I’m still sober and feeling pretty good.
Yesterday, Monday, Noo and I drove into Pattaya, did a bit of shopping, ran a few errands and then I took her on a bit of a sightseeing tour up near Nong Nooch. The area to the east of Sukhumvit, just before Nong Nooch, is one of the most scenic parts of Chonburi Province, with some fascinating, unconventional Wats, a huge Buddha sculptor on a hillside, scenic lakes, and vineyard and some pristine forest which can be accessed by a ‘mountain road’ that snakes around the steep hillsides.
It was late afternoon and the air was surprisingly fresh and cool when, to conclude my little tour, I drove further south to Bang Sare, just in time to see a beautiful sunset over the beach. We took a romantic wander along the pristine sand and then adjourned to that excellent restaurant on stilts which stretches out over the bay. There, we stuffed ourselves silly with seafood and watched the sun finally set on a magical ocean, watching the fishing boats bobbing up and down in the slight swell and gazed across the sea to the twinkling lights,which delineated the outline of the Na Jomtien peninsular.
Water, not wine, was our preferred refreshment as the setting, the food and company were intoxicating enough and we didn’t require any further stimulants to bo0ost our already burgeoning spirits.
Since Noo has been with me, getting on to 3 months now, we have never had a cross word between us. The only bad behaviour has been on my side as I am always grumpy in the morning and I guess I have probably said some bad things on the few occasions when I came home drunk. But Noo never complains and behaves impeccably at all times. She always has such lovely smile on her face, seems genuinely grateful to me for taking her to live with me and taking care of her and in return she just can’t do enough.
As promised in my last blog, I will start publishing the first, rough drafts of my new novel today. I have written over 7,000 words and am barely into my first chapter. I know it is overblown, but I will let it develop as it goes and worry about cutting back later.
I do not have a title for my novel yet, so for the time being I will use a provisional or ‘working title’ of ‘Som Nam Na’
So here it is, the first part of the first chapter:
Working title: Som nam na
Na parked her Honda motor cycle at right angles to the kerb, next to three other bikes which were similarly parked. She lifted her weary little body off the machine and joined the short, roadside queue for her nightly ‘fix’ of somtum, the spicy North Eastern dish so popular amongst the itinerant Thai population of Pattaya.
It was 4 a.m. and she had parked in Second Road, in the heart of ‘Sin City’, Pattaya, but despite the hour, the town was still wide awake – buzzing with life. The streets, restaurants, bars, massage parlours and whore houses were still bustling with frenetic activity.
There were the punters: foreign tourists out for a night on the town, determined to squeeze every ounce of elicit pleasure from this most infamous of red light metropolises. Then there were the Thais: thousands of them – of which Na was one – mostly ‘temporary’ residents in this ever expanding city, who were also out in force and also full of determination; determination to squeeze every hard earned dollar and cent from the mainly booze-sozzled, sex-crazed punters.
Na was moderately drunk and very hungry. Four in the morning may not have been particularly late by Pattaya standards, but it was late for her. Her job as a ‘hostess’ in one of the more discerning Gentlemen’s Clubs usually finished around midnight, but on this particular night there had been a group of high rolling, very drunk customers who had been reluctant to leave. So the farang boss had prevailed upon the few remaining ladies – the ones who had not been ‘bought out’ for the night – to stay past their normal finishing time and provide the late night entertainment.
At first, Na had welcomed this request as she was very short of money and she hoped that one of the men from the group would decide to take her with him. The thousand baht or so she would earn from a ‘short time’ fuck would come in very handy. In the event, she had permitted the drunken, pot- bellied slobs to paw her for the best part of three hours and all that she had earned for her efforts was a lousy hundred and fifty baht: her cut from the few overpriced drinks they had reluctantly agreed to buy her.
Na was almost broke – she hadn’t had slept with a customer in days – her rent was overdue and her mother and her two kids were waiting patiently in her room for her to return home with some food. She looked in her purse and counted two hundred and thirty Baht. By the time she had bought her Somtum, there would be less than two hundred baht remaining to feed her mother, her five year old daughter and six month old baby son. It was 2010, only three months since the widespread riots in Bangkok that had hit the Pattaya tourist industry particularly hard. This, together with ever increasing prices and the inexplicable strengthening of the Thai Baht meant that her family would be very hungry well before she had a further opportunity to earn some money when she clocked onto work the following afternoon.
