Nam Jai…Arai! (Good Heart…What!)
L, why don’t you answer me, call me, I thought we were friends.
At the end of my second mongering tour to Phuket, have I seen the light?
My first tour of duty is still a blur.
One week of pure hedonistic self-indulgence that would make priests head spin and tell me I would burn for all eternity- as if I would have cared. I had fun with a capital F. Sex and alcohol. Sex, alcohol and one week of nothing but bars, girls and hotel rooms. No names remembered, Because there wasn’t any time for that, just body counts, body shots and tired sullen faces when paid and asked to leave. Thank you; see you around; NEXT!
Some ever so sweet and a few borderline psycho and I wonder if that was the allure. What is so easy in the east is yet so hard in the west.
Fast-forward nine months and here I am again. Same place different time. Same, same, but different as the many T-shirt vendors will tell you.
Admittedly, this time I decided to see some of Phuket, apart from the bars and the birds. My travelling buddies and I did the happy tourist trail of elephant rides, white water rafting, bike riding and monkey wrangling. A spot of snorkelling sam and pistol shooting at ten paces, then a stroll to see the big budda and seafood on the beach with friends- paradise!
Week two and it was back to the bars, bar girls and hello happiness. Cunning things they are; down my favourite soi from last visit and it was as if I had never left. “Hello D, good too see you again, you still like Heineken?” Memories like elephants these girls.
I took a trip down memory lane if you will. Same great sex, same distant stare in the morning, pay me and goodbye. Do not get me wrong, I had no regrets. You provide a service and I pay the bill- simple.
After a few visits down the lane, I decided on a new bar and that is where I met her. She was dressed in a blue that brought out the gold in her skin. she had fire in her eyes and a smile that you would die for.
She was L.
A few lady drinks and a nice friendly chat, excellent English with a genuine smile and not pushy at all. I was ready to bar fine her and take her away when I began to feel ill.
A mad dash to the toilet and blasting from both ends I concluded a bar fine was not such a good idea after all. I explained to L I had to go as I was not feeling well and she agreed, making the comment that I was whiter than my brand new white Singha singlet.
Check bin payed and I was leaving the bar when L called me back and slipped me her phone number on a scrap of paper telling me to call her late the next day. She said she wanted to take me to lunch if I was feeling better.
O.k. by me I thought as I headed into the hustle of Bangla road and in between dodging the trinket sellers and ping-pong show pushers I almost hurled again when I passed the squid man cooking his wares.
A restless night of toilet, bed, toilet, bed and a late lie in; I awoke feeling my old self again. I lounged around talking to my travelling buddies and any passer by who was up for a chat, just killing time until late arvo, and then I called L.
Awoken from her slumber she sounded so hoarsey, so sexy and we arranged to meet at a little Issan place in Patong. She asked me how I was feeling and ordered ginger tea for my ills, even though I felt fine she insisted I drink it. Who am I to argue with a beautiful woman?
Food, food and more food arrived and L put it away as if she had never eaten before, how she was not the size of an elephant was beyond me. Both satisfied with our fill I attempted to pay the bill. L insisted she was paying and I did not feel the need to argue, but I did think ‘what’s going on here?’
We wandered around Patong, window-shopping, people spotting and settled on the beach to watch the Jet Ski boys and the parasailers doing their thing. I was in the sun with a lovely girl and I was Mr happy.
L had to leave to go home and get ready for her nightly work.
I told her I would try to get to her bar early, buy a few drinks for her and me to keep the boss happy, then bar fine her and take her out for the night. She seemed happy at that prospect and gave me a warm hug and a kiss before she rode off on her scooter.
I hit her bar around nine after eating with my buddies. No L in sight.
I ask the bar boss where she is and I am told someone has already taken her, she is gone for the night.
Heartbreak? Heartache? Frustration? Which one it was I do not know.
O.k. then, she is busy for the night so I may as well get busy- plenty of fish in the Bangla road sea.
My travel buddies and I did the town. Soi to soi and disco to disco, I finally settle on a little hottie shaking her thing at Tiger. Home we go and business complete, we are both sleeping fast when my phone shakes to tell me I have a text. Eye slumber shaken as I read, it is a message from L and she wants to see me.
It is after five in the morning and I have one asleep next to me and the one I want, wanting me. What to do? What to do?
I wake the sleeping one and spin a line about having to be somewhere soon and she should go. My request is met with a barrage of Thai that even as a non-Thai speaker I know is not good. I give her a few extra baht for her troubles and she is out the door still frothing unpleasantries.
I text L with the address and meet her outside when she arrives. She looks tired but still smiling and still so damn sexy.
