Redistribution

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Chapter 2

“Gallie, do you want another cocktail? Blue or red?”

“Blue. Come and sit by the pool with me. It’s so beautiful here.”

“Ok. I will. I’m Just going to arrange the scuba diving first and I want to ask if I can hire a fishing boat.“

I put the drinks on the glass table between the loungers. I lay down ready.

“The guy at the bar told me that we can order drinks and food without moving.”

“How?”

“Look, you put your room number in here, push that and they’ll come”

“Impressive. Do you know I was talking to somebody before, a South African woman. She told me how bad things are in South Africa, how corrupt and how nothing much had changed for the blacks.”

“Impressive. You found someone here with a conscience. And then what, she dived in the pool and went back to her luxury suite. Sometimes Gallie, I feel the urge to give all our money away. We sit here in this paradise and who serves us? The poor blacks serving the privileged whites. Anywhere you go it’s the same story.”

“Jesus Goris.”

“Jesus or Goris. I keep telling you, one or the other.”

“You’re so agitated these days. Ever since you stopped working. It’s what you worked so hard for, what you wanted. Jazzy’s at home and it’s just you and me for the first time in years. Try to enjoy. Look around you, it’s stunning. Can’t you relax?”

“No I can’t. I don’t know why. I can’t relax. It feels like my life is over. Dreams should never come true.”

“We’re not on about this again are we? You need to accept things and learn to live. You are so morose since you sold out.

“Because I have nothing to live for any more.”

“Thank you. Do you know how that feels? What are you saying? That you only lived for money and now you’ve got it, you have nothing to live for? What about family, friends, enjoyment?”

“Gallie I love you and Jazzy. Don’t be ridiculous. I wasn’t saying that I’m going to kill myself. I just mean that I’m only 30 years old and I have no ambitions left. I don’t care about money any more. You want what you can’t have and if you get it, you don’t want it anyway. What do I want now? I’ve asked myself this again and again for months and I have no answer. It’s frightening me. Everything feels wrong. You know the lottery winners who win $50 million and are miserable but would never give up the money, that’s a bit what I feel like.”

“My god Goris, enough of this. Get involved in other business. Invest. That’s what they all do.”

“What for? To make more money? I think that I am depressed. You get what you want and then you realise you never wanted it. Then what? I mean it Gallie, I know now that I didn’t want the money. The responsibility is too great.”

“What are you on about? What responsibility? To spend it? We could never spend that amount not in ten lifetimes. Give some away if it’ll make you feel better. Help the poor. Set up a foundation. Speak to Mike. I’m sure he can find a tax efficient way of making you feel better.”

“Yea maybe I will. You know, I can’t think of one thing I would like to do. I’m not interested in business. I never have been. I think I’d like to go fishing actually. Fishing around the world.”

“So go. Enjoy yourself for a while and you’ll find something to do.”

“Don’t you want more Gallie? Is it enough to just spend money? Since we sold, you haven’t once mentioned the idea of going back to work. You used to talk about it all the time.”

“What’s the point now? I can do other stuff. You know how busy I am. I get invited to so many things now.”

For two weeks, we sat around the pool sipping cocktails. A seven star resort in the Seychelles at 10,000 dollars a day for the very rich, catering to your every whim, making sure that you hardly need to move. Food and drink served by smiling natives on $10 a day. As much as I felt a little uncomfortable, I could not deny the pleasure. I could not look down on the rich because I sat with them and talked with them and I was one of them. We rich only need to eat, shit, play. No need to clean. No need to shop. No need to drive. We need to be pampered and worshipped. We need our nails manicured and our hair styled and our suits pressed. We don’t carry. We don’t wait. We don’t care. We expect. We demand. We condescend.

“If you’ve never been to the Seychelles, you haven’t lived. Everyone should go at least once in their lives. Aren’t the waiters sweet? Have you been to Mauritius? Where do you ski? What business are you in? Tuscany is beautiful in the winter.”

We dined and we talked and we joined in empty conversation. Gallie could fit in a shoe box. I did not feel comfortable with these people. You have to be a specific type to be comfortable with money. You have to be immune from guilt, to enjoy giving orders, to need adoration, to relish superiority. The temptations of wealth were almost impossible to deny. The ugly overweight oligarchs with the stunning young blonde wife, the short billionaires with the tall wives, the divorced elderly tycoon with the model, the yachts, the football clubs, the investments, the Caribbean, the casinos and all the courting, tongue shoving politicians and the inexhaustible string of young women. The irony was that Gallie fitted in to this world. I preferred fishing.

