‘Take me to Patpong,’ he told the cab driver.
‘Patpong closed now. I take you to better place-private club, many nice girls there.’
‘Cut the crap. I know it’s open.’
‘Okay, five hundred baht.’
‘No way, put on the meter.’ The American had not been to Bangkok before, but he was smart. After all, he lived in New York City and cab drivers were the same all over. It’s not as if he was from the middle of Iowa or someplace.
Patpong was a street crowded with souvenir stands, food vendors and bars. No one could actually drive on the street, as the real estate was so expensive they used every square inch of space to try to sell one thing or another. Mostly there were bars. Bars with brightly colored neon signs one after the other, Girls a-Go-Go, Pretty Girl, Pink Palace. Names even more graphic, winking and glowing in different colors, calling out to you.
There were Thais on the crowded street hawking their bars, shouting, ‘You want see show?’ Pushing photos of nude women towards people passing by; all kinds of photos, girls putting in or taking out unimaginable things from their private parts or women embracing each other in the most suggestive poses. The American was experienced enough to know that these particular places were rip-off joints and kept walking.
There were so many bars that it was hard to know which one to go into but he imagined that most of the go-go bars were pretty much the same. He walked into one of them, it was dark and the music was loud and pounding. The air conditioner was working great and it was nice and cool inside. There was a stage along one wall with about twenty girls dancing in place, swaying back and forth to the music. Some were moving slowly and some were moving more quickly. Others were grinding and humping imaginary lovers on the stage, writhing like kite tails in a strong wind. There were dozens of booths and he slipped into an empty seat and looked around. There were mostly single white males intently watching the dancers. Many of them had their hands on the legs of go-go girls sitting next to them. Most of the men drank beer and all of the girls were drinking coke or orange juice. The American knew that these were called girly drinks and that you were expected to purchase one if you wanted company at your table. A waitress came over and he ordered a drink.
He sipped his drink, and scanned his eyes across the stage. There was a stunning girl on the far end, towards the back. She looked as if she were lost and had wandered onto the stage by some strange accident. She was certainly embarrassed to be there.
She was the most beautiful girl that he had ever seen. You would think that the management would have a girl like that right out in front. He couldn’t stop staring at her. Mostly she kept her head down and diverted her eyes from the staring
crowd but she did notice him and smiled a small shy smile.
When the music stopped, some of the girls came down from the stage and others excused themselves from their customers and went up to dance. The girl walked tentatively in his direction.
He waved her over, palm down as he had read in the guidebook.
‘My name Sai. What name you?’
The American told her. She slipped into the booth and sat close. Her long dark hair fell over her bare shoulders and down past her large breasts which were scarcely contained by a bikini top. He thought that she had the quality of a ripe peach, bursting with fresh sweetness.
‘Would you like a drink?’ the American asked.
‘Oh, thank you.’ She threw her arms around his neck. Her skin was firm and warm and she smelled of lavender. He felt her tremble. She started to cry softly, her tears spilling down her face and touching his cheek.
‘I’m forced to work here. My father borrow much money from owner to pay gambling debts. Now I must have sex with many customers to pay my father’s loan. I never go with man before.’
‘Why don’t you just quit?’
‘I have no one to stay with, have no money. You are so handsome man. I wish I could stay with you.’
‘I have to go back home to New York City at the end of the week.’
‘I can go with you.’
‘What would I have to do?’ As he spoke, his voice caught in his throat and his heart raced with the thought of it.
‘I must repay my father’s loan. Then I’m free. I can stay with you long time. I would give anything go to America.’ She put her head down and sighed as if it were an impossible dream.
‘How much do you owe?’
‘One-hundred thousand baht.’
He silently calculated the amount. It came to over two thousand dollars. He had brought just a little more than that. He had wanted to be sure that he had enough money with him when he traveled. This could work, he thought. It was good luck, a matter of being in the right place at the right time and having the brains to realize it. She was as sweet as apple pie and his friends back home would fall on the floor when they saw her.
He endorsed his travelers check and gave them to the bar owner. He insisted on and received a receipt. As a New Yorker, he knew the importance of doing business correctly.
He and Sai left the bar and flagged down a cab. She rested her head on his shoulder and hugged him all the way back to his hotel. He had a luxury suite at the Marriott on Soi Two, Sukhumvit.
