May Day Part 5
The next week or so was a blur. A blur of grey skies, drunken mornings, drug induced stupors, depression, abject misery and anger. I’d wake up wishing May would be lying next to me. I’d spend hours wondering why I felt such strong feelings for a girl I hardly knew.
If none of these girls were special then why did I feel so much pain?
Every time I saw her clinging to me down the dark alley way I’d cry and pour myself another scotch.
I didn’t understand Thai culture or how Thai funerals worked. John had explained to me that we had to stay away from her family.
There were lots of reasons why we had to lie low, so I couldn’t go to her funeral.
I felt so much anger towards my friends. They hadn’t believed me. I tried to tell them she was in trouble, but no-one had listened.
I felt as if we’d all killed her. As if I’d killed her.
Brian had warned me that these girls would empty my wallet.
That concept meant nothing to me.
My entire soul had been emptied.
Eventually John and Dave banned me from drinking. I spent two days after the alcohol ban lying in bed with a massive hangover and a monstrous headache. Thankfully I slept most of the time.
When I was well enough to get out of bed I realized that I hadn’t showered in three days and I hadn’t left the hotel for over nine days.
I decided that I couldn’t stay in Thailand much longer. I had two more things to do and then I’d leave.
When I’d made myself presentable enough to show my face in public, I ventured out the hotel.
I faced a street full of noise, people, fumes, street stalls, smoke, tuk tuks, heavy traffic and tourists taking photos. Life hadn’t stopped.
I went to the other side of the road and headed west.
I couldn’t believe I bumped into John on the street.
“Good to see you’re out the hotel.”
“I know. I went downhill big time. Where are you going?”
“I was on the way to drag you out of that room! Where are you going?”
“That side street near here. You know the one. I just want to pay my last respects. That was the last place I saw her.”
John hesitated. “Ok. Let’s go then.”
We walked in silence through the street stalls. When we got to the side street I got a lump in my throat.
“Can you give me a minute?” I said weakly.
“Sure mate, take as long as you need,” said John reassuringly.
I walked down the street to spot where I last saw May alive, a patch of cracked dirty concrete next to a big garbage bin.
I stood staring at the ground and thought of her pretty face and the awful bruise she had.
We’d had such brief moments together.
I wondered how many times she’d been beaten, how many times she’d been abused.
It was all unbearable to think about.
Had she known that I really cared about her? I hoped she knew. I was sure she did.
I stood at the spot so long that John eventually came looking for me.
I looked up to see him standing nearby, looking worried.
I was silent for a long time. “No. No I’m not ok.”
When I finally managed to drag myself away from the laneway we decided to go for a drink down one of the nearby side streets. We sat outside in the humid air.
“So you’re not gonna stay in Thailand much longer?”
“No, in fact I’ve changed my ticket. I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Really? Very sudden, but I understand. Man, I’m sorry about what happened. It’s been a shockingly bad trip for you.”
“It has.” I was silent for a minute. “I can still see why you live here though, even after all that’s happened.”
John looked out at the street, “you know, I’m not sure why I live here. But I guess there’s good and bad in any country.”
“There is,” I agreed.
John looked at me. “Are you feeling guilty?”
“Well, trust me, we all are, especially Brian. He’s feeling like dirt.”
I nodded again.
John leant forward. “You have to know one thing Rob. It’s not your fault. You can’t save all these girls. I know what happened was extreme, but it’s not the first time something like this has happened. You can’t save the entire world.”
I paused for a moment, gathering the strength to speak. “I didn’t want to save the entire world,” I managed, “just her.”
“I know. It’s not been easy for you, I know. But you can’t blame yourself.”
“And what about Fon? Are we just going to leave her to fend for herself?”
“You probably don’t remember what Dave told you a few days ago, you were in such a drunken state. He’s giving her money every month. The rest of us are going to check up on her every week, make sure she’s ok. She’ll be fine, I promise you that.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes. I noticed the sounds and smell of Bangkok that I hadn’t sensed since my first night.
“Do you know where she is? I want to see her before I go.”
John immediately became pensive then he nodded slowly.
“Don’t tell me she’s back in the bar!”