I played the part for Gallie. On the flight back, she told me how great the holiday had been for us, for her and this was the beginning for us.

“A new chapter Goris. I want you to be happy but you need to work for it. It’s not easy.”

“Gallie please, I don’t need the talk. I’ve decided, I’m going fishing. You know how I’ve always wanted to go fishing in the Amazon and the Nile and South Africa. Well now I can.”

“You mean on your own?”

“You can come with me. We can get someone to live in and look after Jazzy. Imagine, you and me travelling. You reading, me fishing and not a worry in the world. We can backpack. It’ll be the trip of a lifetime. I don’t care about five star hotels and yachts. I want to go somewhere real where the people are real, where I don’t have to hear about money and investments and fucking start-ups. I want to be surrounded in reality for once. I can’t do anymore parties and lunches and presentations and meetings. I can’t hear about the Caribbean and the Ferraris and the plastic surgery and the investments and the share tips and the fucking start-ups. I don’t want to be part of the rich freak set. I want to be anonymous and unimportant. I want out.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Well I’m not running away. We’re not kids anymore. We have responsibilities. We can’t just get up and go.”

“What responsibilities? We can do whatever we like.”

“Well I can’t just leave. I can’t leave Jazzy.”

“You mean, you don’t want to. You can’t do without your comforts can you?”

“Of course I can. I don’t want to. Everyone dreams to have what we’ve got. Goris, it might do you good to go alone for a while. Sort your head out.”

“Ok I will. And by the way, my head is absolutely sorted.”

We left on good terms. She, understanding my need to go and I, understanding her need to stay. It was a mutual separation, not permanent but meaning more than either of us wished to believe. It was our way of proclaiming that we were no longer compatible at present because our needs were so different despite the fact that we loved each other. Backpack, travel rods, credit cards, phone and passport were all I needed. Filled with greater excitement than any other moment of my life, I started my journey. Of course I knew that no matter how I wrapped it, this appeared to be a classic case of a mid-life crisis, nothing more than a man trying to ‘find himself’ – the great middle aged cliché. Somewhat pathetic but at least I didn’t run off with the au-pair and buy a motorbike.

I flew first class, sipped a bit of champagne and slept. I had never been to Thailand but I knew about the Barramundi fishing and that’s where I was heading but first I intended to unwind in Bangkok for a few days. Disembark, customs, penalty for drug smuggling is death in huge letters, backpack on, inside a Tuk-Tuk and head first into the Thai smells and colours and chaos. He dropped me off at my hotel. I sat on a wall outside roasting in the baking sun absorbing this new world with a relish I had never felt before. I wanted to see and taste everything. The feeling of anonymity was overwhelming casting a greater shadow over my former life. I was a fugitive, on the run from excess, fully aware that I had to enjoy my freedom while it lasted because in the end, they would catch me and force me back into a life of money, big houses, cars and self-importance. People passed me by as if I didn’t exist. I was alone but less lonely than I had felt in years.

The hotel was three star but a Thai 3 star. I walked into the reception and by mistake trod on the dog’s tail. It yelped and growled and then lay down again and closed its eyes. The Thai girl behind the desk looked at me with a look that made me feel very real for the first time in a long time. I trod on her dog and she didn’t like it and I can accept that. In fact I liked it and I thanked her.

“No room. No room. Full. I no like you. You hurt dog. Go.”

“But I booked a room on the internet. Internet. Goris….”

“Yes. I see. Ok no problem. Here key. Number seven. Passport. Credit card charge 3%. Ok? Ok?”

“Ok. Thank you.”

“You want eat, go food in restaurant. Good food, Café Rose. You say Irna send you from Happy Village Hotel. Ok? You want jiggy jiggy, you go Bar Hollywood. Beautipul girls, very young. You want virgin girl? Pay much money. You say Irna send you from Happy Village Hotel.”

“Ok.”

Nobody had spoken to me that rudely for so long. I loved it. I wanted to follow orders not give them. It felt so liberating. I wanted to submit myself to a dominatrix. I sympathised with the CEO, stark naked wearing a nappy, being dragged in a dog collar by a hooker, his arse being whipped red raw and then getting dressed in his hand-made $1000 suit, $500 dollar shoes and going to the office and siting in executive meetings and giving orders to a thousand staff and making huge commercial decisions.

