Pym is strapped into a low-cut silk blouse, sipping warm green tea with lemon and ginger. She is thirtyish, with long brown hair touching her shoulders, thighs in tight Levi’s, and wide, dark eyes brushed with heavy eyeliner.
“You come to Thailand,” she says as a matter of fact. “Why you come?”
It is customary for Thai women to ask certain questions of single, middle-aged men, and though our happy-hour interview is not scripted, it follows a predictable line of inquiry.
“You come alone,” she says. “You not have a lady somewhere back home? You not—you know—a man man?”
Pym extends her hands toward me, curls her fingers into skin puppets, and does something rather creepy over the guitar-shaped hickory bar.
“You a lady boy? Katoey?”
She examines the whisker stubs and razor cuts creeping below my nose where I nicked myself shaving with a disposable razor from Vichy drugstore. I spent an hour and almost an entire roll of toilet paper attempting to stem the bleeding.
It’s hard to concentrate. Pym and I are using shotgun English and misplaced prepositions to solve the faux mystery of why I’m sitting alone in a Bangkok bar looking like I’ve been in a drunken brawl. I place my left palm on her shoulder. I’m fifty-four years old and accustomed to being ignored by attractive young ladies in most bars. When I talk to women I don’t know and they start to listen, I tend to drink fast. I’m downing a whiskey sour whipped with Southern Comfort and white cane sugar in a hurricane glass.
“You do not look like a lady boy,” Pym says.
We are probably both a little old for Gulliver’s Traveler’s Tavern. For some reason, though, I always seem to find my way back to this soccer pub on Sukhumvit Soi 5.
On Friday nights, Sukhumvit, Bangkok’s oldest thoroughfare, opens its damp sidewalks to a bootlegger’s paradise: Armani shirts, fake Rolexes, sticky-rice baskets, silk nightgowns, and every pirated DVD imaginable are stacked under makeshift tents. The endless, free-flowing bazaar extends to evening services offered in local go-go bars, massage parlors, and sports bars.
Tonight, there are more working girls waiting in English pubs and Western-themed saloons than big daddies prowling. At Gulliver’s Traveler’s Tavern, a backpacker bar full of graybeard Brits that has a two-tone 1951 Chevy Deluxe hanging from the rafters, happy hour ends at 7 p.m. and many of the local, independent escorts sipping drinks through elongated straws appear sleepy, as if finishing a long moonlight shift.
“You want a Thai girlfriend?” Pym asks.
Pym is freelancing at Gully’s, offering the “Bangkok girlfriend experience,” a negotiated exchange of time and comfort for drinks, money, and gifts. She’s doing what she can to make ends meet while looking for a straight job—like a lot of us. Even in Thailand, this recession feels like floating through an endless afternoon hangover.
Apr 1, 01:31 PMPurchase or Subscribe to Slake: Los Angeles
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