Oy & John (HIV, Friendship & Thai Culture)
Or, maybe I should have entitled this “Oy, Who Gave Me A Real Introduction To Thai Culture, Prostitution, and Several Double Standards”.
John: How y’all doing? I am John, just an average 60-year-old Western guy, and although I am old, most of my components still function optimally, I am a lusty old guy, and I fit rather well into the Bangkok scene. I have lived here for several years now, running a medium sized independent business. I play with all the girls that I can find, and by the grace of God, and just good luck, I have never contracted any illness.
Oy: You would perhaps consider Oy to be just an average 30 year-old Thai working girl. She left Isaan at age 18, not because she wanted to be a working girl, but because she felt as if she had no other choice. Oy is HIV positive, diagnosed one year ago. Oy is, without a doubt, one of the toughest, smartest, and hardest working Thai girls that I have ever known.
Stories: I will tell the rest of this bitter-sweet tale as a series of vignettes, each its own little story standing on its own merits.
First Meeting: Let The Storie(s) Begin. I met Oy while doing the Bangkok stroll one night about two years ago. She was holding down a piece of the sidewalk near Tony Roma’s on Sukhumvit. She was tall, lanky, cute, with long jet-black straight hair down to her waist. Killer smile. Captivating eyes. And she was wearing little black “blinker” short-shorts that just said “Street Hooker” in neon lights. My kind of gal. I took her home, and enjoyed her for the evening. I had the good sense to wear a condom, even though I am living in the middle of “condom-optional” territory. It was at least 6 months later that I found out that Oy was HIV positive. (That was also the first and the last time that we ever had sex, for whatever reasons)
Friendship Develops: We exchanged telephone numbers, and Oy frequently called me to introduce me to her younger friends. She would fix me up with “specials” for a fee. A natural thing, I suppose, for a working girl to make the transition to mamasan as she matured.
The HIV Test: In the fullness of time, my friendship with Oy continued to develop. We talked every day, and we did things together an average of every other night. The changes in Oy’s appearance was gradual, but I saw them just the same. The bumps, the skin blemishes, the brown spots, and then finally, the open running sores on her skin. I finally asked Oy one day if she was seeing a doctor. And, before I could finish the inquisition, she simply said, “I have skin allergies, I am not sick, OK?” Damn, denial if I ever heard it. I knew that Oy was not “working the streets” any more. She was just doing specials for guys like me, and earning fees.
Finally, after a few days, I sat down with her at my home and we talked. I told her that I believed that she was very sick, and that if it was real bad, that I would help her with the treatment. She agreed, and the next day we went to the Sexual Disease clinic. The test came back positive for HIV. After the truth, there followed the angst, the crying and wailing, and finally the realization and acceptance. I got Oy into treatment, and she responded well to the AZT and other pharmaceutical concoctions very rapidly. This whole process was an eye opener to me. Oy came to me one day early in the process and asked me if I would go to the AIDS Treatment Clinic with her that night. I agreed.
That night, I met her Thai doctor, a little slip of an Asian Florence Nightingale, a sweet Thai lady that just wanted to help her unfortunate sisters and brothers. Then came the jolt – – the reason that I was there – – I was there that evening for the doctor to plead to me, on Oy’s behalf, to put Oy into the “high-end” treatment programme, as opposed to the “standard” programme that is the usual fare for Thai people. The difference? Not much. Instead of about 2,000 Thai baht per month, I was being asked to pay the princely sum of 12,000 Thai baht per month for all of Oy’s treatment, consultations, and medication. I certainly did not refuse. I gladly opted for the better plan. I earn a lot of money, and I had made a promise to Oy. No problem. But what an eye opener, the treatment, the inequality of the available treatment regimes, and the relatively low cost of extending her life, very strange. Now, we just hope for a cure. Oy is quite fortunate, she responds to all of the medications very well, and she is trying new combination treatments every month. Only time will tell.