Café Rosa was a palatial restaurant in the Colonial style where tourists were squeezed in on recommendations from their hotel owner, overcharged, overfed and spewed out and all of them loving every minute. I toyed with the idea and almost succumbed simply because I had been told to go there but after hovering for a while in the massive, pillared doorway, I finally decided to move to a street vendor. I couldn’t take another restaurant. I walked around absorbing the smells and relishing the street life but I supposed that it was natural for the privileged to enjoy the observation when they didn’t have to live the life and would in the end return to theirs. I was okay with a growing conscience but I definitely did not want to join the ‘do-gooders’ brigade. I wanted to get away from the decadence for a while so I suppose that I could return to enjoy it. I gave a street vendor a few Baht in exchange for a few sticks of grilled meat of some sort the way food should be sold, simply an exchange on equal terms. I exchanged something he wanted for something I wanted and we both thanked the other. It was fair. I didn’t recognize the meat. I drank something warm, again not recognizable. I asked him for directions to Bar Hollywood.

“Agh, you go jiggy jiggy! Stray down road? You see. You ask. You say Ap send you.”

“Ok thank you. Straight, that way?”

I knew it was in the red light district but nothing had prepared me for what I saw. The most shocking is the beauty of the girls in every bar, every café, on the street, everywhere you look. The most beautiful girls, each with Hollywood smiles, each younger than the next, most arm in arm with a fat, white middle aged German, Englishman or American, every single one smiling as if they were happy. I could understand the desire to fuck one of these girls but to parade around with one on your arms! In private, my desire might overcome the shame but absolutely not in public. They were victims however you painted them and every single male knew, poor little girls, on the game through misfortune or violence or sold by their families to gangs and forced into prostitution, beaten, raped, drugged, desperate to find a way out with a white tourist believing that by smiling and clinging to a fat white arm, it might happen. Maybe he would fall in love with her. No doubt, hope diminishing with every fuck and destroyed after a hundred such men and when they were worn out, used and abused, bodies no longer young and firm, they would be discarded like trash on the streets. Where they would go, I had no idea. The white males fully armed with the knowledge of every single girl’s misfortune but so driven by lust, moral fibre buried so deep that one decent man after another will rent one of these stunning bodies and abuse them for half an hour for a few Baht or take one on a longer term rental for a few days, using and abusing and ignoring the truth. I felt sorry for these guys that they obviously had such unhappy lives elsewhere that paying for a girl to act as if she loved them were worth the Baht and the humiliation. Then each male returns to their normal boring lives that every one of these girls dreams about and from a distance they might feel pity.

I sat in one of those bars and a young Thai model served me Vodka and Coke. A few girls came to me asking if I wanted ‘jiggy jiggy’. I did but hoped I had the strength to resist. I knew where they came from and I was better than all these other guys. I just wanted to watch. A few minutes fantasising and two girls came and sat at my table and started talking to me in fluent English. They told me that they weren’t prostitutes and that they were studying in University. I believed them because I wanted to. Nevertheless I told them I was happily married. I wanted to rule out from the start, whatever it was the start of, that I was not a ticket out, nor was I interested in sex. They told me about life in Bangkok for the average person. They told me that there were many rich but far more poor. They described huge walled mansions overlooking slums, designer shops and expensive restaurants for the ‘hi-so’. They explained how the ‘hi-so’ people lived. I listened carefully with great interest. I said that I wanted to see for myself. The voice in my head was shouting “prostitutes” but my conversation refused to believe and kept a very straight course. They explained how prostitution wasn’t necessarily frowned upon because it was the only secure employment in Thailand for a girl that you could enter aged 12 with no qualifications and feed your family in the village or the slum. It was never a question of choice but always a matter of survival. They asked if I wanted to be shown around Bangkok. I accepted that there was a motive but I didn’t know what and nor did I care. If they wanted money, I’d give it. If they wanted sex for money I’d refuse it.

“Where are we going?

“To see Bangkok at night.”

