Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A passing encounter

Bangkok. Out of the hospital with a clean bill and no required follow-ups. Not quite what I was but a helluva lot better than I could have been. I'm done with them and almost home.

Feeling tired and weak and a bit beaten up by the doctors, but nevertheless past it, I decided to make a night out, recoup some strength, if in attitude only. I began at a Soi 4 bar, perchance talking to an old (35ish) Thai taxi girl with whom I had one of the most disturbing conversations I've had.

I think she was trying to talk me up, hoping that I'd become a customer, but she spewed so much hatred, such unrelenting bile for everybody and every kind of person, that she literally made me feel physically ill. Any other time I would have been able to take it in stride, perhaps knock her down a few pegs, but my weakened state left me vulnerable.

One of the reasons I went to the bar was to try to relax and buck up a bit, put on a light, listen to some music, watch some people, get into a better frame. I just wasn't ready for her. Not that she directed any of her venom at me - after all, I was a potential customer. But no-one else was spared.

She began when I entered, harshly forcing some other (younger, prettier) taxi girls to relinquish their choice streetside seats to me, referring to them as "buffaloes." Granted, as a paying customer I was entitled to the seat, but I wouldn't have asked them to move, taxi girls or not.

I sat down.

She plopped down next to me and immediately began about the 'half-brained idiot farang bar owner' who lets these "useless buffaloes" do what they want. She went on…and on.

Trying to change the subject to something completely different, I asked about a katoey fortune teller that used to sit on the sidewak in front of the Dynasty Inn a few doors down. A deck of cards, a candle and a kerchief on the pavement - he was there for many years and I noticed in my last couple of visits that he had disappeared. I thought maybe he had moved. To be honest, I have no particular sympathy for katoeys and probably even something of a prejudice against them, but would never dream of wishing harm on somebody who had done me no harm. And this particular guy (girl) had always been kind to me. He spoke decent English and turned the cards and told my fortune a couple-few times over the years, doing a pretty good job of it. Anyway, when I asked about him she told me bluntly and with something of a smirk that he was dead - "dead of AIDS," she enunciated.

I felt an immediate rush of sadness. I knew this guy, or at least who he was. She went on to revel in it a bit, telling me how he deserved it because he was a katoey, how all katoeys deserve it, "butt-fuckers" that they are. I pressed for more info, received little, and in hindsight, I'm not sure she was telling the truth anyway. It may have all have been an exercise in wishful thinking.

She then went on to attack, in turn, the stupid Khmer beggars, the job-stealing Burmese, the thieving Vietnamese children who sell flowers on the street and, of course, the "smelly Muslims" that inhabit Soi 3. With a big smile she used my almost empty beer bottle to demonstrate how she would crack the skull of an 8-year-old Vietnamese 'match-girl' who was working the street nearby. And even though I went from a polite smile, to defending these people, to a blank stare, to a disgusted stare and finally quite obviously just looking away trying to ignore her, I don't think she ever got the idea that I was anything but enjoying her vile banter. I guess I should have just laid into her, but really wasn't up for a fight. That's not why I was there.

In the end, after only two beers, I called for my bill, paid the exact amount, and left. As I was leaving she followed, proffering the standard lilting "where are you going?" and a sweet voiced "come again," probably hoping for a tip or an offer to have her join me, but I wouldn't/couldn't even look at her.

I went on to better places and better people and made a pretty good night of it.

I have no moral to this story or conclusion to offer, just a vaguely sick feeling from the encounter, slowly fading as the hangover wanes and my strength returns.

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