We go up to my room and she showers. She drops the towel that is around her between the bathroom and the bed and for a brief second I see perfection. From the flawless golden skin, the long slender legs, perky breasts and a silken smooth mound rounding off with a behind that any western woman would kill for.
We lie in bed kissing, cuddling, touching and tickling and I am ready to go but she looks so damn tired. It’s then I see the first shimmer, the first flash of light.
I tell L to close her eyes, to go to sleep and I hold her close as she disappears into bliss. I cannot sleep, I think about this girl and how many men she has been with tonight. One? Two? Ten? Do I really want to know?
How many in a week, a month, a year?
Yes, yes, I know. This is her job I hear you say. This is how she makes her living and it is her choice….is it? Let’s not go there for now, O.k.
I drift off eventually and awake early afternoon. L is already awake, looking at me with her cheeky grin, her baby brown eyes are dancing and she does not look tired anymore.
We play, we dance, we hurt each other in a very natural way and life is good; no life is great.
L is hungry and so am I. We shower and decide on where to eat. Decision made, I ask L what I owe her.
L’s smile fades and her baby browns turn black and she tells me Mai ao, no baht! I sense L is offended and there is that flash again, that bright light and I am confused. Services rendered and at no charge, am I missing something?
I apologise to L trying to explain my understanding of pay for play. She seems amused and that smile that could melt chocolate is back. She leans in close, hugs me, whispering Nam Jai (good heart), and tells me I am a good man. I do not fell Nam Jai, how can I be when I pay for play.
The light shines brighter.
L and I lunch leisurely; talking, laughing, watching the world go by and I enjoy the moment in the sun with her.
L has to leave to get ready for work and we part with a long hug and a kiss goodbye. I watch her ride away and I am left pondering what just happened. I like L very much but I know deep down I could never love her in a relationship sort of way, bar girls and farangs very rarely end in happiness. I know it could never be as L already spoke about her love for Thailand, her family and most importantly, the love for her young daughter.
I tell my travel buddies my story so far and they are neither here nor there, which is fine by me. Sometimes I like to work alone- so to speak.
I make a decision to stay at the hotel, partly due to guilt, partly because I am worn out and I hope to have an early night.
I am woken sometime in the early am by a call; it is L and she is outside and wants to come up. I peek out my window and there she is- a lonely figure in the darkness, light rain swimming in the breeze.
I go down to meet her and the night guard does not bother to take her I.d, he knows she will be no trouble.
L showers and slides into bed beside me, her honey skin feels like silk against mine and even though it is dark in my room, it briefly lights up with a thunderbolt. That fucking light!
I cannot do it. I want to do it, but I cannot.
I tell L my dilemma, I tell her about the light. I think she understands but I cannot be sure. She is still smiling and her eyes are still dancing as we both drift of into sleep.
Morning comes fast and L is alive and cheeky and play full. I tell her I love her, like I love my closest of closest friends and she punches me playfully and again tells me I am Nam Jai. L leaves.
She has things to do, people to see, mouths to feed. She will call me later as it is my last night.
My travel buddies and I hit Bangla one last time and I avoid L’s bar; I do not want to see her ‘at work.’
My friends bar fine up, yet I am not in the mood. Stunner after stunner makes their approach, the light in my head sparks, and I have to say no. I get drunk to see if this helps and the light goes off like a strobe in an 80’s disco. I leave my buddies and go home unhappy, yet somehow happier.
L pulls a repeat of the previous night and the night guard lets her come straight up to my room.
We spend the rest of the night in mostly silence. Just touching, hugging, friendly kissing and L seems happy, I am happy- the light appears to have gone.
L has to leave early in the morning. She is still smiling, still dancing and I tell her she is special and I am honoured to have met her. She tells me I am a good man with a good heart and for the first time I believe her. I am saddened to see my friend go, she taught me something about myself I may never have learnt.
I text L just before I board my flight for home, thanking her for being her and promising to stay in touch.
She replies soon after telling me she is sorry that she does not care because she is a bad woman.
I text L again trying to understand what she just wrote too me and I get no reply.
I spend the flight home trying to make some sense of what she had just told me and I just do not get it.
Is she trying to protect me? Is she trying to protect herself? I just do not know.
I wait a few days after returning home and I text L but receive no reply. I try calling her but she does not answer. I attempt a few more times over the following weeks, only to be met with the same silence as before and I give up.
I delete L’s phone number and erase all her texts from my phone; it is all I can do to stop myself going insane. I cannot delete her photos.
I have lost a friend and I don’t know why, or did I not have a friend to begin with?
The lights gone now but it is a different light I am now missing.
Will I visit Phuket again? Most definitely.
Will I seek out L when I do? I do not know.
Will I monger again? Only the light will tell.
You don't have to play in Thailand for long to find yourself facing all sorts of dilemmas.