We walked out of the bar, a girl either side of me but happily not arm in arm. Regardless, I felt self-conscious and guilty. Perhaps I had to pay the girls to redress the balance of power but I was enjoying those feelings too much. My eyes were overwhelmed by the magical streets, the bustle filled with colour and smell and noise. The street vendors selling anything you want. Street kids running wild, making a Baht here and there by collecting Coke tins or begging, stealing, scamming. Endless bars filled with endless white men, young and old, fat and thin, every shape and size, plied with drink, stuffed with food, attached to a stunning young girl. A short, fat German laughing loudly, two girls glued, drunk and on his way to a seedy hotel where he would try to fuck them both, each a third of his age, half his size and hating every minute but why should he care? He had a luke-warm marriage to a short fat German woman, two short fat children, a house in the suburbs, mortgage almost finished and retirement on its way. On the other side of the road, an English guy divorced and in his forties, saving up all year to come and fuck Thai girls, clearing drains in London every day, pub every night, ex-wife, ex-children, ex-army. Why should he care? In a bar, drunken Australians travelling in a group, on their world trip and passing through Thailand on their way to Europe to get a job on a building site, finding an English girl and ending up in the suburbs, forever dreaming of an Aussie beach and an Aussie barbie. Pissed out their brains, dancing with any Thai girl they can find and the five mates ending up in the same hotel room fucking loads of Thai girls, passed from one to the other until they pass out one by one. The German and the Englishman and the Aussies wake up at 2 in the afternoon, shower quietly, subdued lunch, swim and sunbathe, drinking beer in preparation for the same as the night before. A week, two weeks and they’re home or on their way and left behind are the stunning girls, fucked again, hopeless and endless, just a little more worn out and a little closer to the rubbish heap. It was most shocking to see the scale of it, just how many men there were and how many girls. An unlimited supply meeting an unlimited demand. This was simply a factory – young firm disposable bodies on a production line packaged for the male consumer, sold in the market place by commodity traders, for the benefit of the rich. Who cares if the product is made in Thailand by children working fifteen hour shifts in awful conditions for $1 a day, seven days a week as long as the product is value for money?

We turned a corner, through the door and we were in Narnia. All the poverty behind us had been replaced with huge villas, palm tree-lined streets, security guards, electric fences, manicured gardens, luxury apartment blocks with massive glass walls overlooking the entire city and designer dressed girls and boys strutting their stuff in cars, on the street, in the villas. It was immaculately clean and out of bounds for the poor. Paid police were patrolling and ensuring that no low-life break through the door so that the rich could continue to live in wealthy oblivion. I was appalled and as I expressed my shock to the girls, I realised how ridiculous I was for what right did I have to feel anything. I was the person in Narnia living in a glass house.

“I told the girls that I had a house bigger than the biggest house in the street. I told them that I had a Ferrari like the one in that drive and a Porsche like the one in the other drive. I informed them that I was a billionaire. They laughed so loudly that I laughed. It was incomprehensible to them that I could be rich.

“You are very funny man. Very rich man.”

“Yes very rich. I have so much money. Look.”

I can’t explain it. I opened my wallet and threw Baht notes in the air, screaming that I was rich, rich, rich. The girls scrambled to pick it all up. They were not laughing. They gave me back the money. The atmosphere had changed. They were no longer laughing girls, giggling hookers. They were disgusted women, disgusted that someone would treat money in that way when it was so vital to their survival. They were insulted by the arrogance of it.

“I’m sorry I was being stupid. Thank you.”

“My father works in fish factory. He start 3 in morning because take long bus ride to factory and start work at 5. He work 6 days. No holiday. He get 100 Baht a day. He been there long time. You just throw hundreds of Baht for laughing. My father not laughing. He work since he was 7 year old and pay me to go to university so I have better life.”

“You’re right I am sorry. Please forgive me. He sounds like a good man. It would be an honour to meet him. What are you studying?”

“I am studying English and she is studying English. Come, I want to show you bad place.”

“Is it dangerous?”

“Yes. But is ok.”

They led me, arms now threaded through mine. I think that they had earned it. We passed by villa after villa, sweeping drives, abundant bodyguards, the entire neighbourhood oozing wealth and courting envy. It was only a matter of time. Left and right a few times, past bigger villas, apartment blocks with more glass and steel, across a road and through the door taking us out of Narnia and back into the real world. There on the other side of the door, there wound a long, dirty street, filled to capacity with buildings on each side, corrugated shacks in front of buildings, each filled to the rafters with men, women and seemingly millions of children. Electricity wires randomly thrown together over the streets, some tied to buildings, some to poles, some going nowhere, erratic street lighting, cobbled, broken road with open sewers, people on bikes, kids in barrows, street vendors, street beggars, the blind, the disabled, the cripples, the mentally ill, the freaks and all looking at me.

