This story can only be found bundled with the Erotic Novella “Election Night”
After nine months laying pipe in the Saudi Arabian desert, the dusty concrete towns of northeast Thailand were paradise. Although accommodations were simple, the food was fantastic, and the local people shy but friendly. Our engineering crew was working on a dam near Khon Kaen. Irrigation and hydro-power would help enrich the farmers who eked out a living from that salty soil.
Videos and beer were the only entertainment in the little town of Maha Sarakan where we were staying. The beer was good, true, amazingly refreshing after the heat and dust, but my crewmates wanted something spicier. So on our first free weekend, after three weeks on the site, we piled into the minivan and headed south to Bangkok.
When I had arrived the previous month, the airport was all I had seen of that loose and lascivious metropolis the Thais call the City of Angels. My first real trip there was a shock after the tranquil boredom of the northeast. Chaotic traffic, constant noise, mile after mile of grimy cement blocks interrupted occasionally by skyscrapers and the graceful eaves of Buddhist temples.
One of my mates, Charlie, knew the city well. He checked us into a comfortable, ridiculously cheap hotel in the middle of the tourist district. Bewildered and dazzled, I followed him along sidewalks crammed with vendors hawking watches, T-shirts and toys, trying to avoid tripping on the broken pavement.
Beggars with shrivelled limbs extended their bowls in silent entreaty. Blond, ragged-haired tourists in shorts and sandals, slender Thai women in tight jeans and silk blouses, monks draped in saffron, policemen standing stiffly at corners, their revolvers prominently displayed: it seemed that the whole of Bangkok was here on this one street. Meanwhile, an endless line of vehicles crawled by us: tint-windowed Mercedes, sooty trucks, and rickety buses with people hanging out the doors. The air was heavy with diesel fumes, frying garlic, and jasmine. We dined at a quiet restaurant on a side lane, where the young waitress giggled every time we spoke to her. Then Charlie took me off to see what he called “the real Bangkok” – the go-go bars and sex clubs.
I can’t say that I was completely enthusiastic. Yes, I admit that I come from the Bible Belt, but it wasn’t that. I’ve been to strip clubs in the States a few times and I simply found them depressing. Everybody looking guilty as they try to have a good time. Drunks acting crude, dancers acting coy, everywhere the desperate smell of dirty money and sexual frustration.
I’ve been with hookers, too. I didn’t enjoy that much, either. It relieved my physical needs, but it left me feeling empty, sour and old.
My job makes it hard to have a real relationship, though. I never know where my next project will be, but I can bet that it won’t be in America’s heartland. So I read a lot, and seek my own five-fingered companionship. I didn’t think I needed what Bangkok had to offer.
We sauntered into the “entertainment plaza”. Three stories of indoor bars and clubs surrounded a central court, which was crowded with open-air bars and stalls selling skewers of grilled chicken, fresh fruit, and fried locusts. As we walked along the second-level balcony, bikini-clad girls tried to lure us inside their establishments.
“Come inside,” they crooned. “One beer fifty baht. No cover charge.” Briefly the woman would hold back the dark cloth draping the door, offering a tantalizing glimpse of flickering lights and bare flesh. “Take a look, no charge, come inside.”
The more energetic of these young marketeers would grab us by the hand and, laughing the whole while, try to pull us in. It was all good-natured, though. We’d extricate ourselves from her strong fingers and thank her. “Not now,” we’d say. “Maybe later.”
“Why not now?” she’d say, stamping her foot in mock anger. “Don’t you like me?”
Charlie stopped in front of a doorway surmounted by a blinking neon butterfly. “I came here last month,” he said with a grin. “The girls are hotter than average.” As if to prove his point, an exquisite creature wearing a fringed bra and a practically non-existent skirt came out to greet us.
“Welcome to Butterfly Bar. Come inside, please.” We followed her through the curtains and found ourselves in a space much deeper than it was wide, lit like some disco nightmare. Everywhere, clashing multi-colored lights flashed, vibrated, spun on the ceiling. Rock music pounded in our ears. Our guide settled us on a plush-upholstered bench that ran along one wall. In a moment, two frosted mugs of Singha beer sat invitingly before us, and we could turn our attention to the entertainment.
The bar that ran along the opposite wall was also the stage. Half a dozen women wearing next to nothing danced there, churning and writhing to the music. Every single one was drop-dead gorgeous.
One wore a bikini bottom made of chain mail, and thigh-high, spike-heeled vinyl boots. Her long hair fell over one eye, Lauren Bacall-style, as she squatted on the bar and circled her hips suggestively.
Another beauty had short, curly hair that looked bleached, and a faraway look. She cupped her perfect breasts absently as she swayed to the beat, sequins flashing from the heart-shaped patch that covered her sex.
Two other dancers were doing a playful lesbian pantomime, grinding their pelvises together and struggling not to laugh. They all seemed so young, despite their salacious behavior.
Other women, wearing brief kimonos, circulated among the patrons serving drinks, cuddling, or simply chatting. It wasn’t long before we had an entourage of three of these little imps. “You want massage?” asked one, kneading my shoulders with clever hands. “What is your name?” asked another. “My name Ao.”
“They want you to buy them drinks,” Charlie told me. “Whenever a customer buys them a drink, they get five baht.”
“Is that all they want?” I was overwhelmed by the feminine flood surging around me.
“Well, of course they want tips. And if you like one of them enough, you can pay to take her out of the bar.”
“They’re prostitutes?” I suddenly felt slightly queasy. The atmosphere was so different from a State side joint, light-hearted and innocent; I didn’t want to think about how it might be tainted.
“Well – it’s up to them. The bar pays them to dance and to push drinks. If they want to make a private arrangement, it’s their prerogative. When they decide to leave for the evening, they simply compensate the bar for lost drink income.”
“Hmm.” As I pondered this, the music changed, becoming slower and more sensual. Meanwhile, the leftmost dancer stepped down from the bar and the remaining women moved left to new positions. A figure appeared at the right end of the bar.
Something about her caught my attention. With casual elegance she shed her kimono and draped it over a bar stool. Then she turned toward the shrine in the corner near the ceiling. Touching her fingertips together, she brought them to her forehead and bowed, her reverent gesture totally at odds with the environment.