She wasn’t overly worried – it just wasn’t in her nature to worry too much about tomorrow. Her main thoughts were centred on satisfying her craving for the somtum pala – the hot papaya salad with tiny little black crabs – which was at that very moment being pounded out in the chipped mortar in front of her by an ancient Issan woman. She would worry about feeding the family later. If she allowed herself to worry about all her problems at the same time, she would never be able to laugh and joke her way through the day, never be able to ‘bai tio’ – go out and enjoy herself with her friends – and most of all, she would never be able to smile her beautiful smile and work her bewitching wiles on the stupid kaacks who came looking for cheap sexual gratification at her place of employment.
No, tomorrow would take care of itself – it always did. It was the Thai way; just live for today and not worry too much about what may happen tomorrow. But even the irrepressible Na started to feel weighed down with life’s misfortunes as she sorted out her bank notes and coins to pay for her food. She may have to go to a money lender if things didn’t go well tomorrow and she knew that once she allowed herself to get into the hands of the loan sharks, it would be the start of a very slippery and dangerous slope. She had been there before and she knew only too well.
She ruefully thought back over her short but eventful life.
Born in Kon Kaen, in the heart of Issan she was the oldest child in a family of two girls and two boys. The family of four children was abandoned by their father soon after the youngest brother was born, whereupon the desperate and homeless mother had brought them to Pattaya in the vain hope of a better life. It was there that Na’s little baby brother, Num, barely three months old, died of an untreated, undiagnosed sickness.
Home was a rusty, corrugated lean-to, held up by rotting wooden posts with a floor of cardboard which disintegrated every time it rained, necessitating replacement when the next consignment of filthy cardboard boxes were dumped nearby. They squatted with other, similarly impoverished families in the centre of a stinking slum where they eked out an existence, sorting recyclable rubbish from the putrid piles that were dumped daily on the vacant land that surrounded their makeshift shelters. Life was unbearably hot, very hard, and the hunger pangs rarely left their weary, skeletal, skin-diseased bodies.
Inevitably, the slums became pray to the drug dealers, thieves, rapists and other degenerates from the very dregs of Thai society. Daily deaths from drug overdoses, HIV-AIDS related illnesses, drunken and drug induced fights and robberies were so common-place that nobody really cared. It really was a place where ‘dog ate dog’ and only the fittest and strongest survived.
The existence of such slums in the middle of thriving Pattaya was an embarrassing fact that nobody in authority wanted to admit. It was even a no-go area for the mafia cops of sin city. They generally kept their distance as there was nothing there to interest them – no money worth their efforts to extract from the destitute populace of this degenerate cesspool of humanity.
Occasionally, a high profile crime would occur in Pattaya – a rape, murder or aggravated assault of a foreigner. Invariably, the local police superintendent would announce that the perpetrator had ostensibly sought refuge in the slums, whereupon Pattaya’s finest would enter the area in force. They would tear down most of the ramshackle homes and beat up any slum dwellers they could lay their hands on – mainly those too sick, too infirm or too small to make good their escape. This manic invasion would invariably reach a conclusion when the cops would triumphantly arrest some poor innocent resident, beat the shit out of him, extract a confession and announce to the world they had successfully tracked down the guilty party.
The slums also became pray to the lowest and vilest of all in Thai society. The Thai pimps and paedophiles who sought out children – of almost any age – to sell to their mainly farang – Caucasian – customers. Na’s only surviving brother, Tom, disappeared when he was five years old and she never saw him again. Nobody would say what had happened to him, but Dow, her mother, always assured Na that he was better off where he was and they should forget all about him as he would never come back to them. Na was just turning eight years old at the time and although she had a sense of what these evil pimps were about, she had never personally been approached. Some of her few friends, who had already been subjected to such ‘arrangements, refused to discuss what had taken place when they had vanished for weeks, sometimes months at a time in the company of these repulsive men.
She did notice that after Tom departed, the family’s food supply suddenly seemed to be a lot more plentiful and it was only several months after his disappearance that once again, the now reduced family of three once more started to struggle to find enough food to satisfy their daily needs.
