You’re not sure what to expect, as you head out for the night. You’re afraid of the hatred you’ll feel for the men you see, and a little frightened, too, of seeing everything you’ve ever read about in news stories, magazines and books come to life.
The night includes a lot: an Irish-sounding man, with a baggy white-T and a mocking face, retired here because, why would he ever leave? he asks as his purchase brings him his drink.
A solo traveler, a California man, claims that he just couldn’t resist the Thai women throwing themselves at him…but he is done with them now. He touches your arm as he leans closer, and you fight back the urge to slap him across the face. He is, after all, the livelihood of these women you’re hanging out with, and in a vicious twist your love for them means he has to stay.
Man after man from all walks of life: old, young, ugly, suave, handsome, sober, drunk. Mostly white, mostly with faces showing no empathy and an attitude of “I am a king.”
You don’t feel anger as much as disgust, and a little bit of pity. These men, many of whom retire here for the cheap living and easy women, this is all they have? This is all they desire in life? How empty are they? Does this completely satisfy them…make them happy?
You walk into a bar, greeted happily by a woman your fellow bar-hoppers befriended the previous evening.
You and your two friends settle into a booth along the wall–one sits facing the front, one with her back to the wall, while your seat faces the back of the bar.
Behind your booth, in front of your gaze, sits a very mean-looking man. Try as you might to find a different word, the only one you can settle on is, “mean.”
Before too long, a girl who you swear is no more than 15, but could be 17 if you push it, sits by his side. The man acknowledges her, but converses more with the man in front of him than this girl who is his until he’s done with her.
You’re now completely distracted from all else.
When the man addresses her, she laughs and smiles and is as charming as they come. But once his eyes avert back to the front, her facade drops.
She looks so many things at once:
You can’t help but stare. Her gaze is so helpless and wanting.
She catches you a few times, and you glance away hastily, embarrassed at being caught.
Hold on, I’m just adding to the problem. If she ever feels shame about what she does, here I am, not even making eye contact with her. How worthless is that?
So you look back. And the next few times, when your gazes lock, you smile, and put as much warmth and love and acceptance into that smile as you ever have in your life.
And she smiles back, with a sigh in her face.
It’s time to go. This bar is getting busy, and you have to move somewhere where you won’t get “in the way.”
You panic. Can’t you just grab the young girl, run off to Khao San to get a fake passport, and fly far, far away from here?
You’re so helpless, so helpless…
One of the street-sellers that makes their living begging tourists to buy this flower or that bracelet enters the bar with a bouquet of roses.
“How much for a flower?” you ask, desperately.
She lowers the price at the panicked expression on your face, as you try to figure out how much money you have left, if you have enough to get to the airport for your red-eye flight.
Ohhh, come ON, you berate yourself, like you can’t afford it! Like a tuk-tuk will miss a few baht! It’s only a FLOWER for crying out loud!
You shove the money into the seller’s hand, and point to the flower that looks the biggest, the brightest, and the most likely to last longer than just a day.
As she separates it from the bouquet, you’re already halfway to the back of the bar.
Rose outstretched, you kneel next to this God-forsaken angel. Without a single trace of a white lie, you tell her, “I’m sorry, but you’re just so beautiful, I had to give you this flower.”
The man’s eyes burn into you as you hug this little girl with all you have in you.
She’s beaming. Oh, she’s so happy. Her face has lit up, her eyes are bright, the smile is genuine and real.
But now you have to go. You have to go, and she has to stay.
The man has bought his own rose for the night.