Once upon a time, a journalist and a photographer set out to whore their way across Asia. They got a New York magazine to pay for it by claiming they were going to do a story about the Khmer Rouge.
They each armed themselves with a box of condoms. The photographer, who knew such essential Thai phrases as very beautiful!, how much?, thank you, and I’m gonna knock you around! (topsa-lopsa-lei), preferred the extra strength lubricated, while the journalist selected the non-lubricated with special receptacle end. The journalist never tried the photographer’s condoms (he didn’t even use his own as much as he should have), but the photographer, who tried both, decided that the journalist had made the right decision from a standpoint of sensation; so that is the real moral of this story, and those who don’t want anything but morals need read no further.
Now that we’ve gotten good and evil out of the way, let’s spirit ourselves down to the two rakes’ room at the Hotel Metro, Bangkok, where the photographer always put on sandals before walking on the sodden blue carpet to avoid fungus. As for the journalist, he filtered the tap water (the photographer drank bottled water; they both got sick). There was a giant beetle on the dresser. The journalist asked the bellhop if beetles made good pets. Yes, he grinned. It was his answer to every question. Good thing for him he doesn’t have a pussy, said the photographer, untying his black combat boots with a sigh, putting foot powder on. The journalist stretched out on his squeaking bed, waiting for the first bedbug. The room reminded him of the snow-filled, abandoned weather station where he’d once eked out a miserable couple of weeks at the north magnetic pole; everything had a more or less normal appearance but was deadly dangerous, the danger here being not cold but disease; that was how he thought, at least, on that first sweaty, super cautious night when he still expected to use rubbers. The photographer had already bought a young lady from Soi Cowboy. In the morning she lay on the bed with parted purple-painted lips; she put her legs up restlessly.
Last night tuk-tuk fifty baht, she said.
So you want some more money for the tuk-tuk ride, is that what you’re trying to tell me? said the photographer in disgust. Man, I don’t believe it. You know, she already got a thousand baht – that’s why I had to get that five hundred from you.
The woman’s teeth shone. She slapped her thigh, yawned, walked around staring with bright black eyes.
Where do you come from, sweetheart? Asked the journalist, flossing his teeth.
We go Kambuja, said the journalist. You come Kambuja?
She grimaced in terror. Bang, bang! she whispered.
The journalist kept thinking of the hurt look in the Cambodian girl’s eyes. What to do? Nothing to do.
There was a bar aching with loud American music, pulsing with phosphorescent bathing suits. He picked number fourteen in blue and asked her to come with him but she thought he wanted her to dance, so she got up laughing with the other girls and turned herself lazily, awkwardly, very sweetly; she was a little plump.
You come with me? he said when he’d tipped her.
She shook her head. I have accident, she said, pointing to her crotch.
She sat with him, nursing the drink he’d bought her; she snuggled against him very attentively, holding his hand. Whenever he looked into her face, she ducked and giggled.
You choose friend for me? he said. Anyone you want.
When you go Kambuja?
She hesitated but finally called over another lady. This my friend Oy. My name Toy.
You come to hotel with me? he said to Oy.
She looked him up and down. You want all night or short time?
No all-night me. Only short time.
In the back of the taxi he whispered in her ear that he was shy, and she snuggled against him just as Toy had. She smelled like shampoo. She was very hot and gentle against him. Knowing already that if he ever glimpsed her soul it would be in just the same way that in the National Museum one can view the gold treasures only through a thick-barred cabinet, he tried to kiss her, and she turned away.
She smiled, embarrassed, and turned away.
She shook her head quickly.
He reached over her to turn out the light, and she cuddled him. He rubbed her small breasts and she moaned. He kissed her belly and eased his hand in between her legs. She’d shaved her pubic hair into a narrow Mohawk, probably so that she could dance in the bathing suit. He stuck his mouth into her like the midget in the show had, wondering if she’d push him away, but she let him.
When push came to shove, he didn’t use a condom. She felt like a virgin. When he was only halfway in she got very tight and he could see that she was in pain. He did it as slowly and considerately as he could, trying not to put it in too far. Soon he was going faster and the pleasure was better and better; she was so sweet and clean and young. He stroked her hair and said: Thank you very much.
Thank you, she said dully.
He got up and put on his underwear. Then he turned on the light and brought her some toilet paper.
She was squatting on the floor in pain.
Look, she said.
Blood was coming out of her.
I’m sorry, he said. I’m really sorry.
No problem, she smiled.