(two short stories)
Last night I was taking a walk to clear my head. I needed to get some air, and walking has always been therapeutic for me. I’m thankful my feet know what to do when I can’t seem to make sense of much else. Autopilot isn’t always so bad.
I’m walking in a fairly well-lit area. There are bars, restaurants and mini-shops every few feet. I stay on the opposite side, where there’s still some light from across the street, but fewer businesses. It’s the beachside, but I’m not walking on the beach yet.
I have my headphones in my ears, but I couldn’t make up my mind what I felt in the mood to listen to, so instead, I’m just hearing the rhythmic thumping of my heartbeat and the cord to the headphones bouncing off my breasts. It works.
Motorbikes have been passing by, with me seemingly invisible. Most holding two people, some whole families – baby, father, child, mother. It amazes me how they utilize these motorbikes for their entire livelihood. I’m not good at riding with a passenger yet.
I’m just walking. Counting my breath. It’s the best way for me to zone out and not think. Sometimes I get frustrated that my mind is always on; there’s no off switch. I wanted an off-switch tonight, but I’ll just have to settle for my ten-count walking meditation. One-inhale, two-exhale, three-inhale, four-exhale… until I reach ten, then I start all over. No thoughts can enter when I’m doing my breath-walking exercise. I only see a clear blue sky and focus my attention on matching the numbers with my breath.
It’s a quiet night. But, it’s always quiet around here. Tourism is low for one, and these people don’t seem to believe in late-night anything. It’s only about 8ish, but in comparison that’s like 1 a.m. to them.
So the only sounds I hear are my heartbeat coming through the headphones, the echo of the cord tapping against my chest, and the occasional speedy whir from passing motorbikes and empty taxis.
Suddenly, I feel the presence of energy. I keep my pace, but my senses are aware I’m not alone. I tilt my head to the left, as if trying to pick up on any sounds. I don’t feel alarmed enough to turn my body completely. I hear a motor within feet of me.
I turn my head and see an average-sized Vietnamese man on a motorbike with no headlights on. He’s moving slowly. I’m not concerned.
I do a quick scan of the situation. He’s alone, on his motorbike, creeping slowly toward the sidewalk I’m walking on while I mind my lonely business. I make eye contact with him. He smiles with a smirk, not a welcoming smile but one that looks devious and ingenuine. I follow his arm down to where I see his hand moving.
He’s holding his penis in his hand, or what I assumed should be a penis. A jolt went through me. Then, calm. At first, I was shocked, “The fuck?!” I wanted to say.
I stopped walking and turned my body toward him. I squinted my eyes, the way you do when you’re trying to find where the splinter is in your finger – mental frustration beckoning, “I know it’s there somewhere; I can feel it.”
“Let me see,” I say to him, crinkling up my nose and lifting my neck so I can give Mr. Handheld my full attention.
He appeared to be put off by my lack of disgust, and shocked by my curiosity. Well, if you’re gonna show it, show it honey. I haven’t had no action in months.
I took a good look at the worthless piece of shell-shock. I was disappointed. There was no curve, no girth, and my clit probably has more length when she’s fully aroused. I let out a big laugh.
His smile disappeared. He raised his middle finger to me, “Fuck you!” to which I replied, “Nah. Sorry. Not with that.” Oddly enough, I might could feel something with his middle finger. Looks like it was the longest. Not with that dick he tried to whip out… well, he couldn’t whip it. He’d have to carefully extract it, through the zipper, and try to stretch it a little, then it might hang out on the buttons. It might.
I wondered if he knew about all the awesome technological advancements the sex industry has made with his problem. I wondered if he’d heard about those penis pumps that can make your dick grow magically in minutes. I wondered if he was proud of being au naturale — that “it’s all real, it’s all mine” type. I might be inclined to show him, if he wasn’t so rude about displaying his little problem in the first place.
The driver sped off. I shrugged.
And started over with my counting. One-inhale… two-exhale… three-inhale…
This story is not true.
It’s a fictitious reenactment of an actual experience. Dear friend, I’m so sorry that happened to you. Shame on him.
A friend and I stepped out to explore a new wine spot. The night was breezy and the air was light. After a nice bottle and some good conversation, we were ready to continue the festivities.
We strolled through the streets, heading in the direction of the noise. We wanted to see what the nightlife might offer on this side of the moat.
We passed a few “massage parlors”, offering smiles and sweet hands. We declined the services, returning a smile and kept strolling. We stopped near a jewelry shop and eyed some trinkets that would be “perfect souvenirs” for her family. For a moment, I felt an odd sense of guilt. “I never think about souvenirs for anyone; I never send anything home,” I thought to myself. I admire people who think of their loved ones so frequently. I occasionally wonder why I don’t share that same obligation. I let the thought pass, and gave her my shopping support as a good friend should do.
