This submission is based on true events. It is possible that a number of people may disagree or even get upset with some passages herein. Where this happens, I cannot comment other than offering the facts as they were presented to me and ensuring anonymity was preserved throughout. The topic touches on the price some individuals are prepared to pay for what they seek and questions whether the monetary cost is not always what it seems or what it should or should not be and, in that light, exposes price as irrelevant because when something makes us even half happy it may be argued that price becomes a secondary factor.
You lived in Nana where your love and affection were commodities exchangeable for the right price. I still remember our first time, 1,000 baht long time. It started then, all these years ago when the mamasan introduced you to me as the freshest “thing” that had ever crossed the threshold of her bar. I was one of her top customers in those days and, as a result of my patronage, just-off-the-farm girls were a benefit afforded to me. I spoiled them rotten and you enjoyed the same five star treatment from me.
You looked and felt wonderful. Sometimes I used to walk past the Plaza deliberately before opening hours. Foolishly, perhaps, I was hoping that I may catch a glimpse of you during day time but it wasn’t to be.
I still remember the bitter sweet scent of your skin in those days. It reminded me of Sicilian oranges. It was ever so pleasant for me and I could never get enough of your juice.
I gifted you a necklace which rested neatly in the middle of your cleavage shining much brighter than my life bruises whatever they were at any given time.
The first time I saw you dancing in your go-go bar, you walked on the narrow stage as if you owned it, as if you knew all eyes of men were transfixed on you, as if they had never seen one as beautiful as you. In your sweet 18, you looked older than your real age. A perfect fake ID and no one suspected anything but I knew about it because you had told me after our first time and when I had not believed you then you had showed me your real ID. It was too late for me to have any morals about it after the deed was done. It may have been wrong but doing right is not what drove us men to the Plaza. To all intents and purposes you were already a perfectly formed woman at 18, whose lines not even Botticelli could have drawn with so much grace.
The peculiarity of your language to me and the unpronounceable nature of some of my native tongue to you, meant that there was a communication desert between us in those days and yet we did not seem to care about the importance of it all. You had an infectious smile and somehow you made me feel happy all the time. That was enough for me.
You were only 19 when you achieved your degree in the irreversible damage that drugs and your lifestyle would cause to your brain. I kept myself busy with a bit of this and bit of that but, quite honestly, what I did never amounted to anything of much importance and nothing that I could not have walked away at the drop of a hat to spend a few more nights with you. It was just a way of earning money and my wealth was just a means to an end for you.
At 21 you were excellent at admiring your reflection in the many shop windows and I was just as excellent at buying you anything you wanted. I also started becoming excellent at emptying cellars. For us there were friends, a few friends, very few.
You were so good at believing that this life, your life, was only temporary and I always hoped that one day you would change it but money was good and what job, you used to say to me, could net you 2,000 baht for less than a couple of hours?
You were so good at making me believe that you loved only me, that I was like no other man and I was so free to believe you or otherwise.
I always hoped that someone, sometime, could say a bad word about us as a wakeup call but we must have been invisible in Bangkok because despite the vast difference between our ages no one said a word, ever, and no one seemed to care.
By the time you were in your mid 20s, we had become so invisible that we almost did not see each other that much. The only way was for me to come to the Plaza and bar fine you for a short time which by then was 3,000 baht.
“Do you know how many more customers want to be with me these days and pay much more than that?” You used to say to justify your fees to me.
I decided to rent a little pied-a-terre towards the end of soi 4. My happiest years and memories belong to that time and during those years we also witnessed a new phase for mankind, the arrival of the digital age and the perceived necessity of having to be permanently connected.
I thought it was fun to gift you a mobile phone at first and then a laptop and eventually a smart phone but these toys also included dangers and I was too blind to see them coming. I could not bear to be too far away from you and I just believed that technology would help us keep in touch.
I still worked in those days and I had it all planned in that little head of mine. A dream-like retirement by the sea and you by my side. Despite my advancing age and the repetition of it all, I still loved to come and see you dance. I was recklessly mesmerised by your moves. I still am, after all these years. You were in your early 30s and you were the most popular dancer, the first one to command 4,000 baht short time in the busiest of go-go bars.
Once retired, I began to realise that my pension did not grow in line with the cost of living and the ever increasing consumables that you were so eager to possess seemed to make a disturbing dent in my future plans. This resulted in an ongoing re-adjustment caused by the increasing realisation that my income was by now taking a much more modest semblance than I had at first envisaged. However, the more you had the more you gained face among your peers and what you wanted was never up for negotiation.
I stopped celebrating my birthdays once past my seventieth and you, hardly in your mid 30s, were still looking at least ten years younger. I began to fundamentally show my age all of a sudden but you no longer knew what your age was. I was old but you seemed eternally youthful as if time had stopped somewhere for lunch and it had forgotten to visit you.
In the riots of May 2010, we saw some young people die without becoming heroes. “Life is too short not to enjoy it” you used to tell me as a way of justifying a reason when I used to ask you where all the money had gone and should you not have been more careful? By then you were a calibre 38 and you could still fire many bullets while passing for someone in her late 20s. On the other hand, my years were barely kept together by your kindness and my own hope for a better humanity.
