A Room of One’s Own
I was married once, and divorced once, and in between those two events my marriage was saved for a year by a woman who worked on her knees sucking cocks.
Around the birth of our second child, my ex-wife and I did not speak to each other for ten months. We did not speak, we did not hold hands, we did not make eye contact. We slept in the same bed, but with one, then two, infant children sleeping between us. When we needed to communicate we did so through the maid.
“Tell the Mistress I will be home late from work tonight.”
“The Master says he will be home late from work tonight.”
“Tell the Master I don’t care when he comes home.”
“The Mistress says…”
“Thank you. See you later.”
I was the public relations manager for The Boathouse, a chic resort on Kata Beach. Since my employer was a great-grandson of a king, I had to be very discreet about my behavior. Commercial sex was everywhere; leaving my house I passed three places that sold sex before I passed any place that sold milk, bread, or butter. The beaches of our island were lined with street after street of bars, brothels and massage parlors, but if any of my friends from the Lion’s Club or Rotary ever saw me entering or exiting one of these public places, which were meant for tourists who didn’t need to guard their reputations, I would have been branded farang kee gai, a chicken shit foreigner. Such a label would have ended my career opportunities in the Kingdom immediately. After being branded thus I could have found work in a business owned by another foreigner, perhaps as the manager of a bar, restaurant, or sport diving shop, but I would have never again worked in any enterprise owned by a local, never again held any position that would support me and my wife and our children in the manner to which we’d become accustomed.
It was the only time in my life I ever owned a brand-new car. I had come to depend on the live-in maid, the modern air-conditioned home with European-style bathroom fixtures, the Australian steaks and French wine. I had lived poor in the Kingdom for years, eating sticky rice and chicken from a plastic bag and sleeping on a mat with mosquitoes whining around the net. I did not want to go back to sleeping on the floor; I did not ever again want to sleep under a net. So I stayed away from the pleasure domes, I applied myself to work and Buddhist meditation and cold showers.
My friends noticed my declining health, my distracted nature and my grinding teeth. One of them, a Sikh I knew through the Lion’s Club, introduced me to the Siam Hotel, where I met Gop. She was on her knees with my penis in her mouth when I asked her for her name. She was surprised I’d asked, and without stopping what she was doing she answered: “Gaaaaooooooouubbbb.”
The Siam Hotel sat half-way down Montri Road, between the Post Office and the Telephone Service, across the street from the Water and Electric Company. There was no home mail delivery on the island at that time, so almost everybody had a post office box. I went downtown to collect the mail at least once a week, and as soon as I discovered the Siam Hotel I made it part of the regular weekly mail run. After I met Gop it became necessary to collect the mail more often.
The Siam Hotel was four stories tall. The first storey was one large room taken up with some rickety wooden tables and a long teak bar. A couple of young Thai men took turns playing bartender behind the bar and a troop of elderly Chinese men played mah-jong all day and all night at the small wooden tables. The façade of the building was a turn-of-the-century Sino-Portuguese gingerbread house that was falling apart at the seams, rococo wrought iron railings at the windows and gracefully pitched Thai-style eaves that never seemed to agree on exactly what was plumb or level.
On dry days the plaster was shaken down off the walls onto the sidewalk by the vibrations of passing ore trucks; on wet days torrents of rain jetted from the eaves in solid columns of water that pounded the broken paving stones and forced pedestrians to cross the street. This did not affect business at the Siam Hotel, since none of the men who got their dicks sucked upstairs entered the Hotel from the street.
There was a canal full of muddy water that ran behind the building on its South side, and between this canal and the building there was a narrow foot path. For those of us who could not be seen entering such a place, this foot path, which began in a public car park a block away, brought us to a small door in the back of the mah-jong room. Inside, opposite the long teak bar, was a broad staircase made of limestone that went up to the first floor, making a graceful 180-degree turn on the way. Its treads were concave in their middles from a century of men’s shoes going up and down, up and down, up and down.
Up that staircase were three more floors. Each floor had a broad landing in the old style, and off each landing ten rooms. The doors to the rooms would be open and outside the open doors sat women, each on a chair, and one to a room. These were their rooms, where they lived, and the rooms were decorated with stuffed animals and movie star posters.
The rooms were big and airy, with ceiling fans that sometimes worked to move the air around, and enormous windows with low sills opposite broad teak doors capped by transoms. The walls between the rooms and the landings were pierced along their upper foot or so by intricately scrolled teak wood panels, again to allow air movement. From the landings you could hear anything that went on in the rooms, but even so you didn’t hear the moans and screams you would normally hear in a brothel, because at the Siam Hotel only the men had their mouths free to make sound.
At most, touring the landings, making risqué chit-chat with the women as you did your shopping, you’d hear a grunt or two coming across a transom or through the grills. Maybe you heard a long, low moan of masculine pleasure, closely followed by the noise of a woman spitting, brushing her teeth with hard, rapid strokes, and gargling with Listerine. Normally the man left the room before the woman was done cleansing her mouth, and you almost never heard anybody say “Goodbye.”