A few more strolls later we find ourselves on a “happening” street, lined with bars pumping techno, their closest rendition to pop, and neon lights welcoming good drinks and more smiles.
My friend and I exchange looks, “Ok,” we both say. Why not. We shrug and turn down the street, curious to take in more of the scene.
We pass a Muay Thai ring on the left and some bars offering 2-for-1s of colorful shots I stopped drinking years ago. We see a few foreigners cozied up with local ladies. They’re definitely sex workers, and I sure hope they get paid well. The foreign men all look the same — pasty, hungry, and loaded with enough cash to keep these ladies smiling.
As we pass a few of the ladies, we return their smiles. Their eyes don’t match. They never do.
“You fuckers better tip,” I think to myself. Disgusted with the look in the farangs’ eyes. This comes easy to them. Life is so good, isn’t it. When you’re in that skin and possess a penis.
I notice my annoyance at it all. My friend glanced my direction at just the right moment to catch my annoyed gesture — pursed lips, my top right lip lifted slightly, causing a lop-sided frown. “I know, right. Fuckers.” That’s why I like her. We have these conversations between one another without actually ever saying much. She shares those men’s’ skin color too, but not their ways. I like her. We vibe.
After coming to the end of the street, we turn around, not pleased with settling at any of the spots we passed. “At least now we know,” we both agreed. Khao San Road, or sleaze alley. We can mark that one done.
“Come play, shot for you. Come see,” sweet voices call out to us on our right. “Game, dj, shot, you like?” More broken English and sweet Thai advertisement.
My friend and I exchange looks again. Double shrugs exchanged. We head over and pick a spot in front, across from more empty tables. No one is here. This place is dead.
“Music?” says a friendly voice with another painted smile. “Beyonce!” my auto-response erupts. When in doubt, always Beyonce or Rihanna. I don’t pick sides. I’ve never been loyal.
“Ok! And drink?” Still buzzed from the wine, I know I don’t want a shot of anything. My twenty-something year old self would’ve jumped at the opportunity. But mama has grown; we don’t mix. Especially not with wine and humid heat.
“Tonic water for now,” the smile transforms. I’ve made her sad. She wants me to disconnect with her. Join the world of the numb and partying. “Ok, Ok. Umm. Vodka, tonic,” I smile. She returns it. We’re temporary friends again. I’m glad I could make her happy. They never make the drinks strong anyway. “Extra ice,” I fan myself dramatically, “so hot,” another smile. It’ll be mostly water by the time I finish it. “Ok!” she says. I might have made her night.
My friend orders too. We both adjust the cushions in our seats and settle in while Dangerously In Love starts up. Ah. “The night is young, and so are we,” I say through a smile. Our drinks reach the table quickly. There’s no one else here.
“Cheers,” says my friend, and we clink our clear plastic cups together. “Cheers babes!”
“Game? We play. You win, free drink. I win, you get more drink.” Sheesh, she’s persistent.
I look at my friend. This feels like a setup. I don’t even know how to play this game.
Local smile picks up on my apprehension. “I show you. Easy, easy. Play?”
Ugh. Ok. What the hell. Two more shrugs and another local smile.
She’s going to sleep well tonight.
We learn the game. It’s easy. Something with some numbers and memory. Two things I’ve never been that good at. I’m not competitive. We lose a couple times. We win once, or twice. More so because of my friend. I’m not drinking my drinks. I hate these games. I always end up drunk. I’m not competitive. I don’t win; I just get drunk.
Then we hear Rihanna. My eyes perk up. My friend knows I love to shake my ass. I may not have much, but I shake what’s there. Local lady sees my excitement. “We dance!” she grabs my hand, puts the half-drunk drink on the table and leads me to the dance floor, which is actually just an open space leading to the bathroom. It’s enough room. No one is here.
Then, Little John. haha Sometimes I love racial profiling. Thanks for assuming my music; you were right. I will bounce this ass, from the window to the wall.
My friend and I are thoroughly enjoying our tipsy, solo dancing with local smiles. The local ladies are happy. We lost multiple rounds of games, so we’ve bought a few drinks. They’re having a good night.
Then, I feel a tap-tap on my butt, as three white foreigners are exiting.
I didn’t even see them enter. Must have been between the rounds of numbers and shots.
I spin around quickly and forcefully place all five fingers on a sweaty neck. “Yo! What the fuck?!” I squeeze tightly. Brown eyes glaring into blue ones. He steps back, alarmed and suddenly angry. Pasty, sweaty white fingers encircle mine and yank them away. “What the fuck!” a slurred British voice barks at me.
