Bangkok Farewell: The Death Of A Dream
Author’s note: the following events occurred in December, 2011.
So it's my third night in Bangkok, and I'm walking back toward my hotel in the Nana area after cruising through Soi Cowboy. I had read that the infamous soi’s nickname was inspired by a pioneering African-American who opened his first bar on the soi in 1977, and wore a trademark cowboy hat.
That same year I had just graduated from the University of Hawaii with a useless business degree — clueless and unhappy — and never dreaming that at age 59, I would finally end up being here now – to salvage what’s left of my wasted life.
For a first-time visitor like myself, Soi Cowboy was an assault on the senses — blaring music amid a swirl of humanity running the gauntlet of bars and go-gos – and the flowing stream of mopeds or motorcycles weaving past tourists and hustling bargirls and food vendors in mobile carts selling all kinds of Thai street food.
Earlier, I had eaten one of the most delicious fried rice plates I've ever had in my life, cooked in few minutes by an older lady in a gas-fired wok and served up in a small Styrofoam container.
I had just finished having delightful sex with “Gai,” a tiny Thai bargirl. She was about 5 feet tall and 95 pounds, with a slim, curvy body and a cute dark face with small chiseled nose and lips. “Gai" means "chicken" in Thai, she had said with a laugh.
When I first saw her while walking past the bars, she was wearing a white short-sleeve blouse and red plaid mini-skirt, and sitting on a barstool outside the "Joy" strip bar. I had been actually following another tiny barmaid who was walking toward another bar. But when she spotted me, Gai called out and waved me over. She grabbed my hand and pulled me toward her bar. I realized this Gai will do just fine — small and young and pretty – just what I desired.
I stepped through the curtained doorway, and entered a long narrow room, about 10 feet wide and maybe 30 feet long. Along the left side was the slightly sunken bar. On the right were two rows of narrow padded benches on raised platforms against the wall. In front of the benches were small cocktail tables spaced out at two-foot intervals. Midway between the benches was a tiny 3-foot stage with two stripper poles. At the moment, the stage was empty.
There was only one customer, an older man sitting in the far corner with his bargirl, and also a few other bargirls sitting at the bar. The bar was brightly lit, and wherever you sat was exposed to everyone else.
Gai and I sat on the high bench behind a small cocktail table. I noted that anyone walking past would be eye-level to our crotches. I ordered a beer as Gai immediately began stroking my dick from the outside of my pants. For the 15 minutes or so that we were sitting there, Gai's hand never stopped fondling my dick under the table, in plain view of everyone in the bar.
The bartendress and bargirls could clearly see my little chicken girl fondling me. The fat, short mama-san was leaning back comfortably on the bench a short distance away. She smiled at me, and mentioned that they have rooms upstairs.
"Yeah?" I asked. "How much?"
She told me the room was available for 600 baht. Gai then added that “short time” with her upstairs was an extra 1,500 baht. It seemed a bit pricey, but now was not the time to be a cheapskate — when a young pretty girl is playing with your dick!
Back in Hawaii, the sex massage parlors typically charge $200 for if you want the “full service” massage (about 6,500 baht). I’m not sure why, but nearly all the masseuses in those local places are Korean. While they were reasonably sexy, none that I ever encountered was as small and young and pretty as Gai.
Later I found out that Gai is 26, but could easily pass for 20. She told me that her earnings as a bargirl/prostitute goes to support five family members back home in Issan. After paying the mamasan, I followed Gai through a curtain at the back of the bar. We walked up three flights of narrow old wooden stairs. Walking behind her, I gazed happily at her small slim legs and glimpse of red panties beneath her skirt.
On the third floor, we passed by a big bedroom, where five bargirls were lazing around on mattresses. It looked like a break room of sorts. When the women saw me glancing curiously through the open door, they joked that I can have all five of them for free. We all erupted in laughter, as I continued to follow Gai along a short hallway into another bedroom. She closed and locked the door behind us.
The room was fairly clean for being in an old and shabby wooden building. There was only a queen-size mattress bed and nothing else. When Gai said she would shower first, I immediately suggested we shower together in the small bathroom. Much to my delight she agreed.
I savored the exquisite pleasure of rubbing her small butt and smooth legs with my soapy hands, and then in turn receiving a soapy rubdown from her. After we finished showering, further delightful surprises awaited. Gai freely engaged in French kissing, and also did not object to the kinky sexual positions I subjected her to.
"This is the best one yet," I happily thought afterwards.
THE DEATH OF A DREAM
And then my final encounter. After exiting from the back end of Soi Cowboy, I walk up to Sukhumvit Road and head toward Nana, amid the maddening rush of speeding vehicles and blaring horns under the shadow of the BTS Skytrain.
While passing by Pedro’s bar, I see a young bargirl standing at a small outdoor table on the patio, and we look at each other. I'm immediately drawn to her face. It's pale and pretty, and so fresh looking. With her slightly-slanted eyes, she could have been a Hapa-Haole cutie back home – the local term we use for the mixed-race blend of Caucasian-Asians in Hawaii.
She quickly comes to me, and grabs my hand. "You come inside, we have special, beer only 60 baht," she urges, pulling me into the bar. I yield to her, and follow her inside.