The First Weird Adventure: Oy and I became very close to each other. When Oy wasn’t taking me to meet young girls, we would occasionally take a break from the debauchery and just enjoy “normal” life. (Or, “Abnormal Life”, this is Bangkok, after all.) We are totally at ease with each other, and things just seem to happen spontaneously. Oy, by her own admission, does not really like sex. So, our sexless relationship, and Oy’s new role as mamasan and procurer of young girls, fits her well. Our relationship has no sexual tensions, no expectations, and no jealousy. So, it happened before I realized it, but Oy and I were really becoming fast friends, much more than just “mamasan” and “Whore-Hound”. These first series of adventures were a real eye-opener to me, especially in regards to the little street girls that sell flowers and drugs and their little bodies. We were sitting at an outdoor café enjoying shrimp and fried rice and iced tea, a damn fine meal if there ever was one. Suddenly, we were swarmed by little flower girls, all wanting me to buy a flower for Oy. The oldest girl, that I judged to be maybe 12, knew some English. She kept saying “Flower 20 baht”. Then she looked at me, smiled, and said, “You buy all my flowers?” I grinned at Oy and said, “Do I get something special if I buy all of her flowers?”. I was just joking, but Oy went into high gear, negotiating with the girl in Thai. Directly, Oy said to me, “You can play with her all night for 5,000 baht”. Naturally, I declined. Twelve is a little too young, and I really don’t want to get locked up in the Monkey House.
The Second Weird Adventure: The next evening Oy and I were out and about again, and I was more keenly aware of the street kids. We ended up that night near the underground station at the corner of Asoke and Sukhumvit. There is an old market there that has only been partially displaced by the subway construction. As we rounded the corner by the moto taxi stand, I caught sight of the usual gaggle of street kids that wash windshields. Something in the shadows caught my eye, and there was this old geezer of a farang guy, at least 10 years my senior, chatting up two street girls that I judged to be about ages 10 and 12. The old guy motioned and the girls followed him down Asoke. I said to Oy, “OK, I am just so curious, I want to see what this old guy does with these two little Thai girls, lets follow him.” So, off we went. We tried to stay about 100 metres behind him. Every time I saw him walk under a street lamp, I took a mental snapshot of him, trying to construct a whole detailed image without getting too close to him. The image that emerged was of a gnarly old guy, all wrinkled, wearing a loose-fitting blouse of a shirt, with heavy gold chains around his neck, and numerous gold hanging medallions, almost 1970’s Disco style. I immediately disliked him. We followed him down Sois and side Sois. Finally, in the shadows, deep down Soi 15 (almost to the klong) the old farang and the two kids stopped at a parked car. Some old Thai guy emerged from the car, and he opened the boot of the car. I got closer, and directly I saw merchandise and cash change hands, the old guy had scored a rather large plastic bag of pills. So, the little girls not only sell flowers, as well as their little bodies, they also sell drugs. Interesting.
The Third Weird Adventure – – Oy introduces me to “Lolita Girl” Nong – – Oy and I were dining on street fare one night, when she got a call on her handy phone from one of her young friends. All excited, Oy gave directions to the girl how to find us. About 45 minutes later, up walks this young girl that I judged to be maybe 12 or 13. The closer that I looked, the more she struck me as an oddity. She was maybe 145cm tall, maybe 35kg soaking wet, and dressed in the di rigeur poor street girl costume, a too-tight tee shirt, and floral pattern boxer shorts. Looking closer, she had very white skin, and a very round Chinese face. Her eyes . . . Nong’s eyes were brown and not black, and what is that flash when she smiled? Oy gave me the run-down and the bio. Nong was an abandoned Thai-Chinese girl that had just attained the ripe old age of 14. At age 12, Nong had been sold to a wealthy Japanese businessman who used her as his private “Little Lolita”. The Jap guy had showered Nong with affection and gifts, fitting her with multi-coloured braces on her teeth, brown contact lenses, a rather nice diamond belly-button piercing, and a cute “Kalo the Frog” tattoo on her buttocks. At about age 13 years and 10 months, Nong began to develop and entered puberty. The Jap guy then grew tired of her and gave her the boot. We chatted for a while, Oy dutifully interpreting. I gave Oy some money to buy Nong a meal and some better clothes. Nong was grateful, but she looked so sad and hurt when she wai’d me goodbye.
