Alzheimer’s in America
Sex in Thailand
Tangles of the Mind
“As you may know, in this Town, memory is unreliable and uncertain.” - Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami
“Good-bye to the novel, sanity, and good health. Hello angels!” – preface to Crazy Cock, Henry Miller
“The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them.” The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
“All concepts in the mind that we take for reality are to be investigated: Know what concepts do to the mind.” Ajahn Sumedho, Abbot of Amaravati Monastery, Thailand
Notes for Harassed Reviewers
Who have no Time to Read Entire Novels
This is the story of Dan Richards, a once happy teacher living in Mystic, Connecticut. In his spare time, Dan is writing a novel on Thailand but is lured by a clever mother (Julia Willeford) and her two, fabulously fetching teenage daughters (Deborah and Babs) into degradation and humiliation. And it is also the story of Stephen Avery, a mild-mannered insurance actuary living in Bangkok, or rather who lives inside the novel on Thailand being written by Dan Richards. It is also the story of the Bangkok bar manager, West Texas Andy, who also exists inside Dan’s novel; and – unable to resist an appearance – it is the story of and apparently by Dean Barrett who is writing a novel (this one) about this teacher supposedly living in Mystic, Connecticut, and so on, and so forth.
Other characters include a Catholic priest who may or may not have done something rather reprehensible (but certainly, given their wanton natures, completely justifiable) with Deborah and Babs; several wacky, lust-filled nurses and nutty, lascivious surgeons – the type whom you would definitely not want operating on you; Colonel William Ledyard, who fought the British during the Revolutionary War and is still at it; and, of course, last but not least, this being a novel set mainly in Thailand, there is Lek, the obligatory (but quite unusual) go go dancer. Lek, as we shall see, not only tantalizes Stephen Avery to the point of near-insanity, but is so alluring, so enticing, and so incredibly sexy, that even Dean Barrett takes her to bed which may be the first time in literary history that an author has slept with one of his characters. As a patient reader will discover, Lek not only uses her intelligence and sexual power to manipulate chapters and events, but eventually criticizes the quality of the novel she is forced to be in to such an extent that the author is obliged to use footnotes to defend himself.
The novel seems to be about the nature of existence and delusion and states of consciousness, and suggests that non-sequential distorted versions of reality are all that we may be experiencing, indeed, all that we may be able to experience; but in fact the novel may be nothing more than a sex-crazed writer’s overpowering need to write erotica.
Finally, the reader must also take into consideration the chapters set in Florida dealing with a stressed-out family living with someone with Alzheimer’s. Perhaps the author intends to suggest that much of the novel exists only inside the atrophied brain of the Alzheimer’s patient; and that the plot twists and turns are no more than the plaques and tangles of a badly damaged and rapidly deteriorating mind.
Be that as it may, it should be understood by one and all that these characters are not bad people; nor did they ever set out to do bad things. Of course, by the end of the novel, there may be those who disagree.
At this point in my life, with the knowledge I have gained from often painful experience, it might seem surprising that I have finally abandoned my Catholicism and yet without reservation embrace an even more fervent belief in God than before. But the omnipotent being in whom I now place my faith is not that of either the Old or the New Testament but rather a playful, mischievous, roguish, impish, even devilish type of misanthrope, one who came more and more into focus as I began to realize that the abrupt surprises and sudden disasters and delicious ironies of what is mistakenly referred to as our lives could never be brought about merely by chance or determinism in a godless universe.
Because when one has read all the greatest philosophers and wisest thinkers and plowed one’s way through their often arcane and perversely illogical systems, a sane person will eventually realize that if we are to make any headway in comprehending our true condition, we must rely on our own experience and intuition. Not to mention common sense. And one will then come away with the inescapable belief that a being with enormous power, a wanton and whimsical sense of humor and possessing unlimited time to play painful jests and hurtful pranks simply enjoys fucking us over. Because to believe otherwise gives far too much credit to chance.
I had been brought up a devout Catholic and had been an altar boy, attended mass regularly, and seldom missed confession. My wife had been a Protestant but seldom attended church. Even after my divorce, and even as a divorcé living alone in Groton, Connecticut, I had continued to confess my sins to a Catholic priest because, if nothing else, the structured ritual offered comfort and familiarity. And St. Patrick’s priest was a priest of the old school who had little use for modern changes in the Church.
But that day when I left the road and drove past the perfectly-trimmed hedges and followed along the crescent-shaped driveway, and first caught sight of the imposing, two-story gothic revival house I had nothing on my mind other than the usual mundane thoughts: the novel I was writing, the backbiting of the school faculty, and the metal on metal sounds emanating from my ten-year-old Honda Accord which suggested that the brake lining was in dire need of replacement.
I had been teaching classes at a high school in Groton for nearly three years. I enjoyed it. It was a pleasant enough place to live if one didn’t mind the cold winters, and, as everyone loved to point out, the local Pfizer chemical plant churned out the “love drug” that had changed the world: Viagra.
The town still built atomic-powered submarines as it did during the Cold War but not nearly so many, and the economy of the region had never fully recovered from the hit it had taken when the Cold War ended. But thousands of men still spent their lives working “down the Boat” (Electric Boat, General Dynamics) and entertained no hopes of ever leaving Groton, Connecticut – “Home of the Nautilus, Submarine Capital of the World.”
I had been teaching in Boston but had gone through a divorce there which made me want to try a change of venue. I was interviewed for several teaching positions and, thanks to my years of experience, my complaint-free record, excellent references, and a Ph.D in Asian History, the Groton area high school representative hired me at a very attractive salary with liberal vacation benefits.
I had a small but comfortable apartment in a residential building not far from Fort Griswold, the historic fort where Americans and British had battled during the Revolutionary War while Benedict Arnold watched from a burning New London across the Thames River. The Coast Guard Academy was right across the river in New London and the Submarine Base was farther down at the other end of Groton. I particularly enjoyed sailing at one of the local yacht clubs as well as visiting Monte Cristo, the summer house of Eugene O’Neill as it was featured in his classic play, Long Day’s Journey into Night. And at night I could hear the same mournful fog horn along the foggy river that he had heard in his day.
I liked the town and especially the way in which people left me to myself and did not ask intrusive questions. My salary was more than adequate for my needs, and my superiors made no excessive demands on my time. As my ex-wife had quickly remarried I had no alimony payments to make, and the money I kept in stocks and bonds was appreciating steadily.
During the many years I had been teaching I’d had some good experiences and some not so good but now I thought I had found the perfect sinecure. If only I had known how all that would soon be changed forever by two clever and seductive teenage sisters. Or by my own weak nature. Or, as I have suggested, by whatever kind of god is cheered by its ability to bring about our downfall in as humiliating a manner as possible.
It started the previous spring when the weather had finally turned warm and sunny and the girls in the school seemed to revel in wearing as little as possible; as if making up for how they’d had to conceal their feminine curves during the cold winter.
The two sisters were the most attractive but least attentive of the thirty or so students in my Asian Studies class, most of whom were female. At 17, Barbara, known to her friends as Babs, would start conversations around her and even send and receive SMS messages on her cell phone during class. She made no pretense of paying attention to anything I was saying and seemed to think she could do as she wished.
She had piercing green eyes, well formed lips and a thick mane of sandy hair which curled down below her delicate white chin just touching her shoulders. And she favored off-the-shoulder dresses, halter tops, spaghetti straps -- any style that showed off her young and very feminine body, and especially the remarkable cleavage a girl of her age had developed. And under her dresses and tops, she wore either no bra, strapless bras or else one with a deep V neckline.
At least she favored long, flowing skirts, although by covering her legs, she seemed clever enough to know she was actually calling still more attention to her well developed breasts. Despite all that, her face and arms were freckled and on the few occasions when I saw her dress demurely she could appear younger and far more innocent than she was.
Her sister, on the other hand, was a year older than Babs, a bit taller, more developed, more sophisticated, and much into wearing short pleated skirts which ended at her knees which, when she sat, easily rose up to reveal her shapely thighs as well. Her name was Deborah and she was only too aware of the effect her curvaceous legs and heart-shaped lips and cornflower blue eyes and lovely golden tresses had on the boys in the room.
I had always had a reputation for being strict and no-nonsense when it came to teaching and on several occasions I warned Babs to stop talking and often curtly gestured to Deborah to sit up straight in her chair. They would unhurriedly obey but only after giving me a smoldering stare and knowing smile; and their obedience sometimes lasted only until the end of a class, if that. Deborah especially seemed to delight in my gesturing for her to sit up because she understood that I had not failed to notice her very feminine legs as well as the distraction they were causing to the boys around her. And, as she no doubt suspected, the disruption they were causing to her teacher’s concentration as well.
I had little doubt what their game was. I had seen it at work at other schools. Girls their ages begin to experience a certain sense of power in their feminine charms and in the magical way those charms could set male hormones raging, and yet they retained a lingering doubt about exactly what is happening to them, why they have developed such power over the opposite sex and how best to use it.
A few girls in Boston, and one in Salem, had attempted to test their burgeoning seductive endowments on me but they were brought to task quickly and in no uncertain terms. Because as my wife soon learned after we were married, I enjoyed not simply the playful spanking sessions I had given her earlier in our relationship, but I actually enjoyed dominating women. And I had no intention in starting something with a willing student, something she would then be able to hold over me as blackmail.
During my courtship of my wife, we had indulged in a few scenarios with wrist-binding, improvised gags and spanking sessions. But I was always the one in charge. Watching the smooth, white cheeks of a beautiful woman’s ass turn pinkish-red and then crimson under the lash of a brush or quirt or ruler gave me an instant erection and, in the beginning, my wife thought of it as just normal marital games people play when their bedroom door is shut. And she certainly enjoyed dressing and acting as the wayward student in a Catholic girls’ school.
What she enjoyed most were the love spankings. These would begin as any other spanking: my wife draped helplessly over my lap, her pink panties down to her ankles, her flimsy cotton dress lifted up to reveal her lovely white buttocks bared for punishment. I would allow her to kiss and lick the hairbrush first and then would begin using it on her ass. But hardly had I begun when I would briefly pause to reach down and run my fingertips very lightly and very briefly along her exposed labia and clitoris. And then I would continue with the spanking. But shortly after, I would again pause to employ my fingers to stimulate her female genitalia, this time just a bit longer than before, and then continue with the spanking. And so it went: the periods of spanking gradually grew shorter while the periods of sexual stimulation grew longer. Until finally the sexual ferment took over entirely. And, of course, during this time she became hopelessly aroused and gave herself completely over to the urgent pursuit of sensual pleasure and with impassioned moans would wiggle about on my lap as a woman going mad from desire, begging for sexual release.
But as time went on, and I demanded she dress as a worthless slut who needed more elaborate bondage and even firmer discipline, she began to protest. She began to understand that each scenario had only one end: to show that I was in charge and that she was to be punished for some infraction; whatever infraction I deemed she was guilty of. Finally, when the “games” were by her definition out of control, she filed for divorce. As she was not a Catholic, the divorce was not difficult. Although she had always been a very discreet woman and filed divorce papers claiming only irreconcilable differences, I decided a change of venue might be wise before rumors began to spread.
But regardless of my sexual games and unusual preferences with women behind closed doors, I had never dared indulge any of my fantasies with students and had no intention of doing so: My teaching career meant far too much to me. And now that I was in my forties I wasn’t about to attempt to start over in another profession somewhere across the country.
And so I had warned the sisters on several occasions regarding their dress and their behavior and on one occasion had called their mother and warned her that her daughters would most likely fail this class, which in turn meant they might not be graduating with their own class in the fall.
Her response had been pure panic as she assured me her daughters’ education was extremely important to her. She quickly invited me to tutor them at her home twice a week at a very attractive fee. She promised me they would be on their best behavior there and begged me to give them this opportunity to learn in a distraction-free atmosphere. She said they were not like that at home and she blamed the problem on pressures from their peers and bad examples set by their friends.
There was not a great deal to do in Groton in the evening, and despite a few forays out into the real world as well as on the internet, I had not yet met anyone I was interested in having an extended affair with. After a few dates I would usually become bored with women who were generally lacking in what I would call spirit or vivacity, and few had any desire to experiment sexually.
And, I reminded myself, the fee the sisters’ mother had mentioned far exceeded the norm for tutoring. So I agreed to go to their house every Tuesday and Thursday for the next several months to see if that would help improve their grasp of Asian Studies.
The drive into Mystic was a pleasant one and along the way I passed many of the well maintained Revolutionary War houses and monuments. I had visited the Mystic Seaport on several occasions and enjoyed Mystic very much. I approached my destination by driving down a shady lane lined with oak and gingko trees not far from the Mystic River and in the early evening everything was peaceful and picturesque; a true postcard setting.
The house was a well maintained gothic revival style in a rather remote area of the town. I had heard their late father had done extremely well in investments but had died relatively young in some kind of accident. But it was clear that for the mother and her daughters money was not a problem. And I had no doubt that sense of financial security, along with their undeniable attractiveness, and, perhaps, lack of fatherly discipline, is what had made the two girls so spoiled.
Surrounded by beds of fragrant flowers and protected by overarching branches of the leaves of maple trees, the wooden house appeared warm and inviting. The gingerbread vergeboard along the edges of the steeply pitched roofs might have been conceived by the imaginative writer of a fairytale. But I could easily imagine how during cold, icy, winter months the high pitched gables capped with pinnacles, wall dormers, chimney pots, gable edges, towers and even the elaborate tracery would present a formidable and almost malevolent appearance. I couldn’t help wonder about the costs involved in heating and maintaining a house of that size.
I parked my Accord in the gravel driveway beside a dark green BMW and walked down a path lined with willow trees to the front door. I had hardly pushed the bell before the door was opened by a striking, middle-aged woman dressed in a conservative blue-and-grey house frock. I guessed her to be somewhere in her early forties and probably close to five feet eight inches tall. She had the same striking green eyes as her younger daughter as well as a voluptuous figure. Her light blonde hair was fairly short and pulled back into a pony tail. The woman projected the self-confidence of someone born into a Waspish old money New England family. And yet as soon as she smiled I could feel a genuine warmth and a feeling almost of reverence for a teacher.
“Please come in, Mr. Richards. I’m Julia Willeford, and I’m delighted you have agreed to teach Babs and Deborah.”
As she led me through the hallway and into a study, she lowered her voice to a conspiratorial level and confided that her children’s education had meant a great deal to their late father but how of late she couldn’t seem to control them. Perhaps it was their burgeoning youth or the spring season or the fact that she was away for periods of time, but she believed now that I was here everything would be all right.
We both had ice tea and after a bit of small talk, mainly about the value of houses in the area, the difficulty of a single mother bringing up children, and my teaching experience, she called the girls into the study.
Babs entered first, wearing a demure blouse and skirt, followed by Deborah laced up demurely in a pinafore dress. It was hard to tell from their expressions whether they had expected me or not. Her mother gestured for them to come stand by the table. They did as they were told. And then as she gave her lecture, her voice changed abruptly from one full of reason and sweetness to one filled with iron. “I have asked Mr. Richards to tutor you girls twice a week in a final hope of giving you enough education to pass your exams. Otherwise, you won’t graduate with your class and to say the least I would be mortified. And you would be as well. Mr. Richards has my full authority to teach you as he sees best and you are to obey him as you would me, whether I am home or not. Is that clear?”
They nodded. “Yes, mama.”
“I hope so. Because if Mr. Richards clearly sees the need for physical discipline that is all right as well. In fact, I encourage him to use discipline on you both if that is the only way to ensure you learn what you need to know. Is that clear?”
Both girls lowered their heads. “Yes, mama.”
Mrs. Avery went on discussing the value of an education but my mind was shocked enough to wander. She was giving me carte blanche control over her teenage daughters even to the point of disciplining them. And disciplining women was what I loved best. I had to force myself to think of other things to ensure I was suddenly not burdened with a raging erection.
“Well, then, I have some legal papers to attend to upstairs so you girls take Mr. Richards into the study and begin your lessons. I do hope we shall all be pleased with the outcome.”