We sit at a table and I order us drinks. Everyone is very friendly in the small dark bar. Another skinny older waitress chats with us, along with a tall ladyboy named “Tanya.” My new girlfriend is named "Ying," which I later find out is the Thai word for a female. She’s also 20 years old.
They ask me where I'm from. When I reply, “Hawaii,” they look puzzled. This is something I've noticed. Most Thais I’ve met so far seemingly never heard of Hawaii. They have no idea where I am from, even when I try and describe it. If I ever return, I need to bring surfing or hula photos, and a map of Hawaii to show people.
Then Tanya tells me she is the bar’s mama-san, and that Ying is available for "short time" for 5,000 baht. I laugh at the ridiculous overpricing. I bring out my pocket notebook to check the equivalent of Thai baht in U.S. dollars that I had jotted down. Everyone leans over curiously to peer at my little notebook lying on the booth table.
I finally say, "2,000 baht."
OK, the mama-san says. So along with the barfine of 600 baht, Ying is now mine for the taking. Ho! Another two-do night in Bangkok! Thank God for Viagra!
Later I'm thinking to myself, jeez, I still paid too much. 2,600 baht is 85 dollars. But no matter. This innocent looking girl is mine now. Ying dutifully holds my hand as we walk along the street and up the stairs to the Skytrain monorail for the short ride to my hotel. Her soft, pale hand feels moist in mine.
I start thinking about why I am doing this. Something deep inside me had triggered my impulse to follow Ying into the bar. It had everything to do with my age, and growing awareness of mortality – and lifelong regrets over the lost opportunities in my life – starting in my senior year in a suburban Honolulu high school.
One of my biggest disappointments back then occurred during the high school prom – the American ritual of a ridiculously expensive formal dance, where the boys wear tuxedos and the girls expensive gowns. I had a long-standing crush on the beauty of my graduating class, a gorgeous American Asian with a dazzling smile, whom I had been smitten by since eighth grade.
What’s strange is that my secret crush and I had been voted the Senior Prom King and Queen. Just the fact that I was the king of the prom seemed so weird to me. I only hung out with a small clique of Asian nerds at school, and certainly wasn’t popular in my mind.
Still, my face did have a boyishly handsome look back then, which must have prompted enough female classmates to vote me in as the king. But because of my insecurity and twisted self-loathing that I kept totally hidden behind my “handsome” mask, I was undoubtedly the most reluctant and unworthy prom king of all time.
At the prom, when we were officially proclaimed King and Queen during the ceremony, I couldn’t even enjoy our solo crowning dance together, because I was so paralyzed with fright by everyone watching us.
My queen and I had separate dates that night, so we never got to socialize afterwards — dashing my dream of a magical night when the long-repressed romantic spark would ignite. In the end, I had been too much of a coward to ask my crush for a date during my school years, or to even talk to her really. So we never did fall in love and get married and live happily ever after.
It was really during that miserable senior year that I began my lifelong tendency to withdraw further into myself after every failure and humiliation. But it’s all ancient history now.
So, nearly four decades later, it would seem this sexual fling with Ying was an illusion I was trying to play out, to help make up for everything I gave up. For a short while, this sweet young Thai girl can be like my girlfriend, and we will make love.
Ying was even dressed innocently, wearing sandals and a flimsy long-sleeve white blouse covering her loose jeans shorts – instead of a slutty bargirl outfit of skin-tight mini-dress with spiked high heels.
As we ride the Skytrain heading toward the Nana BTS stop, my dream starts fading. Ying has become more quiet and withdrawn. I look at the reflection of her face in the Skytrain window. Her downcast face looks tense and tight as she gazes at the floor, still clinging to my hand.
Ying is slightly shorter than me, being a typical small and slim Asian-American Hawaii male, standing a shade over 5 feet, 6 inches. I also see the refection of my wrinkled face and sagging jowls, having finally lost my youthful looks more than a decade ago.
I also feel a slight sting of shame — because Ying looks so young standing next to me and holding my hand. It's the same instinctive disgust I feel when seeing some old, fat, or gross foreign guy in public with a very young Thai whore – knowing I'm seeing a reflection of myself in them.
"You no shame?" my grandma Yoshiko would likely have said to me, in her stern, bossy way. Grandma began really bugging me from my early 20s about why I did not have a girlfriend yet. I could not honestly explain why. When I was in my thirties, she even offered to go back to Okinawa to find me a bride, like she had previously done with my uncle Frank, when he was in his forties and still a bachelor.
What! In this day and age, I need my Japanese grandma to find me an Okinawan wife? My pride was stung and I rudely said “No!” to her.
Grandma finally gave up on me when I was in my early forties. She told my worried mother that I would not marry — even if I myself didn’t know it at the time. The old woman eventually went to her grave without ever seeing me with a girlfriend. Yeah, so did mom and dad too. I guess I should have listened to grandma.
We get to the Majestic Suites Hotel on Sukhumvit, and Ying leaves her ID with the front desk clerk. As we enter my room, I feel uncertain now, already feeling like this was a mistake.
"Short time?" Ying asks me again, in a sharp and edgy voice.
