, not too much coriander, sen lek, and a mouth watering broth that had been made all the more tasty for a sprinkling of ganja. There was a vivid green light spreading from a shop front that bathed Ae's face in emerald hues like a character in an early Dario Argento movie. "If we don't find it in five minutes we should maybe just go back." She said. Going back ! That sounded good to me. Why go to a birthday party when we could be back in a room together ? I knew, even then, that this time with her would come to an end. I guess I just wanted more of it and more of her. I didn't want normality creeping in on us before it was inevitable. I noticed the stars seemed unfeasibly clear in the sky. Usually the Bangkok skies were a kind of velvety clouded maroon but tonight the sky was clear with millions of bright stars shining through millions of light years across the empty vacuum of colourless space. One of the stars was moving. It moved in one direction and then another. Then it seemed to be darting all over the place. I turned my attention quickly back to Ae wondering just how much ganja constituted a sprinkling. "We'll try one more time. If we don't find it this time that's it." She said. "Okay." I said. And we set off again. This time somebody was able to tell us precisely which way to go. I hoped all the way they were wrong. I wanted Ae to give up and then we could get a tuk tuk out of here knowing we had tried our best. We walked down a wide soi that we had passed about twenty times and past a large-ish cinema showing Chinese movies. Then we walked off soi down a muddy garbage strewn alley between some ramshackle breeze block homes . What we saw was a sprawl of homes Like a muddy village of, what had to be temporary, wood and corrugated iron houses. There were a couple of concrete places and breeze blocks had been liberally employed, but this aside the whole sprawling village looked like it could have been demolished with an axe.
The whole area was dark and I as sliding about in fear of landing in a muddy mess. Bare bulbs hung over doorways and some light spilled out, like the crying of babies, from un-paned windows. As we walked or, more correctly, squelched, along some of the people outside the houses gave us dead looks. They stopped chatting or drinking and stared at us in the manner of minor characters from one of those stranger-rode-into-town westerns. Some of the kids laughed, pointed or shouted things. But that was it. I didn't know exactly what they were saying but the word "farang" was always in there somewhere. It never sounded like "Ah look a beautiful Thai girl with her foreign boyfriend let's rush out and embrace them and make them feel at home here." "Is this the place ?" I asked Ae hoping to hell it wasn't. "I think so" She replied calmly. She approached a lady and started talking to her in soft polite Thai. I presumed she was asking her where Noi's place was. The lady looked Ae up and down as if she was from Mars and said "mai khao jai." She didn't understand. Ae tried saying the same again but slower. The women just shook her head uncomprehending as if Ae was an idiot and walked on. "Fucking stupid people man." Ae said to me. "I speak Thai to them not English." An old drunk started shouting something at Ae. He shouted it and laughed. Shouted the same thing again and laughed again. "What did he say ?" "Nothing. Just something stupid." The man shouted again but this time it was just one word "Farang" and he showed his fist up to his elbow. At first I thought this some kind of fuck off signal but I later realised it was a reference to the supposed size of my penis. We passed some more drunks who were laughing and leering at Ae, shouting things out. A woman whisked her staring child indoors. A foaming mouthed dog tied to a post started barking furiously at us. Ae was getting more bad looks than I was though I was getting a few. I thought it was because she was me but now I wonder if they could tell, just by looking at her, that she was Khmer or half Khmer. A lot of Thais, especially those on the lower rungs of Thai society hate Khmer people. Once a woman told me that any Thai person in Bangkok could basically do okay. I asked about the beggars on the street and the crippled children. "Ah they're mostly Khmers" She said as if that meant they didn't count or matter. Finally one woman actually came up to Ae and spoke to her voluntarily. Ae was visibly relieved at this. She asked the woman about Noi's place. The woman didn't know but offered to help us find it. She only had to ask a couple of people, the same people who had previously been staring at us, to find exactly where we should go. It meant cutting between some houses that were quite close together. The