It was that kind of place.
I had paid three or four of the women of the Siam Hotel the required one hundred baht, about four US dollars at the time, to kneel in front of me before the afternoon I made my way for the first time, air-mail letters from my mother and credit card offers in hand, up to the top floor. The landing looked the same as the other two landings; the pale stucco walls appeared similar, the doors were broad and thick and made of teak, as they were on the lower floors, their transoms just as cobweb-festooned.
The women who sat on their chairs in front of their doors appeared exactly as had the women on the lower floors: Mid-twenties to mid-thirties, a few maybe older, plain clothes, only the obese girl in the corner wearing a shocking red nylon negligee. I did a slow, lazy circle of the landing, smiling and joking with the women. They were used to men coming to the Siam Hotel in their work clothes, which due to their proximity to the seat of provincial government usually meant the dark green or blue “safari suit” of the karachakan, the career bureaucrat.
I worked at The Boathouse, so my uniform was white slacks and a luau shirt of a particularly gaudy tropical pattern, pineapples and parrots and palm trees. My wardrobe always got a big reaction. Halfway around the third floor landing I saw Gop. She looked like all the others, but different. She was not beautiful, but she was pretty. She had a wide mouth and a pug nose and slanted eyes and printed on the page that means nothing. But in person she was arresting. I could not stop looking at her. She had a trim, shapely figure, and I couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t working in some more upscale place.
She said nothing out of the ordinary, probably flirted with some remark about my loud shirt. I smiled, she smiled, without a word she got up and went into her room and I followed. After our initial meeting I stayed in the room until she had finished brushing her teeth. I placed my hundred baht on the night stand and lingered. She looked at me curiously, I remember that. I didn’t know what I was waiting for; I still don’t.
Eventually I left, but I came downtown for my mail the very next day. And the day after that. Each time I stayed a little longer, sitting on the bed, smoking a cigarette, talking. Gop was wonderful to talk to. She listened when I wanted an audience, she spoke when I wanted noise, she shut up when I wanted silence.
On the third or fourth visit, an hour after she took my slimy penis out of her mouth and brushed her teeth, I asked her if we could have actual sex, and she said, “No.” I asked why not and she replied, “If you see me naked, you’ll never come back.” Well. What would you do? I came back and pressed her and pressed her to have regular sex with me. I offered more money, but she said “You don’t ever have to give me more than a hundred baht.”
I began to bring presents, usually a quart of beer and some chips. She loved beer, and she loved anything salty. The monsoon season set in and I began to linger in her room for an hour or two at a time. The windows in the Siam Hotel were broad and tall, and bracketed with ancient louvered wooden shutters; we would sit at the window and drink beer, smoke cigarettes, listen to the radio and watch the traffic down on Montri road. We never took off our clothes. We’d laugh at the pedestrians who would get caught under the torrents from the Hotel’s eaves. We would chat. We would sit quietly and say nothing.
And finally, one dim, drab, rainy afternoon, she got up, put her back to me, stripped, got under her blanket and stared at the ceiling. I went over and sat on the bed. I pulled the blanket away. I had always admired Gop’s figure, what of it I could see in the baggy shirts and blue jeans she always wore. She was about thirty and like many Asian women she’d kept her figure as she aged. I knew Gop was the mother of three children but had never seen evidence of it until I saw her naked, silent and still under the blanket in the Siam Hotel.
Her body was marked by horrific stretch marks from pubis to sternum. Her little belly looked like a soft, brown prune. Her beautiful breasts had evidently grown some lumps or cysts which had been removed by an unskilled surgeon; they were still shapely and firm but their smooth skin was pocked with divots like a bad golfer leaves on the fairway.
I stared at her. Gop kept her eyes on the ceiling and didn’t say a word. I managed to show her that her stretch marks didn’t matter to me. I managed quite emphatically, in fact, and she was pleased. She was genuinely, honestly, gratefully pleased.
From that day forward I committed myself to showing Gop how much she excited me, and she committed herself to rewarding my excitement. It’s a heady, intoxicating thing for a man to have a woman who says, with a smile and a sigh, “Take me any way you want, do anything you want to do to me, anything at all if it makes you happy.”
In Gop’s room I forgot about my wife, I forgot about my job, I forgot about first one then both of my children. Some days I forgot my mail on Gop’s nightstand, and she would thoughtfully hide it in a drawer so no other men would see my name and address there in that room. I began to make excuses to go downtown, since nobody needs to check their mail every single day. In my office at The Boathouse I would sit and fantasize about Gop, dreaming up scenarios of what we would do to each other.
As many days as I could manage it I would come up those stairs and onto the third floor sweaty, exhausted, and angry at the world. Gop would see me, her face would light up and she’d jump up from her chair and rush to me. She’d look up at me with a look I never got at home. The other women would glare at her with envy and make outrageous offers to me; she’d jealously usher me away from them and into her room.