Like parrots they again repeated “Yes, mama,” then turned and politely led me into the study. The room had been decorated with more than a touch of old world elegance. As I walked across the thick wall-to-wall carpeting, I looked about at a dozen or so shelves lined with both leather-bound and modern editions of the classics, nautical bric-a-brac and, on a sideboard surrounded by framed family photographs, an expensive looking antique clock inlaid with a fisherman casting his net. Wood-framed photographs of famous yacht races lined the walls as did older photographs of Yale-Harvard boat races.
Three copies of the books we would be using in Asian Studies and Asian History had been placed about a large oval, drop-leaf table with beautifully carved legs and decorative claw feet. Notebooks, pens, a pitcher of water and three glasses had also been perfectly placed. As the girls sat down, the only sound in the room was that of the ticking of the clock and the low whispering of the maple branches above the house. They placed their folded hands on the table and stared at me expectantly as if awaiting my orders. I did my best to conceal my wonder at their change of behavior. I had a feeling that beneath her pleasant exterior, their mother ruled with an iron hand and they were afraid to push her too far.
I picked up the top volume of Donald’s Short Primer to Modern Asian Cultural History and thumbed through it. I thought if I could get most of that information into them in the short period of time I would be spending with them it would be a miracle but I had to try.
“All right, girls, we left off in class on the warlord period of China. Would either of you have any comments to make on that period?”
Although they hesitated, they began speaking of how it was after the fall of the final dynasty and before the takeover of the communists. At first, they were reciting dry historical facts but I was nevertheless pleased they had retained far more than I had given them credit for. Perhaps they had been paying attention after all.
After about twenty minutes, Babs got up and poured water for all of us. As the table was quite large she walked around the table. It was then I noticed she had slipped out of her shoes. She approached me barefoot and leaned across to pour my water. I realized then that her skirt may have been demure but it was shorter than I had originally thought, or else she had made certain adjustments for my benefit. When she poured the water, her soft, sandy hair brushed against my face and I was suddenly enveloped in a wave of expensive perfume with a musk base.
I thanked her and prepared to continue. First I asked if there were any questions. Both girls had questions. It seemed they had learned from this text as well as other sources about how Chinese men used to bind the feet of their women. They wanted to know why.
I explained that tiny feet on a woman was regarded as a sign of elegance and refinement and it gave them a swaying way of walking which poets captured in their famous lines describing the “willow waist” and other charms associated with a bound foot woman.
Babs did not smirk or smile but stared directly at me: “I read on the internet that some scholars enjoyed squeezing the feet of their concubines because it gave off a smell they liked.”
“Yes, the rotting of a female foot apparently acted as an aphrodisiac on some of the men.”
Deborah lifted her well formed bare foot in her hand and stared at it. Her blue-and-white pinafore dress slid up her legs. “What is an ‘aphrodisiac’, Mr. Richards?”
“Something that excites sexual desire.”
She slowly ran her hand over her foot, caressing it and looking at it with new interest; as if she had never considered that part of her anatomy in a sexual way before. “Could the woman still have sex?”
I was intelligent enough to know that this conversation had gone well beyond normal parameters and was way over the bounds of our study but I also thought it was exactly the kind of thing that might get them interested in the subject. Sex can go a long way to keeping young, impressionable minds focused, whereas I had a feeling it was precisely their unfocused sexual urges that were imperiling their grades, not any lack of intellect.
“Yes, they could. But because the women had so little exercise, their lower limbs became flaccid. And some Chinese believed that the process of binding the feet and the way the bound foot woman was forced to walk tightened a woman’s vaginal area leading to far more pleasurable sex.”
“Is that true? Was sex better that way?”
“Well, Babs, I’m afraid all the folks who could have answered that question are dead now.”
“Mr. Richards, do you think the odor of a woman’s foot could act as an aphrodisiac on you?”
I stared at Deborah for several seconds and could feel the stirrings in my loins. These two were definitely experts at arousal. I would have to be on my guard if they were not to succeed in seducing me, because I had no doubt by now that that was their plan. “I suggest we go on with the more relevant portion of the text and leave such splendid speculations to your imaginations. How would that be?”
“Yes, Mr. Richards.”
For the rest of that hour, the girls behaved well enough, with just a few direct stares from time to time that I felt puzzling as well as, yes, provoking.
As the antique clock struck the hour and the fisherman hauled in his net, I smiled and told them that was the end of the lesson for that day. They rose and gathered their books and, as if on cue, their mother entered. She looked as elegant as before but had changed into a black and white checkerboard halter mini-dress which ended well above her knees and which clung to every curve of her body. “Well, how did the lesson go?”
“Very well. I think we covered quite a bit of ground today. If we can keep on like this I’m quite hopeful they will graduate with their class.”
“Wonderful! I cannot thank you enough.”
“Well, remember, Mrs. Willeford, I said ‘if’. I never promise more than I can deliver and I make no promises until we’re through.”
“Don’t worry, when they are with you I just know they pay proper attention, don’t you girls?”
“I’ll see you to the door, Mr. Richards.” I followed her into the hallway and she opened the door for me. “Thank you so much.” At this point she took my hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. “I am so grateful to you for helping my daughters.”
As I drove away, the only thought I had was how easily the mother and her daughters had aroused me. And I realized I had to be careful. Of them. And of my own weaknesses.
“Excuse me, doctor, but I found this sword in the dissecting tray.”
“Ah, yes, we forgot the surgical saw, but fortunately we found an old Colonial-era sword in the hospital storeroom. Not quite sure how it got there but it has a fine cutting edge.”
“But can you operate on the patient safely with a sword, doctor?”
“Why would I bring it into the OR if I didn’t think I could use it properly? I took fencing in college, you know.”
“Is everyone ready?”
“I washed my hands.”
“I washed between my legs.”
“All right, then, pay attention: Mr. Richards’s level of cognitive impairment will be severe and will almost certainly lead to hallucination, and most likely to several non-sequential distorted versions of reality.”
“But how will his mind fix on any one version, doctor?”
“He will undoubtedly decide to choose the least painful, the least confusing, and the least disturbing to his own previous fixed image of himself.”
“Doctor, is it true that some of these hallucinations in this type of severe cranial injury are of a sexual nature?”
“Yes, that does occur, although much depends on the extent of damage to his reticular activating system and the neurons within that induce his arousal functions.”
“I’ll bet dollars to dildoes his neurons have been very naughty!”
“No naughtier than yours, that’s for sure. And button up your nurse uniform. Now, are you certain all of these instruments have been sterilized?”
“What about these bone-nippers?”
“I ran them lightly between my legs right after sex with an orderly in the scrub room, so they should be OK.”
“But, doctor, if the accident hasn’t happened yet, how is it we know it will?”
“Perhaps it has happened and Mr. Richards’s unconscious is seeking to grapple with the traumatic event by distorting time.”
“But then isn’t it possible, doctor, that Mr. Richards exists only inside someone else’s non-sequential distorted version of reality?”
“As might we. But whatever the case, regardless of what version of reality we are in, we will soon have an operation to perform and, believe me, we’ll have our hands full after the next chapter. Now get down from the operating table and stop using that drainage tube as a dildo. I told you before, there is a time and place for everything.”
Over the next few weeks, the weather was beautiful and the girls dressed in class rather skimpily but no more so than their classmates. And it was never necessary for me to ask Babs to stop talking or to gesture to Deborah to sit up straight. It seemed their mother was sincerely worried about their not graduating and had instilled in her two daughters a desire to learn.
There were some school holidays which gave me ample time to work on my Thailand novel. I would sit in the window of my rented apartment and look out upon the Groton monument and upon the well preserved grounds of Fort Griswold. The house I lived in was just a few minutes walk to the spot where Colonel William Ledyard had stood after finally being forced to surrender the fort and where a British officer had asked, “Who commands this fort?” Colonel Ledyard had replied, “I did, sir, but you do now,” and, hilt first, handed the officer his sword. The officer snatched the sword and promptly ran Colonel Ledyard through. The sword was displayed in a case outside the nearby library and I often stared at it, imagining the horror of the moment.
But I was not so interested in colonial history as I was in writing my novel on Thailand and so I began rereading the first draft of my first chapter:
I first noticed her outside one of the go go bars just beside a squid seller’s cart. She was barely inside the penumbra of light shed by the bar’s neon sign but I could see her clearly standing in the center of two other girls. She had swept her hair back into a pony tail and fixed it there with a pink cord. The color of her hair was a rich jet black but, as it ended not far below her shoulders, it was a bit too short for my taste. She was petite with a slender neck and slender arms, and although not unattractive would certainly never have been described as a beauty, but something about her unaffected smile and unfettered laugh and her animated, almost coltish, way of prancing about lent her the elfin appeal of a gamine.
By this time, however, despite my best efforts, images of the two sisters often interrupted my concentration, irritating me and forcing me to attempt even greater concentration in the project at hand. It seemed even when they were not being overly flirtatious they had a way of suggesting that they were available and willing to engage in sexual encounters. For two nights in a row I had seen them in dreams and woke up feeling angry at myself. And at them. Nothing would have pleased me more than to have exercised the discipline on them their mother had suggested would be appropriate if needed.
At the house, however, the lessons went much as the first but without any undue mention of Chinese sexual practices or tastes. I was served tea or coffee or whatever I wanted and the girls and I continued to sit at the table in the study. Their mother was, as always, gracious and charming.
Julia had seemed vaguely interested when I first mentioned that I was writing a novel. Once she understood that it was set in Thailand she wanted to know more detail. By coincidence, we had both been in Bangkok the same year, she on a trip with her husband and I on a trip which I described to her as a sabbatical. I had been fascinated by the country and its culture but of course never mentioned to her my fascination with the availability of beautiful and willing women. And now that I was a free man again I had hopes of returning there for another extended sojourn in the near future.
She grew quiet for several seconds and when I asked if anything was wrong she said they had been in Thailand during the rainy season and her husband had been killed in an accident near the Pattaya Beach resort. As I mumbled something about being sorry at such a horrible tragedy, I saw her hand holding the tea cup tremble. She excused herself and left the room, no doubt to compose herself, but returned within just a few minutes, once again speaking about her daughters’ education. It seemed she still cared for her late husband a great deal and I couldn’t help but wonder if she had taken on lovers or boyfriends.
Julia (she now insisted I call her by her first name) was herself a very attractive woman and her dress was on one or two occasions almost provocative, but except for asking if it would be all right to call me by my first name – Dan – she was perfectly correct and cordial in her manner.
The event or series of events which would change my life forever occurred during the fifth lesson. If anything the day had been more beautiful than ever, puffy white clouds scudded across an azure sky already streaked with magenta and lavender. A gorgeous sunset reflected off the Mystic River and around their house brilliant flowers were tended by butterflies. It would be dark in less than an hour and I remember thinking that life was good.
As it was always Julia who opened the door, I was surprised when Babs greeted me. I was even more surprised when I saw that she was wearing a flimsy beige top tied in front, a pleated, red-and-white schoolgirl’s skirt, white over-the-knee stockings and black penny loafers. The top was far too tight for her size and it was clear that she wore nothing under it. Between the top and the skirt a large expanse of smooth flesh was visible as there was between the hem of the skirt and the top of the stockings.
Yet in her manner she was even more polite and correct than ever. “Good evening, Mr. Richards. Mom had a meeting with her financial advisor in Ledyard and won’t be back until late tonight. But she wanted us to be sure not to miss our lesson. Please come in.”
I quickly followed her through the hallway and into the study where I was in for another surprise. Deborah greeted me in exactly the same outfit except that she had chosen a robin’s egg blue top. And she had plaited her hair at either side, and added pink hair buns to make the braids stand out away from her head like those of a little girl. But, again, in expression and demeanor both girls were perfectly correct and neither attempted any seduction.
Deborah greeted me, poured tea without waiting for me to ask, and then the girls took their places as usual. As far as I could tell, nothing in the room had changed.
I began discussing the fall of China to the communists and the retreat of Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan. I remember I was just about to ask if they could tell me anything about that period, when Bab’s pen disappeared beneath the table.
She glanced down at her lap then looked up at me. “I’m sorry, Mr. Richards, I dropped my pen. I think it rolled over by you.”
Getting the pen meant rolling my chair back and kneeling beside the table and I failed to see why she couldn’t get it herself but if it was in fact near me I saw no harm in my retrieving it for her.
“Never mind, I’ll get it.”
I pushed the chair back, and knelt down and saw that the pen was actually midway between us under the very center of the table. The table was high and I had to duck my head only slightly and crawled forward on my knees. The plush wall-to-wall carpet was as soft as it looked and I had no problem moving forward. Just as I was at the point of grasping the pen, it was at that moment that both Babs and Deborah slid their skirts up above their thighs. As they did so, they spread their legs and slid down slightly in their chairs.
There was enough light to reveal everything they wanted me to see: Beautiful and desirable schoolgirls open to my desires. I knew at this point if I was to save the situation, I should pick up the pen, say nothing, and continue with the lesson. Or I could admonish them. Or admonish them and storm out. There were at least on the surface so many choices. And yet of course there was no choice at all – the fiendish god had decided to turn malevolent. All of my senses were riveted by this wanton display of their youthful sex and I felt unable to move.
“Can you see it all right, Mr. Richards?”
It was Babs who’d asked the question. Oh, yes. As she well knew, even in the fading light, I could see it. There above the white schoolgirl socks and perfectly framed by the red-and-white schoolgirl’s skirt was what was by all societal mores, morals and ethical principles forbidden to a man of my age and particularly to one in my position – a mentor, a teacher, an instructor, an educator.
I cannot say how many seconds I passed in that absurd and degrading manner; neither moving forward nor back, simply mesmerized by the tantalizing feasts on display. Their flaxen pubic hair spreading out above their pudenda like the erect tails of proud peacocks and in perfect contrast to the pure white of their stockings. In the dim light, the buckles of their penny loafers shined slightly like pulsating stars. The only sound I could hear was the steady clicking of a ceiling fan as it whirred overhead, the ticking of the antique clock and the blood rushing into my ears.
I cannot excuse myself by saying I had no responsibility, only that I had absolutely no will to resist. I don’t even remember crawling forward, only that I found myself hopelessly lost in bestowing rapturous, inflamed kisses along Bab’s smooth thighs and brushing my lips along them until I reached her feminine offering and there I began satisfying her, pleasuring her, worshipping her with lips and tongue. I held my hands firmly against her thighs as much as to prevent her from suddenly lowering her skirt and closing off her jade gate as much as to caress her smooth white skin.
I felt her hands on my head and let her guide me, let her lead my lips and tongue as she desired: against her clitoris and then away from her clitoris until she wanted me to pleasure her there again. Along her inner thighs, along the lips of her mound of pleasure. And my tongue against the smooth softness of her pubic hair and exploring the wonderful crevice while I inhaled the most alluring and seductive of feminine scents.
I could hear her breathing deepen and her restlessness increase, and, like hers, my passion became even more frenzied, and finally she shouted out, “Yes!” and pressed her thighs firmly against my head and held me trapped in place.
At first I continued tonguing her for her excitement also excited me, but then I felt, in her sexual frenzy, the surge of power of her smooth thighs holding my head locked between her legs and within seconds the pressure increased transforming pleasure into discomfort. I reached beneath her thighs, trying to pull them apart, but she used her hands to keep my head in position while, in her sexual delirium, her thighs squeezed together with still more pressure. In my panic, it felt as if my skull was being crushed and I tried desperately to pull away but to no avail. My nostrils were full of her pungent sexual scent which ordinarily would have driven me wild but I could feel myself growing weak and as a velvety blackness enveloped me I made one last attempt to pull away. Then I felt a sudden rush of excruciating pain in the head, and almost immediately felt nothing at all.
The sounds of male and female voices drifted over to me, perhaps from outside, perhaps from inside my skull. But I had to concentrate to understand, as if they were speaking in a foreign language and the meaning of each word and its proper placement in the sentence was clear only with intense concentration. And the intoxicating feminine scent between Bab’s legs gradually transformed into the smell of an anaesthetic.
