A Day In The Life
The greatest disservice a man can do to himself is to form a plan for his evening in Bangkok, even a half plan, a flaccid plan, because it is the word “plan” that the gods hear seeping The greatest disservice a man can do to himself is to form a plan for his evening in Bangkok, even a half plan, a flaccid plan, because it is the word “plan” that the gods hear seeping out of your imagination. That is where the gods reside, not in your conscience, not in your fortress of reason, but way down deep and high in your flights of fancy. They can hear you pushing aside discipline, right and wrong, and guilt and shame that your culture has embedded in you since you were a child. They know there is a prison break on the cards. And don’t think because your thoughts were fleeting, that the gods miss anything. They miss nothing. As soon as passion, desire, just a whiff of any of them drifts out, their heads peek over the containment wall to see what you are up to. The gods smell the smallest inkling of a plan and while you think you are musing about it in private they are thinking about whether or not you are due some mischief. The answer is nearly always that you are. So let this be a lesson to all mortals, that it is best to clear the decks of the mind, don’t think too much, and ready yourself for any eventuality with no expectations. Some use the talismans of wild animals like tigers, lions, or elephants that come in a bottle to steady themselves before the hunt or invite friends like Johnny and Jack over to talk about nothing until they are ready.
Such was my error this day, to put together an itinerary with its final destination being the very bed where I composed it. Well, perhaps I am being too hard on myself to call it an error, but the result was the same. I had not felt the flesh a woman for almost twenty days and the knots were built up in my head, those male knots that need the contact of a woman, a broad sword so to speak, to cut them asunder and free me from my male prison of desire and a whole lot of unspecified, niggling things that pile up in the temporary files of the male brain, slowing the system. I began at the Beer Garden, my default bar on a Sunday afternoon and dropped myself on a stool at the entrance as usual. My personal waiter who has seen me more times than any of my friends in this city delivered the first beer with his usual speed.
Taking stock of what was going on around me I found myself sitting next to the lovely New, a dark skinned, almond eyed beauty dressed in a pretty cotton frock. And I was across from the lovely Wan who was chatting up a Japanese guy. Down the line from me was the lovely Saa, her older sister. All were known to me in one way or another, but I spoke to New who I knew the least first. I don’t go with women who have children and I met her early on in her career in this bar, hopeful to take her home. But when the news was revealed, it wasn’t possible for us to have a liaison (though many men would not care). She gave me the impression that somehow I had said she was unacceptable and refused to speak to me or look at me again. If a man knows anything in life, it is the woman’s right to refuse, not the man’s, even though there seems to be more equality in life in the bars. I took the simple accident of finding a free stool beside her as a sign that I should make amends, man's lot in life with women. So I engaged her and asked how she was and presumed upon her response by saying in Thai “beua poochai mai?” and a few other cajoling remarks to improve her mood. A somewhat sad fact for we who frequent the bar scene in Bangkok is that the women get to know us soon enough and our half truths and unfulfilled promises many of which may spring from romantic hearts with good intentions, but which, nonetheless, do their hurt. She, Miss New, despite her allure, has already come to realize that there is nothing in Bangkok life that pays so well yet is so empty, and she is growing into Miss Old faster than she would want. Still, there is nothing to debate about all this. It is life and it has been so between men and women since time could be recorded. It is difficult to call it sinful, wrong, or uncivilized. It just is and whoever or whatever designed this life left fairness out. Anyway, my purpose in talking to her was just to encourage her and to acknowledge her as a person worthy of respect. And I was successful, receiving a hard slap on the shoulder for my trouble.
Then I turned my attention to the lovely Wan, Nam Wan, Sweet Water, and she is well named for her pretty face, clear eyes and a dark flower of a pouting mouth that begs to be kissed when it is not smiling broadly. To know it is to know two women. She is a plump little thing but wan and she compromised her opportunity with the Japanese to acknowledge me over his shoulder, asking how I was. He left soon after without her.
Her older sister, Saa, reminded me of our chat before the Champions League final and our right conclusion that Man U would take it, though we didn’t foresee the way it would be done. It was only the other day that Saa told me that I met her in the BG seven years ago. Jesus, where has my life gone? Still, this is history, our life history, that the johnny-come-lately’s who arrived and departed in a few weeks over the vast chasm of my years, cannot share. Saa and I have been married in a way, though we only spent the honeymoon together.
I left them all. I left the lovely New’s pretty eyes and hard brown legs, the soft, pulling caress and plea of Wan to bpai duay, and the happy smile of Saa for our old friendship, full of the satisfaction of being a person with and for these women, something I never came close to in seven years in London. It isn’t love and I don’t want it to be, but we all respect one another, say hello, smile, and it is enough for me. But none of this interval awakened the gods. Not even my later brief stint in Lucky Luke’s in Nana where the warm hearted Laos lass Mem greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and a breathless whisper in my ear about the lab moo thawd and som tam I carried with me. I have only been with her once, years ago, but she is back on the scene for a bit, now with a child, and she makes me feel I’m special because I remembered her name and everything we did together (like Saa). It’s a truth unknown by most farangs who come here. Respect for the woman, remembering her name, and showing concern for her, defeat all of the money that has changed hands with other men. Such simple things maintain relationships and are at the heart and soul of the culture here.