The dreadful pattern inevitably repeated itself. When Na saw her mother in deep conversation with one of those nasty Thai men who drove by the slums from time to time, she was street-wise enough to realise what was going on. She wondered if this time it would be herself who would be ‘sold’ to one of these men and was bracing herself for the terrifying news. But Dow called her over and tearfully informed her that her younger sister, the seven year old Nid, would be going away with the ‘kind Thai man’.
Na was heartbroken. The two sisters were inseparable and Na couldn’t imagine life without her. She was also extremely perturbed at the fate that might befall her sister and begged Dow to send her – Na – with the man, in Nid’s place. Dow informed her that she wanted to keep Na at ‘home’, as she was a good worker. In any case, she was told that as her skin was covered with spots and scars – a result of an untreated skin disease – the man had no interest in her.
She was a plucky little girl and she had learned to face life’s hard knocks with a steely fortitude which brooked no sentiment or tears, but the night her much-loved sister was taken from her, she broke down and cried so hard and for so long that her mother feared for her sanity. She refused food for several days and the more Dow tried to tempt her with the rare delicacies she had been able to afford from the money she had received from the ‘sale’ of her sister, the more distressed Na became and the more intractable her nature.
Eventually, Na realised that life had to go on and that she had a filial duty to take care of her mother, but she did it without joy and without love.
Na was nine years old and still completely illiterate when an event happened which would change her life. For the past year or so there had been some strange looking farang visitors to their slum. They had come armed with food, water, clothing, medicine and other desperately needed items. She had not seen many farangs in her short life and she started to welcome these weekly visits, not only because she could see that they were kind and were bringing the slum dwellers things which eased their impoverished lives, but also because they brought a bit of laughter and fun back into her miserable life. The farangs didn’t speak much Thai but, with a mixture of sign language and primitive Thai they managed to communicate. They would take a special interest in the very young children and babies. They would nurse them, play with them, feed them and even sing songs to them. It was a welcome break from Na’s normal bleak and grim existence.
One day, her mother called Na over when she was talking to one of the farangs – an elderly, rotund woman, who Na recognised as one of the leaders of the group and a woman of great warmth and joviality. Na’s mother pointed to her daughter’s skin problems and she asked the old woman if she could help. She asked her if she could buy some ointment for her.
The old woman called over one of the Thai men who had accompanied the group and between them they explained to Dow that she couldn’t help Na if she continued to live in such a dirty place. She asked Dow if she could take Na back with her to a clean home and then she would take her to a doctor and hopefully be able to treat her condition.
Dow steadfastly refused. She told them that Na was all she had left and she couldn’t let her go. How would she able to live if she didn’t have Na, and that she would miss her terribly. The farang woman explained that she would bring food to Dow every week and that she was welcome to visit Na whenever she wanted. At first, Dow thought that the farang woman wanted to ‘buy’ Na, but the woman explained that she just wanted to take care of Na for a while, to make her skin better. When she was well enough, Dow could take her back, if that was what she wanted.
Eventually, after a great deal of discussion and persuasion, Na’s mother reluctantly agreed, and for the first time in her life, Na was taken out of the slums to live in a clean, proper home. She even had a real bed to sleep on. Her skin was in such a bad condition that instead of talking Na to the children’s home – a home for street kids known as ‘The Street Kids Mission’ – which the woman, a Canadian called Kate, ran with her husband, Bill, she decided to take Na to her own home where she would benefit from even better, personal care.
The period of Na’s stay with Kate and Bill at their home and later at the ‘The Street Kids Mission’, located nearby, was the highlight and joy of her young life. She learned to smile again and learned to enjoy life. With dedicated care, her skin problem slowly became a thing of the past and she made many good friends amongst the kids who had been brought there in similar circumstances to Na. Some of the kids had been even worse off when they first arrived, having suffered almost unspeakable acts of cruelty before Kate and Bill stepped in to help. All the children had tragic pasts; many of them had been ill-treated and abused since they were old enough to walk. But somehow, at this home, run by these strange, caring farangs , they started to find a new joy and happiness in their young lives, where before there had only been pain and despair.
Much later in her life, Na came to understand that The Street kids Mission’s reason for existence was to ‘plug a gaping hole’ in the Thai social services system. Genuine orphans were entitled to be taken care of by the state or by charitable homes run by Thai religious foundations under the authority of the State. But none of the kids who were rescued by ‘The Street Kids Mission’ were orphans and as such, none of the ‘official’ Thai orphanages would have any dealings with them.