“Mr. Richards, what about Deborah?”
“There is intracranial bleeding but he might have lucid intervals as well as unconsciousness.”
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
“Mr. Richards, do you know what day it is?”
“Acute subdural hematoma, blunt head trauma, and extreme abnormality of mental status.”
“Mr. Richards, can you count backwards from ten to one?”
“Mr. Richards, can you still get an erection?”
“Mr. Richards, can you do Deborah next? She’s waiting!”
“A massive discharge of testiculated neurons and decreased oxygen supply brought about by cunnilingus! My, my!”
“Mr. Richards, your hematomas are scattered about in your right and left frontal lobes like partridges in a pear tree. Would you like us to transfer them to your libido?”
“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.”
“Where did I put the scalpel?”
“I’m sorry, doctor, I think I left your scalpel in my boyfriend’s car. We were using it in an unorthodox manner.”
“All right, never mind, hand me the nipple-boners.”
“And you have a dildo-shaped hemorrhage of the right basal ganglia region big enough to choke a horse.”
“You’re a neural mesh, Mr. Richards!”
“Sorry, doctor, but we’re fresh out of nipples and boners.”
“Never mind, this sword will do just as well.”
“Mr. Richards, please do Deborah or else I’m telling mother you’re not fair!”
“And just look at your right parietal lobe! That cortical contusion is one sexy motherfucker.”
“Confusion, contusion and delusion!”
“You are all fucked up, Mr. Richards!”
“And your left frontal lobe is compressed by bone fragments from the pressure exerted by the young lady’s thighs. We can leave them there as souvenirs of your sexual conquest if you like, Mr. Richards.”
“Mr. Richards, can you say ‘Bab’s black-backed bustier’ without thinking erotic thoughts?”
“This case will make medical history. I’ll be famous, Mr. Richards! How can I ever thank you?”
“Moma, Mr. Richards did me but he won’t do Deborah!”
“Will he regain consciousness?”
“Ah, define consciousness and then I can tell you.”
I first noticed her outside one of the go go bars just beside a squid seller’s cart. She was barely inside the penumbra of light shed by the bar’s neon sign but I could see her clearly standing in the center of two other girls. She had swept her hair back into a pony tail and fixed it there with a pink cord. The color of her hair was a rich jet black but, as it ended not far below her shoulders, it was a bit too short for my taste. She was petite with a slender neck and slender arms, and although not unattractive could certainly never have been described as a beauty, but something about her unaffected smile and unfettered laugh and her animated, almost coltish, way of prancing about lent her the elfin appeal of a gamine.
There were bars with go go dancers on both sides of the narrow lane and opposite the one she stood near was a tattoo parlor with a huge Chinese-style neon dragon. The dragon had angry red eyes and a body which slowly changed from one shade of yellow to another: from primrose to canary to goldenrod to aureate to champagne and back to primrose. The glow of light reached the girls, and as the color changed shade, so did the lovely brown of the gamine’s skin: from sienna to ginger to butterscotch to tawny and back again. But in the twilight of a beautiful October evening, it seemed as if the change of hues was coming not from the dragon’s rays but rather from within her, emanating from some restless spirit inside her never quite still body.
The rows of flattened, grilled, dry squid with their tentacles hanging down looked like a set of stationary bells on the cart of a down-and-out carillon player. And while the vendor squeezed yet another squid through his pressing device, the girl mischievously picked up his bamboo fan and fanned his tiny charcoal stove over which her small dark squid was being grilled. The burning charcoal in the earthenware vessel glowed a deeper red. The vendor chopped her squid and handed it to her in a funnel-shaped paper along with a tiny transparent container of mixed chilies, peanuts and syrup.
I don’t believe I would have noticed her at all except that she was so lively, so active, so animated, that her enthusiasm for whatever she was doing was almost contagious. She had no sooner paid for her snack than she began snapping her fingers over the head of a bemused but playful puppy. And it pranced about under her gestures as might a puppet on strings. She had about her so much of a child’s delight that I couldn’t help but wonder if she really worked in one of the bars.
Her body was draped in the standard uniform a go go dancer wears when she leaves the bar to score some quick Thai snack: a shiny robe (in this case a shade of coral pink lined with robin’s egg blue stripes) ending just above knee-high black boots, no doubt staying within some poorly enforced Thai law by covering her bikini-clad body from passersby. But I thought she looked so young that possibly she was one of the greeters outside a bar or else she worked as a waitress inside.
I had slowed my pace to stare at her and as the puppy ran off she caught my eye and gave me a friendly, ingenuous smile which I returned. She held out her helping of squid as if inviting me to try some but I made a face, smiled again and waved that off with my hand. She and her friends laughed and walked toward the nearby bar.
I resumed my walk up to another bar where I knew a colleague in my insurance firm would be waiting. We had arranged the meeting to discuss the officious and (we were quite certain) incompetent new CEO and what if anything we could do about him. But I thought if I had a chance later that evening I might have a quick beer in the bar she entered as I had yet to venture inside that one.
How blithely we make decisions which forever change our lives.
“Doctor, can the patient hear us?”
“More to the point, can the patient sue us?”
“You are a funny one, doctor.”
“Thank you. I had thought of a comedy club career at one stage. But to answer your question, no, the patient is out. The question remains, however, where is he out to. Based on the condition of his frontal and temporal lobes, I would say his awareness and consciousness can be patched up fairly quickly, but never perfectly. But is this patient now hallucinating and are all of us just a part of his hallucinations?”
“So you are saying that once we fix him up and he stops hallucinating we may disappear.”
“So by fixing him up we are killing ourselves.”
“No matter. We took an oath, remember?”
“What about his limbic lobe, doctor?”
“Ah, now that is working overtime.”
“Which means Mr. Richards will have very few inhibitions in his subject matter, I’m afraid.”
“Is that why the trainee nurse is stripping her clothes off and grabbing your crotch?”
“How should we handle this situation, doctor?”
“As medical professionals who may or may not be a part of a patient’s hallucination, we will just have to bear with this situation as best we can. Above all, we should do nothing to interfere with our patient’s fantasies, regardless how lascivious, as that might lead to further cognitive impairment of Mr. Richards and force him to distort reality to an even greater degree.”
“Is that why you’re allowing the nurse to place your manhood in her mouth, doctor?”
“Of course. Remember: first, do no harm.”
“That’s quite noble of you, doctor.”
“I took an oath.”
Growing up in Los Angeles, I had always enjoyed the challenge of solving puzzles and crosswords and math problems and had majored in mathematics in college. Not long after graduation I joined one of the largest insurance companies in Hartford, Connecticut as a trainee. After five years I was an actuarial assistant. I managed for the most part to stay out of office politics and on my way up I had acquired such titles as Vice President and Actuary, and then Manager of Actuarial Marketing. I was sent to various offices in Europe and remained there for several years. In those days I was still quite proud of my accomplishments and never failed to place a nameplate on my desk, “Stephen Avery, Manager of Actuarial Marketing.”
Not long after I had settled in Paris, I was hastily transferred to Bangkok where I was quickly promoted to Chief Actuary in place of one who had been caught taking considerable amounts of money out of the till to pay for the expensive habits of his Thai ladyfriend. So that meant I was in management but not, of course, a board member.
I had married early in life and, as often happens with Western wives, my wife hated Bangkok, and so, after bitter arguments, the marriage was over. She got everything I had including the kids, and I began my new life here in Thailand.
Thanks to my experience and knowledge in the field, I was considered a senior member of the firm but in addition to losing everything to my wife I also had debts to pay off, especially regarding some stocks highly recommended by broker friends who should have known better. So despite my title, I was in no position to make any waves which might see my employment terminated.
I had spent the last few days writing a paper to our board setting out reasons why we needed an increase of capital to the company. I had to explain in detail the background to it, how much we needed, how best to structure it, and the reasons for doing it now. Yes, it was boring work but writing reports of this nature relaxed me. On the other hand, the new CEO loved meetings most of which seemed useless and time-consuming to the rest of us.
Worse yet, he had no idea how to deal with a Thai staff. The week before he had told the Thai manager to implement “Casual Fridays,” and to send a memo to others suggesting appropriate dress to be worn on that day. I had found the saying “Thais play at their work and work at their play” to have more than a grain of truth in it but, for whatever reason, the Thai had done nothing, and the CEO yelled at him in front of others, causing him to lose face. Several of us farangs (foreigners) could feel tension building but the CEO was oblivious to it.
And so with the almost inevitable conflict looming in the office, as well as being somewhat bored with aspects of my work, it was nice to unwind and drink cold beer and watch pretty Thai girls in bikinis dance to music.
It was just over two hours later that my friend and I parted company. He headed off for the Skytrain but I decided to have one last beer for the night and headed for the bar where the girl with the squid had entered.
Along the way, skimpily clad young women all seemingly in their early twenties stood in front of each restaurant or bar and encouraged me by gestures and pleas and shouts to enter the one they worked for but I continued on.
At last I came to the bar I had seen her enter. The outside was not quite as flamboyant as the others, a black wooden facade lit up only by its crimson neon sign: the sneering face of a horned devil below the large letters - “Devil’s Delight!”
A slender young woman with a tight blouse and very short skirt took my hand and tugged me in the direction of the door. “Inside please!” She opened the door for me and as I took a few steps into the bar, another young woman pulled open a well worn blue and gold curtain with a repeating devil-with-pitchfork theme.
A hostess in something resembling a school uniform led me over to a seat in the second row of seats facing the long stage upon which scantily clad women danced. As I glanced about the room the hostess stood patiently in front of me waiting for my order. I had to raise my voice to be heard over the loud music. I ordered a Heineken and without a word she disappeared into the semi-darkness at the rear of the bar.
Someone had obviously paid quite a sum to light up the stage in a professional manner. Toward the back wall, I could see an expensive looking luminaire for professional color mixing. The subdued changes in lighting seemed perfectly synchronized to the pace and style of the music. Laser bursts appeared when the music seemed to demand them, and then gradually dimmed and dissolved. Behind the dancers rotating reflector mirrors were set at angles to enhance beams of multi-colored light as they swept back and forth across the stage, beams which brightened and then cross-faded at variable speeds. As one set of dancers left the stage to make room for another, iridescent rainbow effects broke up and scattered into prismatic confetti-like fragments.
Every few minutes, a horned devil’s face with its diabolical grin would gradually materialize in one section of the far wall and then just as slowly disappear only to eventually emerge in another section of the wall.
It took some time for my eyes to become accustomed to the areas of light and dark but once they did I could see that many of the dozen or so women on stage were extremely good looking. Each danced beside a vertical brass pole and each was full of youthful energy. Several had the kind of face and figures usually found only in men’s stereotypical fantasy drawings of an Asian woman – the impossibly alluring and exquisitely beautiful Oriental goddess. My eyes fell on one almost directly in front of me, not the most beautiful, but certainly the best dancer. While I drank my beer and watched the dancing I wondered if the girl I had seen buying squid was still here or if someone had paid her barfine and taken her out.
As lights briefly illuminated areas of darkness, I could see the bar was crowded and business was good. But I couldn’t see the one I was looking for and I again paid attention to the dancers. Suddenly, I realized the girl I thought was the best dancer, the one almost directly before me, was the one I was searching for.
I could scarcely believe this was the same child-woman I had seen a mere two hours before, so completely had she transformed herself. She was the most petite dancer on stage, but she no longer bore the slightest resemblance to a child. She was dressed in a skimpy satin bra with lace trim and tiny thong panty bottom. Her white boots reached just below her knees. Her hair was now loose and as she danced it fanned out about her head and shoulders at times almost hiding her face. The incessant rhythm of the music drove her on, one moment she barely touched the pole, the next she held it firmly for support as she ever-so-slowly slid down and just as slowly slid up, somehow always managing to keep perfect pace with the rhythm.
Given her diminutive size, she might have passed as childlike, but her slender body was too curvaceous and her facial expression too knowing. And her dance far too sensual. The serpentine movements of her fast dancing were erotic enough, but she had a way of standing in place while barely touching the pole with one hand and simply moving her body back and forth, almost as if the music were rippling through her.
It was at the moment that the song was over and while the dancers paused for the next one to begin that she grasped the pole with both hands and leaned forward, as if looking for someone among the customers.
During these several seconds, the lights seemed to cease their restless prowling and to focus all their intensity on her. At that instant she looked in my direction and our eyes met; and I understood with absolute clarity that she had the power to annihilate me and I knew even then that unless I paid my bill immediately and left without looking back, I would travel through a transforming journey into oblivion.
But it was already too late. The enemy armies had smashed their way through the city gates, the buildings were in flames, the temples looted and destroyed, and the inhabitants enslaved. And I clearly saw myself among them.
The music started and she danced again as before, but, occasionally, she would pause, hang onto her pole, tilt her head, and look out into some middle distance, as if wistfully remembering something far removed from the world of a Bangkok bar; something beautiful and serene. And then just as suddenly she would once again begin, holding the pole with one hand, while moving her body sensually and seductively.
After that song was over, the girls quickly left the stage and all but a few lights dimmed to black. It was time for the last show of the night. Whether because of the more genteel tastes of the owner or because of the recent police crackdown, the shows here were of a more sophisticated nature than I had seen in other bars in the past.
The first few dancers who appeared on stage paraded about and posed as if they were professional models giving a show. The audience kept up a continuous barrage of raucous cheers and jeers but the girls had been well trained to ignore them. They kept the profession’s de rigueur haughty expressions on their faces and seldom actually looked at the audience while, one after the other, appeared in sexy apparel from skimpy wet-look string tank outfits to denim tube dresses. The last, a dark complexioned beauty, appeared in a feather and fishnet thong teddy which left little to the imagination. She managed to avoid several hands reaching for her legs by keeping to the middle of the stage.
After several seconds, three more girls appeared, this time in jail bait costumes, two-piece outfits with skimpy stretch knit tops, gingham plaid mini-skirts, lacy leg garters, elbow-length, black fishnet arm warmers, fingerless lace gloves with ruffle trim, and stiletto-heeled, white booties with ruffles. Each of the girls had her hair down and tied with pink ribbons and each held an oversized pink lollipop. In unison, they cavorted about the stage in time to the music and soundlessly mouthed cheerleader cheers.
The third one on stage was the one who had captured my soul. She expertly led the other two in cheerleader moves and dance steps all the while maintaining a knowing smile. The audience loved it. Eventually they stripped one another down to panties and see-thru bras, pranced about a bit, and then exited the stage.
The next act was a dancer dressed as a cowboy complete with Stetson hat, vest, denim shorts open at the crotch and cowboy boots over black mesh lingerie. The cowboy twirled “his” phony mustache and walked about as if looking for someone. Soon a barefoot dancer appeared on stage in a knee-length black-and-red gown which swirled about as she danced around the cowboy. The lovers eventually embraced and all might have been well but another dancer appeared in much the same gown and began vying for the cowboy’s attentions. The act ended with the cowboy shrugging and leaving the stage while the women fought with one another in dance, finally stripping each to panties and bra.
The last act of the night was straight-forward S&M. A lovely dancer strode out upon the stage to the sounds of drums and martial music. She was dressed in the sexed-up uniform of a bootcamp officer – blue beret with insignia, long-sleeved top with epaulettes and medals, navy blue short shorts, mesh stockings, and stiletto-heeled black boots. Between the top and shorts was a long expanse of flesh and in her gloved hand she brandished a leather whip. The audience cheered. The dancer cracked the whip and another dancer, her slave, rushed onto the stage and threw herself at the feet of the officer. The officer pulled the slave about a bit as if by her hair, then cracked the whip against the stage just inches from her bowed head. The choreography was excellent and the act received the most applause of the night.
At some point I looked toward the rear of the bar and I saw her. She stood at the back of the stage still dressed in her jail bait outfit.