As they entered his room, she exclaimed, ‘Oh my darling, I was so happy to be going with you, I wasn’t thinking. I forgot my clothes and shoes at the bar. I must go back for them.’
‘Not now, we’ll go tomorrow. I want to keep you here with me.’
‘No, I never want to see that place again. I want to be finished. Never think of it again. Please, you can give me only three hundred baht for cab and I’ll be able to get everything. I need my toothbrush and comb and things. I come right
back to you. Run water in tub and put in lots of bubbles. I will be black in a flash.’ She kissed him fully and lovingly on the mouth.
‘It be okay, you have drinks sent up for us?’ She asked in a soft, shy voice.
The American turned on the water in the tub and called room service. He sat on the bed to wait, filled with happiness, dreaming of her return, thinking of that first naked glimpse of her. But Sai did not return.
After two hours, he grabbed a cab and went back to Patpong. He was worried about her. Maybe she had an argument with the owner or had been mugged. It was after two in the morning and the bar on Patpong was closed, along with the rest of the bars and stores. He could not sleep. The American pulled the phone book out of the desk near the bed and called the local police and then all of the nearby hospitals. No one had heard of a girl named Sai. The American opened his laptop, punched in Google and then Thailand. First he looked for agencies that might help. Then he read about Thailand in general. He read until the sun came through his window and then read some more.
He went to the bar. It was the only way that he could think of to try and find her. The door was ajar and an old lady was sweeping the floor. ‘Not open. You come back eight o’clock.’
The American spent an anxious day walking the streets, stopping every now and then for a drink. He could only hope that Sai was all right. He arrived at the bar shortly after eight P.M. The room was as dark as before and he saw Sai sitting at a table with a very fat white man. Sai was wearing the same skimpy outfit. The man had one huge flabby arm around her. He was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and the fatness of his body seemed to pour out of the sides of his shirt. As the American walked toward the table, Sai reached over and hugged the man. The American heard her say, ‘I’m forced to work here. You are so handsome man. I wish I could stay with you.’
The American ignored them and kept on walking. He found the owner.
‘See that girl over there?’ He nodded towards Sai. ‘I gave you a hundred-thousand baht last night. I want it back.’
The owner started speaking harshly in Thai, punching a thick finger into the Americans chest. Two large Thais appeared on either side of the American, standing very close. The America reached into his pocket just as the Thais grabbed him roughly by the arms. He could just about grasp the five-hundred baht note. ‘Let’s all have a drink, talk things over.’
They sat down at a table. The American began quietly. ‘You spoke English very well last night, so let’s continue that way.’ He idly put a cell phone on the table and spun it with one finger while he spoke. ‘Do you know who I am or why I am in Bangkok? Just another stupid Farang jerk?’ The American smiled.
The Thai didn’t answer. He just shrugged his shoulders and stared at the American as if he was a bug he might squash with one fat fist. The American stopped the expensive cell phone from spinning, letting it come to rest so the screen faced the bar owner. When the American punched a button, the words phone book appeared. He touched another button.
The name of a Member of Parliament appeared. He was one of the richest and most powerful men in Thailand. He was also in control of the entire Patpong district.
‘If I touch the button again, it starts to ring. Or I can speak to my very close friend at our business meeting tomorrow.’ The American paused for what seemed like a very long time. ‘Or we can just forget all about this misunderstanding. Up to you.’
Now, the American shrugged his shoulders. ‘Some friends of mine know I’m here by the way.’ He sipped his drink, still smiling.
The Thai pushed his chair back, almost overturning the table with the force of it. He came back a few minutes later and slammed a handful of money in front of the American who calmly counted it. It was a hundred thousand baht all right. The American looked up at the enraged Thai. ‘You’re fifty thousand short.’
The bar owner cried out in rage, pounded on the table, his face inches from the American’s, and let out a string of curses in Thai.
The American turned his head to the side. ‘Christ your breath stinks. Look, you know everything costs money. Do you want to get this over with or not?’
The Thai came back with the fifty-thousand and flung it at the American who put it in his pocket without counting. He knew it would all be there. The American walked out, hardly glancing at Sai who by now had the fat Farang firmly under her spell.
The American tossed the cell phone into the first garbage receptacle that he found.
After all, he was on vacation and there was no one in Thailand that he knew anyway.
Amazing the information one could find on Google.
EXCELLENT! I will have to remember that trick!