I was drunk in Thailand, visiting my old pal Monkey Dave who worked in Bangkok. We'd been looking forward to the trip for months and there we were in a bar, in the nicely merry stage.
But I swear I didn't intend to have sex with a prostitute. I could've left the bar when I was being pressured into sex, or simply not walked in in the first place, but I did neither. The fact is she was lovely and not, in my head, a hooker; more specifically a desperate and potentially manipulated poor woman from a third world country but a very attractive and extremely keen girl who I swear to god wouldn't leave me alone, and smiled constantly, and made me forget where I was and what was happening to the point that my morals and convictions went right out the window. Men are morons, and I don't know what else to say; Men just want to get laid.
I'd landed that morning and this was our first night out. Monkey Dave and I were joined with two English colleagues of his, and we quickly hit the bars. As working guys themselves, they hadn't gone out on a cliched lads' night for quite a while and we ended up in some of the seedier joints around Sukumvit, essentially a hot Leicester Square but with more neon, and girls who'll sleep with you for money.
It wasn't long before we were approached in the very first bar we got to; two women - Mook and Sue - appeared from nowhere to listlessly rub our thighs and engage in pointless smalltalk. I felt both uncomfortable and concerned; I didn't like the fact these scantily-clad strangers were throwing themselves at us when our intentions were to just drink and chat among ourselves. Worse still was the thought that they'd have better luck with probably the worst kind of male on the planet; the old fat Brits and Aussies in football shirts who were prowling around outside, grinning.
We left the bar and the girls and I was escorted by the guys to Nana Plaza, which I now know is a kind of small, layered shopping precinct of sex. We found an inconspicuous looking bar and sat outside for a couple of minutes until the urge to go to the toilet took hold, and that's when my evening took a turn. An absolutely stunning girl in a bikini was stood outside by the entrance with a younger, smaller girl who appeared to be her manager and who made a grab for me as I approached. I managed to politely shrug them off and make for the bathroom. On my return, as I headed for the exit, I grinned awkwardly at the two girls by the door intending to walk past them, Instead, the manager shoved Bikini Girl at me who teetered on her high heels. I grabbed her as she giggled. Being British, I went red, and apologised.
'You drink inside!' they cajoled.
'No thank you. I'm good. Thanks.'
Ten minutes later, we were all sat inside, with the stunning Bikini Girl sat next to me.
'This country is nuts!' I yelled into Monkey Dave's ear as Europop blasted overhead and dead-eyed, bikini-clad dancers wiggled unenthusiastically on podiums.
Bikini Girl - to my shame, I never did catch her name - wriggled against me with her fabulous warm body as I smiled back awkwardly.
'No thank you,' I said when the subject of sex came up almost immediately. 'I can't.'
My crotch kept being grabbed repeatedly as a clumsy (yet sadly effective) inducement, but I was made of sterner stuff, telling them straight - Bikini Girl, the madam manageress, the ladyboy waitress - that no, I wouldn't be doing anything, thankyouverymuch.
'You married?' asked Bikini Girl.
I shook my head. 'No,' I replied. 'I just don't... y'know... agree with this.'
'You fuck!' yelled the ladyboy, pointing at us both. The girl nodded in agreement.
'No, really.' I stood my ground. 'I can't do this to you,' I said to the girl pressed against me, her arm around my waist. 'Do you understand?'
My hand touched her bare back to reinforce my point. 'You're a human being. I can't just pay for you like that,' and she looked at the floor. Her smile was gone and she seemed to understand. Thank god, finally she got it and my Decent Guy status was intact. Her large, wide almond eyes seemed to dim as if I'd extinguished them.
'I'm sorry,' I said to the side of her head, 'I just can't.' Then she turned slowly to face me and stared into me with those brown eyes and brought her lips to my mouth.
'Uh,' was all I could manage as gently, she kissed me.
I looked away at the dancefloor, totally confounded. I was half aware that my right hand was still nestled on her smooth narrow waist, and I had been rubbing her with my thumb. Still perplexed, I looked back at her and she stared back, dangerously close. 'What the hell am I doing?,' I thought as we kissed again.