As the slave was being “whipped,” several of the girls laughed and made comments, but she stared straight ahead as if fascinated by the scene. And something about the inquisitive and uninhibited way this sexily dressed child-woman stood watching a simulated sado-masochistic scene gave me a thrill of excitement and I could feel a growing erection. She glanced over at me and I was certain she was looking directly at me. She did not smile or in any way attempt to gain my favor. She simply looked straight at me. The bar had grown silent and the only sound was that of the whip whapping against the floor of the stage and the simulated yelps and sobs of the slave. And as this child-woman stared at me, I realized I was more sexually aroused than I had been in years.
Over the four years I had been in Bangkok I had taken several dancers from this area to hotels, always for no longer an interlude than an hour or two. But nothing they had done had caused the blood to pound in my ears as it was now. Her stare and the crack of the whip seemed to release pent up emotions I didn’t know I had. And I felt as if this child-woman was reading my thoughts and sensing my desires.
The spell was broken only by the sudden appearance of the mamasan whispering into her ear and pointing toward the semi-darkness on the other side of the room. A customer had apparently bought her a drink and wanted her to sit with him. She nodded and without a word went off to keep him company.
I cursed myself for not doing that first. I checked my watch. It was after midnight and I decided to call for the bill. As I squeezed my way past customers standing near the door I managed to spot her in the darkness, and I could see two semi-circles of light beside her, reflecting off a man’s glasses. I cannot describe why but although the man’s face was in shadow, I had a feeling of sudden dread. It was as if I had come face to face with an unknown nemesis whom I would sooner or later have to deal with.
I looked from the man to the girl. I could not tell if she was even looking in my direction; but it didn’t matter: the chains were firmly in place. I would be back.
“What is that sheep doing in the OR?”
“We ran out of suture, doctor, so we have to slaughter it to get suture from its intestines.”
“Well, be quick about it.”
“Yes, doctor. Could I borrow the sword for just a minute?”
“Why aren’t you nurses wearing protective caps over your hair?”
“We couldn’t find any protective caps that matched our gowns, doctor.”
“Where are the sterile masks to cover your faces?”
“We ran out of hospital masks but my sister’s kid had a bunch of Lone Ranger masks, so we can put these on. Is that OK?”
“All right, yes, never mind, but this is a very delicate operation and I’m not certain Mr. Richards can be fixed as good as new so let us hold hands, bow our heads and pray.”
“Our Father, who dwelleth in all our neurotransmitters, thou who art deeply involved in and perhaps even responsible for Mr. Richards’s neurotransmitter dysfunction, please assist us in repairing his cognitive malfunction, eliminating his hallucinations, and transforming his non-sequential distorted versions of reality into sequential non-distorted versions of reality, and please forgive Mr. Richards (or whoever this patient may be) for neurotransmitting against you.”
Expect the unexpected.
That's what Doctor Parsons said when he left mother in his office with his nurse so he could break the news to me in the hallway. That the Catscan confirmed mother had Alzheimer's. He said a part of her brain had already atrophied. And that he had never seen so many tangles and plaques in a patient before.
He cleared his throat and apologized for nearly giving her an MRI. He had been about to but I had e-mailed him just before I left Thailand for Florida reminding him mother had a pacemaker and couldn’t have one. So he switched to the Catscan. Doctors are busy people and don’t always remember things. And sometimes what they don’t remember can do a lot of damage.
And he was right about the need to expect the unexpected. But he might also have warned me that to be a successful caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's one must be an inveterate liar, an expert in espionage techniques, someone who can go without sleep for long periods of time, a smooth-talking trickster, an unconscionable bully, a diabolically clever thief, an observant nanny, an unlicensed pharmacist and an untrained somnambulist. It would also be nice to be in possession of unlimited patience for when someone you love (or what is left of them) is expertly insulting you or falsely accusing you. Or worst of all, has forgotten who you are.
A course in crisis-management would certainly be advisable. It might also be wise to sign up for a course in covert operations. Because if the person doesn't know he or she has Alzheimer's, you and those assisting you will have to act as cleverly and as furtively as a master spy.
My 94-year-old stepfather is sitting at the dining table pouring milk on his cornflakes, slowly, cautiously, almost gingerly, as a scientist might mix volatile chemicals. He is wearing a colorful shirt, maroon shorts, slippers. I feel sorry for him. His area of the table has been greatly reduced because my 86-year-old mother, whose Alzheimer’s is no longer in doubt, had been moving folders and files about the night before and has left unruly piles of them on his end of the table.
Behind him the bright Florida sunlight of a late February morning illuminates the white curtains with their coral pink shell designs, and makes the sharply etched features of his gaunt, dark face more difficult to see. He reaches for his banana. “Jim,” I say, “are you sure that banana is still all right to eat?”
He turns the banana over in his wrinkled hand. “When bananas are spotted and brown like this, that's when they're best to eat.”
I say nothing but I see that the banana skin almost perfectly matches that of his arm: spotted and brown.
He slices the banana onto his cereal, picks up the spoon, and begins eating. After which I know he will go outside for twenty minutes to what he calls the “sun room,” and sit out-of-doors in a sturdy plastic chair behind his small tool shed facing the sun. He has been doing this ever since he and my mother moved to Vero Beach over 20 years before. My mother and I warned him again and again about getting too much sun but he never seemed to suffer ill effects. But now his taut skin is parched, aged and very dark. And very thin: he bleeds easily. And the long delayed skin cancer finally caught up with him. He had a few spots removed just before I arrived. But his mind is clear.
The window behind him has a small hole and large cracks in it. He has called several repair companies and one-man shops to come fix it but of course repairmen are still too busy fixing up houses after the two hurricanes hit Vero Beach late last year. Meanwhile, he has covered the interior of the glass pane with plastic to protect the dining room from showers.
The window came through the hurricanes unscathed. But just before I arrived from Bangkok nearly two months ago he noticed the damage. And, according to him, from where the shards of glass lay on the lawn, it was easy to tell the window was hit by something from inside the house. No doubt during the period my mother was accusing him of trying to kill her. And kill the dog. And locking herself in the bathroom and screaming for help out the window. And stabbing at his arm with a pair of scissors when he tried to reach in to retrieve his false teeth. And when she was calling the police and demanding he get the hell out. And when she was sneaking bags of clothes to the neighbors because she was certain Jim and his friends were trying to steal them. Before she was taken to the hospital, had her Catscan and was placed on several powerful medications. And then sent home.
The dining room is now as cluttered as my mother’s bedroom and the living room and the TV room. Everything in the house is a mess. Mother never did like to throw things away but she always kept things neat. Not now.
I will spend part of this day as I have on previous days: searching through boxes and files and in drawers for checkbooks, bills, documents and envelopes with “Important Tax Document Enclosed.” My mother always took care of their bills and taxes and now she no longer can but she has yet to realize that.
I pick up my empty granola bowl and move my chair back to get up. As I walk into the kitchen, I have to avoid the piles of old bills, letters, cards and newspaper articles (some being reviews of my books from years before). Beside a folder bulging with documents are several of the Thai curios I sent from Thailand nearly four decades ago. Sent to them when they still lived in Connecticut. A hilltribe doll, wooden elephants fighting, a hand-woven couch cover, a jewelry box made with shells.
The phone rings. I yell, “I’ll get it!” even though I know my stepfather always prefers to let me answer the phone and most likely can’t hear it ring, anyway. My mother won’t answer it because we disconnected her bedroom phone extension so she can’t call the police anymore. Just in case.
I know at this time in the morning it is most likely my sister. Mary is my one sibling, a sister a few years older than me in her mid-sixties. We are not close and have little in common. She likes living in Vero Beach on the Barrier Island, patronizing pretentious restaurants and playing tennis with her friends. I like living in Bangkok writing books, reading books, and taking beautiful young Thai women to bed.
But, as they say, an Alzheimer’s crisis either brings families together or brings out the old wounds and festering resentment. So far the crisis seems perfectly capable of doing both.
I pick up the portable phone and quickly go out onto a small screened-in porch fronting the driveway. I don’t want my mother hearing my conversation with my sister.
We plan to meet later in the day. We have an appointment to see a lawyer to redo my mother’s durable power of attorney. As it is now, I am “first successor trustee” and my sister is “second successor trustee.” But sooner or later I have to get back to Bangkok so without my mother’s knowledge we intend to change the document to read myself “and/or” my sister. I particularly want Mary to share in the authority of the durable power of attorney for health care with living will provisions for both my mother and stepfather. While I am back in Bangkok, she might need to make decisions. Quickly.
The lawyer is on Indian River Boulevard so we agree to meet in the parking lot of the law firm. I turned my rental car in after a week and now out of necessity drive my stepfather’s 1987 Mercury. After the compact I was driving, the long-bodied Mercury handles like a tank without treads. One window does not roll down, one door is hard to open and the radio doesn’t work. But as my stepfather says it gets us from point A to point B. Always practical, my stepfather.
While I speak with my sister I drift outside onto the driveway and lawn. Above me is a cloudless blue sky and all around me are similar mobile homes with similar driveways and similar lawns. Manufactured houses made of 2 x 4's and aluminum. Stapled not nailed. Floors of fiberboard, not plywood. So when the rain came in during the second hurricane, many floors were soaked and ruined. Or else the staples gave way and so did the houses.
My ears pick up distinct sounds: My mother’s bamboo tubular wind chimes – that I bought in Thailand decades before – and the sound of someone’s roof being repaired. A car door slams across the street. I see the elderly couple exit their car and, holding on to one another, slowly enter the house. The man is having chemotherapy for some kind of cancer. As he reaches out to close his door he spots me, waves, and shouts in his high-pitched voice: “Hi, Dean.”
Neighbors have been especially solicitous and helpful during the time of my mother’s increasing bizarre behavior. Mother has always been extremely popular and Jim loves nothing more in life than to chat with the neighbors. So they are well known in the mobile home park.
My stepfather realizes I often avoid joining in conversations with his friends but he cannot understand why: “He’s a hell of a nice guy; I don’t know why you don’t want to stop by and say hello.” Or: “They’re a lovely couple.” My stepfather is the most superficial judge of human beings I have ever met. Within five minutes of meeting a person he knows nothing about, he will declare him “a hell of a nice guy.” I suspect this may be why my mother made certain that she was the one handling investments. His gullibility would be spotted by a con artist in a New York minute.
But it is not that I dislike the neighbors. It is simply that I am too depressed and too exhausted to indulge in superficial conversations with people I have little in common with. Jim’s friends have lived the American dream and retired in a mobile home community in Florida with wives of their own race and in their own age group, and their lives are covered and partly defined by pensions, social security, health insurance and activities at the clubhouse (before the hurricanes destroyed the clubhouse). It is to me an exotic foreign world which both puzzles and repulses me. As no doubt mine would them.
And I have learned that every conversation in an “age qualified” retirement community is about hospitals, hospices, assisted living places, nursing homes, Medicare coverage, cost of prescriptions, health problems, doctors, polyps and colonoscopies, and discreet discussions as to who died recently or who had to move back up north to live with their children. While my stepfather is always buoyed up after a chat with the neighbors I feel depressed and dispirited.
I asked my sister how people can live like this. She said sometimes they talk about their dogs. But most of them are on their last legs as well. I never saw so many dogs wobble, hobble and limp before I came here. It's like they're canine veterans of some horrific war.
I spot the local newspaper on the lawn and pick it up. It is wrapped in transparent cellophane. No one ever throws the cellophane out because that is what we use to pick up dog shit when we walk the dog. Or more often from the living room floor where my mother’s 15-year-old Yorkshire Terrier now prefers to shit.
When I return inside, mother is still in the bedroom, the home health aide helping her dress. Mother seems able to dress herself but, if left on her own, she takes a very long time to decide what to wear. And her taste in fashion has, to say the least, diminished.
Jim is now eating a plain donut with a spoon. Except for my stepfather, I have never known a person who eats only the basics in life: plain cereal, vanilla ice cream, plain donuts. I have never known him to try anything different. His preference for diners and cheap restaurants has become a family joke and my sister never ceases to needle him about his late afternoon eating habits; early to restaurants to save a dollar on the “early bird specials.”
I give Jim the paper, pick up an empty plastic milk jug and take it outside. I throw it down on the “We Love Our Dog” rubber mat and crush it with my shoe then throw it into the blue recycle bucket. I reenter the house and sit at a counter between the kitchen and the TV room. I begin snapping open the compartments of the milky white plastic pill dispenser with each of its seven days divided into four tiny pill trays: morning, after lunch, after dinner, before bed.
I take pills from bottles and vials and place them in the dispenser: Fosamax 70 mg (once a week, with water, half hour before breakfast); Zyprexa 5 mg (1/2 pill every night before bed); Lorazepam 0.5 mg
(one every night before bed; one after breakfast each day); Torsemide 10mg (one after breakfast each day); Digitek 0.125 mg (one after breakfast each day); Pot Chloride 10Meq (one after breakfast each day); Coumadin 2.5 mg (Mon, Wed, Fri - one/half pill; Tue, Thur, Sat, Sun - one full pill).
I check and recheck the containers. The home health aides are allowed to give her medicine only when it is outside a container and ready. This preparation is something I must do. Which is all right with me. That way I know mother is taking the right pill at the right time.
The bottles I then shove back into a large Ziploc container inside an old cookie can which I hide under the living room couch. Mother moves things around and often hides things or throws things out and I have to be sure her pills will be safe.
Some of the pills she takes are for her heart or for her swollen ankles and legs or for her osteoporosis but I know the Zyprexa is an anti-delusional pill and the Lorazepam is anti-anxiety. By coincidence, in Thailand, I had been using a stronger dose of Lorazepam as a sleeping pill. Of course, in Thailand I can buy what I want over a pharmacy counter. In America, people pay more and wait longer.
When I reenter the TV room mother is just coming in from the bedroom. Her hair has been cut short around her head, vaguely reminiscent of a classic Greek hair style. But it is uneven. And the grayish-white area at the center is growing larger, like some kind of grey white malevolent spider sucking up the strands of dyed blond hair; a spider slowing devouring its prey.
Her face is still lively but her moods swing between alertness of the present and long hours of retreats into silence. Where she is then it is impossible to know. There is still intelligence in this face, particularly in her eyes. But not always. There is today a hollowness about those eyes. I do not know if it will be a day in which she is alert or basically out of touch. The irony is I am torn between wanting her to be alert and wanting her to be a bit dopey. Because if she dozes on the couch as she often does, it is easier for me to search the house for documents and to write checks and to sneak the mail in.
The liver spots which over the years have crept steadily up her arms seem to have invaded her forehead and cheeks. There are several benign lesions on her upper forehead not quite hidden by her bangs. For whatever reason, she blames the air conditioning for her condition and becomes upset if she knows we’ve turned it on. And so when she is out for a walk briefly leaving the air conditioning on is just one more thing we do behind her back.
She is wearing a colorful summer dress with a black belt. It looks fine, but she has been steadily losing weight, and as with most of her dresses it is too big for her. White socks. White nurse-type shoes. Barbara, mother’s favorite home companion follows her in. Barbara is overweight, practical, chatty and very, very patient.
Mother has a puzzled expression on her face. "Where's mother? I looked all over the house and can't find her. Did she go downstairs?"
My stepfather is on the way out to his sun room. "First of all, we don't have a down-"
I cut him off. "She's out for now, mom. It certainly is a beautiful day, isn’t it? Anyway, there’s part of the paper on the couch for you.”
She stares at the paper. “I think I got it wrong.”
“The date. When Dr. Parsons asked me the date I think I gave him the wrong year.”
“Don’t worry about that, Mrs. Scott.”
“Barbara’s right, mom. No big deal. Oh, don’t forget to check on the books I left on your bed. Let me know which ones you want to keep and which ones you'd like to give away."
My mother stares at nothing while concentrating on what I said. Then she turns to me with her hands on her hips. “Give away? They're my books!"
“I know that, mom, but we discussed this, remember? The books you don't want we give to the Humane Society. They can sell them and use the money to help dogs."
“Well, that's nice. I had a dog once..."
“You still do, mom. Honey’s right behind you.”
Mother turns and sees the dog following her. That’s all the dog ever does. Follow her into every room and let her brush and comb and walk and above all feed her. The home health care aides all say they’ve never seen a dog love someone as much as Honey loves my mother. But I sometimes think the dog is simply food-obsessed and knows mother will give her treats.
