I Cry for You
I saw her in the distance. Or at least I thought I did. Yes, it had to be her. It was the confident gait and the long legs. Then I was certain.
She said nothing as she came up to me and stopped a foot or two in front of me, briefly looking at me and then at her feet. She was anxious, but why? I had called her and told her that I had her silver necklace, that I had found it under the bed on my side. She had seemed relieved, happy, and she blurted out that it was a necklace she had gotten from her grandmother and greatly treasured.
Now she looked spent, edgy, even unfriendly. I wanted to ask her why, but I could find no words. I pulled her close and hugged her. She seemed limp, unaccommodating, like we were perfect strangers. I had not felt that way when she left in the morning, nor all through the marvelous night. I didn’t want to let her go, and she gave me the impression that she was as needy.
Will you spend the day with me? I tentatively asked.
She did not answer.
Why? I said.
She still did not answer.
You have someone else? A boyfriend? Or…?
I didn’t believe her. Her hands, at her side, the distance in her closeness told me that something was on her mind. She wanted to be elsewhere. She had only come to retrieve her necklace.
I stood back and noticed that her fingers and toenails were freshly painted, a color different than when I picked her up the night before in the bar. Her hair was up. I liked it. It flattered her, and I wanted to tell her so. The words were not there. Maybe she should go, I thought.
Do you want to go? I said.
No. I want to be with you. She didn’t move.
You want something to eat?
I want to be naked with you. Now. Right now.
I have an appointment at the Vietnamese Embassy in forty-five minutes. It will take me a half hour to get there.
She said nothing, her head still down. She brought a hand to her hair and ran fingers through it.
Can you wait till later and then we will do whatever you want to do? All day if you like.
Is your promise good?
I didn’t like the question. Do you want to come to the embassy with me?
You didn’t tell me you were going to Vietnam.
I had decided before I met you.
Can I go with you?
You need a passport. Do you have one?
You can take me anyway, can’t you?
I don’t see how.
Just pay them something when we get there.
I don’t think it will work.
You have a girlfriend there, don’t you? She was now staring at me. She was looking right through me.
I don’t have any girlfriends. I told you that last night.
Do you want one?
Do you want to be my girlfriend?
She nodded. Then she said, You know I do. Did you not know this from last night?
I do now.
Take me to your room. I want to take your clothes off. I want to wash you and smell you all over.
Come with me to the embassy.
She stepped back and said, I will see you later. She turned and walked away.
I took out a cigarette and lit it, then got down on my haunches and watched her until she disappeared in the distance.
I wanted to see her again, but I resisted calling her. She did not call me.
I went to Vietnam and returned nine days later. That night I went to the club where I had picked her up. When I entered I saw her in the same booth where we had sat and I decided to take her. She had her head on a man’s shoulder.
I walked by and pretended not to see her. I took a seat not far away, and as soon as I sat down I was aware of her eyes on me. At every opportunity she turned to look at me. She smiled at me. She frowned as if hurt. She tried to laugh, as much as it was possible being with someone else.
I looked at her but tried hard not to reveal how I felt. I wanted her to be with me, but sensed it would not happen. And it did not. Ten minutes after I entered the bar she went to the room to change her clothes. She walked by me as if I were a complete stranger. She belonged now to someone else.
She was gone no more than fifteen minutes when my cell phone rang. Her first words were, I’m getting rid of him. I must be with me. Meet me on the soi where we got the taxi that night I went with you.
Are you sure?
I will give him the money for the barfine and tell him he has a bad smell.
I don’t know. I haven’t smelled him yet. She laughed.
I’m exhausted, I said.
You can sleep with your clothes on if you hold me. I want you.
I’m in the Arab hotel that you hate.
I will sleep with you on the street tonight then.. She laughed again. It was a sly laugh, a bit nasty.
Don’t worry. In bed you won’t see the Arabs.
It doesn’t matter if I do. I cry for you. I need you.
I felt uncomfortable. I had thought about her in Vietnam, but the thoughts became infrequent as the days went by. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see her again. I now tried to find an image of her I didn’t like. The only one, a feeble one, was a profile of her as she headed for the bathroom in the middle of the night. I didn’t know why I didn’t like what I had seen.. It was something about her jaw line. She looked twenty or thirty years older. That’s what I told myself, then. It seemed irrational then. It still seemed irrational..