Then, for as long as I wanted, anything I wanted I had.
I scoured the island for props, for dildos and vibrators, for lube and plugs, for handcuffs and blindfold. These proved easier to find than I might have imagined. I would spend hours in Gop’s room, and never take my hands off her. She would never allow me to pay her more than a hundred baht, but I bought school uniforms for her kids, a floor fan, some nice outfits and a gold bracelet. She never wore the bracelet because she said that one of her other customers would probably steal it. There is no way a woman of the Siam Hotel could successfully accuse a file clerk from the Gas and Water Authority of theft. She kept the bracelet in a little box in a drawer, and she said it was enough to be able to take it out and look at it.
I purchased a VCR and a stack of Japanese pornography for Gop’s room, and she swore she didn’t look at the tapes with anybody but me. I believed her. I knew she never got naked with anybody but me. She never asked, but for the time I was seeing Gop I didn’t have sex with any other woman. I never felt the need.
I spent as much time as I could with Gop in her room at the Siam Hotel. She knew my work schedule, knew when I would likely show up, and she made sure she never had another guest at those times. The Siam Hotel was open 24 hours a day, and except for shopping for food I don’t think Gop ever left the building, so I really did not cut into her work that much.
When I arrived I would make her strip. I would tell her to stand against the wall and let me look at her. It was agony for her at first; she had not let anybody see her undressed in years. I had to pin her arms to the wall over her head so she could not cover herself. Her shyness was intensely erotic to me, as was the knowledge that this was something that none of the tens or hundreds of other men who walked through that door ever got from her.
She slowly lost her fear that I would leave as soon as I saw her ruined abdomen. I would make her remain naked as long as I was in the room, and usually, after a few minutes, my clothes were hung on a peg too. After months of trying she could be comfortable in the missionary position, but she still tended to keep her hands on my head and hold my face to hers. She didn’t like it when I looked down. Taken from behind she was wild; her backside was still the way God made it and she loved to show off that way. She knew she was beautiful when she stuck her bottom up in the air, and it was the only position in which she could experience a climax.
Everybody bears some burden of self loathing, and for some that burden is so heavy they will only allow themselves joy if it’s connected to an act of penance. Gop was loud when she came, and the swats and the screaming would get a happy round of “Chaiyo!” from the ladies on the landing. A woman having an orgasm at the hands of a man was a rare thing at the Siam Hotel, and deserved to be celebrated.
Gop’s room became my favorite place in the world. For almost a year I went as often as I could from my office to the Siam Hotel and then home, and it was only by going first to the Siam Hotel that I was able to go home at all. The atmosphere in our home was so fraught with tension that first one and then a dozen maids threw up their hands and ran away. The dog ran away. My infant daughter cried constantly, my toddler son had night terrors. My job became a chore. It was a wonderful job, not really work at all, but it became a chore because I was so angry and tense and sad all the time.
I was so angry and tense and sad that one day, without any warning at all, I entered into an ugly, vicious argument with The Boathouse’s effete French general manager about, of all things, the appearance of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes on a dining table in a publicity photograph. They were his damned cigarettes. We shouted at each other until I knocked over a potted fern and stomped out of his office. In my own office I wrote a brief letter of resignation, mailed it to the royal owner of the resort, packed up my things and left.
The entire event, from first words to my exit, cardboard boxes in hand, took no more than half an hour. It ended three years of employment at the resort and my public relations career.
When I told my ex-wife she said, “Well, we might as well go try America, then.” The next four days were spent packing or selling everything we owned. During those days my wife and I discovered again what it was like to speak to each other. It was a big job, packing up almost a decade in Southeast Asia, a wife I hated, two kids I loved, and moving them across half the planet. Just getting Mem a visa required a trip to Bangkok and back. I was busy and distracted. It was not until a quiet moment, during the 18-hour flight back to America, that I realized I had never thought to go downtown to the Siam Hotel and say goodbye to Gop.
I just disappeared out of her life, permanently, without explanation, without apology.
Of course, no letter from a foreigner addressed to a woman in care of a place like the Siam Hotel will ever make it there. Along the way there are just too many people who will assume there is money in the envelope. But I’ve thought of Gop a lot in the twenty years that have passed since we last sat at the big window together, she naked, me with a towel around my hips, drinking warm beer through straws and watching the traffic go by. I thought of her more often as my marriage was decomposing and tearing itself apart. I still think of her, usually when it’s raining, when some car horn sounds in the street outside my house and reminds me of the traffic on Montri Road. Gop saved my marriage, not forever, but for a year.
She saved it long enough that my wife and I were still together when I got fired from The Boathouse, or quit, or whatever happened. Gop saved our marriage so we could bring our kids to America and they could grow up American, if that’s important. She saved our marriage long enough that everything that’s happened in the years since could happen. Gop was responsible for it all. And I left her there, in that room at the Siam Hotel. I left her there on her knees sucking the anger and lust out of men who would be repulsed by her scars.
She deserved better. I owed her more than that. I still do.
The author can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org