The dog is cute and friendly. She licks everybody. Its hair ranges from gold to silver to black and it looks like a puppy. But my sister and I know from endless phonecalls that many of the best assisted living places will not accept animals. And Honey has made our job much more difficult. The best thing would be for her to pass away. But she has become the center of my mother’s world. I dread the day mother is without the dog.
There are days when I seem to detect an odor of decay in the house but I decide it must be the smell of the dog. And the fact that no one is really doing any cleaning, anymore.
Mother stares at the dog. “Has she been fed?”
Barbara moves some of the books on the couch aside. “I fed her, Mrs. Scott.”
I can sense mother relax. Barbara is the best of the health care aides the agency has been sending us. She does laundry, dishes, makes mother’s bed, often makes breakfast for Jim as well as mother. Mother has been telling the neighbors how wonderful Dr. Parsons is for getting these women for us at no charge. In fact, I am paying the Helping Hand Agency $19 an hour, ten hours a day from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. Every day.
While mother turns to scoop up Honey, I step outside to speak with my stepfather. “What the hell is the matter with you?"
“What do you want me to do? Lie to her all the time? Is that-"
“You redirect people with Alzheimer's, remember? Gently. You don't confront them and you don't contradict them.”
He turns away and fingers the holes in the screen made by one of the hurricanes. “I don't think lying to her helps her become like she was again.”
“Telling her there is no downstairs and that her mother is dead will only agitate her. You never get it, do you?”
He shrugs and heads for his chair. “Gotta get that screen fixed.” He seems slower and thinner than when I was here six months before. And certainly less animated. Yet at 94 he can still drive a car and, until the year before, he was riding his bike every evening.
He bends over and picks up a plastic sign his late brother made for him after he and my mother returned from one of their many trips abroad. The sign was damaged during the last hurricane and keeps falling from the door. It is engraved with the words, “World Traveler and Adventurer.” We both know that if my mother hadn’t pushed him to travel he never would have left Connecticut.
I reenter the house and turn on the computer to check my e-mail and to quickly scan the Bangkok newspapers. Mother can no longer handle her computer and I am relieved she stopped trying: It was only a matter of time before she fell for one internet scam or another.
But the computer screen gives me a brief respite from the reality of Florida horrors: Alzheimers, senility, infirmity, degradation, regression and, above all, from the decisions I must make. I can read about the world I left, the weird and wonderful world of Thailand.
When I finish, I insert one of the disks of Broadway songs my mother loves. She always loved seeing Broadway shows and I know a background of familiar Broadway songs will be far more soothing for her throughout the day than silence. I also make certain there is a colorful, ever-changing design displayed on Windows Media Player. I know after breakfast mother will sit on the couch opposite the computer and begin to read the local paper. The Broadway tunes will help keep her relaxed and the gorgeous displays on WMP will hold her attention. And soon after she will begin napping.
As Frank Paterson begins singing “Younger than Springtime” from South Pacific I enter the bathroom to take my shower. Inside the bathtub is a plastic pan with high sides in which the dog has her weekly bath filled with containers of anti-flea and anti-tic dog shampoo. None of which work. I move it out of the way and reach for the faucet.
After two months the stress has almost numbed me. I think I am prepared to deal with my mother’s mood swings but I will have to do their taxes while I am here and argue with Medicare about paying for some of my mother’s bills and have meetings with a financial adviser for the elderly to deal with my mother’s investments. And do the shopping. And take the dog to the veterinarian. And take both of them to doctors and pick up prescriptions from pharmacies. And deal with the banks. And pay in advance for their cremations. And try to understand their Blue Shield/Blue Cross insurance plan and what if any benefits it bestows for victims of Alzheimer’s. And check out adult protection services and the difference between a home health care aide and a nurse. And pensions and social security and trusts. And learn some aspects of Florida state law relating to trusts and wills and executors of estates. After 25 years living in Asia, after deliberately avoiding and not having to deal with all such horrid, mind-numbing, confusing and seemingly endless details of the American way of life, I am the wrong person to handle any of this. But I must.
The spray of hot water hits my skin and I try not to think of anything. I wake up every morning with only one feeling: dread. Dreading the day. There are only three times in the day when I feel genuine relief: when I lay down to sleep, when I ride my stepfather’s bike in the evening, and when I step into the shower. It is especially in the shower where I seem able to truly escape; where I seem able to forget everything. That the car is falling apart, the house is falling apart, the people in it are falling apart, the dog is falling apart. Even that my mother – what is left of her – is dying.
I was actually looking forward to work the next morning as I was starting on one of the few projects I found interesting: writing up a Risk Assessment Analysis based on statistics supplied by government and business. That would help us decide which people and companies were most likely safe enough to warrant our insuring them. But the CEO continued to fill up my days by requiring my presence at various meetings, one more useless than the one before.
And so several of us – foreigners and Thais – would sit about a massive oval conference table smiling insipidly and discussing issues on the CEO’s agenda with a feigned air of joviality, good will and bonhomie. I tried not to let my mind wander but at times I stared out the room’s only window overlooking a small park several stories below where office workers gathered for snacks. Whenever I caught a glimpse of a squid seller I immediately conjured up the image of the dancer who had so effortlessly captured my interest.
Of course, in the end, the meetings were but repetitive rituals with predictable endings and not once did we fail to defer to the wisdom of our leader. In one of the meetings it was decided (not by me) that the Thai head of the Actuarial Department and several of his staff would report directly to me. Two days later it was also decided that the Thai in charge of company medical insurance would start reporting to me. This sort of directive, I well knew, upset the Thais even more than it upset me, a situation to which the CEO remained oblivious. Beneath the surface smiles, there was an undercurrent of resentment and antipathy which I could feel building. It seemed to me it was not a question of if things would come to a head, but when.
My week involved this kind of unpleasantness at work plus trips to the dentist for a root canal and the removal of a molar. And so in less than a week I was walking up to the doorway of the Devil’s Delight hoping to meet the girl who had so intrigued me and feeling quite certain she would take my mind off my troubles.
I was just about to pass through the curtains into the bar when she and a friend came out, both dressed in halter tops and jeans. As we had almost bumped into one another, we stood inches apart staring into each other’s eyes. My expression must have given my fear away; the fear that she was leaving for the night and before I could blurt out, “Are you coming back?” she smiled and replied in English, “I finish dancing, now go eat, come back ten minutes.” And she turned around and continued off, still with that confident bouncy way of walking.
For whatever reason that brief exchange with a Thai bargirl made me feel happier then I’d felt all week and I entered the bar with a smile on my face, sat down and ordered my beer. Whatever it was, I had not imagined it. Something special that night had passed between us.
I spent my time watching the other girls dance. Some of them were certainly beautiful but none turned me on as she did. Many dancers bore tattoos, some of them spectacular in size and detail: a woman’s face stared out from a smooth back, a scorpion clung to a soft shoulder, a dragon curled about a tiny waist, its mouth chasing the gleaming jewel in the dancer’s navel.
I noticed a rough looking character standing near the back of the bar who was carefully observing the scene and issuing orders whenever he felt something needed to be done. He looked like an American and I assumed he was the manager or owner. One of his customers who must have been a regular raised his glass and screamed out, “Here’s to West Texas Andy!”
The stools along the bar itself were nearly full. It was there where men could observe the dancers gyrating not more than a few feet from them. Most were absorbed in ogling the dancers but I noticed one was paying no attention to them at all. In fact, if I wasn’t mistaken he was crying. I figured he had simply had too much to drink and wondered if the manager would eject him but the man never seemed to cause trouble and the manager seemed not to notice.
Twenty minutes later she came back in but she and her friend walked around the stage to the other side of the bar and disappeared into the changing room. I was disappointed that she hadn’t come over to my table but at least she had returned; no one had barfined her, as the term goes for paying the bar to take a dancer out for a short time or else for all night.
Minutes later I saw her in a bikini chatting with another girl while assisting the girl in fixing her hair in place. The thought occurred to me that I would be wise not to appear overanxious but the fear of someone else calling her to his table prompted me to act. I waved a middle-aged woman over, no doubt the mama-san, and told her I wanted to buy the dancer a drink. She yelled to the girl and the girl came over and sat down next to me. She tilted her head and smiled teasingly and held out her hand. “Hello, you miss me?”
She was full of perky playfulness, and her impish personality was the perfect nepenthe for a tired soul. I shook her hand. “Very much,” I said. “Have a drink.”
She got her drink, thanked me, and we went through the usual ritual of wishing each other luck. Her nickname was Lek (“Small”) and, not unlike most go go dancers in Bangkok, she was from a somewhat impoverished region of Northeast Thailand where her three sisters and parents still lived. She was twenty-two years old and had come to Bangkok six months before. It had been her first time to the bright lights of Thailand’s capital and she obviously had adjusted well. She lived with two other dancers in a small apartment about an hour away by bus. Her English was broken but it did exist; my Thai was not fluent but it seemed superior to her English. And I knew enough vocabulary to make myself understood even if my tones were inaccurate and my speech convoluted. And so we conversed mainly in Thai with bits of broken English.
She patted my leg and asked me in Thai if it was painful. So she had noticed my limp. I assured her it wasn’t recent and it wasn’t painful. At some point, after we had learned the basics about one another, I asked her if she would be in the show tonight as well. When she said she would, I mentioned that she seemed to have enjoyed watching the woman with the whip.
She smiled at me and sipped her lady’s drink and said in English, “I like because not same like other.”
My interpretation of what she said was that she was interested and turned on by something out of the ordinary. I wondered if her interest had been stimulated as mine had been: by watching a display of sexual power. I chose my Thai words carefully: “You like something different, right? Not just the same old thing.”
“Why do you think the girl obeyed the girl with the whip? Why did she willingly be her slave?”
I thought she might give me some kind of flippant answer about how they both were only acting in a show but her response both surprised and aroused me.
“I know them. They might sometimes go with men but they are the girls who like other girls. They live together. Always her girlfriends do things Dang like.”
“And why is that?”
“It makes Dang happy. It makes her girlfriends happy.”
I loved the simplicity of her Thai answer. Put another way it confirmed the popular Thai saying: “If it’s not sanuk (pleasure, joy, happiness), it’s not worth doing.” There was no Western judgement, only the Thai concern about whether something gave pleasure or not.
Perhaps the amount of beer I had consumed made me more forward than I normally would have been but I felt excitement at exploring her feelings toward fetish scenes. “And when men go with you, do you like to obey them or have them obey you?”
She stared at me as if taking my measure and then said: “If a man will do what I like, he makes me happy.”
We smiled at one another as if some kind of unspoken agreement had just been ratified. I knew now taking her out would be anything but boring. I ran the palm of my hand slowly over her bare shoulder and arm and said in English, “Very smooth; very soft.”
She ran her own hand over the same arm and stared at her skin with obvious distaste. “Too dark. I no like.”
I switched back to Thai. “You mean you still don’t know foreign men love the natural brown color of a Thai woman’s complexion? Just like yours?”
She smiled and took a drink then gripped my hand. She had an engaging way of tilting her head and looking up at me with those big black eyes that made me attracted to her even more. It was a look that simultaneously conveyed all nuances of intention from childlike innocence to concupiscence. No doubt, as with her dance moves, she had practiced her expressions in a mirror somewhere, but I had to admit this child-woman was as adorable as she was erotic.
I touched her on the chin and, in Thai, told her that she looked like a lovely doll. She squeezed my hand and gave me the standard bargirl response to a customer’s compliment: Bakkuan (“sweet mouth”). She placed the fingers of one hand gently beside my mouth and made a motion as if pulling something off. I understood the gesture. I had seen it in bars before. It meant my mouth was so sweet that there were ants around it. We both laughed.
At some point I saw that her drink was nearly empty and I meant to ask her if she wanted another. Instead I heard myself asking if she was available to go to a hotel with me.
She responded immediately. “Yes. You have to pay barfine.”
I knew it must be six hundred baht but decided not to give away the fact that I knew as that implied I had experience in these matters. “How much would that be?”
“Six hundred baht.”
About fifteen dollars. I nodded. “Sure.”
She held out her hand and switched to English. “You pay me now I give to mama-san.”
She disappeared into the darkness and I could see her talking with the mama-san, a roly-poly woman somewhere in her 40’s. For several seconds, before it gradually disappeared, the two women were silhouetted by the grinning face of the blood red devil which appeared on the wall behind them, transforming them into mysterious witches involved in some kind of clandestine conclave. She strode back to my table and without sitting down said, “OK, I go change now. You wait me here.”
I nodded. The wait was longer than I thought and when she returned she looked more like a schoolgirl than a bargirl. Her hair was plaited, and she wore a white blouse and navy blue skirt with black-and-white sneakers.
I quickly paid the bill and followed her out of the bar to a nearby shorttime hotel. The street was crowded with bargirls in various stages of dress attempting to persuade customers to enter their bars. Several of the girls smiled at Lek as we passed and made some quick comment in Thai that I could not catch. But it was clear they were used to seeing her walk with a customer ensnared by her charms.
At the desk, I did as she said, and handed over another four hundred baht for a room, and the two of us followed a boy of about twenty into the elevator and up to the fourth floor. The room was clean enough and I nodded to the boy who quickly exited.
Lek immediately picked up the TV remote and, standing right in front of it, became engrossed in switching channels to find one she wanted. She then began undressing and when she had nothing on but a frilly pair of white panties, she turned to me and said, “I go shower now.”
To my suggestion that I assist her, she scolded me with son (naughty). When the bathroom door closed, I began undressing and continued on down to my boxer drawers. I looked out the window at the street below with bargirls and customers and vendors of everything from stuffed animals to fried bamboo worms. I closed the curtain and lay down on the bed waiting for Lek to reappear. Lying on a bed while waiting for an attractive woman to join him is undoubtedly a pleasant sensation for any man, an anticipation both intoxicating and unique, and I could feel myself becoming aroused.
Several minutes later the door opened and Lek emerged wrapped like a beautiful, brown Christmas present in a large green bath towel. She glanced at the TV as if to ensure that her favorite soap opera was still playing and then whipped off the towel. She was dressed only in her tiny white panties. While still facing the TV she glanced back at me.
I spoke in Thai. “You are so beautiful!”
This won me a smile.
“You have the most beautiful ass I have ever seen.”
At this she laughed and ran her hand over her buttocks. “Other men tell me say ‘fantastic bum.’”
“I am going to worship your buttocks. In fact, I am going to worship you.”
She smiled. “Sure?”
“Sure! Now you have a foreign male servant. Just like Dang has her lesbian slave in the show. Would you like that?”
The ingenuous smile she gave me had no trace of calculation. She simply seemed willing to accept whatever her customer wanted. “OK.”
She walked to the bed and, without a glance at me, lay on the sheet on her stomach facing the television, the soles of her small feet not quite reaching the three pillows at the head of the bed. She tucked her hands under her chin and immediately became absorbed in the absurdly silly Thai comedy. The flickering light from the television and the yellowish glow from the dim wall light cast much of the room in shadow but served to focus attention on the curvaceous form on the bed.
I quickly moved to lay down near her, my face at her waist. I slowly and reverently stroked her perfectly formed buttocks and upper legs several times with my hand, letting my fingers and palm follow along and lovingly caress the contours of her feminine curves, then began planting worshipful kisses on those smooth, flawless buttocks, reverently cherishing each curving inch of caramel perfection. I gently rubbed my cheek against them then went back to devoutly covering her smooth mounds with more kisses, even more revering than before. I stretched out my tongue and ran it along the thin string of cloth which ran between the cheeks of her ass then continued moving my lips slowly up and across that irresistible feminine terrain.
She would occasionally look back at me and when I looked up at her with an adoring gaze she would give me a smile – the kind of smile a baby sitter would give a child who is keeping himself busy with a toy or a game – and then would turn back to the television, again absorbed in the silly antics of the comedy show. That gorgeous, unaffected smile combined with the insouciant manner in which she took my subservient behavior for granted inflamed my passion even more.
