Thais Taught And Arti Chokes
Jessica shuffled nervously in her chair. She was awaiting the arrival of the top man. In a few moments the door would swing wide open and in he would walk.
Scene: Swine County Public Library, Boston Ma. A chill November wind swirling outside the windows, snow flurries pushing against the glass. Seven-thirty pm, Tuesday night, Creative Writing for Intermediates.
She surveyed the other participants, people much like herself. There was Ben Plover, a thin bespectacled postal clerk from the Projects, who read out his poetry with a stammer, Mary-Lou a two-time divorcee from Maine in search of sucker number three. Beth, a grandmother who wrote pages upon pages of sheer tedium about the daily antics of her three cats.
And of course, there was Jessica herself, unmarried, living alone in a bleak downtown apartment with two locks and a top and bottom bolt on the front door. She spent her days in a city bookstore close by the main station, stacking and sorting and slipping freshly printed novels into paper bags. She loved words. With words she could lose herself, swim in a sea of fantasy surrounded by mesmerisng metaphors and similes. In the evenings after a meal of steamed fish with vegetables she’d wash and stack the dishes then curl up on the sofa and dream of seeing her own novel up there on the shelves of the bookstore alongside Grisham, Rushdie and Picoult.
She’d tried writing romance, detective, comedy, and even semi-autobiographical novels. The Secret Diary of an Educated Thai Woman: though in truth she knew nothing of the place. In all honesty Jessica realised that life’s rich experiences had passed by on the other side of the street; and as a slightly frumpy, frayed forty-something there was little she had to offer the glittering world of literature.
So Tuesday evening became the highlight of her week. Here, in this room of glass, steel and smooth polished wood the fabric of her genteel, humdrum existence was wrenched apart by the man she both loved and feared at the same time. His writings were of pure energy. Pumped out at high volume, wringing her moral values like a strangler with his hands around the soft, white, enticing neck of a virgin. He wrote of exotic lands full of dangerous people. Of reality twisted like a shredded and misshapen rag, flung into the darkest corner where the light of truth cannot penetrate. He wrote of good and evil and soi dogs, and blood-soaked beds and trashy women and pimps and lunch in a polythene bag..
But whereas Jessica’s writings were careful pickings from her limited imaginations, and sub-conscious recollections of magazine articles and movies and half-glimpsed TV images, his writings were narrations of his own experiences. A far-east Hunter S. Thompson, fucking, farting and spurting his semen across Asia like an Apocalyptic Rider from Hell. A stream of cosmic-inspired thoughts sprouting from wherever his seed fell on fertile ground.
He wrote of death like a man whose hands still dripped warm blood. He described sex in such awful clarity that Jessica felt her body penetrated by his prose.
Jessica looked towards the door as a shape appeared at the frosted-glass. He was ten minutes late, but it meant ten minutes to savour his words in the privacy of her mind. Then the door swung open wide and into the hushed arena strode Dan.
He was breathing heavily from walking up the four flights of stairs and stooped to remove the bicycle clips from the bottom of his 501s.
Marc, the balding university lecturer and self-imposed exile from Quebecois Fundamentalism, who ran the creative writing classes leaned back in his chair and smiled. That’s Marc with a small M he would tell everyone. Dan was his protégé. Dan wrote with his balls. Damn it, he wrote about his balls. A 21st century Norman Mailer. A chronicler of the Viagra generation.
“Hi everybody”. Dan swung the backpack with the cute little teddy bear from his shoulder and sunk into a chair beside Marc, and opposite Jessica. She gave Dan her warmest smile and they made eye contact. Reflexively, Jessica brushed some non-existent lint from her sensible tweed skirt as though she was redressing some impropriety on her part, and straightened the papers in her lap.
“Now that everybody is here, I think we can begin with your submissions”, Marc beamed from behind his steel-rimmed John Lennon glasses. “And since Daniel has just returned from his latest expedition to the Orient, I’m sure you won’t mind if we leave his paper until last. I’m presuming you have something for us, haven’t you, Daniel?”
“You bet!” and Dan’s cheeky wink sent a shiver of delight down Jessica’s spine.
“Well then,” said Marc “Perhaps we can kick off with you, Ben?”