pathway between these houses was less a pathway than a single wooden plank, either side of which was a sheer drop into stinking black water. There were a couple of corners to turn too where it was necessary to tread from one plank to another. It would have been easy to fall in. I'd hate to have been walking this way drunk. Luckily there were bulbs overhead all the way. So you could just about see where the edges of the plank were and step carefully. When we arrived at the door word had already got to the house of our impending arrival though I guess nothing too specific because when Noi walked out and saw us she went "Aaaaaah" as if seeing us was a huge shock. I handed over the clock which got passed on to a demure looking woman who I had pegged as being in her early thirties. Ae said the clock was from the two of us though, in fact, Ae had paid for it herself. There was raging Thai pop music coming from inside the house. "Come in. Come in." Said Noi. The house seemed fairly solid. The wooden floorboards were hard dark wood and, if the were some wide gaps between some of the boards, they at least seemed to be able to take a fair bit of weight without creaking or cracking. The walls were a combination of breeze block and wood. It was as though at some point the builders had run out of cement and breeze blocks and decided to finish the job using some spare timber they had knocking about. The walls were covered in kitsch posters of the very blonde babies on potties and cute kittens in a basket variety. There were also some posters of Thai and Chinese pop stars and one of a naked tanned blonde woman sitting up on a beach with sand adhering to her breasts. It was a large room though. There was a double bed farang style mattress in one corner and a few rolled up mats near it. In the centre of the room there was a flurry of noise and activity which seemed to involve food being thrown about. Before going in, though, I took off my shoes, as is the custom, which the demure thirty-something woman took off me in the manner of a servant or butler in some plush stately mansion. She didn't look me in the eye as I thanked her. Maybe Noi kept her on as a retainer. In this environment a girl working with farang had to have the largest disposable income of anybody. I walked into through the hallway and into the main room, the centre of which was taken up with a huge mat upon which was the feast. There were about a dozen opened bottles of whisky two of which were Chivas and one Black Label. The rest was Thai stuff. There were bottles of coke, soda water, and Fanta. Plates of half eaten food. Chicken bones. Somtam. Sticky rice. A half demolished cake. And around the food loads of people, around twenty of whom were women and three of whom Thai men. I knew some of them but most I had never seen before. They were shouting and screaming over the sound of music. Noi's small son was sitting watching the news on a small portable black and white TV. He couldn't have been able to hear it. Maybe he was just comforted by the relative calm of the newsreader telling of the day's disasters. Somewhere away from this main hub of activity, trying to look not too out of sorts, was Peter. Na who I had met once before saw me and screamed "Ahh farang. Handsome man. Now we can do fucking show." Everyone laughed. I tried to smile but I don't think it came out very well. This wasn't a bar and I didn't know half these people. In this environment I didn't want to be pegged as a typical whore-fucker. Nan and Bun saw me too. Bun said "Hello" and Nan looked at me and Ae through her fringe. "Jo. Ae. Me think you no come here. Too busy fucking fucking all the time. Joking joking. Me very drunk already." She laughed. "Why you don't bring Billy." Said Bun. "I'm horny." Everyone laughed. "Billy have to chok waow" Said Nan laughing. "Hey Farang." Said a voice from behind me. I turned and a great plate of creamy birthday cake was pushed and turned in my face. All the bargirls laughed, but one of the quieter women who had been sitting in another part of the room near another baby handed me a towel to wipe it off. Peter came up to me and handed me a small plastic cup of beer. "Welcome to Hell on Earth mate. I thought you'd got lucky and stayed away." "I wish I had." I said and took a drink. "How long's it been like this." "It started off all right. But the drink started to kick in a few minutes ago." "Great. I got here just in time." Some of the cream from the cake had got in my eye and was stinging like a son of a bitch. It felt as if they'd used undiluted sulphuric acid instead of butter. "Ow shit. I've got to wash this cake out of my eye. Where's the toilet." The moon-faced bitch that had attacked me with the cake heard