The Fourth Weird Adventure – – Mister Boon, my would-be Father-in-Law – – Mister Boon, known to both me and Oy, is a Thai taxi driver. One day Mister Boon, who knows that I am a connoisseur of slender curves and shy smiles, called me and said he had a special young girl to offer to me. We agreed to meet that Friday night. Now, seeing as how Boon’s English ain’t all that great, and since Oy is my official procurer, I took Oy to the meeting. I was introduced to a shy young thing, still in her school uniform. I guessed her age at 17. Hey, I was right for once, she was 17, nearly 18. Mr. Boon just laid it all out (in Thai), and Oy dutifully interpreted. Boon’s plan for my life unfolded like stewing cabbage. The little cutie was Boon’s daughter. Old Boon was trying to sell me his daughter, but in what he deemed to be a respectable Thai manner. Boon wanted me to marry the young lass, and he wanted a dowry of not less 500,000 Thai baht. What’s more, he wanted me to see his daughter only on weekends, only at his house in the country, and . . . and . . . he expected me to make weekly financial contributions to the family. Oh, what a deal, just what every 60 year old farang needs, an 18 year old wife. Of course, I declined. Renting a cutie is one thing, but full-time ownership ain’t my bag, but isn’t it interesting how Boon’s plan fits the whole Asian “Family Values” thing?
Work: The downside of life. Very non-sanuk, as it were. Oy is damn near “non-Thai” when it comes to work. She likes to work, and she is dedicated to a fault. She even arrives on time when I ask her to meet me somewhere, is that like “Non-Thai”, or what? As our relationship developed further, I brought Oy more and more into my personal life as well as into the fringes of my shadowy business life. Oy now cleans my home and offices, runs all of errands, and does the purchasing of all of my home supplies and my office supplies. I haven’t found anything that she can’t do. She earns extra pocket money from me for the chores, and it is a mutually satisfactory arrangement.
The Budding Entrepreneur: Recently, I gave Oy a very long shopping list of home and office things, and told her which stores and shops carried each item. Off she went. What should have been a roughly 3 hour haul was turning into 5 hours. Finally, Oy called and said she was coming up the stairs to my condo. In she comes carrying what must have been a dozen shopping bags, and sales receipts and papers were spilling out of her back pack. She then proceeded to produce a spread sheet, that only she understood, that showed what all of my purchases would have cost if Oy had gone to my usual stores and shops. The next column on the sheet showed what Oy actually paid at shops that she chose. The right hand column showed the difference between what she would have paid at my favourite shops versus what she actually paid – – over 2,000 THB savings. Then she says, “So, John, instead of my usual three-hundred baht for the errands, how about you split the savings with me, give me 1,000 baht?” Well, how could I refuse? I rewarded her initiative. Then I realized, the little bugger, what a quick study. She had overheard conversations that I had in my business, where I would offer my associates various incentives and profit-sharing. Thais are adaptable.
My Farang Friends: To put it mildly, they do not like Oy. She is that “dirty little girl with HIV”. My farang business associates should not throw stones, they live in glass houses. How many of these guys practically live on antibiotics, because of what they catch from the girls? Then, there is their lifestyle, the drugs, the alcohol, and the tobacco. Oy does not use alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs and she never has. My farang business associates, are, on the other hand, routinely either stoned or hung-over, (or both) when they show up for work. Then there is the smoking. If I had just one dollar for every chain smoker that has ever burned a hole in my office carpet, I could retire. Of course, I will admit, just for fun and shock value, I do sometimes ham it up with Oy in front of my sleazy farang associates. I am always giving her a hug, or a kiss on the cheek or the forehead. The affection is good for Oy’s spirit and self-esteem, it makes me feel good, and I know that I am at no risk of catching HIV. Plus, my public displays of affection piss off my buddies. What could be finer?