“Err, umm, right you are then,” replied the postal clerk and promptly spilled his sheaf of poetry onto the floor. Nothing ever seemed to go right for the guy.
Jessica closed her eyes as though in studied concentration. Only she knew where her mind was wandering. As Dan and Noi jumped aboard their silver spaceship she had slipped aboard unnoticed, a prim, middle-aged stowaway crouched behind the logarithm factoring consoles. She’d heard Noi let out a startled Laotian cry as Dan ripped off their Velcro micro-plasmid suits and took her from behind as only Dan dare, while the bucking, grinding bronco-busting stratosphere rider slipstreamed a tide of ionic particles.
Jessica wanted to be discovered in her hiding place. She imagined Dan’s shock and outrage as he bound her hands and feet, then tore away her white catalog blouse. Her shoulders thrust back as the bindings cut into her wrists. Jessica’s breasts firm and proud and defiant. Noi, naked and still sore in the ass, shouts Issarn bargirl insults at the intruder from the safety of the navigation deck. She picks up a digital, astronomical compass and smashes the cover against the navigation panel. Shards of glass fly around the cockpit and Noi threatens to slash her wrists with a piece.
“Why you bring lady with you? Dan, no good butterfly” she screams.
Dan has lost interest in Noi. A pair of large, delicious breasts sits snuggly in their cups like a pair of cantaloupes on a bed of straw. If there is one thing that white women have that Asians do not, then this is it, he thinks. A succulent, serendipitous feast of melons and cherry.
“Jessica, are you alright?” Jessica opens her eyes. The class is staring at her. She is slumped back in her chair, head flopped back over the rest, mouth open, legs fallen apart.
“I asked if you were alright” Marc was cleaning his glasses with a tissue taken from the top pocket of his cord jacket. “I thought we’d lost you there for a moment.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Jessica blushed with embarrassment as though she had crossed the yellow line by mistake. “I must have dropped off, it’s quite warm in here.”
“Is there something you want to share with the group?”
“Err, like what? I mean no. No, nothing at all.” Did Marc expect her to describe her daydreams to the class? She would rather die first.
“Then in that case, we’ll move onto Daniel, whom we welcome back to Boston and our little assembly. What do you have for us tonight?”
Just then Jessica realized that Marc had been asking about sharing her submission with the class. She felt ashamed and foolish and blamed Dan for her predicament. He had this power over women, without his hardly even realizing it. If only he knew what was going on inside her head. But then, Dan spent so much time with these gorgeous Oriental creatures that he probably hardly noticed that she existed at all.
She loved the excitement and passion and hormonal flushes that throbbed in her body when Dan read out his stories of fear and loving in Bangkok. And she felt the fear, too, that such power brings. The power to hold her within his grasp and command her to do his will. The power to force a human being into submission. The same power that gives pain as brings pleasure.
Just as Jessica both hated and admired the women in Dan’s life. Those tan-skinned devils whose freedom to fornicate at will, shamed her own prudery, yet at the same time offered her a moral high ground from which she felt a sense of security against the buffeting winds of uncertainty.
Dan unzipped his backpack and pulled out a half dozen sheets of crumpled yellow legal pad. Jessica noticed he wrote in green ink. Hummm. A sign of an unstable personality, her calligraphy expert friend had once informed her. She scrutinized the pages stacked on his knees. His writing was a scrawl across the page with notes going up the margin, crossings out and balloons pointing to inserted paragraphs. There were stick man drawings and odd columns of numbers summed in the middle of the pages. But the words just flowed around all the obstacles. It was as though Dan wrote as events were occurring. Real-time literature. A life spent speeding down the fast lane of a Bangkok expressway.
Only wimps stop at tollbooths.
Dan began his reading; his voice a soft Massachusetts bur. Jessica detected some Irish ancestry in his accent, like early morning rain falling on Dublin cobblestones.
He was taking the group with him on a trip to the other side of the planet but it could have been an undiscovered dimension in a different universe for all the similarity that existed between the inhabitants of this warm and comfortable Boston room and the strange, oblique world that Dan was describing.
It’s life, but not as we know it, Jim.
