It is said in the practice of voodoo that the shadow represents the soul. It follows an individual everywhere, even when he or she can not see it. In paying women to bed them I think I may have sold part of my soul, and to return it back I need to redeem myself by re-seeking out those women to know that they are alright. Like an alcoholic in the AA program who calls up old ties to apologize for past transgressions.
Two weeks past I chased a shadow through the seedy underbelly of Bangkok. This shadow, as I remember, was not much to look at relative to many of the tight young bodies that gyrate with minimal enthusiasm on the stages at Nana gogos on any given night. But she had expert conversational skills and a social grace that imprinted itself on me 2 years previous.
The more I thought about the shadow, and the more I looked for her, the more she eluded me. Later, I sat at my laptop in my apartment, exhausted and head aswim with obsession. Four hours I spent in transit to the same soapy parlor where I met her, avoiding taxis in favor of Google Maps, the MRT, BTS, and my feet, so I can learn to route myself through massive and labyrinthine city better. I first went to the parlor in 2012 and I was sober. Yet the whole experience still seems a blur in my memories, which added to the surreality of the whole search.
I assembled pieces of the puzzle by scouring the internet prior to my trip, for I could not even remember the name of the establishment where I might find the shadow again. Web searches came up with some leads, and so I planned. Indeed I laugh at myself now but part of my motivation for returning to Thailand at all was to find her again. I had additional reasons, but all with the shadow in the back of my mind.
Like a private detective, Bangkok serves as my giant, seedy noir venue to traipse about with a vivid self-assigned mission at hand, in the vein of detective clichés, as if I were flashing a photo to someone and asking ‘Have you seen this woman?’ Twice now I have been in to same spa in the past week. Last time I took a taxi around, going into 5 different places before settling on the one likely candidate. I found a driver who spoke good English, another cliché. It all seems so familiar, except that I didn’t say ‘keep the meter running’ when I ventured inside.
As for the staff, each time I approached them with the same line, “I’m looking for a woman with short hair and glasses.”
I settled on the place off Phetchaburi as the most likely match to my recollections. It had all the features. Stairs out front that led up to the front door, a cashier desk to the right, the sideline to the left.
And to there I returned on that second time, by foot and train. I could almost see their thoughts as bubbles that hovered above their heads. What’s with this cheap farang, all these girls here and he just wants one he had 2 years ago? I scanned at the fishbowl, and could not see her. On my way out I realized that I would overstay my welcome if I kept on like this. This time the hawkers at the front seemed put off when I declined to go upstairs. I knew that should I continue as such I would acquire a reputation. The guardians at the gate would start to deny me the privilege to look at the goods that sat there across the chasm if I never forked over the baht to touch.
I’ve had my fill of fishbowls and gogos. The objects that smile or dance in front of me, that rift between us. Give me the conversation any day, the hustlers at beer bars or the coyotes who work in front of gogos to reel in traffic. They have a keen intellect about them. Often older but still comely, they possess a sense of nuance that goes well beyond the entitled and clinical ‘you pay to fxxx me?’ I fall for conversation, my heart gets involved.
Then, I managed to happen upon distraction from the shadow. Thanks to jet lag I found myself walking to 7-11 at 5 AM. And there hiking her leg off a bike taxi was a real looker, and right in the age bracket I tend to gravitate towards, between 30 and 40.
“Where are you going?” I asked, on autopilot.
“Home. Want to have some fun?” she replied.
She must have liked me.
I can recognize an ice user almost easier than I can recognize a ladyboy. Back in the States I used to get high, many years past. This third liaison and I had porn star sex up there in her apartment, sustained, acrobatic and intense. Talk was minimal, as she was as high as a kite. I had fun, of course, but it left me with a sense of emptiness. The ice would have its way with her, eventually. It always does, worse than any other drug. And while our bodies had this connection, this passion, our minds had none. Hers was in a daze, a ya-ba stupor.
“You want some?” she asked me, in between sessions.
“No,” I said, trying to talk some sense into her, “That stuff will make you ugly, it will make you old.”
I texted her the next day and she got back to me. She wanted to meet right then and there, but I was unable. Now she doesn’t reply, and I almost forget the shadow. I envision this new subject of my thoughts in a 2-day amphetamine coma, collapsed into slumber out of exhaustion. Or with one of a number of other boyfriends.
I have found a good girl, met her online and we have dated for almost 2 weeks. She works 3 jobs and I believe she has never accepted money for sex. She dotes over me and just today delivered me medicine on her bike because I have been ill. I don’t know if I have the capability for monogamy, but that doesn’t mean I am incapable of love. I realize this now, and forgive myself.
This good girl has me on a short electronic leash, messaging me hundreds of times a day. She has a different perception of time, as women do, and as poor people do. At 29 she feels like the clock is ticking down to find a suitable spouse. Me? I just got to Thailand and I should not rush. Plus, I can’t give up. I must see her again. Her tragic story moves me, that of the working girl. I know that even if there is no way to rescue her, I can still love her.