this and shouted ."Ah farang. You want go shit. Kii farang men maak. Stink bad." "Charming creatures ain't they." Said Peter. "It's just through the door and on your right. It's a bit primitive. If you want to go for anything more than a piss you might want to hang on until you get out of here." And primitive it was. Just a hole in the ground and the black water flowing beneath. The house had been cleverly built over part of an open sewer. This would save all the bother of having to flush I supposed. Although by taking a shit there there had to be the danger of a rat jumping up and biting your arse. Thankfully I didn't want to take a shit. I just wanted to wash this acid cream out of my eyes. There was no sink of course. There wasn't even a tap. There was just this big black barrel of water that looked clear enough. I pitied the poor sod who had to go and refill it the damn thing though. At the surface mosquitoes and some other tiny insects danced about and hopped and hovered. I scooped out a bowl of the water, carefully avoiding getting any insects in with it, and tried dipping my eye into it. Eventually I gave up on this and just splashed at my eye with the water. Fuck getting wet. Someone came bashing on the door. "Farang." yelled the cake hurler. I recognised her voice. "Hey farang. Quickly. I want to kii." Hoping the stinging would stop I emptied the water down the whole and heard the splash. Walking out the cake hurler held her nose with her fingers and said "Men cing cing." Thinking of this woman's face, it emphasized the con of the bar. It was a large blank moon-ish face with small cruel eyes and a naturally down-turned mouth. Her voice was harsh and abrasive and her mind just nasty. She said a lot of things about a lot of people and none of them were nice. But, I thought, with a certain amount of make-up, she was probably a real high scorer. A magical mysterious Asian Goddess. Her disdainful glances would be seen as an erotic challenge. Makes you realise, if the drink is opaque enough you can be at the dregs before you see the poisonous bug at the bottom of the glass. Back in the room, there were some moments of relative calm. I finished a couple of beers with Ae beside me as quiet and sedate as the other women were raucous. Ae really didn't seem to belong here, I thought. She was far from all this screeching shit, I thought. And… In her own strange way, Ae knew this. But she didn't really want it to be true. Despite a very obvious difference in demeanour she wanted to be like her friends. A polite Thai man started practicing his English on me. Did I like Thailand ? Did I like Thai food ? Did I like Thai women ? He poured me a whisky, Chivas, but before I could stop him he had butchered it with coke. Why do Thai people fork out big money for imported whiskies and then pour so much coke in them that you could be drinking anything ? One of the big mysteries of life I'll never solve. While this man spoke to me Ae was joking with her friends. It was all about farang and customers and money and Thai boyfriends. At least that's what I figured. A fight broke out between two women a couple of feet from where Noi's son was watching the flickering TV. Two women, neither of them familiar to me who had, moments ago, just been yelling like most of the women in the room, started pulling at arms and scratching at faces and tearing at each other's hair. It was nasty and violent and brief due to the sudden intervention of several other women including Bun, who was the size of both these scrawny women combined. Peter had been about to get involved and help when Noi slapped him and told him to stay out of it. He backed away pissed off but quiet. That was the rule. If you were a farang you had to stay out of it no matter what happened. After all farang were just fucking tourists here. However long a farang stayed in Thailand he could never involve himself in the affairs of Thai people. "You think Thai King a good man ?" Said the guy sitting with me trying to cover up the slight embarrassment of the women fighting. "I'm sure he's a very good man." "Aaaah." He said as if I'd got a particularly difficult moral question right. My scotch was finished. He poured me another one. This time I stopped him from putting the coke in. There was a smash. One of the women fighting, the one who appeared to have come off worst, had picked up a bottle and smashed it to use as a weapon. Unfortunately it hadn't broken in the way she had intended and it had just sent shards of glass all over the place. There was a lot of bustle and eventually both girls were escorted outside. The word got around that the two women were going to have a real no-holds-barred fight outside and the room soon emptied. Everyone