It was my evening that the gods were waiting for. And I admit just at that point to hardening up a plan, stupid me. I went to Rainbow Four to see a girl of the same last name as the number. I talked to her last week and sensed interest in her to go with me. I thought her turf was mainly Japanese and if, for no other reason than curiosity, she might go with my towering frame-few of her customers could make her feel as short and feminine as I could. She was there but the gods, who travel at will, got there first and as I sat near her dance position and looked at her, there was nothing but detachment in return. You have to know how to look at these girls, though, to be sure. You have to look at their eyes and wait to see if there is a flicker, a nanosecond or two where they look back. It is a woman's way of grabbing you by both shoulders if her face softens or her mouth twitches. Luckily I have been here in Bangkok long enough to know what that means. But there was nothing there, for whatever reason. A lot of guys think in denial and pursue their quest-“maybe she didn’t see me.” But those eyes never miss us, not ever, as they constantly scan the room using every reflected surface to increase their range. I did the gentlemanly thing, paid up and left eliminating the minor discomfort between us. Round one to the gods.
I went to Rainbow 3 where I had spotted a certain person and got a look back a couple of nights ago. She was there, I think, but trapped with a wax works figure of a young Japanese man, so all I got was another beer in the belly without any prospect. I moved on to Erotica, a bar where I am well known and have paid over the years, more bar fines than any other bar in Thailand.
The owner of this bar, like most Thai businesses, concerns herself about the cash flow not the operation of the bar. My confidante, my mia luang, and other bar girls were asked by me why it was that all the customers sat on one side and the homeliest, oldest, fattest, most tattooed women danced in front of us while all the slender sweethearts around danced behind them? This wasn't rugby, was it? Was this the work of the gods? Hide the beauty from the customers? Was the owner a god? I gave up and went to Rainbow One.
There were so few customers that girls I have been with five years ago tried to re-acquaint themselves with me. “Go wit yooo.” I love these girls, well that’s why I went with them in the first place, but it wasn’t going to happen tonight. The gods had made sure I had had enough alcohol during my search to implement my plan, including its fallback positions, to climb all the way over the ‘beer hill’ and I was just sliding down its barley slopes with nothing to hold me back. It no longer mattered what I had set out to do. All that was left was to go home and eat the food I had bought earlier in the day.
Easy to say but difficult to do because of the automatic announcement that is built into most men’s heads when they are about to end their evening: “let’s just have one more.” So I crossed to Nana Hotel’s Golden Bar and took my reserved box seat at the new silver rail to watch the parking lot final match of the evening. First, though, I had to shout in my best Thai at the flower and shoeshine rats who smack, hit, slap and otherwise irritate the owner of the bar, the fat old dog named khao. The night continued with its strangeness.
Two drunken Thai girls slopping beer all over the place demanded of me from the other side of the silver rail why it was that drunken farangs were allowed into the bar but they weren’t. I did my best to direct them to the manager of the bar since it wasn’t my rule, but one wouldn’t leave me alone. I said it in English and I said it in Thai but I think it was simply my acknowledgment of her that made her stick to me, she being the prosecuting attorney and I being the accused. She believed that somehow she had been wronged and possibly it wasn’t just this wrong but all the wrongs that had ever been done to her, the wrongs that alcohol could only cover up for so long, and she wanted to blame someone for them. When we are drunk it is hard to remember that we all have some such grievances tucked away inside ourselves and there is nothing to do but to bear them. This was going to be a proxy fight.
I decided to end it quickly in the first round and dropped the bomb on her, cobbling together some Thai and figuring mutual drunkenness would open the channel between us. Gaw, fang noy. Khun mao laew tae pom mai doo took khun Khun bpen khon Thai. Khon Thai suan yai bpen khon jai dee, mi marraiat dee. Gaw, khun kuan poom jai tua eng. Bpai nawn. She paused and looked me square in the face; the remark about being proud of herself caught her with her guard down because I said it gently, without reproach. It hurt so much it brought tears to her eyes, those stifled tears that are hard to hold back because they come from deep sadness, a long held shame for what had happened to that good little girl she once was listening to her mother’s advice back home in the paddy fields. I felt for her more than I can say and I wanted to put my arm around her and tell her none of this was her fault but she staggered back, turned on her heel and left.
I returned to my farang world, or rather it returned to me. Nick of the soon-to-open Big Mango piled in with his friends around me, all young guys full of piss and vinegar, English mixed in with American, rattling on about women and the events of their lives in this crazy city. Soon Michael appeared, the other partner in the bar, with his hair in dreadlocks. Two Thai girls bounced in with the crowd and it was all fun and exuberance, like a beer commercial, and even if the night wouldn’t last forever their youthful life was going to. It was the way things ought to be.
But all depends on which side of the silver rail you can sit without asking permission. The gods had been particularly vicious tonight and I cursed back at them for taking away the goods thing I felt from my earlier day with the Thai women I know and the feeling they sent me home with.
Sounds like a fun night was had by all!