Kids who lived at ‘The Street kids Mission’ had a living relative, usually a mother, who gave permission for their offspring to stay there, or they were illegal aliens in Thailand, maybe from Burma or Laos and as such, had no rights under the Thai system – legally they just didn’t exist.
At any time the relative could go to the mission and demand that their child be returned to them. Sometimes the kids were referred to the mission by the social services in Pattaya, and sometimes they were brought there by starving mothers who wanted their child to be fed and schooled. But whoever brought them, the living relative, or legal guardian, had an absolute right to remove them whenever the mood took them – and they frequently did just that.
Na was sent to the local Wat school with the rest of the kids and she proved to be a willing and adept student. Within a year she could read and write Thai and she even started to learn a bit of English at a special weekend school which was run by farang volunteers in the premises at the kids’ home.
In all, Na was at the mercy Mission for nearly three years. Dow would come and see her about once every two months or so and Kate and Bill would visit Dow in the slums every week, where they provided her with food and clothing to augment the meagre income she made from selling re-cycled rubbish.
Na was twelve years old when she was called into Kate’s office at the Street Kids Mission and told that she would have to go back to live with her mother, who was waiting for her in the office. Dow told her that she missed her daughter so much and couldn’t live without her any more. Na was told that she had to go back home and take care of Dow.
Na looked at Kate. She didn’t want to leave mission. She was so happy there and dreaded going back to a life in the slums, sorting through filth to eke out a living. Kate explained to Na that she, Kate, had no right to stop Dow taking her back. Na could only stay at the mission with her mother’s permission and if she wanted her to go back home; there was nothing anyone could do to stop her.
When the realisation sunk in that she would really have to leave, Na became distraught and broke down in floods of tears and begged her mother to let her stay. But Dow was obdurate. Na had to go. It was a very sad, traumatic night for all concerned, but worse was to come.
Na had been back in the slums for less than twenty-four hours when Dow received a visit from one of those Thai men with shiny cars who Na remembered from earlier days. Her mother had a whispered discussion with the man before calling Na over to meet him. She told Na that she had to go with the man as Dow needed the money badly.
Na was horrified, but there was little she could do. She thought of trying to run away, but when the man caught her looking at the cloth flap that passed for a door, he grabbed her wrist in a vice-like clutch. He scowled menacingly at her, warning her not to try anything or the worse would happen to Na’s mother. Na was in no doubt that the man meant what he said as she had seen many people beaten within an ounce of their lives by such visitors during her years in the slum.
She asked her mother where she was being taken and she told her not to worry as she was being sold to a nice farang man and that she would be well taken care of. When she heard this news, Na relaxed a little. She thought that maybe this farang would be like the ones that she had met at the Mission and that he would be good to her. But she was still ill at ease. She couldn’t quite understand why this evil Thai man would pay money for her and then hand her over to a farang?
The man counted out a few bank notes from a roll of money he kept in a money belt around his waist, handed the cash over to Dow and led Na to his car where he pushed her into the front seat.
The next year of Na’s life was a nightmare that would probably stay with Na till her dying day.
The Thai man delivered her to an apartment block located in the northern end of Pattaya, in a suburb known as Na Kua. There she was handed over to a very fat, elderly, unshaven farang, who she learned later was of German origin. The man, Klaus, lived on the 5th floor of a modest apartment block. The place where Na was to spend the next twelve months consisted of a small kitchenette, a bedroom dominated by a huge double bed and a tiny lounge with a small TV in the corner.
She was not allowed to leave the apartment, which he locked from the outside with a padlock whenever he went out, and she was forced to perform unspeakable sex acts with her captor – sometimes as often as six times in one day. When she wasn’t being abused, she had to cook, clean and perform other menial tasks for her ‘master’. He taught her how to cook German food and she was given his left-overs to live on. When he wasn’t abusing her he would go out to drink with his friends at a nearby bar, leaving her thankfully alone for a few hours. Then he would return, drunk and abuse her yet again before collapsing in a drunken sleep.
The only time she left the apartment during that year was on two occasions when she was taken to a dirty clinic and a backstreet, illegal abortion was performed on her.
For Na, at twelve years old, it seemed as though her life was at an end and she often seriously contemplated cutting her wrists with a kitchen knife and getting a merciful release from all her pain and suffering.