'I'm not doing this,' I whispered into her ear as I caught the sweet floral scent of her shampoo. It had been a long, long time since I'd smelled something so innocent and feminine, and in that seedy place, it waylaid me. This continued for something like twenty dangerous minutes, a gorgeous, coffee-coloured semi-naked girl pressed hard against me, kissing me, acting nothing like a desperate, manipulated, downtrodden woman, but rather someone totally eager and smitten.
In retrospect, that was when I should've got up and walked out the door, but - and I cannot stress this enough - the girl in the bikini was too good to be true; too beautiful, too keen, and with my entrenched loneliness at that point, it was a lethal combination. I began to waver.
'She dance for you!' the ladyboy waiter yelled, prompting the girl jump up to the podium with a grin.
'No,' I yelled in panic. 'Seriously! Don't!'
And then she danced for me, slowly, rhythmically, and I was in hell. I tried to stare at the floor, somewhere, anywhere, but I was drawn back up to the stage. The thought flashed through my mind that I could have that body - not as a possession, not to buy or rent, you understand - but I needed her immediately. I'd say it was something primal but that sounds too base and aggressive. It was more like a yearning, a desperate, urgent need to feel warm embrace not just of another human being but for her, just her - and after such an absence in my life, it ached. I watched almost in tears as that astonishing body of hers wrapped itself around a pole and, as she smiled back at me, the thought of what might happen made me feel ill .
'I don't know what to do!' I yelled out to Monkey Dave.
'Go for it!' he said unhelpfully. That wasn't the moral advice I was after.
'I can't do this!' I pleaded with Bikini Girl as she climbed down off the podium, jumping onto my lap, and gyrating her round, g-string encased bottom into my crotch.
'Oh god,' I croaked. She sat back down next to me and the words, 'How - uh, what do we do now?' came out of my stupid head.
She smiled and we kissed again, slowly, as my hand slid down her tanned back and under her g-string.
'We go outside?' she asked, which essentially meant this was going to happen.
'I can't,' I whispered this time, more in pointless echo than anything sincere. She wasn't a hooker. She was just fabulous and really, really keen.
I'm almost 75% sure there's absolutely nothing wrong with this...
And then my wallet was out and I was shaking my head at the insanity.
I paid the bar a small release fee, and Bikini Girl disappeared for ten minutes to freshen up while my heart pounded and Monkey Dave cackled in my ear.
'What the hell am I about to do, Dave?'
'Pay for sex,' he laughed.
She reappeared a different woman; elegant and stunning in a little black dress as, smiling, beaming, she reached out for my hand. I grabbed what remained of my scotch with my other hand and threw it down my neck as we walked outside and headed up onto the second level. I felt quite sick as there I was, out in the open, a first-time John, a hooker's Trick, a sex tourist walking guiltily past random girls and sneering ladyboys. The place was a warren of neon bars and of heat and people, of small chickens on rotisseries, a confusion of noise and smells and the sudden emergence of a young Western couple whose presence made me cringe with shame.
We reached the top where a seedy hotel of sorts resided in the shadows. An elderly Scandinavian man walked out from within looking determined and unashamed while in the reception, a young woman was lying prostrate on a sofa impassively watching a violent Thai movie.
'You pay 300 Baht for room,' said Bikini Girl expectantly, and I did so at speed. Then we we walked into the red-lit bedroom, shut the door, and flung our arms around each other.
Without going into details, we spent an hour together, a very, very happy hour where I occasionally remembered who she was and where we were, but remained convinced that, despite the possible debasement, the seediness, the manipulation, it was actually incredibly tender and intimate. It's very hard even now to convince myself that I had paid for sex with a working girl, as it felt nothing of the sort. There was too much hugging, so much eye contact, and stroking - well you get the idea.
I woke up the following morning with the worst,'Oh God, what the hell did I do?' of my life. There were no shades of grey; I'd had sex with a prostitute. I'd walked into a bar, met a girl I liked, and fucked her for money. I felt awful as one simple, sobering fact remained: I had travelled to a developing country and taken advantage of a beautiful local girl.