But Jessica beat them to it. She slipped ahead of the rest of the group, following the path that Dan had laid out on previous occasions. She was already there before the others had hardly gathered up their belongings and headed for the airport.
Jessica stepped off the back of the motosai as it came to a halt a few yards into Soi 4. This was her town. And people knew it. The food hawkers grinned inanely in recognition but Jessica swept past regally like a queen in procession.
The touts at the entrance to Nana Plaza fell back into the shadows and lowered their eyes. They remembered the poor fool who forgot to show respect to Nana’s top whore, and was struck down by a stream of Issarn venom. The idiot was sent back to Ubon, blubbering like a yaa baa mule about to dangle from the hangman’s noose, and later was found floating upside down in a farmer’s khlong.
Jessica moved through the plaza on stiletto heels that made her hips sway like an ocean liner in a force five swell. She wore spray-on black pants and a halter-neck gold lamé blouse that glittered like the wrapping of a chocolate bar under the pale neon glow. Her long, black hair tumbled from her bare shoulders and there was not a man in the whole place who did not stop and turn his gaze in the direction of this beautiful creature. Pool games came to a halt. Beer bottles titled towards thirsty moths froze in mid-air. New founds friends were suddenly forgotten as the Queen of Nana Plaza held court over her realm.
Cries went up from the masses. “Strewth, mate, get a load of that.”
And get a load of it they did. Bar bills were settled. Beer bottles drained and replenishments declined. Swift farewells and feeble excuses of the need to be elsewhere echoed around the plaza. Word went around quickly. Jessica was back in town. Even the sad and lonely losers that drank at the two bars flanking the entrance to Nana, realized that Jessica was a happening. An event. Like rubber-neckers at the scene of a traffic accident they smelt blood in the air. Something was about to happen. A buzz encircled this small, decadent, depraved world. Jessica is back.
Dan strolled out of the Nana Hotel wearing the smile of a man who has just fucked his best mate’s wife.
He stopped at the kerbside and smelled the air. Dan always did this. Like a bloodhound picking up the scent at the beginning of the hunt, Dan knew instinctively where the action was to be found.
As he stood there wondering whether the management of the hotel shouldn’t alter the first letter of the hotel’s name to a ‘D’, a fine idea when one considered how much fame and custom he brought to the establishment, a katoey approached him.
“Hello, darling” the deep, sultry voice purred. “You want samoke?”
“Well blow me down, if it isn’t James”
“What you mean, my name is Jenni”
“I don’t doubt it, but I remember you when you were called James and worked for Quantas”.
“Quantas! What do you take me for? It was Gulf Air”
“And I suppose there’s a gulf of air down under, these days”, Dan chortled at his weak joke. The Oriental Hotel might have its Author’s Lounge and Somerset Maugham Suite, but only Nana Hotel could boast the Dan Dive and a car park full of twenty-first century android man.
The katoey blushed crimson.
“OK, Jenni, Dan’s gonna zap this conversation, coz he’s got some hunting to do while little Noi is curled up asleep in my room, sucking on her thumb like a kid dreaming of candy. And if my senses don’t deceive me there’s something afoot in the plaza tonight.”
“I wouldn’t go in there tonight if I were you, sir” croaked Jenni, “Word on the street is that Jessica, Queen of the Bar Girls, is back in town. She’s looking as mean and hungry as a leprous beggar at Klong Toey market.”
“And I am Lord of Sukhumwit, Connect 4 genius, who enjoys nothing better than a challenge, especially if it’s some uppity female from Ubon. Lead on Macduff!”
Dan strode purposely across the Soi, halting mobile food carts and taxis and leaving a traffic jam tailed all the way back to Petchburi Road.
The grapevine began to hum with the news. Dan is gunning for Jessica. There’s gonna be a showdown on the second floor. When the rumour hit Soi Cowboy, the bars began to empty. Sex tourists and sexpats, old hands and newbies alike, streamed down lower Sukhumwit, rampaging through souvenir stalls and trampling Khmer beggars underfoot. Those Burmese hookers who offer their bodies for three hundred Baht and make off with the john’s wallet while he’s taking a shower were pushed flat up against the glass of the Seven-Eleven store. They came by foot, by tuk tuk, and some even took the one stop BTS to Soi Nana. This was gonna be the night of the decade. Dan versus Jessica.