Oy’s Family: To quote something that I read on one of the Flannel-Shirted Bull Dyke forums, “Bad girls don’t just happen, they are the result of bad parenting”. Well, there must be loads of “bad parenting” in Thailand, where the only difference between good girls and freshly defrocked young virgins seems to be the size of your bank account. But, was Oy’s upbringing typical for Thailand? Her father was an absentee dad, except for when he was home and routinely molested her when she was young. Her mom was practically Betty-Friggin-Crocker except when the old gal was on the sauce. When she was drunk, mom would lecture Oy about what a “bad girl” Oy was becoming. The lectures were apparently unceasing after Oy entered high school, and the overbearing mom was one of the biggest reasons that Oy left home soon after she graduated from high school. Oy is the eldest of two siblings, the younger being her brother. I have met the boy. Lost ball in high weeds, deer caught in the headlights, all of the clichés apply. Anyway, Oy inadvertently transgressed, and ignored the importance of male dominance, and further failed to appreciate the higher value of sons over daughters in Asian culture. It seems that Oy was an excellent student in high school, so good, in fact, that she graduated with top honours and with perfect (100-percent) marks in every subject. Instead of her parents lavishing her with praise, they gave her an ass-chewing, the point being that “Look what you have done, you have shamed your brother, he not as smart as you, he cannot ever score 100-percent”. Yeah, I get that logic, sure.
The Road to Perdition: – – Oy comes to Bangkok – – Oy escaped from Isaan at age 18, with a high school diploma, high ambitions, and few regrets. Early on, she did the usual “good girl” things in Bangkok like working in shops, working in restaurants, selling and serving. Along the way during those early years she went thru a series of slack and lazy Thai boyfriends. Oy claims that she “kind of liked sex” back then, until one of her boyfriends rented her out to a Thai street gang for an all weekend gang rape, complete with guns, knives and beatings. I reckon that would kind of put the frost on the pumpkin for just about anyone. Oy gradually slipped out of Thai society and into the farang-oriented nether world of sexual servitude. She worked for an escort service, and then she worked for a guy that makes porno movies. She had starring roles. Slowly, slowly, Oy slipped down to the absolute bottom rung of the Adult Entertainment ladder, and landed on Sukhumvit as a street prostitute. She endured all manner of farang, some good, some bad, some weird. I’ve heard tales of debauchery so weird that it makes me look like a boy scout. Then there were the cops. Thai cops. Oy said that damn near without fail, anytime that she was having a really good night, that she would get picked up by the Thai cops, and she would have to pay the “tax” at the station.
Karma: Does my kindness to Oy somehow balance out the lechery and debauchery in my own life? Does my conversion (in Oy’s eyes) from “just another Farang”, to a sort of father-figure constitute “reverse-incest”? Does it undo what her father did to her? Maybe nothing that I do can undo the hurt in Oy’s life, but I do it anyway. I help Oy because the relationship is mutually satisfying and because we support each other in so many ways.
Bottom Line: I don’t give a damn if Oy has got HIV, she is loyal, trustworthy, and I couldn’t ask for a better friend.
Credits: I wrote this.
Legal Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect the guilty. All acts of debauchery were simulated, don’t try this at home. Many participants were actually of legal age (“Over Age” as we say in Bangkok) Records are on file pursuant to 18 USC 2251. If you are a Flannel-Shirted Bull-Dyke NGO type, please re-read this article sufficient times until you have vapour-lock and die.
An interesting snapshot of the underbelly of Bangkok society.