When I got to the street she was there with the man who had bar fined her. He was much younger than me, and better looking. He was more smartly dressed. I could not imagine that he smelled of anything more than shaving crème or a light cologne.
Before I could say a word, she turned to the man who had bar fined her and said, This is my special boyfriend. We are soon going to be married. Her tone was serious. The words out of her mouth, she came to me and hugged me like I had remembered her that night, our only night together. She pulled my face to hers and kissed me full on the mouth. She wouldn’t let me go.
Free of her for a moment, her arms around my waist, I said to the man, I’m sorry about this.
He moved his upper teeth over his lower teeth, chattering, like an angry squirrel who couldn’t find its cache of nuts. I then saw him clench his right fist. He moved forward in one quick motion and swung at me, and just missed.
She screamed and pulled away as I moved three steps toward him and kicked him in the groin. He went down and began moaning. He was holding himself. He was hurt and out of breath. I took her by the hand and we crossed the street and got in a pink taxi. I gave the driver instructions and he pulled away and I looked back. The man was still on the ground. There were some people around him.
Her head was on my lap and she was sobbing. I put a hand on her head and stroked her, told her not to worry. I told her everything was okay.
I’m sorry, she said.
Do you want to listen to some music?
I just want to be with you. I will be with you anywhere.
I couldn’t get her to say a word that night. She was restless. She wanted to be close, and then she didn’t. She kept going to the bathroom. I sensed she was taking ya-ba. I should have gotten rid of her, sent her on her way.
Later, I was sure she took more ya-ba. She began to go wild with me, demanding that I do things to her that we had not done, that I have not done with anyone. I hate to be with girls like this. They are unpredictable.
I wanted to throw her out. I couldn’t find the courage to do it.
She was asleep at noon when I order some lunch. I ate while she slept, all the while trying to decide what to do with her, how to get rid of her.
When she woke around two or so, she showered and then came to the bed and sat beside me while I was writing some notes on my recent trip to the Delta. She watched me and read every word. At one point she said, Why do people write about what they do?
They think they have something important to say.
No, I don’t. I have nothing important to say.
Then why do you do it?
Sometimes it feels good. Like when I am holding you and you are not on drugs.
I didn’t know what to say. I said nothing.
Hold me and don’t let me go, she said.
We made love, and then again an hour later. Then she fell asleep at my side as I wrote more notes, mostly about an old woman I met who took me in her boat and insistently wanted to know why I wasn’t married.
I don’t know why, I had told her.
Then I get you wife, she had said to me.
I don’t want a wife.
You want young one or old one? Pretty one or ugly one?
I don’t want trouble, I told her.
Okay, then, she said. I get you one that no is trouble, okay?
We were on the river almost three hours. On the return trip she wanted me to sit beside her and she asked if she could hold my hand.
I held her hand. It was rough and dry, like no hand I had ever held. I sensed it was a hand full of love, but I could not feel it. She was too old for me. I had come to that point where I could only imagine love in a young and moist hand, one with long thin fingers.. I was not young, but I could no longer find anything I liked in older women.
When we docked I paid her and gave her a tip and she said, I get you nice lady no trouble if you like.
I am leaving tomorrow, I said. I will not be returning soon.
That is okay. She will wait. She took my hand and squeezed it, and I sensed she did not want to let go. I wondered how long her husband had been dead. Maybe he wasn’t dead, he just left her for another woman?
When she woke she said she was hungry and wanted to get something from the street and would return.
I’ll give you some money, I said.
I will use my own money, she said. What do you want to eat?
Whatever you bring.
She got dressed and left without a word. I did not see her for three hours. When she was gone two hours I showered and thought I would leave. I didn’t like this kind of treatment. I had taken a long hot shower and felt relaxed and had a beer and then feel asleep. I was asleep until I heard her knock on the door, and her voice calling me.
I’m sorry, she said, coming in and hugging me like it was our wedding night.. I could not break her hold. She felt desperate and sweaty all over. She undressed me and took me to the shower and washed me and then insisted that I make love to her until I had to tell her I could not continue. I was exhausted. She drained me. I would not be able to make love for another day.
Later, I asked her where she had been.