wanted to see the fight. Everyone wanted to see some blood. As the evening wore on there would be plenty of blood to see. I didn't know this but I stayed put. I just didn't want to be standing in a crowd watching two lithe young women try to kill each other… Well I was young and I felt out of place. I noticed even Peter wasn't so queasy and had gone to have a look. Left in the flat were three women including the demure looking thirty-something who might have been a servant , a couple of the other quieter girls, and Noi's small son. I watched a few ads flash across the TV screen. Familiar products but with subtle Thai differences. Shampoo ads where women with incredibly silky hair waved their heads about in slow motion. A few feet behind the kid I saw a giant cockroach creep from between the floorboards. It's feelers prodded around the wood tentatively before it's filthy body scuttled out. Within seconds a cat I hadn't noticed in the room before leapt on the insect and started pawing at it. The insect tried getting away but the cat slapped it with another paw and then bit it's head off. I'd once spent the better part of an hour trying to get rid of these cockroaches from a room I was staying in. These were damn fast insects. But the cat had caught it in a single bound. I made a mental note that if I ever lived in Thailand I should get a cat. The noise of something like whooping came from outside along with a sound like the clashing of frying pans. It probably wasn't the clashing of frying pans but that was what it sounded like. The kid was saner than any of the grown-ups outside. He wasn't interested in seeing two fucked up women pasting each other. He wanted to watch TV like any other three year old kid. The Flintstones came on. One of the women turned the sound up for him, turned and smiled at me. This was a funny show, she seemed to be saying with her eyes. Fred Flintstone came on and said something in Thai. All the people left in the room laughed at this. I laughed too because somehow the Thai actor doing Fred's voice had managed to sound just like the American actor who did it originally. Noi's son laughed freely. The cares of the world seemed to fly away for him because here was a guy with a pet dinosaur and an elephant vacuum cleaner. He turned around and saw the farang sitting there laughing as much as the Thais. Maybe there was something comforting in this. Or maybe I'm being sentimental. But this shitty place with its rank smells and mad woman seemed no different, for a moment, to nice homes all over the world. After the fight people started filtering back in the room and I figured it was probably not a bad time to leave. We'd come and that was the important thing, I figured, I was out of place here and much as some people tried to make me feel welcome I wasn't really welcome. I spotted Peter and said "I want to get the fuck out of here. There doesn't seem to be much reason to hang about." "I know what you mean. Well. Good luck. I think I'm going to book myself a flight out of here soon. I don't see much point in hanging around here either." Ae came back in and threw her arms around me. Noi was taking pictures. Ae sat me down on the bed and held on to me from behind. Noi took a couple of pictures of us. I hate having my picture taken. But I tolerated it. "Ae. I think it's about time that we got going.." "Yeah. Me too. I boring everybody drunk too much. Just wait a few minutes. I have to speak to Noi first." More drink got passed around. They were on the shit stuff now. The Chivas and Black Label were finished. Now it was just Mekong and Lao Khao. I didn't think this was going to make things any easier. By the door there was some pushing and shoving. I didn't see who was doing what to who but soon everybody was getting up again peering trying to get a look. Again the fight moved outside. Like the rest Ae tried to get a good look. Soon she was gone. Na came to me clacking her fingers because she enjoyed it so much. Na wasn't pretty but she had a big chest and seemed to have done quite well for herself financially through it. "One man. His girlfriend, she fuck with a woman. But the other woman jealous. Same same lesbian. She not want the man to stay fucking his girlfriend. Now she want to fight with the man to get him to stay away from her." "That makes sense." In a fucking lunatic asylum. Na went back out to see how things were going. She looked eager not to miss too much. In fact the whole room emptied again pretty much as before. Well you wouldn't want to miss a fight like that would you ? Except I did want to miss it. I wanted to miss all this stupid shit. I wanted to be back in a sweaty room somewhere with Ae. I thought just a few minutes and we can