In the end, just over a year since she had been sold into this life of hell, Klaus had gone out for his nightly drinking bout and there was a loud knock at the door. Na had barely time to shout out that the door was locked from the outside, when there was a noise of splitting wood and the door crashed in, followed by three policemen in riot gear.
It transpired that Klaus had been arrested at a nearby illegal brothel having sex with a girl no more than ten years old and one of his Thai ‘friends’ had told the police that he also had an underage girl in his home.
Na was taken to Pattaya police station where she was interrogated and forced to sit in a chair, next to the odious Klaus, while the local press took photographs of the two: the paedophile with his underage sex slave. The resultant pictures were flashed luridly over the local and National press the following day.
Kate recognised Na from a photograph in one of the Thai newspapers. She immediately went to the slums to show Na’s mother the newspaper story and the two of them drove straight to Pattaya police station to collect Na. By this time the police had finished with her and she was allowed to leave with the two women.
Dow agreed to let Na go back to the Mission where Kate, Bill and all the volunteers did their level best to smother her with love, care and attention in an impossible attempt to eradicate the memories of her horrific year.
Na was so happy and grateful to be back in the familiar, loving environment but the terrible events of that year remained forever; indelibly etched in her mind. She would never, ever forget what had transpired and for years afterwards, she would wake up in a cold sweat, dreaming that she was back in that foul apartment with the revolting fat German, lying on her, squashing the breath out of her frail little body and forcing himself into her. She was damaged for life and she would never truly recover. But life had to go on and she did her best. She still had her spirit, a spirit that was all but snuffed out in that horrifying, seedy apartment in Na Klua, Pattaya.
Six months after Na had returned to the Street Kids Mission, Dow made one of her now rare visits to see her and told her daughter that once again, she needed Na to go back home with her. Na immediately fell into a rage, yelling and screaming at the top of her voice; questioning her mother’s motives. Dow confessed that she wanted to sell Na yet again as she was short of money. She had become addicted to ya ba – that deadly mix of methamphetamine and caffeine – which had been supplied to her by the very man who had ‘bought’ her daughter some eighteen months previously. She needed the money to feed her habit.
Na was beside herself with anger and fear and she shrieked so loudly at her mother that Kate, Bill and other workers came running, fearing something terrible was happening. When Na told Kate what was going on, everyone did their best to calm down the situation and the Thai volunteers tried to comfort the mother and to persuade her to get help for her addiction. Eventually, with mother and daughter both in tears and hugging each other, it was agreed that Na would stay at the mission and that Dow would go with some volunteers to a centre for drug addicts.
It was many years before Dow eventually succeeded in kicking the habit, but never again did she try to take Na away from the Street Kids Mission, where Na stayed until her sixteenth birthday.
She had grown into a very attractive young lady and in spite of the emotional scars; she had blossomed into a charming and cheerful soul, seemingly full of fun and always ready to see the funny side of things. It wasn’t long before she attracted the attention of the young Thai men who sometimes came to do volunteer work at the mission and shortly after her sixteenth birthday she announced that she was leaving the mission and was going to ‘live’ with her latest boyfriend .
The affair didn’t last long. As soon as she told her boyfriend what had happened to her when she was twelve, he lost interest in her and kicked her out of the room they shared together. There then followed a series of short lived affairs before Na finally got it into her head that most Thai men would never be serious about a penniless, Issan girl from the slums with minimal education, no gainful employment and who had been badly abused as a child.
She was barely seventeen when she got her first job in a Pattaya bar and within months she had graduated to one of the top go-go bars in Walking Street, the pinnacle of Pattaya’s red light district. Na – the beautiful, sexy, go-go dancer – had arrived and she had no problems in attracting a coterie of smitten farang customers.
She was extremely popular. She was in her prime and the men just fell over themselves to bed her and ply her with money. During her most ‘productive spell’ she would have as many as six farangs on her ‘payroll’ at one time. She became adept at structuring her time with them so that no single customer was aware of the existence of the others. When they went back to their home countries, they would send monthly remittances to her bank account. She became a master of deception and even when two or more customers were in Pattaya at the same time, she became more and more inventive at explaining her absences and keeping them all at a distance from each other. She achieved all this while holding down a full time job – although for much of the time she was being ‘bar-fined’ and made few appearances at her place of employment.