I'd emailed my friends in London that afternoon, to tell them what I'd done.
'Hahahahahahahahahaha!' they more or less replied, along with the standard jibes that I'd shagged a ladyboy.
I suppose the email was meant to be cathartic, a priestly confession of the secular age, but it made me feel like a braggard. How dare I actually tell her she was a human being, then rent her like a piece of meat anyway? Surely that was worse than just walking in and choosing her immediately? But those eyes that stared up at me from the bed, it was all so intense.
I emailed a right-on campaigning friend of mine who was suitably disgusted, then told me I should take her out for dinner and leave it at that. That made some sense, but I didn't trust myself that it wouldn't all just happen again. I'd have to run in, hand her cash out of the blue hopefully without management noticing, then run out again. But that just seemed odd.
The days passed, and I pondered what to do to right this wrong. But the more I though about it, the more I was unsettled. Specifically it was friends' dumb jibe that I'd bedded a ladyboy. Well of course I hadn't. You can spot ladyboys a mile off as there's something contrived about them. They try a little too hard to be more woman than women, while the woman I'd slept with was too beautiful to have once been a man.
Though having said that, it can be hard to tell.
HOWEVER, there was thank god the simple matter of her vagina. Because it was a vagina. It had been a while for me, but not that long. Her vajayjay worked perfectly, and by that I mean in the moments leading up to sex, she was, erm, ready. I guess that's just a talent of mine. And while I know nothing about gender reassignment, I'm practically100% certain that medical science will never recreate spontaneous internal lubrication in a man. How could it? It's just not possible without some kind of switch or fluid at the ready so, ladyboy? Ha! No. End of Story, case closed.
But she was tall... just a shade shorter than me and I'm 6-feet in walking boots so for a Thai woman even in heels, she was practically a giant. Then there were a couple of things that just didn't sit well with me. It was like living in my own personal Usual Suspects as I had little flashbacks about the extremely over-eager Bikini Girl.
.... "I don't know what else to say; Men just want to get laid."
'Dave,' I'd whispered to Monkey Dave when we had a quiet moment away from his wife and kids, 'how can ladyboys get, y'know, wet? They can't, can they?'
'Dunno,' he'd shrugged. 'Some kind of lubricant, I suppose.'
I'd nodded, and wandered off, playing that night back in mu head... leaving the bar... walking upstairs... past sneering (envious of a more convincing?) ladyboys... falling onto the bed kissing, and taking off our clothes, when Bikini Girl got up and stepped behind the partition in the corner of the sparse room.
'I have to shower,' she'd said.
I thought it odd, particularly as I'd waited ten minutes for her to get ready downstairs and assumed she'd already freshened up then.
..... 'Some kind of lubricant, I suppose.'
And when she'd returned from her brief shower, her skin was dry to the touch.
Then there was her clitoris. It was chubby, like a reconstructed bell-end. And I can't remember much in the way of labia, or a hood, and although she was a model of femininity, her ladygarden being quite unkempt, when a tidy Brazilian trim would've suited her perfectly. Perhaps it was covering up the scars?
The Usual Suspects was becoming The Crying Game.
And then there was the last piece of the puzzle. In the crime-solving world, this is known as an admission. But at the time, I dismissed it, ignoring the signs because I didn't want to hear it.
Bikini Girl wriggled that body back into her little black dress while I climbed dazed and grinning back into my shit shorts and t-shirt. She took my hand and we walked downstairs. Back in the bar, while management prepared the sex bill, a quite drunk Monkey Dave yelled into my ear: 'Mate, you would not believe how many of these birds are ladyboys.'
I looked around, now paying more attention to the half-naked dancers who appeared quite mannish.
Bikini Girl - in her little black dress - was sat looking up at her gyrating colleagues, so I walked over to her.
'Are there lots of ladyboys here?'
'I'm a ladyboy,' she replied, pointedly not looking at me but staring up at the podium.
'Eh?' I'd replied with a smile. The daft, beautiful leg-puller, and left the bar to go home.
... Some sort of lubricant...
... Men just want to get laid...
"I'm a ladyboy."