“She is. I know you don’t want to hear that but she is.”
My heart sank. “Why?”
“I don’t know mate. You’ll have to ask her that.”
“I’ve got to get her out of there.”
John looked down, “I’m sorry to say this but I think you’re too late.”
“What do you mean?”
“Even if she quits tonight, I think she’s been in the bar too long.”
“It was only two months!”
“I know. It’s just that you haven’t seen what I’ve seen over the years I’ve lived here. Two months in a bar can do a lot to a girl.”
I looked out at the girls standing outside the bars along the street. “I still have to try.”
Two hours later I went to Soi Cowboy.
When I entered The Sting Ray Bar I saw her straight away.
She was gyrating on the stage as two fat old men ogled at her. I wanted to punch both men and tell them to fuck off, but I held back.
The usual routine, I guess, take a seat and order a beer.
A few minutes later Fon came and sat beside me.
“How are you? Are you ok?”
“I ok.” She said slowly.
“Do you want the night off? I’ll pay the bar-fine.”
“No, I ok.”
I was dumbfounded. She wanted to be in here? After what’d happened?
I decided to get to the point and asked her if she was going to quit.
She seemed genuinely surprised at my question. “No. Why I should quit?”
“Isn’t Dave helping you?”
“So you don’t need to be here. You drink too much and it’s just not good.”
“But only friends I have are here.”
She seemed a little annoyed at my question. I felt annoyed that she wanted to stay in the bar. I looked away from her and watched the girls dancing on the platform.
“Fon, let me help you. I have friends here. We can all help you…”
I stopped myself then. I’d said these words before.
Fon didn’t respond.
I stared at the floor.
If anything happen to me, help my sister!
A minute or two later I noticed one of the other girls talking to Fon.
When she’d gone Fon turned to me.
“Did you love my sister?” She asked innocently.
She didn’t know how painful those words were.
I squeezed my eyes shut and nodded, trying to keep my composure.
Don’t say another word Fon, please don’t.
She put her hand on my knee.
I turned to her and took her hand. “One thing I want you to know Fon, May cared about you so much. At least know that. All she cared about was you.”
I don’t care if I die. Help my sister!
Fon just stared at the stage, emotionless.
I turned away and blanky watched the girls.
After a minute I looked back at Fon, I was sure I saw a tear roll down one of her cheeks.
I wanted to talk to her more and beg her to leave but the words just wouldn’t come.
She resembled May so much that to look at her face was just too painful.
I didn’t know if any man had broken down in a go go bar before. Maybe I’d be the first.
Where would she be five years from now? I couldn’t save May and now I couldn’t save Fon.
Maybe if I married her she’d leave…
“I’m sorry,” she said suddenly. “I have to dance now.”
As she stood up I wanted to reach out and pull her close, but she quickly stepped away and filed onto the stage with the other girls.
She had to dance now.
And I had to watch the two fat old men gawking at her.
She tried to smile but I could see the pain in her eyes. For a moment, in the dim light, I saw May.
May had never died, and there was no Fon. May was here. Right here in front of me. Why do I have to lose her twice?
I buried my face in my hands. She wasn’t May. I knew she was gone.
When I managed to look up again, she was still there, still dancing. She was next to number twenty-three and number thirty-nine.
They were just numbers, all of them. Just numbers dancing on a stage.
Choose a number. Try and buy happiness.
I watched Fon as she gyrated around the chrome pole in front of her. I knew she’d never leave.
Don’t hate me May. I tried to keep my promise.
I didn’t even wait for her to come back and join me. Once I’d paid the bill I stood up and took one last look at her.
She had a forlorn expression, resigned to the life that had been chosen for her.
And that was where I left her, dancing in a bar in Bangkok.
I knew I’d never see her again.
The only comfort I had knowing my friends would look after her. Dave would help with money.
The curtain was swept aside and I walked out the bar. I didn’t look back.
Outside on the street, amongst the girls and neon signs, my stomach twisted and I struggled to breathe in the humid air.
There was no colour anymore and no glamour, just an air of desperation.
As I neared the street-end my vision began to blur.
I’d been warned some of these girls would tear your wallet out.
I’d had my heart torn out. Twice.