From a financial perspective, this was by far the most fruitful period of her life. She had a goodly sum sorted away in various bank accounts; her large, velvet jewellery case was crammed full of jewellery and gold; she owned outright one of the latest Honda motorcycles and had even bought a few rai of land up-country. She lived in one of the better class condominium blocks in Pattaya and used her high earnings as a successful go-go dancer cum prostitute to furnish her condo with the best of furniture and all the latest mod cons and conveniences. Dow, now thankfully free of her drug habit, came to live with Na and she became her cook and general housekeeper.
At nineteen, Na was in her prime. Unfortunately, she was also in a prime situation for yet another fall. She had long learned that Thai men were not for her. Her brief experiences had led her to the conclusion that they were all deceitful, unfaithful, selfish, frequently violent creatures who never had any money. On the other hand she had met many good looking, young farangs who seemed to be so different. They were all rich and they fell over backwards to make her happy and shower her with gifts and money. They wanted to spend all their time with her and were so much in love with her that they would literally do anything to keep her in the manner that she had become accustomed. Moreover, unlike Thai men, she discovered that these farang men were so easy to control. They believed everything she told them and would do anything she wished. They would never question her or argue with her – not if they wanted to remain her ‘boyfriend’.
All in all, she concluded that she could do no better than choose one of these young men as a permanent partner – maybe even a future husband. She was growing tired of her life as a go-go dancer and ever wearier of all the lies and games she had to play to keep her veracious suitors apart from each other.
This might have been a good plan if she had chosen wisely. Unfortunately, she didn’t. She chose a ‘wrong-un’. Mike was a smart, streetwise handsome young cockney lad of twenty-six. He was one of the new breed of city traders who survived on his wits and had made a small fortune in the London money markets. He lived hard and played hard and had discovered Pattaya a couple of years earlier when he had made the miraculous discovery that his good looks and flowing blond long hair together with a fat wallet would buy him almost any girl he desired, and that included the lovely Na.
Mike was quite taken with Na and when he was back home in the ‘square mile’ making yet more loadsa money, he would send her regular, generous remittances, just so that he could ‘keep her on ice’, (or so he thought), until his next visit. But this didn’t stop him enjoying the delights of many other girls when he flew back to Thailand. At this point in his life the last thing he wanted was a monogamous relationship. He was enjoying himself immensely ‘playing the field’ and could well afford to do so.
When Na suggested that he move in with her, he was highly flattered. She was one of the most popular ladies in Pattaya. Every time she got up to dance in her glittering, skimpy outfit that left little to the imagination, all the punters fawned around her and queued up to buy her drinks and hold her hand.
But it hadn’t even occurred to Mike to shack up with one of these girls until Na suggested it to him. Not only was he flattered but it would prove to be a huge boost to his ego to have Na on his arm whenever he went out for a night on the town. He would make sure the lads all understood that it was ‘Hands off Na – she was taken’. They would all be so jealous and as an added bonus, he wouldn’t have to go to the effort of finding a new lady to sleep with every night.
These were the sum total of thoughts that entered Mike’s mind when he agreed to Na’s proposal to live together and it was a recipe for disaster. Na was ready to commit to a full time, serious relationship, but Mike was just after a bit of fun and to make his friends jealous.
The novelty of Mike having a beautiful Thai lady as his very own, exclusive, property didn’t last long. At first, things seemed to go well, but as time wore on, Mike absences to have a night out with is mates alone became ever more frequent. He soon grew tired of bringing Na with him as his testosterone filled body was still bursting to impregnate as many of the lovely damsels of Pattaya that time and money would permit.
Eventually, an increasingly suspicious Na confronted her boyfriend with his infidelity and he would swear on his life that it would never happen again. But it did – over and over. By this time Na was already seriously in love with her charming farang so in a fit of desperation, she came up with a what she believed would be a devilish master plan; she allowed herself to become pregnant.
Na wasn’t too sure what Mike’s reaction to the news of her pregnancy would be, but she needn’t have worried. He was delighted. It was proof – as if he needed it – of his virility and he spent many drunken evenings celebrating and bragging to his friends how clever he was to make a baby.
