A Clever Tom Cat Meets A Cleverer Kitten
I will never forget the first time I saw her. ”BOOM”. that’s gonna hurt, I thought. This is bad.
After a few years visiting Thailand I considered myself street-smart. Not the full Thai boy about town on a motorbike street-smart, but savvy enough for a tourist. I’d gone from being fresh meat in every bar I entered to being the cynical people-watcher sat at the end of the bar making bets on which shipwrecked sailor would hook up with which siren.
People-watching is one of the reasons I love Sukhumvit nights out. There are better places in Bangkok to eat. There are cheaper places to drink. But the mix of hookers, boozers, tourists fresh off the baht recycling conveyor and assorted basket cases from the four corners of the earth lend it a magnetic ability to lure you out again and again. I could never explain to myself how I’d miss a few hours gossiping with a mama-san about people we both knew next to nothing about. Many regulars in a bar have a persona. Back in the USA or New Zealand they are plain Bob. In Sukhumvit they are “Rob millions” or Rob the pool hustler in Gucci or Robert the Banker or Rolex Rob, for a couple of weeks most people can leave their mundane lives back home and be anybody. Or somebody. Expats seem to love the rumour of a guy who comes in everyday and is worth “millions”. Usually Just one look at his shoes would suggest to me he should spend some of that stash on his feet. People-watching is fun. People are fun.
It’s the same with the girls. In any beer bar or pool hall. Any regulars in a bar buzz with excitement as the new girl tries to make an impression. The realigning of the rest as somebody rises up the ladder and someone else falls out of bed is a time worn tradition. The girls who have been there for years and seen their ambition fade with the promises of several western boyfriends seem re-energized for a few nights when a new girl arrives. The motley crews in gogo bars are a mixture of naïve youngsters, hard bitten old regulars, vacant-eyed girls with some guys name tattooed on them and smart career hookers saving for retirement from day one. The usual story goes like this. “I met a handsome guy, got pregnant, we had to marry, then another child, then he leave me for young girl. now I have to pay for mom’s medicine, brothers finance on pickup truck, Dad gambles on lottery every day sisters sewing business is quiet and ” …the same story unwinds with just how unfair life is. Which it is. There are variations of this story, but I think I summed it up in a sentence. Sympathetic and generous as I am, it’s their story and my holiday. I excuse myself as the bar shuts and weave home to my room. You can’t save the world but you can be kind while you’re having a good time.
We mainly meet 6 AM at the Kiwi bar on Soi 8 and move out from there. Much as I still like a night dancing at a club my regular rounds on a relaxing weekday in a chill out holiday included a well-known venue on Sukhumvit Road that was a bit laid back and also had music at a level you could talk without shouting. I generally went there with a bunch of assorted expats and whichever of my mates were in Bangkok at the time, a busy venue I didn’t really have time for the bar staff, I had my usual beer girls and where tips were involved they didn’t like to share me. This particular night was new year’s eve, my plans had fell through and I was on my own and opted for the empty perch at the bar. I looked over for service. BOOM. As soon as we spotted each other I had an inkling I was screwed.
You get used to being able to buy a drink for nearly every girl that has a heart beat in Pattaya and even more for those that don’t. Some are a pricey, some are hard work, some are a work in progress over many nights, but you’re on a level playing field with younger guys. In fact a septuagenarian with a bank balance trumps a backpacker with a pretty face and no baht. But you know what you’re doing and why they’re doing it too. That’s not the case back in the west where most people date in their age group. This cat was in his late 40’s and the kitten in this story was in her late 20’s. This kitten was hotter than the inside of an oven after a Thermonuclear explosion. Her American English was almost perfect. Slow, deliberate and sexy. She meant what she said and didn’t waste words on flattering. Her cheekbones were the stuff of an artist’s muse. Our feline fancy was top cat in this bar, as it turned out later she was top cat in nearly everywhere we visited. The other girls called her madam and she certainly behaved very hi-so for a girl who grew up in a village with three families. But as I said earlier; out there in the wilds of Bangkok a lot of people reinvent themselves. If I failed to meet the grade that night then at least she made a good mojito.