A farmer’s daughter from an impoverished region of Thailand who, until six or seven months before, had probably never even spoken with a foreigner, was now totally unfazed by a foreign man old enough to be her father worshipping her ass with all the deference, respect and adoration a religious disciple might pay to a venerated statue at the holiest of shrines. How is it that so many young Thai women like her can so quickly and so confidently transform themselves from peasant girl on a remote rice farm to bargirl on a hotel bed accepting with the most lighthearted nonchalance the homage and obeisance a foreign man pays them?
The hotel only allowed renters of rooms a certain amount of time before someone would call to give notification that time was up and Lek seemed to know almost to the exact minute when the phone would ring. And so, as she would in days to come, she dictated the pace of my exertions. At some point, perhaps ten minutes after I had begun caressing and kissing her backside, she rolled over and turned herself about, now lying on her back with her head on the pillows.
I kissed her lovely lips and told her again how gorgeous she was. She stared at me and smiled and I moved to kiss her beautiful breasts and to pay to them the same devout worship and respect I had paid to her buttocks, all the while telling her how incredibly sexy she was. But her black eyes were already staring out at the television, her attention still fixed on the absurd comedy, which, for her, seemed far more interesting than the sight of a naked foreign man humbling himself while paying her breasts homage.
After a few minutes, I felt her hand on my head, gently pushing me to her other breast, and I immediately followed her silent instruction and slowly slid my lips to adore her other nipple. A few minutes after that, I felt her small hands gently pushing on my shoulders which was the signal for me to go down and begin my worship of her legs and loins. I should say upper legs only, as she made it clear that her lower legs and feet were off limits to my adoration as she claimed those lower areas of her body were made dirty from slipping in and out of her go-go boots. And of course I silently obeyed, not wanting time to run out before I had pleasured her.
I helped her out of her panties, briefly placed them to my nostrils and lips and kissed them lovingly and inhaled deeply as I did so. She gave me an unaffected smile but quickly snatched them from me while telling me that was “not good.” Then she relaxed with her legs apart as I passionately but reverently kissed her upper legs and pubic hair, with quick tongue-licks at her clitoris, to excite her. I brushed my lips along the outer lips of her vagina, and onto her smaller but lighter pink inner lips. And then I continued my tongue-licks, teasing and stimulating her clitoris.
This part of my worship seemed more interesting to her, and she sat up a bit, leaning back on her elbows watching me as I licked and kissed and sniffed between her smooth legs.
At last I concentrated my attention on her clitoris and cupping her buttocks with my hands, pushed her body gently toward my mouth and slowly and rhythmically massaged her clitoris with my tongue. As she sharply inhaled and moaned, I removed my right hand from her buttocks and placed it gently on her mound and pulled up slightly to bring her clitoris even closer to my lips.
I soon felt one of her hands grip my cheek just below my ear and the palm and fingers of the other on my forehead, and from that point on, I kept my tongue out and let her use and guide me as her sex toy. She threw her head back and screamed with pleasure at which point I withdrew my tongue and very gently kissed the lips of her vulva and on down to her upper legs.
But within seconds I took her hand and placed her fingers at the entrance to her vagina and the tips of her fingers disappeared and reappeared with her white viscous nectar which I hungrily, greedily licked off each finger as a starving man might lick a bone. I repeated this procedure four or five times before she said, paw lau (that’s all), after which I begged for just one more helping and she again gathered what nectar remained onto the tips of her fingers for me to lick off.
I then briefly kissed her thighs and moved up to face her. I placed my hands on the sheet on either side of her head, preparing to enter her. She suddenly pushed against my shoulders and rolled me over. She sat on my thighs, leaning forward, her hair spilling out brushing against my face, and stared at me. Then she slid her fingers unhurriedly down my chest and stomach and gripped my erect cock. She patted it as if making certain it was hard enough and I thought she was about to place it inside her. But she gripped my own hand and placed it on my cock and began slowly masturbating me with my own hand. Her dark eyes stared intently into mine.
As my clenched fist rhythmically moved up and down, she took her hand away and, with unwavering interest, and with what can only be described as the sweetest and most congenial of smiles, quickly glanced from my eyes to my cock and back again. And as I finally came, her eyes darted back and forth, unable to decide if she wanted to observe the pained rapture suffusing my facial features or to watch my ejected fluid as it spurted into the air from the head of my cock and traveled its short journey before splashing upon my thick black growth of groin and stomach hair.
She then slid off the bed, entered the bathroom, and immediately returned with a handful of toilet paper. Still smiling, she handed it to me so that I could wipe myself before entering the bathroom to wash. While I dutifully wiped my discharge as best I could, she disappeared into the bathroom and washed up before me. When she returned, her body clad only in a bath towel, it was my turn to shower.
When I finished, I reentered the bedroom completely naked while she was already dressed and combing her hair in the mirror. While still naked, I took two thousand- baht bills from my back pocket where I had placed them and then, kneeling beside her, placed my hands together with the bills between, as a servant might approach his Thai mistress with an offering. And before she had a chance to thank me, I quickly thanked her, and she simply smiled and said the favorite Thai phrase, maibenlai (“never mind”). But she also frowned, grabbed my elbows and indicated for me to get up, saying that to kneel to her was “no good for a man to do.”
I finished dressing, gave her a hug, and we left the room. There was no one on the elevator so I gave her another hug. She kissed my cheek. When we exited the elevator, for just a few seconds, she placed her palms together and waiied a spirit shrine of some sort with a sudden devoutness. Despite (or perhaps precisely because of) the incongruity of the place and the nature of what had just occurred between us, I found her gesture extremely moving.
She turned to me and gave me a brief wave. “See you next time, Stephen.”
I smiled and waved back and watched her as she joined a group of bargirls standing near her bar and wondered how much of our tryst she would tell them. Lek said something to them and two of them turned their heads to look at me and smile. The thought that she might be telling them that she now had a foreign man as her servant gave me no trepidation or embarrassment whatever; in fact, the possibility simply sent a shiver of excitement through me and made me more determined than ever to see Lek again. If I’d needed a cure for boredom I had found it.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been many months since my last confession when I received absolution and performed my penance. And I have much to tell. I fear what I have done may be a mortal sin but I wish to confess to you and all the saints.”
“Yes, my son, please continue.”
“Father, I was tempted by a teenage beauty who seduced me by wearing a skimpy Catholic school uniform and no panties. While I was on the floor searching for her writing implement the lassie opened her smooth, curvaceous legs to me and I could but stare upon the beauty of her womanhood and before I could say ‘the devil made me do it!’ I was worshipping her womanhood with my lips and tongue.”
“Yes, Father. I fear the phrase is accurate. Must worship be confined to religion? I confess I felt the need to give reverent thanks for her beauty and for the exquisite pleasure her womanhood can give men during copulation.”
“Go on, my son.”
“Father, she became very aroused and excited by the attention I paid her and while I was pleasuring her, her thighs tightened about my head and their strength fractured my skull and fucked up my sensory input, playing havoc with my perceptions. And now my perceptual faculties are shot to hell. I have extreme disorientation and I misinterpret visual and auditory stimuli and my cognitive dysfunction is one for the record books. I have abnormality of mental status and altered level of consciousness. Father, I cannot tell what is reality from what is not. I don’t even know if you are here, if I am here, and, if I am, I am not sure who I am.
“Can you still achieve an erection, my son?”
“I believe so, Father.”
“Praise the Lord.”
“First of all, my son, you must not be too hard on yourself. You must not forget that woman was created by God. So by the act of voraciously lapping up her pussy like a famished kitty cat you were in fact paying reverence to God. As to who you are and where you are, what does it matter as long as you can still get an erection?”
“It is quite clear from what you say that you have not kept a cool tool. However, it sounds to me that you are suffering to such an extent from your disorientation that that suffering itself is meant to be your penance. God in his wisdom obviously invested a maiden’s creamy smooth thighs with the power of a nutcracker, and your hapless skull served as the maiden’s cracked nut. So I can only warn you about the dangers of venereal warts and send you on your way. But, remember, my son, the neurons that are causing your arousal functions to work like busy little beavers hang out in your reticular activating system, and are strewn about your midbrain, pons and medulla. And each of those indefatigable and lascivious neurons has only one thing on his mind.”
“Is this why I got so horny, Father?”
“Yes, my son, it is. And from now on, you must do everything in your power to keep those hyperactive neurons of yours from gaining the upper hand. Because once they do you may end up cunt-crazy to such an extent that you can never find your way back to reality, let alone to a state of spiritual grace.”
“Forgive me, Father.”
“It is my privilege to absolve you from your sins and I do it in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having pissed Thee off, and I detest all of my sins because I’m scared shitless of the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they piss off Thee my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more, to rein in my lecherous neurons, to do penance and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.”
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.”
“His mercy endures forever.”
“Go in peace, my child. Lecherous neurons - begone!”
The surge of sexually induced power just before release gave her extraordinary strength and as her thighs closed off my ears, her loins pressed my eyes tightly shut, even as my lips and tongue frantically continued to invade her moist nether region. I could almost not breathe and yet I was so lost in my own grip of sexual arousal that, rather than attempt to pry her legs apart, I stroked the outsides of her beautiful thighs as if begging her to continue. So it must be as the female black widow spider couples with and devours the helpless male.
At some point I think I must have blacked out because I had dreams or visions of being operated on in a strange hospital. And I dreamt I had become a character in my own novel at the same time I was nothing but a character in someone else’s novel.
I had never known a woman with such strong thighs, and the pressure she exerted was uncomfortable to the point of painful, but at last I heard her cry out in ecstasy, and gradually, her strength ebbed out of her. My bizarre visions faded and I once again knew who I was and where I was. I could once again hear the ticking of the antique clock but my hands continued to slowly stroke her thighs. She opened her legs and released me. It was an abrupt motion which seemed to clearly say that she had no further need of my pleasuring her. I was being summarily dismissed.
I was completely at a loss as to what to do next or as to how she would react. I was torn between fear of the consequences for what I’d done and an uncontrollable need to satisfy my sexual lust. I looked up at her with an expression that must have conveyed the quandary I was in. She smiled down at me and with one hand on my forehead pushed me gently. “Next time you can do Deborah,” she said. “Now go back to your seat. Teacher.”
It was neither a hint nor a suggestion; but more in the nature of an order. And, of course, the mocking manner in which she spoke the word “teacher” unmistakably conveyed my changed situation.
I hurriedly scurried backwards under the table and sat down in my chair. Now both sisters covered themselves with their skirts and sat up, once again proper students attentively studying their lessons.
My raging hardon showed no signs of diminution even as I realized their strategy: I – or at least my lips and tongue - was to be a sex toy for these two. But it was quite clear they had no intention of allowing me sexual gratification.
Confused emotions, a still raging desire, shame, excitement, heart beating as if I’d been running a mile, pulse throbbing, my lips still wet with her viscous femininity. To attempt to restore the decorum and my position as it had been before would seem ridiculous; but on the other hand there was no other path open to me. Not if I wanted to keep Julia from discovering my behavior and not if I wanted to repeat my performance of today. And I knew I did. And I knew I would. And without doubt the girls knew I would.
And so we continued our session as if nothing unusual had occurred and I felt that I was now part of a bizarre Theatre of the Absurd acting class in which it was essential to ignore reality and to pretend that all was as before. I am certain that to cover my embarrassment and discomfort I spoke too rapidly and undoubtedly more loudly than I normally would, but I felt as if the charade, which must be maintained at all costs, would be threatened with too much silence. A few times I let my eyes linger on them when asking a question, trying to elicit some kind of confirmation of mutual sexual desire or at least an acknowledgement that we were now in a new relationship, but they continued on as dutiful students, seldom looking up from their books, oblivious to any change in atmosphere.
As the clock struck the hour, Deborah declared the lesson over. While Babs began clearing the table, Deborah escorted me to the door, where she thanked me and told me she and Babs were looking forward to our next lesson. I started to speak but she placed her finger to my lips, smiled and shushed me. I desperately needed sexual release but it was obvious I was being told not only how I was to play the game but also to leave without making reference to it. I must have walked to the car with the unsteady gait of one who has been through a traumatic emotional experience. As I pulled out, I could see her standing in the doorway, one hand on the knob and one on her hip, her head tilted slightly; her confidence in obvious contrast to my unsettled mood.
That night, as I lay naked on the bed pleasuring myself, I could still feel the enormous pressure of Babs’s thighs and taste and smell her nether parts. And I tried to decide if, as I knelt before her and she had slowly released me from her grip, my excited senses had played a trick on me or if I had in fact heard a door softly close behind me.
I arrive before my sister. I am always arriving before my sister. She takes care of dogs and checks apartments for people away on vacation. That is how she makes money. Some money, anyway. And there is always a last minute crisis with some dog before she arrives which makes her always late. Dogs she cares for seem to wait until she is about to leave and then do their “whittles” or “poopers” on her rug and the cost of cleaning the rug is more than what she makes taking care of dogs.
I wait in the car in the parking lot. Drops of rain hit the windshield and I roll up the window. Ten minutes pass before I see her cream-colored Ford Falcon cautiously turn into the lot. My sister is not a particularly good driver and in acknowledgement of this she drives slowly and carefully.
She pulls up beside my car. She ignores the rain, slides into my car and sits beside me. We need to go over a few documents and several issues. She looks tired, drawn. Her face is long and angular and has an unusual beauty to it. One of those faces in which nothing is in proportion and yet there is an undeniable attractiveness. The lines stretching from her dark green eyes are more pronounced than I’ve ever seen them. She usually looks several years younger than her age but the crisis has aged us both.
While I have been watching over mother and paying their taxes and dealing with the financial company that will handle my mother’s investments and signing papers with Harbor House, our chosen assisted living home for mother, and performing a myriad of other chores, my sister has been buying the furniture for my mother’s bedroom. Furniture companies are notorious for not making deliveries on time and if they deliver the bed late it will be a disaster. Just one more thing to worry about.
Mary takes out some folders and shows me the bedroom set she selected and I try to show interest. But I am too tired and also, as the day of my mother’s incarceration grows near, too anxious to concentrate on anything for very long. The car is becoming stuffy. I roll down the window slightly.
I give her more of our mother’s jewelry that I found in various places about the house. She will take the pieces to a local jewelers to determine the value. I hand her our late grandfather’s watch. “It’s heavy and there’s no point in my taking it back to Thailand. Just sell it and keep the money.”
“I’ll find out the value. But I don’t want it.” And then she adds without rancor: “I don’t want anything of his.”
I have enough on my plate without probing the emotion behind that statement so I change the subject. “I’m going with Jim to the cremation place later this week.” I hesitate. “If I lived here, I would take their ashes. But there is no point to my taking them to Thailand.”
She looks out at the palm trees and, for several seconds, simply stares at the rain-washed parking lot. “I don’t want to keep anyone’s ashes,” she says. “I have their pictures.”
I nod. “Right. So the instructions will be that the ashes are to be scattered at sea.” I clear my throat. “You do realize there is no guarantee we will be going in chronological order. Just so you know, I intend to be cremated in Thailand.”
She nods. I had told her years before when I lived in Manhattan that as a veteran I could get a burial in an American military cemetery. She accepts the fact that I’ve changed my mind.
Conversations with my sister have always seemed strangely restricted and confined. But during this crisis we are too busy to reopen whatever old wounds lay between us and so our relationship, though never particularly warm, seems less strained.
The lawyer is a buxom, friendly, garrulous middle-aged woman who chain-smokes. She speaks of how her business has changed since the hurricanes; how people are less interested in estate planning and more interested in insurance. She mentions that the number of suicides in the area is staggering. People who lost their homes were too old to start over and simply gave up.
The documents we need are relatively simple and she will charge us one hundred dollars per document. My sister and I agree on the spot that that is reasonable and we ask her to go ahead. She writes down “Durable power of Attorney for Health Care with Living Will Provisions of Kathleen Ann Scott” and “Durable Power of Attorney for the Property of James Richard E. Scott” and “Durable power of Attorney for Health Care with Living Will Provisions of James Richard E. Scott.”