She emerged from the toilet-cum-changing room-cum-office to a testosterone-induced roar of approval. The bar was packed like they’d advertised free beer on New Years Eve. The punters were squeezed in ranks, shoulder to shoulder like an army of spermatozoa awaiting marching orders. Jessica loved an audience. She loved to be stared at, to have a thousand pair of eyes caressing her smooth, firm flesh. A thousand horny males panting for her and her alone. It was this or the farm in Issarn. Having rich men lust for her body or stand in a paddy field under the murderous midday sun while leeches suck blood from pockmarked legs. You want me to say more, she thought.
The house lights dimmed as Jessica took to the stage and pushed her way to the front of the gaggle of near-naked girls shuffling disinterestedly to a Spandau Ballet number. A new tempo took over, the beat quickened. Jessica felt happy as never before. She wore scarf folded into a triangle wrapped around her hips and nothing underneath. The flimsiest leather thong top held her breasts in check. They all wanted her, none could resist. She was the sun and the moon combined, her energy dimmed the feeble light of the stars arranged about her. Jessica could snap their heads off between her thighs, two at a time. And yet the lecherous fools cheered her on. She threw back her head and laughed at their gullibility.
And then he was standing there, like a gunslinger at the swing doors to a saloon, arms hung loosely by his side, fingers twitching as though about to draw some imaginary gun. The crowd fell back like the Dead Sea waves, parting to leave a long corridor leading from the entrance to the stage. Psycadelic reflections of light swirled and danced on the floor between them. He began to step towards her. The crowd of farmer’s daughters fled the stage for the safety of the toilet, cowering behind the wide girth of the Mamasan like frightened school children who had seen the bogeyman come.
The DJ slung ‘Like a Virgin’ onto the turntable. Now it was just the two of them. Jessica and Dan. Artemis and Hermes.
“Come closer, Dan.”, she cried. “You cannot resist my charms. Business executives and bus drivers; bricklayers and banjo players. Doormen and barmen. Sportsmen and bottom feeders. Journalist and junkies. Backpackers and jack asses. Liars, cheats and God damn priests. You’re all the fucking same. You want me, too, dear.”
“I don’t buy it Jessica. You cannot ensnare me. The Olive tree does not bend to the Cypress. I can choose anyone I want. There’s cute Pum with three kids and no scars, she’s still young. Or Jeab with the black skin and undiscovered diseases. How about Lek, shafted by her thirteen-year-old brother and carried her baby to term then dumped it in a field. Or crazy Kung who does sick things with knives. I could go on. So many to choose from. Tanned or white. Tall or dumpy. Wicked or woeful. You’re all so fucking different. I don’t need you.”
“Sure you do. You want a blowup baby doll to give you three moist holes and moan at the size of your big, big cock. Look, you’re stepping closer now. You’re coming for me. You want it, you need it, the boy has gotta have it.”
Jessica throws a glance over to the DJ. He spins their song, her anthem, ‘Hotel California’ booms from the loudspeakers, loud enough to wake the ghosts at Sanam Luang. Dan’s defences begin to crumble. With a single bound he jumps up on the stage beside Jessica. His eyes burn fire, like a submariner on a twenty-four hour pass in Pattaya. The Eagle has landed. Somewhere in the distance a bell tolls…
Jessica is awakened by the sound of clapping. “Bravo,” cries Marc with a small M, “Well done Daniel. You must have had a super time in Thailand. And who would have thought you could have used an ice-cream in such a novel fashion.”
Dan smiled shyly. “I have one other piece of news to share with the group. On my return to Boston, there was a letter from a magazine publisher. They want me to write a weekly column of anecdotes. I’m going to be published!”
The class huddled around Dan, slapping his arm and pumping his hand in congratulations. “Wow!”, cried Martha, “our very own author, that’s brilliant.”
Jessica rubbed her eyes. She had scarcely heard a word of Dan’s submission but she was thrilled to bits to hear his news.