leave, wend our way out of this hovel. Bye bye mad fucked up drunk people. "Whoa." Came a small crowd roar. "Whoa" It came again. In a few minutes it was over and everybody swept back in the room again. One of them, a boy of about fifteen, covered in scratches with his T-shirt torn, sat a couple of feet from me. He poured himself a neat Mekong and drank it down. He didn't look too pleased with himself so I figured that the lesbian had probably won. I watched Fred Flinstone trying to be a rock star. I noticed that when he sang he sang in English. I focussed on the TV. Then there was a lot of shouting again from outside the house. Female voices. Panicked. I figured this was yet another fight breaking out. A woman came up to Noi, who was doing tequila slammers but with Lao Kao and soda, and said some stuff. Noi seemed not to react at all but her upper lip was sweating. The fifteen year old boy covered in scratches offered me a drink of Mekong. I showed him a glass of Chivas I had been making last. He nodded and carried on drinking. The drinking seemed to raise his spirits. Noi looked at Peter as if something serious had happened. She took him aside and started talking to him. There were still intermittent cries coming from outside. Peter nodded, then nodded some more. Somebody threw up by the window. I had no idea who it was. I just heard the noise and the stench got to me in seconds almost knocking me out. The boy threw back another whisky. "Good ! Whisky good !" he told me. He reminded of the Frankenstein Monster and his first attempt to communicate to the blind man. I felt like saying "Yes. Whisky good but fire bad." To which he could reply "Yes. Fire bad. Fire hurt." and I could say "But cigar good fire."
Unfortunately this conversation didn't get a chance to take place because Peter came up to me and said "Better get ready to leave." "I am ready to leave now." "But not just yet. We just got to be ready when it's okay." "What do you mean when it's okay ?" "Apparently Noi's ex-husband has got wind of me being here. Her kid's dad. Well apparently this isn't one of the better areas of Bangkok and they ain't too partial to us farang around here at the best of times. The idea that I might be in here screwing his wife in the same house his son live in is a big insult and he's been going round winding up all the drunks and psychos to come here and kill the farang." My heart sunk. "Oh spiffing. Absolutely fucking great. I must come to more of these parties. To think for fucking years I thought birthday parties were all about trifles and pass the fucking parcel and trying to talk the dizzy blonde into bed but no…A real fucking party is about drunken mad people killing each other." "Yeah. Well. Maybe somebody can convince them that we're not really here. Play the whole thing down a bit if we sit tight." "Forget it. Half the neighbourhood saw me coming here with Ae. We were walking around for about half an hour before we found the place." "Still. Everyone thinks it'll blow over if we just sit tight and don't get seen. Maybe that's the best thing to do." Nan walked in from outside. She looked a bit ashen, but she was in Patton mode. Of course I already knew that Nan was hot headed and mad. On the night I'd ended up with Pow I'd seen her go to work with a bottle threatening and smacking innocent bystanders without due care and attention. But I'd not seen her like this. She started yelling about fighting at her friends like she was Henry V leading the Brits to have another go at the French. I didn't understand a word of what she was saying but I had my own version of a translation in my head. It was kill or be killed. Bla bla bla. Kill. Bla bla. Kill again. Bla bla. Kill some more. She smashed a bottle and slashed wildly at her wrist with the shards showing she was more than willing to spill blood. Of course the slashing slowed her down a bit and she had to suck at her wrist a few moments while one of the other girls tried to get her to calm down. There was more shouting from outside. Noi, looking a little fired up and very drunk, came up to me and said "You." She'd forgotten my name in all the excitement. "You stay here. Eat." I don't know about anyone else but the acrid stench of puke has a tendency to really kill my appetite. I started to get up, but Ae, who was now sitting back down with me, held on to me. She must have thought I was going to do something brave and foolish. In fact I just wanted to get some of what everyone else was drinking to try and counteract the growing fear that I was about to be murdered for being a farang in the wrong place. Peter started wandering about as if to say "What should I do ? I've got to do something. What should I do ?" Noi, who was all