"Yes, short time," I reply. I know she wants to finish quick so she can return to Pedro's bar and make more money.
If I wanted to pay a lot more, I could have had Ying stay all night, but I know that neither she nor I wants that. I'm feeling a lack of connection now. All the happy banter and joking around with Tanya the ladyboy mama-san, and the other bargirls at Pedro's Bar was over. Now it was just the two of us, alone in my room — as we really are.
Ying finishes her shower and emerges with the towel wrapped around her. She's uncertain too, not knowing what I really want from her. She finally turns on the TV and starts watching Thai programs from the bed.
I start with my ritual "body massage" that gets progressively steamier. She's lying on her stomach now, and her body feels good as I straddle her and rest comfortably on her thighs. I fondle her soft, creamy ass under the towel, and run my hands up and down her back. My bestial lust increases, as porn images and sexual fantasies start rising in my mind.
Ying is not my girlfriend. She is a doll that I’ve seen endlessly in porn videos, my fantasy come to life. I realize I do not want to be loving and intimate with her. I've always feared intimacy and getting too close to another person – pushing them away when I feel the stakes rising. Now, there is no scary intimacy with Ying. I just do whatever I want to her, and she obeys.
This is not romance. Let's just do the business. But Ying refuses to do a preliminary blowjob, so I slip on a condom, and then spread her legs. I then thrust roughly into her and she groans, her eyes squeezing tight in discomfort. As I keep thrusting violently, her face is withdrawn and hostile.
Ying does not look pretty now. In fact, as I gaze down at her grimacing face, she somehow looks to me like a street-tough chick from the grimy Kalihi slums of Honolulu.
Ying winces in pain and her eyes open in surprise as I thrust deeper and rougher, like all the porn studs I have watched. I am not the prom king, I am the Porn King!
I'm living my twisted fantasy! Ying is staring at me with puzzled hurt as I keep plunging into her, quick and hard, fueled by the Viagra I had popped earlier at Soi Cowboy.
I turn her over and straddle her doggie style as she lies flat on the bed facing downward. I pump furiously into her, finally reaching orgasm. I then slump down on top of her — and my despair begins.
Who am I fooling? I lost my innocence a long time ago, and it's too late to regain it. My mind and soul have become tainted by a lifetime of drugs and prostitutes, isolation, pornography and fantasy.
Ying is lying silently, curled on her side facing away from me, and watching the TV. I'm still inside her, feeling grateful she doesn't pull away. I tenderly stroke her thigh and upper body for a while more. I feel total despair as I look inside myself and see my heart is black.
Later, we get dressed and leave the hotel to walk back to the skytrain in silence. After a while, Ying holds my hand again, even though I wasn’t really expecting it. We part at the turnstile, and wave goodbye, knowing we won't see each other again.
The next morning I'm at the internet café on the second-floor balcony of Charlie’s Kitchen, across the street from the Nana Hotel. A young and attractive Thai woman behind a desk gives me the OK to use one of the computers against the wall. I’m about to type an e-mail to my younger brother, describing what happened.
Over the intercom, a Thai-sounding female singer with a sweet, lovely voice is singing in slightly accented English. I recognize the lyrics. It’s John Lennon's "Across the Universe."
Pools of sorrow waves of joy
are drifting through my opened mind
possessing and caressing me . . .
A sudden flash of tears fills my eyes. I quickly turn my head away toward the wall to prevent the young Thai clerk from seeing my face. The melancholy beauty of Lennon’s song then triggers a memory of something that happened the previous day.
I had been lying on the bed in my Majestic Suites hotel room in the late afternoon, killing time before going to Soi Cowboy, idly watching a movie on TV, "The Lonely Bones." It was based on the book about a young girl who is raped and murdered by a neighbor, but her spirit lingers to guide her family to her predator.
I felt a sickly growing horror as the neighbor lures her to an underground den he had built, pretending like it’s a cool place to hang out. He slowly begins acting creepy as the girl starts to feel uneasy.
A short while later, I had to turn off the TV, during a scene where the spirit of the murdered girl was frolicking and flying with a new found playmate — in heavenly meadows representing the afterlife. The scene made me recall the dream I had of mom that morning.
I had dreamed that mom was young again, almost like a girl, laughing and playing gaily in sunlit grassy fields. I had woken up crying, thinking that the last dreary years of mom’s life should have been like that for her — joyful and carefree, instead of being trapped in that dreadful nursing home after her stroke. Mom had been so vibrant and lively until age 54, when the devastating stroke struck like a thunderbolt, instantly ending her world as she knew it.
I slip on my dark glasses so the Thai clerk can’t see my eyes, listening to the female singer’s soothing voice.
Limitless undying love
which shines around me like a million suns
it calls me on and on, across the universe . . .
nothing's gonna change my world
nothing's gonna change my world
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Unnoticed, I sit and cry silently for Ying, and for mom and for me, and all the other lonely people without love across the universe.
Yet deep inside, I know that for me it’s supposed to be like this. If I continue to have uncaring sex with young Thai bargirls, nothing will change when I return to Hawaii. And only through this pain will I ever find the opening into my heart.