After Na broke her happy news, for a while they seemed to be happier than ever. Na was blossoming in the full throes of her pregnancy and Mike was being surprisingly solicitous; spending more time at home with her than he had ever done. But as her pregnancy progressed – from three to six months, with Na’s inevitable weight gain, Mikes eyes started to wander again. The odd day out alone turned into several days a week, and by the time Na was seven months pregnant, Mike was hardly ever at home. He would disappear, night after night, and sometimes not come home till morning – obviously after enjoying the delights of another woman before crawling home to bed in the wee hours.
Although most of Na’s non-monetary assets were still intact, the cash in her bank accounts had grown alarmingly low. She had been spending her own money in the assumption that Mike would help her out when necessary. While in the beginning he was only too happy to contribute to the joint finances, as time went on he seemed ever more reluctant to put his hand in his pocket.
The truth was that his own funds were getting low and he needed to go back to England and start working again. The small amount of funds that he still possessed was reserved for his ‘nights out’, so he had little remaining with which to support his pregnant girlfriend.
Eventually, when Na was eight months gone, Mike announced that he had to return to England for a few months as he needed to go back to work to get money for his new family. Na was sad that he was going, but thankful that at long last Mike seemed to be accepting his responsibilities as her ‘common law’ husband and was now prepared to do something about it.
In the event, barely three days before she delivered her first, full term baby, she received a message through one of Mikes’s drinking pals that he was not coming back and that he didn’t want to see her any more. Mike had also tried to claim that he was not the father of her baby and that he would no longer be sending her any money. At first, she refused to believe this, as this seemingly preposterous news had been imparted to her through one of his friends. Surely her beloved Mike could never do something like this? But as time went on and she never heard another word, let alone receive any money, she realised what a huge mistake she had made. Once again, in her all too brief life, she had been used in the worst possible way.
She had a baby and mother to support and very little money. In desperation she sold all her gold and jewellery, took out a loan on the land she owned up country and moved into a smaller, modest room on the outskirts of Pattaya. But by the time the baby was barely three months old, the money had run out and she was obliged to return to the bars to earn a living. Her body was still in reasonable shape but not sufficiently pristine to enable her to back to work as a go-go dancer. From now on she would have to earn her living as a bar hostess.
Not only had her earning potential been substantially reduced, but with a baby back home, her chances of finding a new husband to take care of her were now extremely limited.
So life wasn’t easy, but Na soldiered on. She was still an attractive young lady, now in her early twenties and for the most part she found enough customers to pay the bills and keep Dow and fast growing baby daughter in food and clothes.
There were good times and bad times. Sometimes, she would be ‘bought-out’ of the bar where she was working for several days at a time, or even for a week or so, by her farang customers. They were usually kind to her, gave her a good time and were quite generous with their money. Occasionally, a customer would take her with him on holiday to another part of Thailand and over time she visited many popular Thai destinations such as Phuket, Chiang Mai, and so on. She even obtained a passport which she utilised on a couple of occasions when a rich punter whisked her off to Hong Kong and Singapore for shopping weekends.
She was a bright, fun loving, pretty young thing who spoke a bit of English and was an ideal companion for men, often more than double her age, who needed a boost to their egos when travelling in the region. But as the years went by, such trips became rarer. Moreover, her daughter and mother back in her rented Pattaya room remained an immovable obstacle to her chances of marrying.
There were times when she wouldn’t find a customer for days and she had to resort to pawning some of her precious possessions at the local pawnshop before a well-heeled customer would eventually come to the rescue and pay her enough to redeem them until the next occasion when she became desperate for money.
On a few unpleasant instances she had to tolerate the ‘bottom end’ of the ‘kaak sex-market; old, ugly fat farangs, (many of whom reminded her of the evil Klaus of her youth), who made her perform acts that disgusted her. But she had to live and for the main part life wasn’t too bad. Most of the farangs were reasonably well behaved and she managed to keep herself in good spirits.
She was twenty-six years old when yet another moment of total madness hit her.
She met a Thai man at the bar where she worked and after a short period it developed into a serious relationship. He was a very handsome, charming young man who worked in the bar as the resident DJ. He was clearly infatuated with Na and had great prowess as a sexual performer – he was one of the very few men who could truly satisfy her. They had many interests in common and in particular they shared a love of the latest western hip hop and rap. Na became convinced that this time it would be different and for the first time for years, she allowed herself to fall in love, yet again. Her lover promised her the earth. He told her that he wanted to marry her and he would take care of her and her daughter for the rest of his life.
