Stickman Readers' Submissions August 10th, 2004


By Jeff

A toothpick thin young girl, boyish and cute, dark brown skin glistening, scampers up a coconut palm in a patch of land in front of her dilapidated wooden home in a small remote village in Northeast Thailand (Isaan). She carries a machete almost as long
as she is tall; scarred, black wooden handle clutched in her tiny, strong fist, silver blade glinting in the remorseless sun. She is a thirty-kilogram entrepreneur, earning every sating by the sweat of her own labor.

Next week she will have enough money to go to school.

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She steadies herself and chops determinedly at several large, green coconuts. Five satisfying thumps later she descends from the heights, a broad smile creasing her ten-year-old face. She is proud of her work, her skill; the surprising muscle
in a body so small.

She is eleven. She is thin and dusty and boyish. Her maternal uncle gestures to her; she goes to him with trust in her young eyes. He puts an arm around her slim shoulders. He caresses her short, black hair, attempts to kiss her. She is shocked,
not sure how to react. What does he want? She has no frame of reference for this behavior. The word molestation is not in her vocabulary. He embraces her again.
“I want you”, he says. The implication is clear. She runs away to
the fields, does not return for two days, sleeping in the rice field rather than return and face the man who has become a stranger to her. She never tells her parents, suffering in silence.

She is sixteen and has been on her own outside the family home for two years. Matayom 5 is a difficult year. She still loves school, but family demands are encroaching. Rain has been absent from the fields this year. There is never enough
money, never enough food. She will not finish Matayom 6.

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She is 18 and works in a Bangkok factory making shoes for dolls. Tiny shoes that will sparkle on the feet of Barbies owned by middleclass girls in America. She owns one pair of cheap shoes which she wears every day. She works 90 hours a week.
She earns 3,000 baht a month. She has no boyfriend. She has no life. She has only work. And Buddha.

She goes south to Pattaya Beach for a short holiday with friends. She is twenty years old. Pattaya is growing, its reputation becoming infamous as the brothel of Thailand. She is not yet aware of this, knows only that she is having the first
holiday of her life and will finally see the ocean.

She meets a German man who drinks. He is 35. She is no longer a virgin.

She does not like sex, does not particularly like the German man, but he takes her on a two week odyssey of Thailand, places she has never dreamed of seeing in her own country. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, national parks and temples; the beaches
of Pattaya and Phuket. She will not see him again for 15 years. Upon returning to Bangkok she meets a Thai man 15 years her elder. She knows that her economic prospects are bleak. She agrees to marry him.

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She is pregnant. She is not sure of the paternity. She has been having sex for two months. With two men. She feels fear and hope for the child growing inside her. She tells her new husband of her brief time with the German farang. He is angry
and brutal. He will never accept the child who will become their daughter as his own. Her 21st birthday passes. There is no party.

She is twenty-three and has two children. She has a small shirt factory in her mother-in-law’s home. She employs ten people. Business is good. Her business skills are not. Money is still very tight. Her husband does not work. He drinks.

She makes side money delivering gym bags full of marijuana and heroine to Myanmar and Laos.

The money begins to stack up. Physically and psychologically it occupies a large space in her life. Sitting on the floor one day preparing for a trip to Laos she looks at her infant daughters, innocent and needy. She begins to cry – softly,
alone. Her children need her more than they need money. She will take no more trips to Myanmar and Laos.

She is twenty-six now and part of a three-shop food co-op in Nongkam, sharing a space with some friends. She does not have the 9,000 baht necessary for her share of the rent. 3 months in advance. No problem. “We’re all friends.”
They loan her the money. She is the only one who sells Isaan food. She is the only one who makes money. Within two months she is pocketing 1,000 baht a day after expenses, a fortune for the former wage earner. Unfortunately the friends are not
doing as well. They turn on her, bad mouthing her food, the freshness, quality and taste. Her traffic slows. Her loan is called. She leaves the co-op.

She has yet another shop in Nongkam. “Food my born.” Her new business grows. Within three months she is pocketing 1,500-2,000 baht daily after expenses. For the first time in a decade the smiling girl from Isaan reemerges. She
is making more money than she dreamed possible, providing for the family. Her sister works with her. She has two healthy daughters. She is happy. Sometimes. Her husband is still a drunk and still, “Him box me.”

She is in bed with her husband. He smells terrible, not having showered in days, drunk for two of them. He is coming off of it now, hung-over and horny. She wants nothing to do with him. He is furious, calls her a whore, accuses her of adultery.
She is shocked. Sex? With another man? She doesn’t like sex, never even masturbates, has no great affinity for men in general, so why would she want more? He grabs a jar of Tiger Balm and takes a large smear in the fingers of his left hand.
He slaps it on and in her vagina. As he rises from the bed he connects with a right cross to her left temple. She is stunned by the punch, moments later wracked with pain as the heat in the Tiger Balm begins to rise. Her vagina is aflame with
pain. She will not give him the satisfaction of seeing her cry. She spends an hour dipping water on herself, eventually reducing the temperature of her flesh to something bearable. Today is her 28th birthday.

She is unaware that she is pregnant. One day she bleeds from her vagina. She is close to death. She miscarries and complications necessitate a radical hysterectomy. Her husband works at the hospital as an ambulance driver. She receives a 50% discount.
For one day. Day two of her stay he goes on a bender and loses his job. Only her daughters stay with her, cry with her, comfort her, take care of her bodily needs. 5 and 6 years old, they are becoming very much like their mother. She is proud
of her girls. Her husband tells her she should have died and saved them the money.