Without hesitation, she said, I ran into a customer. He gave me a lot of money so I said okay. We went to a short-time room. I just did it. I did it for the money. Do you understand?
I said, Why did you come back?
I want to marry you.
I don’t like the idea of marriage.
Not even with me?
With no one. It’s not about you..
She began to cry. She wanted to make love again. I told her that was impossible. It just wasn’t in the cards. I said I was sore.
We went out that night and had a nice meal in an English pub and she said she liked the lamb and potatoes.. I took it to mean that she liked being with me and anything I wanted or would have her do she would do.
When we got back to the room, she went to the bathroom and locked the door and took some more ya-ba. It was a long fifteen or twenty minutes before she came out. When she came out she was dancing and singing and acting like a little kid.
Do you have to? I said.
I have to, she said. I cannot stop.
Maybe you should leave. This is only trouble.
I will leave if you beat me first.
I didn’t want to believe what she said. I shook my head and said, Take a cold shower and then come to bed. Then I want you to leave in the morning. We’re finished.
I will leave when you beat me with a wet cold towel.
Forget it. I don’t do that to anyone.
For me, please. I really want you to beat me. She went to her purse and brought out some rope and said, First you have to tie me to the chair and the bed. She left me and pulled the chair closer to the bed and got down on the floor and extended her arms and legs. Tie my arms and legs, she said. Do it for me, I beg you.
I picked her up and put her in bed and got beside her and hugged her to restrain her. Stay here, I said. Don’t ask for what I won’t give you.
It was ten or so in the morning when she woke and while still groggy from a long restless night I helped her get dressed, gave her some money and then pushed her out the door.
I love you, she said, as I closed the door.
Don’t come back, I said. Find someone else.
I will be back. I love you.
I was relieved when she was gone, and for an hour or so all I could think about was why I had let it go this far. Somehow she had pulled me into her world of ya-ba and craziness. I began to wonder what had come over me.
The ways of the mind are not easily understood, and two nights later I found myself in her bar and sitting there with a beer in my hand and watching her gyrate around a pole and make faces at me, daring me to invite her to have a drink.
I just couldn’t do it. Then I got a small bit of luck. A customer invited her to have a drink and she accepted. As soon as she did so, I got up and headed for the door. I got about half way to the door when I heard a bottle hit a booth near me. I looked back and saw that the customer she was with was trying to restrain her from throwing a second bottle at me.
I stared at her and shook my head, and then turned to leave. I heard her say, I love you, I love you, I love you!
I thought she was crazy. I began to wonder about my own sanity.
I got a girl for the night and she was okay and sweet. The whole time I was with her I thought of this mess I’d gotten myself into and now somehow I was incapable of pulling away from it . It was easy enough to get a ticket and fly to Laos or Cambodia or Indonesia. I could get a visa on landing. But I just couldn’t do it. I wanted some kind of resolution. But what did I want? I had no idea. I didn’t love her. I didn’t like the drugs and the tantrums.
A long day passed slowly and the whole time I told myself I would not return to the bar where she worked, that made no sense at all. But by eight than evening, I couldn’t help myself. I walked into the bar, motioned for her to join me as soon as I saw her on the stage, and immediately gave her the money for the barfine.
She was a different person. I hardly recognized her. For the first time she was wearing jeans rather than a very short skirt. She took my hand and said she was happy to see me. It was as if this was the very first time I had bar fined her.
Where do you want to go? I said on leaving the bar.
Would you take me to an Arab restaurant? she said.
But you hate those men?
Would you? she said.
When we got to the hotel room, she began to cry and shake and then slowly began to tell me about her husband and that he had committed suicide three months earlier. He had become a heroin addict and he regularly beat her. When she got through with all this, she said, I need love. Will you give me love?
I don’t think I can give you what you need.
Can you give me love for two or three days?
I will try, I said.
Sleep with me, that is enough.
I wanted to run. I wanted to sleep with her. I did not think that sleeping with her would be enough. I wanted to tie her up and get a towel full of cold water and see what I would do.
What would I do that I had never done before?
Would I pummel her until she screamed? Would I get down on the floor and enter her and find that I could not stop? Would I stand over her and take that wet towel and beat her until she stopped begging for more? Would I take that wet towel and beat her and not hear her words to stop?