“You slapped my ass, you fucker!” I yell. “What the fuck!”
“I did not! The fuck is wrong with you?”
Two white bodies are gliding ahead of him, one body turns, an energy more guilty and heavy than the neck I’d grabbed. I look up and see tall, skinny entitlement and a smile. “You! You fucker, you touched my ass?” I yell.
Local ladies smiles are gone. Danger. They feel it. Got damn alcohol. Got damn foreigners.
“That wasn’t me!” I hear again.
I’m confused. I know what I felt.
I’m enraged. The first white male body is confused. He looks the most drunk. The second body is the guilty one. Fuck. I grabbed the wrong one.
“You bitch! What the hell? Next time it might be a problem,” blue eyes yells at me as local ladies team up to escort them out towards the street. They don’t want these problems. Their culture does not do public conflict.
“No, you better be careful! Tell your friend don’t go grabbing or touching women without their permission you nasty fuck!” I’m enraged. My friend stands by supportively, gleaming but timid.
Sweat is pouring down pasty white turned pink skin. Their damp hair smells like stale beer. I’m embarrassed, which makes me even more upset. I know what I felt. I grabbed the wrong one.
Pasty skin shakes local lady’s consoling hand. “We’re leaving! We’re leaving”. They don’t want these problems.
I’m fuming. My eyes follow them out. Middle-man has a smirk on his face. I want to lunge at him. Tall, pasty with pink finger marks on his neck says, “Next time you might not be so lucky. You better know what you’re doing!” I try to break the barrier between two local ladies; their petite Thai frames determined to form a barricade between me and the three farangs. The dj has appeared from around the bar, politely directing them out. More barriers.
“Just wait. Calm. It’s ok. No fight.” Local lady is working tonight.
“Fuck you! And your fucking friend! Try me next time!” I meant it. They could all get it.
I wanted to stab number two in the balls with the steel reusable straw I keep in my purse. I’m trying to cut down on my plastic use. I carry it with me as much as possible. Better for the environment. Tonight, I wanted to use it for good. And didn’t mind it never touching my lips again.
Stumbles out the door, more yelling, more glares. I was enraged.
“It’s ok. It’s ok. Please, no fight.”
I remembered we were having a good time. I remembered the night was young, and so were we. I remembered that tap-tap on my butt — unwelcomed, uninvited, entitled. I know what I felt.
I look down at local lady and apologized. My friend returns my rage. Her skin is red like number three’s neck, where my enraged, reactionary hand was just moments ago.
I hate them.
“I’m ok, I’m ok. It’s ok, I’m sorry.” Why the fuck am I apologizing? We’re always apologizing for shit.
I was having a good night.
Local ladies give us nervous smiles. We give them the best smile we can. I don’t know what kind; they’re not genuine. I’m still upset. I’m hot. I’m bothered. I need a drink. And a joint. I want a glass cup. I want to smash it against pasty’s head.
“Drink?” local lady read my mind. A cool, polite hand, short skirt, and matching crop top lead us back to our table. The cushions now mockingly comfy. I’m not leaving them again.
Local lady returns with a bigger smile than we’d seen all night. “On us. Drink, play!”
“Thanks,” I manage.
“Oooo! Connect Four! Wanna play?” my friend asks. Yes! This is a game I know. I’m safe again.
Pasty trio is gone. Smiles return. Twerk music is pop again. Safe, play Mr. DJ.
I remember the rage. I remember the instinctual gathering of fingers around white, moist neck. I remember blue eyes and damp blond tresses glaring at me. “You better be more careful, or you might not be so lucky next time.”
I wanted there to be a next time that time.
I was full of rage, and alcohol. Ready. And full of reason.
My friend was so peaceful. And supportive. “Sorry girl,” I said between sips and crunches of ice in my mouth. “Don’t be sorry. Fuck them! Assholes. He should feel lucky.”
Two more clinks of plastic against sweaty cups. The condensation felt good in my hot hands. I hadn’t noticed they were shaking.
Connect Four. I lose. I smile. We’re good.
Local ladies are out trying to lure more inside. There’s no one on the streets. It’s dead tonight.
Pasty trio is gone. Pop music returns. Connect Four. Shakes steady. My heartbeat returning to a buzzed normal.
I will always remember them. And, I’m sure they will always remember me. “You better hope there isn’t a next time. Fucker.” I can’t forget them.
Another friend arrives and sits down next to me. “Hi love!” We hug. “Hey babe!” I pass him a drink. “Oh my god. You will never believe what just happened.”
This is a mostly true story. I may or may not have ordered a vodka tonic.
The rage still lives in me. Or ever at bay.
No one can tell me how to feel. I know what I felt.