She believed every word he said, but when his eyes started to wander when working his nights in the bar, she tried yet again to seal her future prospects with a pregnancy. This time the father-to-be didn’t even stay long enough to see her through the early months of her pregnancy. Within a week of learning of his girlfriend’s condition, he packed his meagre belongings and was gone – out of her life and his job at the bar for ever.
As before, she cried herself to sleep for week, then picked herself up and soldiered valiantly on. She continued to work as a hostess, right to the time she delivered the baby; although for the last four months she had to rely on her cut from the few drinks that came her way. Even in ‘sin city’, nobody wanted to bed a heavily pregnant lady.
After the latest birth, life once more became very tough and most of her prized possessions seemed to be permanently parked in a nearby pawnshop. But even the birth of two babies had not significantly damaged her very trim figure; although her naked body bore the tell-tale stretch marks of two full term pregnancies, all things considered, she was still in pretty good shape.
After a few months of job-hopping, she succeeded in landing a job as a ‘hostess’ in one of the newer ‘Gentlemen’s clubs’ that had sprung up and which normally opened from noon to midnight. They catered for the well-off, mainly married farang residents who were looking for a bit of day time distraction and also, for the occasional well off tour group who were taken there by commissioned tour guides.
Her personality and good looks had made her a popular hostess and at first, she was in much demand by the elderly punters who patronised the place. The problem was that not many of the customers were interested in having a ‘short-time’ in one of the many well equipped rooms that were provided for this purpose. It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford it – after all the going rate was pretty much the same as anywhere – three hundred Baht for the room, one thousand Baht for the girl. No, it was just that they were of a certain age where the testosterone levels were no longer raging as they once were and most of the punters were quite happy to sit on the deeply piled couches for an hour or so, get mildly drunk and enjoy the cuddles of a pretty lady, a third of their age. They weren’t averse to a heavy dose of groping, but for many, full sex in a room or even a blow job, was a no go.
Often, these men would spend more than their younger counterparts in the downtown Walking Street bars who always paid for sex. The drinks bill, for themselves and their escorts, plus tips to the ladies, often ran to several thousand Baht.
But for Na and the girls who worked these establishments, they had to work very hard for their cut of the drink money – and hoped for tips – which were not always forthcoming. Occasionally they got lucky and landed a younger man who was up for a proper sexual encounter and was happy to pay for it, but more often than not, Na had to rely on drinks and tips.
By now, most of the regular customers knew her and for some reason that seemed to reduce her commercial potential. Everyone greeted her warmly but then made a beeline for one of the newer, younger ladies. She was fast becoming ‘part of the furniture’ and was grimly contemplating the need to move on – yet again.
The old woman snapped Na out of her reverie as she handed her the completed dish of somtum pala. She needed both hands to carry the dish of somtan and a second dish of vegetables to the kerbside table. She was still a meter away from the stool when her whole being was assaulted by the ominous sound of metal crunching against metal – that terrifying, deep, metallic thud that occurs when vehicles collide. She instinctively spun around in time to see a low-slung, black saloon vehicle careering into the side of a second, moving vehicle after having already demolished a parked vehicle.
The second vehicle was one of those ubiquitous ‘Baht buses’, a converted pickup truck that transported paying passengers in the back on specially fitted bench seats. The vehicle was hit with such force that it tumbled over onto its side, spilling its helpless occupants out across the road.
The smoke in the air was palpable, and the black sedan buried its nearside front wing into a third, parked car and finally ground to a shuddering halt. A sudden, eerie silence descended over the scene of the carnage. For a fraction of a second, it seemed as though time stood had still. For a brief flash of time, no-one moved and no one uttered a sound.
The plastic dishes of food that Na had been carrying, seemed to fly out of her hands, bounced on the hard surface of the road and scattered their contents hither and thither.
She started to recover from her initial shock and stared at the scene of carnage that lay in front of her. Some of the passengers had been thrown completely clear of the pickup truck and lay on the ground in unnatural, twisted heaps. Two more victims were hanging half in and half out of the overturned vehicle and Na noticed that one of the hanging bodies was rapidly turning a bright shade of crimson.
Then she glanced at the car. It was somehow familiar to her – it was a BMW – a car she had seen before somewhere. Yes, she knew that black BMW – she recognised the number.
‘My God,’ she shouted, ‘I know that car! I know that fucking car!’