As it stands now I am the first successor trustee for Jim’s property and my sister is second. My sister has decided that as Jim might end up living with her she would like the document changed so that she will have equal power with me in his durable power of attorney for property. I have no objection.
All three documents can be ready in a few days and, assuming I can get a neighbor to stay with mother, I will bring Jim into the lawyer’s office to sign his in front of witnesses. My mother’s, however, will be more difficult. I will need to get two neighbors to come over to mother’s house and to sign as witnesses and then ask my mother to sign the document. She might or might not. She doesn’t even know we are changing the documents. Much depends on what state she is in at the time. And getting someone to stay with mother is not so easy a task, either; many of her neighbors are in the hospital or have doctor appointments themselves.
I tell my sister I am off to do the shopping and run various errands. She asks about their boxes in their storage areas. She knows I can’t stay in Florida forever and I have to get going on that chore so they can stop throwing money away on what is basically stored junk. But, as I explain to my sister, there is hardly room in the house for the boxes unless Jim and I clean the porch. But my mother gets angry if anything is thrown out and we have to sneak about and clean off some of the porch only when she is napping on the couch. I say to my sister: “Nothing is easy.”
The final item of business is the new bank account we opened with Jim. I needed my sister’s name on a bank account so she can pay bills when I’m back in Thailand. But my mother’s name is not on the account. Again, it is something I had to do behind her back because she still thinks she is capable of paying bills. Into this account will go her pension, social security check and the funds placed there by the financial company handling her investments.
But my mother’s social security check is coming to the house. We cannot put it into her account because her name is not on the account. It would be better if social security would deposit the money directly into the bank. I called the local social security office and told them the problem and that I have durable power of attorney for my mother. They said they do not recognize power of attorney and that mother would have to call them. Nothing is easy.
Mary says she has a tennis match and has to get back to her own house on the Barrier Island. It is one of those upper class places where cars are not only not supposed to be parked on the street but not even in private driveways. But her garage is too full of boxes she has yet to sort out so she cannot put the car in the garage. She is asking management for more time. I cannot understand how anyone could live where they cannot leave a car in the driveway.
My stepfather describes my sister as having “a champagne taste on a beer income” and a woman who can’t resist any restaurant that boasts of “fine dining.” It is clear to me that his life was so deeply scarred by the Great Depression that he is an almost exact opposite of my sister when it comes to spending money, and I have found it best to simply walk away when one makes fun of the other’s spending habits.
Except for his social security, the money her second husband left her will run out in a few years and, before that happens, my sister will have to leave that house and move into a smaller one. What I think is that if she would move out entirely and stop trying to live a lifestyle she can no longer afford she would be much happier. She would have peace of mind. At her age does she really want to go on picking up the shit of other peoples’ dogs? Wouldn’t living a less glamorous life elsewhere be preferable to cleaning up “whittles” and “poopers”? But I say nothing. My sister gets back into her car and pulls out of the parking lot.
Not long after saying goodbye to my sister I am sitting in a restaurant in a shopping mall by myself. It feels good to be alone and not have to worry about anyone around me. No one in the room knows me and I don’t know them. I like the feeling of being a stranger: I can relax. I feel invisible. If taking care of an Alzheimer’s patient teaches anything it is that solitude can be precious.
While waiting for my order, I take out a copy of my mother’s will and read the opening: “Kathleen Ann Scott, a resident of Indian River County, Florida, being of sound mind and disposing memory, do hereby make, publish and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking any and all former wills, codicils and letters of testamentary import by me made.”
As I take a sip of coffee, I accidentally knock over a small sign on the table. It reads: “To Die For! Cherry Supreme Pie - A rich cream cheese filling is covered with a layer of red ripe cherries and finished with creamy whipped topping for a cool, refreshing delight that you wouldn't dare share.”
I look from the will to the advertisement. Something about the juxtaposition makes me smile. Then chuckle. Then laugh out loud.
During the next few days, Babs and Deborah behaved admirably in class and I had no reason whatever to reprimand them. Their dress, at least by the standard of students in the class, was on the conservative side, but I did catch them occasionally looking up at me and holding my gaze with slight but knowing smiles on their faces. There was no question I was looking forward to my next session with them at their house. It was practically all I could think about. What had happened had been so incredible I had run it over and over again in my mind.
But I couldn’t help feel certain trepidation. How long could our activities be kept from their mother? I had absolutely no illusion about what I had done: I had given two young students the power to ruin me if that was what they wanted. A situation I had up to then always been extremely careful to avoid.
At the next session, Julia greeted me as cordially as ever and soon disappeared upstairs to finish some work. Babs and Deborah also greeted me as they had before our recent episode and sat in their seats with the books open to the proper text. Their expressions gave no sign that our relationship had changed in any way from teacher and student and so I began teaching as before, half grateful and half regretful that my indiscretion might be forgotten forever, never to be repeated.
But after about ten minutes into the lesson, Deborah picked up her pen and began slowing turning it in her hand, occasionally tapping it lightly on the table. This went on for several minutes, during which time she seemed to remain fully absorbed in her lesson; but succeeded in distracting me from mine. I continued as best I could explaining the reasons for the rise of communism in China, but suddenly she glanced up at me with knowing eyes, and held her pen under the table. I stopped speaking in mid-sentence. With a slight flick of her wrist, she let it go. She looked at me and raised her eyebrows as if impatient and somewhat irritated with my hesitation. As she spoke, her expression changed to one of annoyance. “Mr. Richards?”
Both girls stared at me, and, while awaiting my reaction, slid their chairs slightly back away from the table. I said nothing but, as if in a trance, got down on my knees, heart pounding with excitement. As I crawled forward toward the pen, Deborah flicked up her skirt, revealing her nakedness, and spread her legs for me. I continued crawling over to her and eagerly began licking and kissing her legs and inner thighs. She reached down and pulled my mouth hard against her loins and I pleased her with no less passion and desire than I had pleased Babs the previous session. This time I was released before the pressure of her thighs against my skull became painful. Once I had served my purpose, Deborah closed her legs and pulled down her skirt. Their signal that I was being dismissed. I crawled back to my place, resumed my seat and the lesson continued, once again, as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
Driving home that beautiful evening, I wondered how long my role as willing and
eager sex toy for these girls would continue. And if once it ended if I would
pay a price for my unprofessional behavior. I had no idea then that my sexual
escapades were already over and just how high a price I would have to pay.
“All right, we have a patient to attend! Stop playing with the instruments and pay attention!”
“Like most folks, Mr. Richards has come to believe that all the stimuli from the world he knows – scents, sounds, touch and sight – is what constitutes reality. But much of what Mr. Richards’s brain understands as reality is formed by his experience and those parts of the brain working their asses off, if you will, as they attempt to fit stimuli into something he can understand based on his experience.”
“Excuse me, doctor, but as his personality continues changing won’t it be extremely difficult for his brain to assist him in understanding who and where he is?”
“Exactly right, nurse. Exactly right. So what we are endeavoring to do is to ingeniously but ever so deftly alter those parts of his brain which are working their asses off, if you like, and, by doing so, we might be able to create a Mr. Richards who can grasp hold of one and one personality only and stick with it.”
“That sounds wonderful, doctor. And will it be the one which can best deal with reality?”
“Ah, as they say at the roulette wheel, where she stops, nobody knows.”
On Thursday I once again knocked on the door of their home. Julia opened the door with a pleasant smile of welcome. Her dress was some kind of body-hugging mini, its yellow fabric thin enough to reveal every curve and she had curves to spare. I had seen my ex-wife in that type of dress once and she had called it a wet-look string tank dress. Whatever it was, any woman wearing it would immediately become the center of attention. It allowed a great deal of her cleavage to be visible and very little of her beautiful legs were covered by the tiny skirt.
But although her dress was suggestive and inviting, her attitude was if anything even more correct than before. I couldn’t help but wonder why she had decided to dicktease me but both her demeanor and dress made me uneasy.
We exchanged greetings and she led me into the hallway but then stopped at the spiral staircase. “Dan, would you be good enough to follow me upstairs for a moment? There is something I would like to show you.”
I think I said something like “Certainly,” but my heart was pounding too fast to be aware of what I was saying. I still saw no sign of Babs or Deborah and I could feel the fear forming in the pit of my gut. Her high heel shoes echoed slightly as she climbed the stairs ahead of me but displaying her rhythmically swaying female form was undoubtedly what she had in mind. I was torn between apprehension and titillation. But whatever it was she wanted to show me, I feared the worst.
I followed her down an upstairs hallway into a small room dominated by a large flat-paneled TV screen. Several black leather chairs had been set in position to accommodate an audience. The only window looked out over the back garden, now bathed in golden rays of the setting sun. Julia quickly moved to the window and closed the blinds. She smiled pleasantly and gestured toward one of the chairs. “Please sit down.”
I made myself comfortable while she pushed some buttons on a DVD player and then came to sit down in the chair beside me, holding the remote player. She leaned back and crossed her legs and smiled at me then turned her attention to the screen. For a few seconds, my gaze was riveted on her gorgeous legs and on the contrast of her yellow dress against the black leather. I had never seen a woman look more desirable.
She pushed a button on the remote. In full color and in perfect focus across the huge screen I saw Bab’s nakedness about her loins and legs and heard her voice say, “Can you see it all right, Mr. Richards?” The camera remained focused on her lap for many seconds until my head came into the screen and I began bestowing my impassioned kisses and inserting my tongue inside her young flesh.
From that point on, I think my mind must have tuned out. My mind did register one fact, however: I remember at the time just before I had reached her, Deborah had slightly backed up her chair and I had thought she was simply allowing me more room in which to please her. I now realized she was actually positioning me so that more of my face would be visible to the camera. The camera which must have been inside the antique clock. The clock especially designed to net the fish. I had been perfectly set up and could do little more than stare straight ahead at the screen while wondering what fate this woman had in store for me.
“Forgive me Father for I-”
“Not this time, my son.”
How I came to be manager of a go go bar in Bangkok was one of the things I got asked the most. But I didn’t mind the question so long as the customer who asked it was payin’ for his own drinks – and maybe for one of the girl’s drinks as well. It’s like I told them: wait for the customers to offer you a drink but if they don’t volunteer, then it’s OK to suggest they buy you one.
I looked about the bar at the bikini-clad dancers up on stage, the spinning globe and spotlights adding to the erotic effect of the room, the grinning, blood-red devils, and the customers - eyes riveted on the girls - and wished my daddy had lived long enough to see me now. I was still a fairly young man when I moved to East Texas to work in a loggin’ mill in Lovelady. The town had all of about two hundred and fifty folks, most of ‘em even poorer than me. I did just about everything there was to do connected with loggin’ and delivery to the mill.
Folks laughed at me in a good-natured way on account of my name bein’ West Texas Andy but, as I told them, by the time I was fifteen all the trees in West Texas been made into chopsticks and sent to China.
At first I worked as a “sawhand” cutting down knotty pines for railroad tracks, then took over as a skitter operator, working one of the huge tractor-like machines with a bulldozer front and independent wheels.
The night my woman left me for a real estate salesman, I drove seventeen miles to the county line where the bars were (Lovelady being a dry county), got drunk as a skunk, drove back to Lovelady, powered up the skitter, and proceeded to bulldoze an open-air barbecue sandwich stand belonging to a retired sheriff, plus a few automobiles, clothes lines, chickens, geese and assorted picket fences. And the recently purchased Harley Davidson belonging to the real estate salesman. The woods in the area were referred to as “the thicket” and that’s where they found me the next morning – still drunk as a skunk.
Bail was posted for me by a few friends, but too many lawmen grew red in the face when they heard the name “Andrew McGrady” and I knew it was time to move on. So I applied for work with a wild cat oil rig in the area and that started me off in my work in the oil rig field. First in Texas, then in Kuwait, then in Saudi Arabia. And, of course, there being strict laws against a number of pleasures in those fucked-up countries, a lot of us always took our time-off periods in Thailand. And what an eye-opener that place was. I had never before seen so many beautiful women so available in my life. So before long I had enough saved and one of the ex-oil riggers and I bought ourselves The Devil’s Delight with over 40 dancers and waitresses and there we were in business. Everything was going just great and hell, if it hadn’t been for Dan Richards and his woman problems, it still would be going great.
I can’t say he was my best customer or that I even particularly liked him, but Richards was one of my regulars. He had been a high school teacher in the States - Connecticut I think he said - and had apparently done well enough that he could afford to play around in Thailand for awhile.
Only problem was he had done what a lot of men do when they get here: fallen in love with a bargirl. Hell, they even got websites warning guys not to fall in love with Thai bargirls but one thing is for sure: when a guy falls for a Thai woman, he falls hard. I’ve seen it a hundred times and I still feel sorry for the poor suckers who fall for one of mine. And, if I wasn’t mistaken, some other poor smuck was falling for Lek even now. Lek was my best and most popular dancer. Can’t say she was the prettiest, but she sure had a way of twisting Western men around her finger. If I had ten more like her, I could retire rich. I had no doubt she would.
Anyway, Dan had been coming in for nearly a month when I noticed him sitting at the bar, looking down into his Singha beer bottle like if he could he would have drowned himself in it. It was a Friday night and the bar was crowded and, right in front of him, up on the stage, within inches of his nose, were some of the sexiest, bikini-clad dancers a man could ask for. And of course they were available for a fraction of what it would have cost a man in the States – if he could have gotten near women like that in the first place. But there he was, ignoring them and lost in his own private hell.
As a bar owner, I had learned long ago not to pry into the backgrounds of my customers. What they had been was their business and if they presented themselves in a certain way that was fine with me; I had no interest in trying to find out how close their description of their past matched the truth. The first thing a man learns in Bangkok is that there are two questions you never ask: “Why did you come to Bangkok?” and “What was your Thai wife doing at the time you met her?” Questions like that never led to good results. And a bar owner would soon find himself without customers.
The bar closed every night at two in the morning. By that time the best girls had already been barfined and most of the patrons had gone on home with or without a slim Thai female to keep them company for the night. And sure enough Lek had got her man and was out the door.
On this particular night, Dan Richards was one of the few left at the bar. He hadn’t moved from his stool but had occasionally checked his cellphone as if waiting for a call that never came.
I waved to the mama-san to bring him a beer on the house and once she’d delivered it I ambled over and sat down next to him. He gave me a mournful expression and I could see tears glistening in his eyes. That was when I made the very bad mistake of violating my own rule in never prying into a customer’s business, especially their problems. But, to tell you the truth, he looked so damn pathetic the thought occurred to me he might be suicidal.
I picked up my beer bottle and saluted him. “Cheers, Dan.”
He picked up his and saluted me back, but without spirit. “Thanks, Andy.”
“You didn’t seem to be very interested in our dancers tonight, Dan. I mean, I know you never barfine ‘em but I hope our entertainment ain’t slippin’.”
He waved that thought away. “Nothing to do with them, Andy. I got some woman problems and I can’t…”
He seemed almost to cry which embarrassed the hell out of me but then he managed to finish his sentence: “I can’t decide what to do.”
I didn’t particularly want to hear any story as I figured I’d heard them all before but I knew it was about to spill out of him anyway, so I simply said, “Well, this is Thailand, most likely women trouble, right?”
He gave me a rueful smile. “Andy, four years ago I met one of the most beautiful women I ever saw. Sure, she was working in a go go bar but you know most of those girls are not hardened: they’re just rice farmers making some extra money in the off season.”
I nodded in agreement but I also thought: And they also might just be tryin’ to rope in a gullible foreign male as a way to the good life.
“Anyway, at that time I was coming back and forth to Bangkok from Connecticut, and I hated the thought of her going out with other men while I was away. I thought of it so much while I was teaching high school in Groton, I kept forgetting the lesson. So I told her if she would quit the bar and go to college I’d pay for it. And she agreed.”
I’ll bet she did, I thought. She probably had a lot of guys in various countries sending her money, thinking she had quit the bar just for him and was going to school. And she probably gambled the money away or her Thai boyfriend or husband gambled it away or bought a new pickup truck and lots of Johnnie Walker Black and had great times with other women as well. It was an old story.