“Goris, this is real Thailand. This is where the prostitutes go when no working, to their families, their children. This is my home – you like? Bootiful yes? You want to meet my mother, my father, sisters, brothers, grandmother, grandfather? We not rich but we good people. Rich people not good like us. All people here working for rich man and rich man not care about us. He let us live like this. Electricity no good, road no good, toilet no good. What you do about it?”

“Me? What can I do?”

“You rich man. You throw money. You very rich.”

“No I was joking. I want to help but what can I do?”

“You meet our mother and father.”

“You’re sisters? I see.”

I wasn’t sure if she was still angry or whether she really thought I could help. Regardless, they marched me through the street and turned sharp left into a dark, muddy alleyway. It occurred to me that I was vulnerable and that was exhilarating. We stopped in front of a wood house with a few stairs up to a kind of veranda, windows but no glass, cats running wild, a dog and monkey tied to the railings and a couple of young children playing with a stick. I followed them up the stairs and into the main room. I sat on a cushion over a box, the girls disappeared and I was left alone waiting. I looked around the simple room and it struck me that everything was purely functional apart from one gold framed picture of the mosque at Medina. I presumed the little man and even smaller woman to be the mother and father of the girls. I hoped that this wasn’t an acceptance ritual for an ill assumed marriage proposal. The father bowed and offered his hands in a limp gesture of welcome whilst the three women smiled effortlessly behind him. They were excited to have a white guest, a false prophet. I drank tea whilst the father asked questions through his daughter.”

“My father ask how old you are?”

“31.”

“My father ask where you from?”

“California, America.”

“My father say, ‘make my day’. My father ask, you married?”

“Yes with one daughter.”

“My father ask what work?”

“Just business.”

“My father ask what religion?”

“No religion.”

“My father say, man without religion is like tree without root.”

A battery of questions and answers fired from the seated patriarch translated by the standing daughters for the seated guest. The respect was humbling. I felt like they had a real interest in me, an alien from another planet. They wanted to understand where I came from and what was important to me. Family and survival was the only thing that mattered to them and a better life for their children. I really wanted to understand how they could be happy with so little. They knew that there was a better life but not for them and with that they were content. They channelled all their efforts into enabling their children to have the better life. Where did I come in? What was I doing there?

“Come, we go. I show you to hotel. Not safe here.”

That was it. The meeting concluded. I shook hands with the father, they smiled, we left. I had a feeling I’d been set up with something and I was more than happy to go with it. They led me out of their slum and into a very expensive hotel area for the richer tourist. The husbands and wives, with their private school children getting a little taste of Thai city life, cheap shopping, a tiny glimpse of the ‘poor’ in their slums – ‘good for their education to see how the other half live’ and then off to the 5 star beach resort on the exclusive Thai island. I walked behind them mesmerised and enchanted by the street, through a night market, overwhelmed by the experience, the visual delights and the fragrant smells and the smiling vendors and the hustle and bustle and the pushing and the shoving and the noise, the jumbled noises, of caged birds and screaming children, shouting vendors and Thai music piped through cheap electronics from every corner. The girls were rushing through and I was lagging behind. They turned to me.

“You like market. Yes bootipul.”

“Yes it is. I have never seen anything so beautiful.”

“For you bootipul. Us not bootipul. Just money. It’s life, our life. Come. Come. Maybe you want sit and drink?”

So we sat on some vinyl covered, cushioned stools with chrome legs, sipping hot yellow water. The vendor said something about me that made them giggle. He gave us something orange, sticky and sweet on a plate and we all ate. He made me smell something unpleasant and then he ate it. Again he made the girls laugh. I enjoyed being laughed at. I had forgotten what honesty felt like. As I sat on the stool, I looked around and I understood that we saw different things. I had the privilege of wealth and arrogance that allowed me to see the beauty of the market and the beauty of its abundant poverty-stricken street life and the wasted beauty of these girls and their stunning, Asian brown eyes seeing only filth and survival and ugliness and then they close their eyes and they are transported away.

They stood up, I paid and then followed them, a tiny degree deflated. I was finding it less easy to enjoy when I knew that the beauty was masking the ugliness of it all. The girls turned to me at the same time and slowly peeled off their beautiful and youthful faces revealing, two old women, white haired, wrinkled skin, bodies stooped, scabbed and pock marked faces.