The class broke up but Jessica hung back as Marc and Dan engaged in small talk. She read the notices pinned up on the corkboard. Guitar lessons on Mondays. A second-hand CTX printer/scanner/copier for sale. House clearance on the 30th of next month, owner moving to the Philippines – everything must go. The usual small glimpses into the minutia of ordinary people’s lives.
Then Dan was alone. Jessica walked up to him. “Shall we walk to the bicycle shed together. I cycled here myself, though if I’d known the weather was going to turn so bad I’d have taken the bus instead.”
“Sure, Jessica. Perhaps I could help you with your books.”
“No that’s quite OK, they’re not so heavy.” She felt comfortable and relaxed in Dan’s presence. “I’m so pleased you are going to be published.”
“Well,” Dan laughed modestly. “It’s not yet a novel, but we’re getting there. By the way, Jessica, if it’s not asking too much, would you like to help me by proof-reading my work? It would mean a lot too me if you could help.”
Jessica felt her heart skip a beat, “Why, I would love to help. It wouldn’t be any trouble at all.” Her mind began to dance.
Dan helped Jessica unlock her bicycle and pulled it from the rack for her. “So why not come round to my apartment now and we’ll select the first piece together.”
Jessica hoped Dan could not see her blushing in the darkness.
They road up the street together. The wind was strong enough almost to sweep them off their bicycles and it was hard work pedaling up the hill towards Pridi Park. Nevertheless, Jessica felt elated, like a tenth-grader invited to Senior Prom. She’d had a schoolgirl crush on Dan since the first class but he’d always seemed too cosmopolitan to be interested in her.
They reached the summit of Pridi Hill by the entrance to the park. It was downhill all the way now, with the wind at their backs. Jessica raced ahead, she felt like an eighteen year-old again. Snowflakes stuck to her eyelashes and she could barely see the road ahead.
The wind roared in her ears drowning out Dan’s cries. “Jessica, the traffic lights!”
She rode straight across the red, speeding like a silver arrow. A three and a half ton garbage truck met her at the intersection. Green-flaked metal, cold steel, and hissing rubber pipes flashed before her eyes. A radiator grill against soft flesh. Oil and grease and diesel and pistons and hydraulic fluid spinning into the darkened sky. Wheels and scorched brake pads. A drive shaft, still turning, still tunneling and a blood soaked blouse and hairgrips scattered over hard tarmac. A vanity mirror cracked, falls into a crevice between two kerbstones and is recovered twelve hours later by the Incident Investigation Officers, placed in a plastic bag as evidence.
The garbage truck mounts the sidewalk, hits a wall, showering sparks like a Thanksgiving fireworks party, gouging deep cuts into the brickwork, stops fifty yards from the intersection. The driver drops down from the cab and flees the scene.
Dan stares in numb disbelief, as though a movie scene has just flashed before his eyes. “Shit!” It is all that he can say or do or think.
The intersection is deserted. Above him the traffic lights dutifully continue to beat out their sequence, Red, Amber, Green, Red, Amber, Green. Why does that green light seem to promise so much? In the distance he hears a police siren. “Shit!”, he says again as though his troubles have suddenly just doubled.
“What the fuck am I gonna do?” He looks around, the garbage truck is a steaming wreck down the road to his left. The darkness of the park to his right terrifies him. In front, the warm beckoning neon of downtown Boston looks comforting, safe, and predictable. Right now, that is just what Dan needs.
“I have to find Noi. She may be a lazy, dumb-fuck, half-wit with all of one and twenty English words in her tiny brain, but she’s good at emergencies. Her miserable, calamitous life before I rescued her from the abyss was nothing but a series of cruel and brutal dramas but, God forsake us, at least she’ll know what to do.”
Dan pedaled furiously downhill towards Shenanigan’s Irish Bar. Noi was there as usual on a Tuesday night, sucking on a red syrup and soda cocktail. “Harro, darlink, you look mai sabai.”
Dan slipped into the banquette beside his lilac. “It’s Jessica. She’s dead and I’m to blame. Shit, Noi, what am I gonna do?”
The Thai chick continued to drink, toy panda cuddled under one arm. She stopped, looked up at Dan with her soft doe eyes, “You want blow?”
“Oh baby, you always know what Daddy wants. I love you Noi, I really do.”