She lives in Kohn Kaen now. Her shop employs almost twenty people including all of her siblings and occasionally her husband. Her husband despises her family, looks down on them as “Fucking Lao. Hicks from Isaan.” She begins
to listen avidly to Morlum music, traditional Thai folk music from her birthplace. He sneers at her “Shit Lao music.” When she speaks Lao with her siblings he is furious. Everything Lao is a symbol for everything she is. She is ethnic
Lao from Isaan. She is proud of who she is, will never back down from her husband. “Who did you marry? I am you see.” There is no pretension in her, no artifice. She understands the social hierarchy and wherever possible rebukes
it. She is a woman with very little status. Poor, no college, Lao from Isaan with dark, brown skin. The only way to drop farther in status is to become a prostitute.

A problem arises. Business is drying up. Employee theft in her shop is increasing. She can’t find a new area for relocation. After six months of frantic free fall she has no savings and a 300,000 baht debt. She sells the shop for 10,000
baht, all it will bring. Her husband is furious, calls her a failure. A fight ensues. He goes on a bender for two weeks. When she is finished moving back to Bangkok she will have approximately 500,000 baht in debt.

They rent a room in Nongkam. She buys a cart with borrowed money and stocks it with fruit. The first day she makes 800 baht. By day four she has enough surplus to buy meat and other supplies and she begins to make and sell Isaan food from
her movable cart.

She is driving late at night after two days with no sleep. She carries with her the cart money for the day and 10,000 baht she has saved for a down payment on rent for a corner shop space on the street in Nongkam. She falls asleep at the
wheel. Her truck strikes a tree by the side of the road. She is not wearing a seat belt. She is trapped upside down in the truck. She struggles herself out of the truck with a broken hip, a broken rib, a collapsed lung and a broken wrist that
goes undiagnosed for seven months. She is in shock and talking nonsense about “The rent, the rent!” Nobody understands what she is saying.

She is still in severe pain six months after the accident. She has explosive headaches and has developed a mean temper. She can’t laugh, can’t smile. Everything angers her. Even her husband is occasionally wary. The fights,
however, continue to escalate in frequency.

The rains come. And come. And come. The shop is underwater. Literally. For three months it is impossible to conduct business. Savings again dwindle. The fighting with her husband is now a daily occurrence. The oldest daughter now fights her
father. She is 13. The younger sister is 12 and prefers to avoid confrontation. Money is scarce. Nok is desperate. And still the rain comes down.

Her husband threatens to kill her and her oldest daughter. He is blind drunk and beats Nok severely. He punches the oldest daughter for the first and last time. Her brothers beat the shit out of the husband. He is forced to leave the house.
Her spirit has left her. She has no more energy for this life. She is now 600,000 baht in debt. Her oldest daughter says the words that change and shape her destiny.

“Mama, you need to get away from him. Go tonight. We can stay with Yong. He will kill you.”

There is almost no money. She buys a bus ticket. She will go to Pattaya, She is 35 years old. Goodbyes are said and she is on her way.

He is Italian, naked and turned on. He needs a shower. He is her first oil massage. For a few seconds she can’t take her eyes off his penis. Her first thought is, “Oh. Okay. There it is.” She is not happy with him mauling
her during the massage, grasping her breasts, squeezing them too hard, bringing pain. She endures, does not show the pain. She smiles and fends off his hands. She masturbates him to orgasm, disgusted by his discharge and strong smell. She cleans
him with a towel and smiles. “Handsome man. Tip me first. After pay shop.” He hands her 20 baht and smiles.

She needs to send money to her daughters. When she is handed back her passbook she sees a deposit for 6,000 baht. She is happily surprised. She sends most of the money to her daughters, uses the rest to pay her rent.

She writes a letter to the English man who sent it and thanks him. She encloses two photos. He writes back that he would like to see her when he returns in February. She and the English man spend three days together in Bangkok. She returns to Pattaya.
He leaves her with 5,000 baht. He sends more money to her bank account.

In March she meets an American man. She smiles, tosses her hair. She knows he’ll be back. The next day the American returns. He tips her 1,000 baht. She is happy with the tip. After four months she can sense a good customer. The man
is nice; he’s sweaty but obviously clean, polite and new to the scene. They go to a club. He seems harmless and not likely to hurt her. She stays the night with him. She thinks that he will pay well for his time with her.

After three days with the American man she feels something she has never felt for a man before. She is happy. She enjoys his company, their laughter, and his smile. When they sleep she is warm and feels safe. She does not understand these
feelings. She is unsure. She tells him very softly, almost as an afterthought, I love you. He does not respond. She thinks he did not hear. She is not sure if it is love. She has never felt love for a man. She does not say it again for three days.
She introduces him to her daughters. They question their mother. Why the fat one mom? She has no answer other than that she likes him.

And then she loves him. She has no idea why she feels this way. He is a customer pure and simple, but has moved beyond that into the shadowy realm of real life. Could she possibly love this man? He can eat Thai food. This one fact makes her
extremely happy. Is it love or money? Or both? For the first time in her life she actually enjoys sex.

They are together for three weeks. They go to Bangkok for his flight in early April. She cries at the airport, they hug and kiss and he is gone. She is sad. She will miss him. She has given him a Buddha locket to wear around his neck. She
does not think he will call or return. He has promised to send money and help her with relocation to Bangkok. She returns to Pattaya with yet again 100 baht in her pocket. The English man will be back in two weeks.

Stickman's thoughts:

You’ll have to email the author if you want to find out if it is real or not…

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