When you started charging 5,000 baht you explained that life was too short to have regrets. We always seemed to go overboard, past any given limit and that limit was like a bet that we had promised each other we would never lose.
You were so good at telling me all these ruinous stories belonging to less successful go-go dancers and I was so good at stealing a little of your understanding. We had very few friends and you were excellent at inventing a reality that existed only in your mind and I was just as excellent at no longer believing anything of what you told me.
When I had met you I was terrific and you were wonderful, so wonderful that you made me look terrible. However, despite looking terrible next to you, we were terrific together and you made me feel wonderful.
I was always single with no children but that was not the point as I could not have had any. I had good manners though. I relied on my civility and always treated you well. You should have seen me when I was in my 20s, fit like a young stallion. In my 30s I was still slim and strong and in my 40s I still had a full head of hair. I did not start drinking until I came to Bangkok. What else was there to do? If only you knew that as a young man I did not even like beer and look at me now and how I forget myself when getting drunk. Now you often have other things to do but if only you could have seen me yesterday when I was terrific.
I am not the only one who likes a bit of a drink of course. There are many like me, perched awkwardly by the bar counter, who like finding solace at the bottom of a glass and we all seem to moan more frequently these days and the mother of all our moans is called money and the increasing cost of visiting the Plaza.
I take a look at those few friends who think they know best because they have got married and tell them: “Hey, you think that you just became handsome because you got a ring round your finger? When the last of your money runs out she’ll dump you because that’s the way it is.” I say.
“And what about the other girl you see on the side, have you told her about that yet?” I ask them.
That is how life is for many of the guys here but I promised myself that I would not end up like that. Oh no, I was terrific and you were wonderful. We were terrific but only time really knows how it will end and when it does this suffering, this endless lamenting will just stop.
Then you started working for the agency and your rate became 6,000 baht for two hours. “Oh, so sorry old boy, you cannot longer afford her” I used to tell myself but I kept looking for you.
You know, in life there are no good or bad guys, if daddy cheats on mummy, that's because mum is getting old, what else could it be? And when the marriage ends, those who can afford it seem to rediscover their youth over here. Well, partly that was my story too.
I have made some cuts to my budget. I have quit smoking which, by the way, was not just a bad habit but also bad economy. I have started buying my clothes at a local second hand market and I no longer buy fanciful foreign provisions or expensive Italian and French wine but now I hate the way you look at me. I see pity in your eyes but the money I pay is good money, is it not? So what's wrong with you staring at me as if I was a monkey? How about a little respect, eh?
Sure, I am not a saint and I don’t look that good anymore. Come to think of it, I probably do look like an ape but baby, show me that you give a little monkey for good old times’ sake. Oh you are so wonderful when you want to be and I am so terrible when drunk that I cannot even remember how to spell “triffic”.
I don’t really believe in miracles these days, perhaps you are right in ridding yourself of this cranky old man, who is full of life bruises but with an ego which still keeps on fighting.
You cannot possibly understand the emptiness of it all at my age. We never talked about it. Even now, that you speak my language so much better than you did at the beginning.
When I see you leaving, I still feel the fire burning in my veins and it makes me shiver you know? But even with a little chemical assistance I cannot get hard as I used to and that does not feel that terrific anymore. On the contrary, you look so flawless. Not a single blemish on your skin and the new breast I gifted you look so real and feel so good.
After you leave, I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders created by a mixture of my age and your absence. However, I am here to listen to a dream and I shall not speak ill of my situation. There are people dealing with much more debilitating conditions compared to me only having to face old age and loneliness. I never fail to tell you that if you ever need me I will be here but I know this is an illusion and in all truth you never call these days but that is how I feel, that is my resolve. On reflection, where else would I want to be but here? Those long cold winters were never my idea of enjoyment and I would never want to go back.
Better little than nothing at all, hey? Better than ending my life by taking a jump from the balcony of my condo on the twentieth floor. Other people have done that but that is not me. After all, I still have a little left from my savings, not much but enough to afford your 8,000 baht rate. “That is a special rate” you are keen to remind me. Agency customers pay a minimum of 12,000 baht for 24 hours with you and you are their number one model after all.
I will just have to eat street food more regularly and I may give up the condo and move to a basic room. Truthfully, thinking about it, I don’t need much these days to pass the time. A bed, a fridge, a table and a chair and a little tablet to pass the day reading about other people’s lives. Maybe a fan when it gets too hot. That’s all.
In my mind, I still intend to be like the water that will extinguish each of your burning desires but the reality is that I cannot even drain my tank anymore these days. It has become just a trickle and when it happens that makes you quip that it must be the rainy season!
How ironic it is that we spend most of our youth chasing money and once old we spend most of our money chasing youth.
You are wonderful, so wonderful that you make me feel terrible, so terrible when you are not here that I long for our next encounter merely a few hours after you’ve gone. I am going against the grain, I know that, and despite, over the years, I have given all I ever had to you for so little in return, you still make me feel so wonderful.