of four foot eight to his six foot two placed a firm hand on his chest and said "No Peter. You stay here. This not your problem." One very drunk woman in a loose orange T-shirt tried to replicate Nan's insane bravado. She got this used strip light bulb from somewhere. I don't know where she got the damn thing. I guess it had just been laying about. Maybe it wasn't a used one. Maybe it was a new one bought in preparation for a blow out. Anyway she had this strip light bulb about three or more feet long. And she wanted to show that she had this as a weapon too. Somewhat foolishly she tried to break the end of it off against the side of the doorway. Maybe she thought she'd be left with a long cylinder with a sharp end like a jagged sword tip. As it was the thing broke long ways and into a thousand fine shards. Little pieces of glass were sprayed across the floor and all she was left with in her hand were pieces of glass that cut right across her palm. Somebody brought her some alcohol and cloths but the bleeding was quite heavy. Everybody in the room seemed to be shouting at each other. Somebody with a broken bottle started waving it in somebody else's face as if gesticulating to illustrate a point. I sat there held on to by Ae watching these people come apart completely turning into a hysterical mob at odds with itself. Behind all of the shouting inside the room there were these sporadic shouts coming from outside. I didn't understand any of it. All sorts of weapons were coming out. Mortars for making somtam. A chopping knife. I thought I saw a cut throat razor in there somewhere too. Some more shouting. Na turned to me. "More than thirty man come." Nan said to me "No problem. Me kill him me not care." "No problem ?" I said. "You're all fucking crazy." "Not crazy. Just not scare. Me go monkey house before. If me kill man go monkey house again. Scare for what. If him want hurt friend me. Me can kill him." I noticed her wrist was bleeding again. She must have seen me looking at it because she put it in her mouth again and licked away some of the thin looking blood. When she spoke again there was red between her teeth. "Die today: Die tomorrow. Make no difference. If I die today I die with my friends. If I die tomorrow I die alone." I thought "It might not make a difference to you but it makes a fuck of a lot of difference to me." Besides which I didn't share her affection for this gaggle of loud mouthed whores. I wanted to die with other people. Like old people and nurses on my 127th birthday. Some more shouting was followed by a terrific clump as of somebody against the wall. Noi got this sudden fire in her eyes. She took an unfinished bottle of Mekong and smashed it. She knew something about the maths of smashing bottles because she was left with this perfect jagged edged handle that looked exactly like a Hollywood bottle fight bottle. She absent mindedly slashed at her wrist with it in full view of her son who was trying to believe in the world of Fred Flintstone and putting a sabre tooth tiger out for the night. She made a mess of it because what she really had was more of a scratch than a cut. But she wanted to make a blood sister thing with Nan. As Nan's wound had started to congeal, Nan took Noi's bottle and cut at her wrist again. I didn't watch as they did the blood sister thing as I was starting to feel queazy. It was all blank eyed and half assed but have a go anyway. Bun and Na and some of the other gutsier bargirls all had weapons or smashed bottles and were shouting about what they were going to do. I sat there wondering if I could get out the back window. After all, I suspected, all this fighting talk was just so much drunken blather. If any of the husband's pals had a grown-up weapon, like a gun or something, all the bravado in the world would be useless. A great rusted sabre emerged from behind the fridge. Fucking A. That was all we needed. I'd stumbled into an equal opportunities version of the Seven Samurai. The floor was absolutely strewn with broken glass now. Broken glass and splashes of blood . And neither I nor anyone else had shoes on. It was only a matter of time before somebody got a shard of glass in the foot. And sure enough one of the women trying to clear up a bit stepped on a piece of glass. "Fine." I thought. Haven't these people ever heard of HIV. Somebody helped her gorily pull it out. There was more banging and a shout. "Haasip khon laaw." Ae turned to me and said "Fifty of them. They say fifty." Noi said to Peter and me "We have to get you out the back way." I looked briefly out the window. I couldn't see a damn thing because the night was so dark but I got a definite image of water reflecting the light from light bulbs. It was that