“What’s wrong? You look like you see ghost.”

“Yes. I am not feeling good. Maybe I ate bad food. I thought I saw something.”

“You see the dragon. Man give you tea and make you feel funny. We too. But is ok. Come we take you hotel now.”

“What did he put in my tea? I don’t take drugs.”

“Is not drug, just plant. Good for you. Make you feel good. Come take hand.”

“Well I don’t feel good.”

And then I did feel good as I flew above the market hand in hand with the girls into the night Thai sky, soaring over miles of corrugated roofs and traffic-filled streets and then in mountainous landscape, flying and gliding in the thermal currents alongside a Black Eagle and finally plummeting to my death. My body was dead but my eyes open looking from side to side in panic at the walls of a room. I sensed warmth either side of me. I had no memory of anything except my wife and daughter and I knew that it was not them beside me. A few moments later and I started to gather the strength to move.

“What the fuck? Who the fuck? What are you doing here?”

“You ask us Goris.”

“Jesus Christ. Get out. Get out.”

I knew what I had done. My first night in Bangkok and I had betrayed my family. It was not my nature to be unfaithful and there I was with not one but two girls. I had not felt like this since college, camel mouth, pounding head, pulsating eyes, aching body and the rancid smell of sexual secretions and sweat. I was devastated that I had done such a vile thing. I took a deep breath and sat up to see just how bad was the aftermath of the night before and there on either side of me were twin girls, identically stunning, young and smiling at me. I was horrified. I was ashamed. The worst part of it was that this sordid little Thai secret would have to remain locked away from my wife and daughter and all those years of honesty wasted. I had betrayed my vows and all that was important to me. I was no better than all the rest of them. It occurred to me that the voice in my head was twisting and turning in order to find a way to rationalise the situation, not out of but into the situation. If I’d already stolen the fruit and had a bite, I may as well eat the rest of it. It surprised me how easy it was. I turned to the girls who had been talking quietly to each other instinctively waiting for me to react and smiled at them. Not even my wife would expect me to resist the temptation. The words ‘jiggy,jiggy’ gave them away. I knew without a doubt that they too were whores, perhaps a little more sophisticated and not in the conventional Thai way. What made me think that I could resist? Arrogance, an arrogance that had been fed by my success and the unlimited insincerity of others and the adoration of the wealthy. I was no better than them.

“You are bad girls. I am married with a daughter. I don’t do this.”

“You wanted. You ask us. We not prostitutes. We sisters. No money.”

“Then why? You don’t want money?”

“No money. We don’t take money, just help.”

“We want to go to America.”

“But I am married. I can’t take you. You think that this is going to get you to America?”

“Yes, maybe. You good man. You like us.”

“I can’t help you. I can’t. I can give you money.”

“Money not help. We not prostitutes. Please help us or we marry Thai man and he beat us and go sex with many girls. Not happy. We die. Only want to study and go to America, marry good white man. White men good. Thai men bad.”

“But that’s not true. Men are bad, Thai and American. Hey stop that, I can’t, I can’t I mean…”

I did. How could I not. It would be ridiculous to waste such youth and beauty. I laid back and let it happen because they weren’t prostitutes and this wasn’t betrayal. I got dressed quickly and went into the toilet. I avoided myself in the mirror. I took a deep breath and told myself that I had to leave to avoid a deepening situation. I went back in and told the girls that I would meet them later. We arranged the place and time. I was sure that this was not their first or last disappointment. I wondered how many times they had gone through this, how many white cocks and bitter disappointments?

I got on a bus. I wanted to go fishing. I wanted to catch a Mekong catfish. I headed to a place called Shadow Lake. A Thai bus has 60 seats and 100 passengers, most inside, some out, a few chickens, vile smells, a deficient driver and a few whites. The whites loving the experience. The driver shouted something at me and I got off the bus. I saw a sign in English for Shadow Lake. As I approached the lake, I saw that it was a stocked lake for tourists, something I did not want. The guide fitted me out, took my money, told me where to fish and left. I followed his advice and sure enough, I bagged a massive catfish but where were the Barramundi. It was fun but tinged with something unsettling. The night before wouldn’t leave me. I tried to bury the guilt but I couldn’t bury the memory. After all, they were stunning. I tried to shake off the constant feeling. I was angry that I felt this way. This was just another packaged product for white men served up by Thai people who wanted to have what we have. After I had fished for a few hours, I sat with the guides sipping tea and answering their questions. A few English guys say with us. They told me that they come every year to Thailand with their ‘mates’, fish all day, eat out at night in the same restaurant, go to the same bars, choose a girl or two and go home after two weeks to their families. They look forward to it all year. They’re not doing anyone any harm. Their wives don’t ask, the girls earn money, they have fun. I asked them if they cared that the girls were forced into prostitution? I asked them if they knew that some of them had been sold into it, raped, beaten and forced to have sex with hundreds of men for a few pounds, whilst the pimps make the money.