I never believed in love at first sight. Lust, yes. But actually connecting with another person sat at a bar while they were working. I mean that’s ludicrous, even a hopeless romantic would caution against what happened that night. And in Bangkok! With a tattooed bar tender they might certify you if you even proposed the idea. Just to make this more ridiculous, she was the feminine half of a couple where there was no chance of pregnancy. Having successfully avoided the minefield of Thai-western relationships, I made the choice in minutes to tap dance around the mines with my eyes closed and a previously cynical nature on a silver platter held out in front of me. Just to make sure it got the brunt of the blasts. ”BOOM”.
I won’t describe the lady to you except in a city where there are a lot of pretty girls, she was outstanding. I don’t go for tattoos and she was covered in them, albeit expensive ones not your usual cheap back street stuff. I don’t go for blondes, but she had platinum peroxide hair that was very unusual for 2014. We just connected straight away. As the night wore on we got more and more flirty. Eventually she invited me to stay for the staff party after work. Any plan of escape I had went down with the mojitos. I was getting a lot of wary looks from the other girls and could tell there was an undercurrent but at the time id no idea how complicated. After the party and the present giving we went to a live music venue, Bangkok Beat, on Soi 7/1. She seemed to know a lot of the girls in there and was clearly good friends with the band. It later turned out she had been in bands herself. I’d class most of her friends in that bar as higher class freelancers. The Singapore circuit types. She ordered two bottles of Sang Song to the table and plenty of diet cokes. This is a common practice on a night out that’s a date and not PTP. I’ve found as a rule it makes a cheaper night than rounds. The idea is to watch your face when she orders and if you complain about the size of the bill or the unknown free loaders you’re a cheap Charlie and not worth her time. I looked like I didn’t give a fuck and passed the first test. The second was scrutiny from her friends, does he have good teeth, are his nails tidy, is his Rolex real, does he make them laugh. I guess I made the grade. Except at pool where she beat me 7 : 0. But watching her bend over the pool table in 6-inch heels really sweetened the pain. Thailand -7. UK -0.
By the first rays of dawn at slinging out time I was as drunk as a skunk but my new found interest had me keeping my back as straight as a grenadier guard. The toilet attendant had sprayed me with enough complimentary aftershave to create a hole in the ozone layer in Bangkok’s hole in the ozone layer!
I threw the dice and got two sixes.
Possibly two ones but I was seeing in sixes.
“Can I come back to your room?”, she purred.
“If you don’t I will have to carry you there”, I growled.
Her friends were seriously trying to get her into a taxi. But she had also thrown two sixes and the two cats slunk off up soi 8 together leaving the rest of Sukhumvit to clean up the aftermath. BOOM.
There’s cheap underwear and there’s the type you buy in Siam Paragon for about an average Thai’s monthly income. I was soon running around the room with the second type in my tomcats fangs. We just sort of fell in love in about three days. She bunked off work and we never left the hotel, I’d only got 72 hours left after New Year and we made the most of it. She took me to the airport in a taxi and cried. I mean “3 days”. Were we nuts? I downloaded Line onto my phone and we spend hours every night after she finished work just talking, I spend a couple of years ignoring my friends so I didn’t miss her calls. Every holiday I counted the days til I could get a Thai Airways flight to her. Not Bangkok. Not Thailand. But to her. Guess that’s love. Be a cynic but if it’s not love then please tell me what it is?! When she didn’t call every day I just knew she had fallen off a motorbike taxi or really met the real love of her life. I just knew it. I’d check my phone like a teenager.
Aaaahh. The real love of her life….and where did that expensive underwear come from.