open sewer again. I remembered someone saying when I was young that if you fell in the Thames you had to have about twenty different shots. I figured if you fell in this water there weren't enough shots in the world to protect you. Someone with a brain decided that somebody should get some motorcycle taxis to ferry us farang out of the place. After all, if the stories were to be believed, it was really us they were mad at. Us that they wanted to kill. Maybe if we weren't there things would only be as terrible as they normally were. There was a rush to the door with the girls all brandishing their weapons. Ae told me to stay put as she got up to peek and see if there was anything to be seen. The guy who had poured me a whisky earlier was sent out to get the motorbike taxis. There was a lot of yelling and heaving. Behind a lot of the girls the door was locked and bolted. It did feel kind of pathetic that we were, in theory, being protected against this drunken mob by a bunch of psychotic bargirls but then again what the fuck ? Pride wasn't much use to a corpse. The door to the main room was bolted. Peter, me and the weaker ones stayed in behind this bolted door. I noticed my shoes on a rack just across the room. I stepped carefully across the room, grabbed them and put them on. Fuck manners and fuck the Thai way of doing things. I was a farang. I didn't want to be a Thai or like a Thai. Thais were stupid. Their manners were stupid. Of all the people there I was the only one to put his shoes on in all the broken glass. If that wasn't stupid then I didn't know what was. As a lot of screaming seemed to be going on. Mainly female. Mainly people I knew. I imagined the severed head of the Thai man who had gone for help being sent back by Noi's husband with a note attached "Just send out the farang now and we won't kill any more Thai people." There was an almighty crash and I could hear Noi screaming something. Peter leaned across to me with half a smile and said "You still want to get inside their heads?" CRASH. BANG. WALLOP. Some of the girls, including Nan and Noi, came back inside. I noticed they didn't have their bottles any more. "They're trying to get into the house." Someone said.
Cake thrower was staring at me. "You farang. What you come here for ?" She said and then went and threw up colourfully in the corner by the window. "Motorcycle come soon ." Said Noi. CRASH. BANG. WALLOP. "Fucking shit man." Noi said and she headed outside. She threw open the door and started shouting at whoever was there. The door bolted again behind her. There was some hideous crashing and shouting. The shouting seemed to be coming from behind the bolted door. Somebody, I don't know who, shouted in English "They're in the house." There was banging against the door. Cake thrower looked at me again, eyes tearing, and said "Why don't you go out there." I'd just about had enough of this, The blood was starting to roar in my head, my normal cowardice evaporated and I got up and pulled the bolt open. The door flew open. Noi and Nan and the rest came in. It had been them banging on the door trying to get back in and not the mob of farang killers. Noi poured herself another glass of Lao Khao and knocked it back. Then she went off somewhere and threw up. There was a lot of throwing up going on here. After a minute of recovering and retching, she went out again. I didn't know what, if anything, had gone on, but it struck me that Noi and Nan couldn't get enough of it. Within a few minutes the noise and shouting was starting to subside. Everyone seemed to be leaving the house to peak outside. Even Peter went to the door and stepped into the hallway. So I was sat alone with Noi's son and just a couple of women who were trying to clean up. From their blank untroubled expressions I gathered that this sort of hysteria was a regular occurrence. Without saying anything he came up to me, sat with me, and fell asleep on my lap. I had never figured myself to be much good with kids but compared to these psychos I must have seemed like Mother Theresa and Father Christmas rolled into one. The demure thirty-something woman, who, at this point, was cleaning up vomit, looked over at me with the child asleep in my lap, and smiled warmly. There was a bit more shouting coming from the hallway. But this seemed to be the girls shouting at each other. There didn't seemed to be much more trouble. Noi came back in the room, saw her son looking safe and comfortable with me, and shouted. "Aaaah. My baby sleep with farang." She picked him up and chided the almost comatose tired child. "What you sleep with farang for hunh ?" Then as if losing interest handed the baby to another woman who wrapped the child up in a blanket and placed