“What are you, a fucking priest? I mean, the girls don’t complain.”

“They wouldn’t dare.”

“Don’t you go with the girls? I mean, have you ever been with a Thai girl because if you had mate, you wouldn’t be asking me these questions. They fuck like rabbits and they smile. Not exactly the wife.”

“I have but I didn’t pay for it. They weren’t prostitutes.”

“Sure mate. They’re all whores. The one’s that work in the bars are take-away. Sex for Bahts and that’s it but if you want one to be your ‘Thai wife’ for a week or two then you just pay for her food and buy her a few things to keep her happy. They hope you’ll take them back with you but nobody does. Still, they have a good time. No harm done and back to the nagging wife.”

Was I the only white male in Thailand that had a conscience? I didn’t want the conscience. I got back on the bus and headed to Bangkok. I went back to my hotel, ignored the ‘jiggy-jiggy’ comment from the girl behind the counter and took the same room but this time I looked in the mirror. I knew what I wanted to do.

“Hello, I have come to see May and Eve. Are they here?”

“No. No. Workiiiiing. Workiiing.”

I went to the bar and asked for the sisters. I was told that they were working in a nightclub. I walked through the streets, less interested in the hustlers and entered ‘Go-Go Bar’ and there they both were, fully naked and wrapped around a pole on a stage, gyrating and oozing. I felt a little angry that they had discarded me and were back at work and this kind of work. I sat near the stage and they saw me and smiled but no other reaction. I expected more, some sort of gratitude but a moment’s sense and perspective and I accepted that I was just another white disappointment, a paying customer. I enjoyed watching them. I had been inside those girls like a thousand guys before. As repulsive as it was, their beauty absolved the sin.

“Goris, you come back? Good. This our job. See, not prostitute. We are good girls.”

No matter which direction I questioned myself, the answer was always the same, that I came back because I wanted more, more drugs, more girls, more sex. I was disgusted that I was so weak and no different from the millions of white male dogs that visit Thailand to fuck and drink. I didn’t care that this place was about abuse, taking and giving abuse, relentless and violent abuse. I was already addicted. It was a one hit addiction. One fuck and I was as weak as the rest, desperate for more, prepared to do anything for the next hit. My feeble conscience had shrivelled up and died. I shouldn’t have been surprised because it was always the innocent Catholic girl who fell the farthest. The virgin 16 year old, saving it for her wedding day, refusing boy after boy and finally persuaded to give it up earlier for a boy she thinks she loves and then he dumps her and that’s it, she’s opening her legs to every available male. I conceded to the inevitable. I spent the following two weeks with the girls, travelling around in a convertible jeep, visiting villages and towns, jungle and shopping malls, tropical beaches and bars. I saw the tourist places, the rice fields, the water buffalo, the temples and I loved it. I found a way at last to let my hair down and live a real life with real women and at the end of each, exhausting day we would go back to the hotel, shower together, go to bed together and fuck together. I succumbed to everything and revelled in it. I put my wife, my child and my money in a box and closed the lid and buried it. Pure pleasure shut out compassion and guilt. I lived for the day and never wanted the day to end.

Last thing at night and first thing in the morning, the girls took turns to indulge my every whim and I disappeared in the ecstasy of their soft skin and pliable form. Olive skin like silk, unblemished and tight, my hands savouring every pore, my right hand on May’s tiny breasts and my left hand sliding down Eve’s thigh and gently fingers entering the Thai pussy, small and wet and hairless and both girls writhing and squealing with false delight whilst their mouths sucked and licked my dick and balls and then one and then the other, in and out, every orifice open to me. I was living every man’s fantasy but it was not mine.

I explained to the girls that the time had come when I had to go back to my wife and daughter. They begged me to help them, to save them. I offered them money and they refused. I left.

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