French left UK to escape the cops and taxmen and headed east for Bangkok. This was not the first time he had been to this part of the world. Colombo was ‘a mess and a bit threatening’, Singapore was ‘squeaky-clean and restrictive’, but Bangkok was ‘dirty, hot, steamy and smelled wonderful’. Thailand was ‘scarily, exhilaratingly, and amazingly… foreign’.
After checking in at Montien, French headed out to paint the town red and realised it was midnight. No worries. This is Asia, AND this is Bangkok. There were plenty of bars open, each with a girl in a bikini to lure the customers. He walked on.
Then, like love at first sight, French was transfixed by the vision of a creature from another planet:
Waist-length blue-black hair flailing like a cat-o-nine-tails, body bouncing, jerking, and sweating so much you could see the flying droplets caught in the spotlight, and the colour… she looked as though she’d been flayed alive and dipped in hot honey.
He went in like he was on elastic… I wonder what his reaction would be had he seen a ‘ping-pong girl’.
To cut the long story short, she followed him back to the hotel. She had him at “You so silly, you!”, plus the off-stage ‘secretary-fantasy in miniature’ look. Her name was Mae.
By the next night, he had moved into her apartment at Sukhumvit Road. While she went to college and worked at night, he explored the city by tuk-tuk. They soon settled into domesticity. Ate at street-stalls, watched Thai soap operas… He learned some Thai, and taught her better English pronunciation. On weekends, they travelled by train to the north, or took a coach to Pattaya, ‘the rectum of Asia’.
Wait. Wasn’t French supposed to be somewhere else? Right. He only remembered when Mae was looking at his passport photo. “You overstay!” He was supposed to be in Hong Kong the week before.
He called Michael Ball who was not a happy rabbit. The job in Hong Kong was already filled, but if French could get himself to Singapore the next day… What did I tell you? French is one lucky bastard.
So off he went.
I waved one last time to my tiny dancer, who didn’t look at all heartbroken. In fact she smiled happily and waved back. On the other hand, I felt empty.
I silly, I.
I think French had fallen in love.