him on the wall corner of the mattress. He looked as peaceful as any sleeping child anywhere. I wondered if he was going to grow up into this or if he'd have the chance of getting out this ghetto and have some kind of life. There was some more shit. Some more banging and screaming. It came in waves. But then subsided again. Peter looked profoundly depressed and bored. I thought I probably looked the same. I'd just had some naive illusions shattered like a fluorescent bulb filament. The rest is just a blur in my memory until a new batch of shouting heralded the arrival of the motorcycle taxis. There were only three. Not enough to evacuate the place even with three of us on the back of each bike. I had Ae behind me and another girl behind her. It was my first experience of sitting on the back of a motorbike and felt uncomfortable about being pushed up the back of another man. When told to grab on to him I just grabbed on to my seat instead. Ae told me I should keep my head down. Being blond I might be easy to pick out if there were still psychos baying for farang blood. The bikes weren't going to go very fast until we got on to some solid ground. Ae gripped hold of me tight as the bike trundled at a snail's pace along the wooden planks. I expected to be see a virtual army of men as we biked out the slums but saw nothing more than a handful of dodgy looking blokes staring sullenly at us but attempting nothing. I sort of figured out in my mind that the blokes weren't the real danger. The real danger was the reckless smashing of glass near Noi's kid and alcohol poisoned hysterical women. Once out of the slum the bikes picked up some real speed despite the number of passengers on each one. The night sky was still clear and the pleasant smells from the fry stalls and the faint whiff of petrol along Sukhumvit Road smelled like pure mountain air to me. We pulled up outside the Thermae. It was, surprisingly, still quite early. The Thermae had yet to fill up. There were just the olf ladies and one or two young ones who, I think, worked for the massage parlour there. The place soon came alive, though, as Noi, Nan, Na, Bun, Ae and a couple of others I couldn't even put a nickname to ordered more whisky. Two large bottles of Mekong came along with an ice bucket and umpteen small bottles of coke. As they started drinking I picked up that some legends were being born. I thought that this was probably how most legends got born as some people got around a table with plenty to drink and told their stories exaggerating heroism and diminishing all the rest. Peter and I didn't say much. We were the bookends of this gathering. After about an hour, or maybe less, I said to Ae that I thought it was time for me to take off. "You don't want to stay ?" "No. I think I'm a bit tired." "I stay with my friends. These are my friends. We almost die together." Die today: Die tomorrow. Make no difference. I didn't belong with her. Shit. I didn't belong in Thailand. That much was as clear as fucking day. At least it was on that night. Ae joined in with them. Drank with them. Part of me thought that if they drunk much more they'd be smashing bottles again and making blood oaths. I didn't want to be there for that. I left and grabbed a red and cream number two bus back to Banglamphu. A katoey on the bus started talking to me. I chatted with her civilly. At Democracy Monument I said "Well. Good Luck, See you. This is where I get off." "I come with you." Said the katoey. "No. No. I go home alone. I go sleep." Shit. I was talking like them. "I go sleep with you." "I don't think so. But thanks all the same." Khao San Road with its milling hippies and travel snobs and island hopping farang seemed blissful. I went and sat in the Nat and had a big plate of fried rice with a cup of tea. The Nat wasn't noted for it's great meals but with a squeeze of lemon this fried rice tasted wonderful. The Great Race came on the TV dubbed into Thai and I started getting really into it.
I caught up with everyone the next day. They all came up to Banglamphu. Nan and Noi and Bun and Na and Ae and there was another girl with them. A small girl called Da who looked like she was getting over a case of chickenpox. Da was to cause me a fair bit of trouble later on. But that's another story.
Up to the last time I was in Thailand I still saw a lot of Nan and Noi. Noi still has pictures of me in her house with Ae. Every time she sees me she tells me that the clock me and Ae bought her has now stopped.
As for Peter. I didn't see him again. I suspect he got himself a ticket on the next available flight to Australia. If he decided never to go back to Thailand again I couldn't blame him.
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