She was straight with me from day one. She had a lover who took care of her. And I mean really took care of her. Condo in Asoke, 50,000 baht spending money a month or ‘salary’ as she called it. Built her a house back in her village, health insurance and other perks. Such as accompanying her around Asia in the capacity of “personal assistant’. Because she was so well travelled; Bali, Japan, Singapore, Nepal, India, Malaysia we had much more in common than some of the girls who hadn’t seen the world. She ‘got’ the difference between Thailand and a different mind-set. It wasn’t a one-way street. Whilst very Thai she didn’t think all else was sub-standard. After a couple of years with her lover she went back to being a bartendee, idleness although seemingly a great alternative to the hours some Thai bargirls work had been boring. So many of the girls who work in bars and pubs have a camaraderie that they never got early in their lives. They look out for each other and form bonds that last their whole lives. Although her sponsor didn’t like it at first, I think the idea of being a dog in a guilded cage was something no amount of money could keep this bad girl on bland course. Boring, boring, boring she would say. Her lover always wanted to go to high end restaurants and functions, requiring her to wear dresses and high heels and carrying a designer bag, a bit like a mistress hiding in plain sight. No-one suspected anything. When I came along I was her bit of fun. I never gave her money per say, but I often sneaked back to the family village on low key visits and during those trips I was of course required to pay for all costs inc her families weekly, monthly or by the look of it; yearly grocery shop. Given her gik status, I was in fact now the mistress of a mistress. From cool cat to cloak and dagger.
My chilled holidays had become a job as a sex toy on call. All this within six months. They say don’t diddle in another man’s garden or in this case another woman’s garden but somehow the whole sneaking around and nobody except her bar gang knowing what was happening was a thrill. Except of course everybody did know. A couple of times while I was waiting her lover came into the bar for a cocktail. She never announced when she would be back in Bangkok, always trying to surprise her belle just in case she was up to no good. We never knew when she would come to the condo because her husband had left town for a few days or weeks. He was very high up in a Western embassy nearby and often called back to his country for briefings and updates. It went on like this for two or three years, the odd menage trois that was based on love. I loved her. She loved me and she loved her girlfriend. I had my chance. She asked me if I wanted to take her on, marry her and make an honest woman out of her. Is love the same as lust, does washing the dishes every night give you the same thrill as dancing in a club till daybreak. But I knew her past, drugs, Phuket, dragging herself up from nothing to having her own house and land. It wasn’t a pretty past and even if you think these things don’t matter. They end up mattering. I’ve seen it before enough times. The financial package she was on was a little out of my league too, she knew that. I was the private stick, the way she could get back at her woman for still sleeping with her husband. I mean…fair’s fair right?
Eventually the president left office and so the posting for my girl’s sponsor was ended. It was goodbye to the good times. I’m sure she got a nice parachute payment but her security net had disappeared. The family of course was still clamouring for the trappings they were used too. She asked me if I was ready to take her on again, she even reduced my costings. I’m sure she knew that I didn’t have my heart in an Anglo-Thai long term commitment. I just wanted us to carry on as we were. But she was getting older and her time as top dog was running out. If she was to get a husband or another sponsor she needed to forget love and be hard headed. She didn’t need to play me. I kept the rent payments going on her condo for a few months while she decided that she needed to move on. I paid for any items she needed. She was smart enough to know she didn’t have to wait for a change of heart. I was dumb enough to think I could keep her on a leash for holidays. Her calls got shorter and less often. Her crowd of Singapore vice girls came back on the scene. I suppose you can look back and say you wish you could have done something different. Maybe we’d still be together now. She was possibly the hottest night of my life and the best days in Asia too. There were the times we visited a remote temple so she could pray and I ate fruit, fed the fish and read in the shade. We hired mopeds and toured the old areas of Bangkok outside the city, she explained to me how to order real Thai food and what not to eat in a jungle. I learned a lot about respect for a culture that can sometimes seem exclusive. I have 100’s of great photos of us laughing, smiling, drunk, in bed and just sitting in bar making each other laugh.
And BOOM just like that she was gone.
I think on balance I’m a smarter cat now. But I don’t know if I’m a happier one.
There’s no morals in this story. It’s just a story to show not all relationships follow the familiar pattern. We’re all just humans, Thai, Western, whatever. I bought a ticket on that train, knowing full well the driver was drunk and reckless. I suppose I’ll visit the ticket office again, seems like dying with your boots on beats the alternative.