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Bangkok Tattoo


This is an excerpt from Bangkok Baby, by David Bonnie. It’s available on AmazonBangkok Books and Barnes & Noble.

You are running in nightimes chirruping heat. Sweat is burning your eyes now and you turn from the dark of soi 6 where you both live onto KrugThonburi alive with pink and yellow taxis, tuk-tuks and the smell of burnt carbon. You thought you could handle her proposition but later a kind of panic gripped your heart and still you cannot breath, but you keep running . . . time is running out. It is 10.40 as you jump into the On Nut train just as the doors close. The cold air hits you and you force yourself to sit down. You try to phone her again but again there is no answer . . .she is doing what she feels she must. Is she doing it for both of you? You have to stop her before it’s too late, before the world unhinges itself and all the pieces fly apart destroying everything you love.

A young, pretty girl covered in tattoos sits opposite you: there is only one place she is heading. Just like you.

She looks in your eyes and a feeling passes between you, the kind of feeling shared between soldiers moments before a battle. ‘Naanaaaa’says the voice of the train. Somebody laughs, somebody always laughs. In the laughter is a kind of nervousness and an edgy, tense excitement.

You wait until the door opens before you leap up and out. Tonight you cannot face the stares of the farang couples on the train. That look that says, ‘we know where you are going, and why’. You know that if you see that superior, self- righteousness on the face of a backpacker or a farang woman that something dark and terrible will rise up from inside you and . . . .if they knew what was in your heart they would not stare. Not tonight.

Down the steps to the street you go and into Sukhumvit City. Tourists who should have stayed on Khao San road move toward you blocking the way so you run into the road, a blaring horn shaves so close you feel the wind and suddenly your legs are weak and for the second time tonight you realise that this is really happening, this is not a story. You have to stop her before the unthinkable. You feel like you are moving in slow motion . . . 11.10 . . and then you are there and you duck under the last awning before the corner and try to push through the throng in the narrow section into the mouth of Nana.

Amongst a group of tall Ladyboys you see her. They look for a moment like a team of athletes warming up before an international event, swapping stories of races run and iniquities of life at the sharp end of physical endurance.

For a moment you pause and breathe in. You simply look at her with all the awe and warmth that comes with loving someone. Then you see the white dress the fabulous breasts and beautiful make-up mask and you want her. You move forward and she sees you. She smiles and laughs at you, says your name, Ah, Dawid . . .what you do?

You cannot breathe again. You touch her smooth arms and hold on to her tight because everything is speeding up now. The faces of the other ladyboys follow you as you walk away with your prize. They do not understand. They know you are not a customer because you are crying.

Her body is hot like a furnace, she says, let’s get some drinks and go home. In the 7/11 she speaks to another ladyboy, ‘ This is him’ she says. The other ladyboy smiles . . .a broken, ragged smile as if she knows something that you don’t.

She walks to the counter with the bottle of Sprite, you hand her 100 baht and two enormous whoremongers who were waiting say,’ they just push right to the front don’t they’. You are not sure if they mean Ladyboys, Prostitutes or Thais.

In the cab you look at her face again and you want her, in the worst way a man can want a Ladyboy. Her lipstick is ‘fuck-me red’ and you play your dirtiest arse-fucking video through one time in your head. You and she are the stars of the show.

In the apartment she gets into bed and says, ‘Sleep now’, very tired’. You cannot sleep. You want her, want her like any customer could have had her for 1000baht. You have saved her, how can this happen, this is not in your story. In your story you fuck with passion and love and fall asleep together. Something is wrong with the story.

And then what has been locked inside you since you saw her online chat profile, since the first time a customer called when she was with you, since you walked like a zombie from soi to soi while she worked . . .since back in September, when you sat outside the Beer Bar in soi 7 and tried to calculate Bangkok, Love and Her in the same equation and failed, is rising like black bile burning your throat and spitting out its poisonous graffiti across the room; the walls, the bed . . . you cannot stop, the floor, her body, you are saying things you do not mean and know you have never thought and you are telling her to get out, you are crying and spitting so much you cannot see or speak any longer.

She runs down the passage to the door and you pace behind her shouting, telling her to “go,you fucking whore, sleep in your own apartment.” You are stalking towards her now . . .and then she turns and cries,

‘ I not understand, you come to stop me working at Nana and now you want be like a customer!’

You open your mouth to speak and the devil flies out . . . She is crying so hard her body shakes. The person you swore to yourself you would never hurt is crying. You have never seen her cry before.

You try to hold her and tell her you are sorry . . .and like a drunk driver suddenly sober at the death scene he has caused . . .you see what you have done. She lets you hold her. She is sobbing but says,’ Dawid I miss my family much’.

You know that no words you can ever, ever say can bring this moment back.

In the morning she leaves, there are no words that either of you can fit to that moment. It cannot be framed. She leaves behind the key card you gave her only yesterday.

ladyboys david bonnie eyelash from Bangkok Baby the book available on AmazonYou ride the boat from Pratunam that morning and only one other farang is on this boat and he does not speak or smile. His face is expressionless, seamed with the lines of experience. He sits at the back of the boat and before it is far past Wireless he reaches inside his overcoat and seeming to struggle with something inside his clothing, at his breast he pulls out something black and hard and looking around the boat, tosses it over the side. He smiles a sigh of relief as if to say, ‘See how easily that was done’. He gets off at the next dock and you watch him walk away, a lightness in his step.

You call her as you leave for home, no answer, no answer, no answer and then you are there at her apartment hammering at the door almost out of control until you hear her shout, ‘Ai’ from her shower . . . .she opens the door wearing a towel and shower cap. Easier to concentrate on what you must do when she does not look so attractive. You think yourself a bad man for having that thought but push it down and walk inside.

Despite all your promises, despite all your rationalisations, despite your

education, experience, years of strife, despite your Englishness you find yourself once again begging her not to go back to work; the tears blinding you as you speak.

You tell yourself to be a man, but if you are to face what you know will come, (22.26hrs-06.01.2011-first customer of the night) then you must feel it like a man.

She shakes her head when you try to convince her you can both live on 1000baht a day-she knows better and so do you. You have lived through the arguments that a lack of money bring. Your mother used to say, ‘ when money problems come in the door, love flies out the window!’

But you believe love conquers all don’t you, despite years of experience to the contrary. Dreamers like you fuck up the natural order; disrupt the laws of the jungle.

So dreamer that you are you sit by her side and hold her hand as she tells you that despite last nights unforgivable act, you will be forgiven, that she will feel the same/same feelings for you no matter how many customers she has. That even if a rich farang wanted to make her his waan jai, she would not stay with him and that she will be careful and that her heart will always belong to you. You cry, swallow and when she asks you to promise that you will keep the same/same feelings for her . . . . you promise to try. You promise because you know that you cannot live without her in your life. She tells you that it may not be for long, if you find a job with good money.

Money is evil, you say.

She likes shopping and has never owned a personal hi-fi or learned to drive.

Her father uses the scrap wood from her broken bed to patch his only window.

When you go back to your room alone, on your bed is a single false eyelash.

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