“So I put her through college and three years ago we weren’t careful and she got pregnant. We decided to have the baby and I’ve got myself a beautiful son.” He finished his beer and I bought him another. Lost in his misery, he didn’t seem to notice.
“Then on one of my trips to Bangkok she met me at the airport and instead of driving us to our condo, she drove me to a hotel. Once we got into the room, she told me she had sold the condo and the house we had up in her home village near Buriram, and she didn’t want to see me any more.” He looked at me with an expression that must have been similar to what it’d been at the time it happened: shock, bewilderment, disbelief.
“She admitted I hadn’t done anything wrong but she just said she wanted to be alone now and she didn’t love me anymore. I’m not ashamed to say I begged her to take me back.” He let out a long sigh and looked down at his cell phone. “Hell, I been begging her ever since.”
“And when was this, Dan?”
“Seven months ago.”
Seven months! I figured it was time for him to move on and get another woman and, if he liked, another son. But I could see she had him. And when that type of Thai woman gets inside a man’s head, he’s little more than a puppet on her string. He wasn’t the first I’d seen, and he wouldn’t be the last. I didn’t know whether to offer him sympathy or yell at him and shake him to snap him out of it. “Well, foreigners can’t buy a house and land so that would have been in her name, but what about the condo. That in her name, too?”
He nodded. “I keep sending her messages begging her to see me and let me see my son. She never answered. Until tonight.”
“So what’d she say?”
“I can see my son but she wants me to bring her eighty thousand baht for his schooling.”
Two thousand dollars! Where she was living she could probably buy the fucking school for that money. What a bitch! It was at that point I let out a long sigh.
“Have you got that kind of money?”
“Most of it. I can borrow the rest.”
“So you’re going to pay two thousand dollars so you can have a visit with your own son?”
“Well, his birthday’s coming up. And the money’s for-”
At this point, I was getting a bit hot under the collar – his wimpy response to her as well as her demands. Especially after all the money he must have given her over the years. “Truth is, Dan, you don’t have a fucking clue what the money’s for. You just have the word of a woman who stabbed you in the back that it’ll be well spent. That about right?”
He sighed again and shrugged. “One of her sisters seemed to like me. She sent me a message last month telling me that Dang’s living with another woman. A friend.”
My eyes must have widened at that one. “You figure she might be bi?”
“Well, ever since I got her sister’s message, I been remembering a few things. She did seem to have very close women friends.”
Great. A sexy Thai lesbian go go dancer gets her college paid for by a naive farang teacher from Connecticut then after she graduates she gives him the boot and moves in with her true love – another woman. And he has to pay through the nose if he wants to see his own son. I’d seen a lot of sad cases in my time, a lot of foreign men who fell head-over-heels for an irresistible Thai bargirl, but this was one of the most pathetic.
The last two customers ambled by deeply immersed in a typical Bangkok bar conversation:
“She said some German guy paid her four thousand baht just to fuck her tits.”
“Four thousand baht! That’s one-hundred dollars!”
“That it is.”
“That pisses me off.”
“Why should it piss you off?”
“She charged me five thousand baht!”
“Yeah? Sad day when Americans get charged more than Krauts.”
They finally managed to find the door, the mama-san turned down the lights and waved to me as she left, and the DJ made a motion as if to lock up. I motioned back that I would take care of it and waved them out. The police might come around with unkind words about my being open later than I should be but I paid them enough to look the other way. “Well, what do you plan to do about it?”
“I plan to scrape the money together and take the flight to Buriram.” His voice took on a determined edge. “I’ve got to see my son.”
I looked at him and for whatever reason a wave of pity struck me. I thought I was beyond feeling sympathy for some poor fool who had gotten in too deep with one of these girls. Not that all the girls were like his, but there were enough. And those that were seemed to have some kind of unerring radar that picks up on suckers like Dan the second he enters a bar. I also knew that some of the most beautiful bargirls in Bangkok were from Buriram.
I stared at Dan: His hangdog look, the dark circles under his eyes, the day-old beard, the despair in his eyes. “The hell with it,” I said. “I’m going with you. This is one bitch who needs to be set straight.”
“Mr. Richards, is this the non-sequential distorted version of reality you’d like to inhabit? We have it in various colors and shades and we offer a special lay-away plan, but you’ll really have to make up your mind pretty soon. Otherwise, we’ll have to choose for you and you might not wake up as the ‘you’ you’d prefer to be. If ‘you’ see what I mean.”
“She’s right, Mr. Richards, we’re all ready to continue the operation. Just as soon as we hear from the front office that you have hospital insurance.”
“Careful, that bone belongs over there.”
“Behind the eye socket, dummy! You really are a silly-billy!”
“What about auburn, Mr. Richards? Or even beige. My cousin was in an accident and his reality is a lovely shade of bottle-green.”
“Mr. Richards, did you know inside every human skull are 29 bones? Well, you may have a few less now but, hey, nobody’s perfect.”
“Mr. Richards, can you count backwards from 29?”
“Moma, Mr. Richards won’t tell me which non-sequential distorted version of reality he’d like. Make him tell, moma!”
“And inside every bone is living tissue. If that’s not proof that God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world I don’t know what is. Billions of stars in the universe. Billions of neurons in the human brain. Billions of sperms, five hundred million of which are expelled with each and every male ejaculation. What more proof of divine guidance do people want?”
In the morning, before I left for work, I had spent nearly half an hour searching my apartment for my pass. It was a narrow card all employees in the office wore around their neck and it was necessary to place it against an electronic eye to open a sliding door which led into our main office. We had been warned to be careful with these and not being able to find it put me in a somewhat unhappy mood. I had finally given up and arrived at the office, explaining first to a guard then to his boss that I had misplaced it. Reluctantly, I was given a temporary pass but the chief guard’s sullen air and reluctance to provide me with a pass put me in an even more unhappy mood.
I had a corner office on the 8th floor of a modern office building overlooking the Skytrain and several other buildings. But before I could reach this I had to pass through a large room with several dozen employees in cubicles, mainly women, almost none attractive. The recessed ceiling lighting, the numerous potted plants and a Buddha image made it a pleasant but eerily quiet place. Other management personnel also had offices off the main room and, as I disliked several of them, I made my way to my own office in my usual roundabout fashion and stopped at the water fountain for a drink hoping in that way to avoid comment on my circuitous path to my office.
I spent much of the morning updating actuarial tables. In the afternoon I nearly fell asleep while cosigning authorization payments to hospitals and discussing various boring issues with our Health Insurance Department and Actuarial Department – issues which previously in my career I had found interesting.
As the days passed, I found myself less and less interested in those few aspects of insurance which had until recently held such fascination for me. I would send my secretary off on an errand, then stand by my office window watching the Skytrain pass below and attempt to understand the power Lek held over me. I also wondered: At what point does a caprice turn into a passion and a passion into an obsession? Can there be dignity in sexual deviation? Is acknowledging the power of the feminine – even to the point of enslavement – a serious deviation from the societal norm and is it serious enough to warrant punishment?
I thought of the last time we were together in bed. I was in the process of licking and kissing her lovely nipples and I playfully asked her if she ever lied to me. We both knew full well she had no need to lie to get whatever she wanted from me but her answer surprised me. She grew serious and said: “I only lie to you, Stephen, if I think the truth will hurt you.”
There seemed to be so many qualities about her that made me unable to resist. I was sure that if only I could define those qualities then I might understand more of my own nature. Of course she was cute and sexy and physically attractive. But, as I have said, no more so than many other dancers and less than some. What was it exactly about this one child-woman that made me so heedless of my self-respect, so neglectful of my self-esteem? How could she so effortlessly inflame passion and lust I never realized lurked inside me? I knew I was not being Sensible but in searching for our true natures is not the Sensible the Enemy?
I did love the fact that she was completely guileless, totally honest, and whereas some bargirls would tell a man what he wanted to hear – “I love you too much!” – Lek seemed incapable of doing that. It seemed almost a point of honor with her that a man accepted her as she was or not at all. I loved the way in which in an instant this girlish sprite, this pixyish chameleon transformed herself seamlessly into a streetwise harlot. I confess there was also a delicious sluttish demeanor about her. The way she walked, the way she talked, the way she looked at a man – perhaps somewhere inside every man is a suppressed desire to indulge in the sexually forbidden, to surrender to the bewitchment of depravity - an irresistible hunger for the slut.
It was precisely that the ending of my plan, my design, my contrivance, was so very unpredictable that fed my errant soul. A roaring fire stoked only by uncertainty and trepidation and sexual turmoil. But when all is said and done, of all the ungovernable urges of human beings, the sexual may be the least complicated, after all.
After lunch I was again updating mortality tables when I was interrupted by my secretary who had finished translating a competitor’s Power Point New Products Coverage. Somehow, her boyfriend, a sales agent with our company - had managed to get hold of this so, as there weren’t that many words involved in any case, my secretary translated it from Thai.
Once I read it, I realized that if our competitors were to do what they planned they would have to ask the Department of Insurance (under the Ministry of Commerce) to amend the Life Insurance Act. Our competition was well connected politically but I had one ace up my sleeve: a Thai friend who went to school with one of the decision-makers inside the Department of Insurance. And in Thailand friendship and who you know carried even more weight than in most other countries. So I called him and after a bit of small talk broached the subject. He said he had heard rumors also but that he would invite his contact inside the Department of Insurance for lunch and that he would do what he could to see that the Life Insurance Act was not amended. I thanked him and, this being Thailand, of course jotted down a reminder to send him a gift.
I had also been given the unwelcome task of sorting through vouchers and receipts for the last three year’s company outings to ensure all was correct. Previous trips had been to a southern province but now with the troubles in the south of Thailand it had been switched to Khon Kaen in the northeast. It was not ordinarily my responsibility to tend to such minor details but the new CEO seemed to think the Thais were not to be trusted to check on one another.
I had been perfunctorily going over the receipts and the projected expenses for the coming company outing when something piqued my interest. The travel company, Thailand Golden, was the same each year, the vouchers were signed by the same agent in our company, and the costs for sixty people for three days at a southern resort – supposedly at a discount - seemed far higher than they should have been. The projected expenses were still higher than those and, considering that the vacation would be in a resort in an inexpensive area of Thailand, seemed definitely out of line.
I used my cellphone to place a call to Thailand Golden. I quickly concocted a story about representing an advertising agency in Singapore whose seventy-five members were hoping to stay in a resort in the northeast of Thailand for three days of fun and sightseeing. I gave the same month and approximate dates as our own company planned. I asked that they get back to me with the rates for two or three of the resorts in the central area of the northeast such as Khon Kaen. I gave the woman I spoke with one of my Yahoo addresses and she promised to e-mail me the information by the following afternoon.
I was about to leave for the day when I remembered I had worn my jacket to the Devil’s Delight and to the short time hotel with Lek. The office pass had been tucked inside a jacket pocket. I wondered if it was possible that I had left it or dropped it in one of those places.
I had no one at home waiting for me so I decided to hang about one of Bangkok’s nightlife areas drinking beer, watching dancers and waitresses and mamasans come to work and watching the men watching the girls come to work. And as I watched, I kept reordering beer so that by the time I entered the Devil’s Delight I was feeling no pain and was horny as hell.
Even before I sat down I saw her dancing. She wore a simple white bikini with black trim, black and silver ankle boots and a sparkling, heart-shaped jewel in her navel. And, of course, there about her neck for all to see, spinning wildly about as she gyrated, was my office pass. I felt a surge of anger flood through me and I wanted to march up and grab it but I didn’t want to call attention to myself or to the pass. I could only hope that no one from my office had been in. I wondered why the hell the bar manager hadn’t stopped her but he didn’t seem to be around.
I ordered a beer and stared at her without smiling. She waved and smiled as if everything was fine. At last, she scampered down and headed for my table. I moved over but stared straight ahead. She placed her hand on my leg.
“How you, Stephen?”
“Is that supposed to be funny?”
She grew quiet and withdrew her hand.
“I could get in serious trouble if my boss saw that pass around a go go dancer’s neck.”
She tore it from the string and threw it on the table. “I no have necklace like the other girls.”
“Oh, right. So now it’s my fault for not buying you a gold necklace, right?”
She grew quiet as if lost in thought then finally said, “Yes, I think that is right.”
Her total sincerity as well as her lack of logic – at least, Western logic - threw me off guard and I couldn’t help but laugh. I reached over and slipped the pass inside my jacket pocket. “Just don’t do that again, all right?”
“Now, what do you want to drink?”
She gave me a big smile. “Tequila!”
I reached in my other pocket and withdrew six hundred baht. “Here, pay this to the bar. I’m barfining you tonight.”
She gave me a Thai-style sniff kiss on the cheek. “Aieeee, you make me happy, Stephen.”
Knowing that I would soon be taking her to the hotel and worshipping her lovely face and body made me happy as well. And sexually excited. And she knew it.
I hear my mother’s angry voice from somewhere outside the bedroom door. She is indignant; offended; outraged. I know immediately what it means: For whatever reason, the medicine has failed. I throw the covers off and hurriedly check the alarm clock. It is three in the morning. Jim is sleeping fitfully. I feel my way along the walls in the dark and try to calm or at least to ignore my gut-wrenching fear in having to deal with what I will find when I open the door.
Most of the house lights are on. It is almost as if I am watching a play. Mother is barefoot, dressed in a thin gray nightgown with a repeated pattern of red roses. She is standing immobile, clasping the frightened dog to her breast. She turns to me, her eyes wide. “She tried to harm Honey. Look at all this black!”
“She” in this case is a middle-aged woman named Penny from Jamaica who is filling in for Barbara for one night. Penny is standing about ten feet from mother, her arms at her sides. “Mrs. Scott, I would never harm Honey.”
My mother glares at her. “How could you! Just a little dog! Never hurt anyone!” She turns to me. “Look what they’re doing to her.” She balances the dog precariously on one arm and runs her hand along a dark brown, nearly black, streak across the area near Honey’s tail.
I walk to mother. “Mom, relax. That’s Honey’s natural streak.”
I had never heard my mother swear before. All the books say it isn’t them swearing, it’s the Alzheimer’s. But it shocks, nevertheless. I turn to Penny. “Penny, would you go into the living room for a while?”
“No! I want her out of my house!”
“Mother, Penny never hurt Honey. Now let’s-”
She thrusts one of Honey’s black paws toward me. “Look what they’re doing to her! She never had that black on her before!”
I take one of the dog’s paws in my hand. “Mom, that’s her normal paw. I don’t see anything wrong.”
My mother has never been racist in her life but she has never had close black friends either. And now she is accusing a Jamaican woman of having smeared some kind of black solution on Honey. As she accused previous Black and Jamaican health care aides of doing. Before she was medicated.
“Mom, Penny didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Oh, how can you be so stupid! Look at this poor thing! She’s shaking from fear! Look what they’re doing around here!”
Penny disappears into the living room. My mother starts to walk to the front door. I quickly go around her and block the door. “Mom, it’s three in the morning. Let’s go to bed and talk about it in the morning.”
“I will not! I want to go out!”
She tries to push her way past me. In her righteous anger she has become very strong. I place my hands on her arms. “Mom, you’re not going out. Period!”
I see Jim appear in the bedroom doorway. He is completely disheveled, toothless sunken cheeks giving him the appearance of a cadaver, his receding patch of silvery white hair seems precariously balanced, like a toupee a clown might wear. I motion for him to go back to bed. He disappears inside the bedroom but leaves the door slightly ajar.
Mother glares at me. “I thought I had a nice son.”
“I thought I had a nice mother.”
“Now we know, don't we!”
Her sharp reply stings me. It is so totally out of character for her. “Mom, sit down on the couch, I want to talk to you.”
She hugs Honey to her, as much to prevent the excited dog from escaping as to protect her. “You're not my son.”
“Mom, sit down on the couch.” I take a few steps toward the living room. “Penny, we won’t be needing you for the rest of the night. You brought your car, didn’t you?”
“Yes, sir, I did.” She gathers up her paperback novel, thermos and Helping Hand folder. All right, I’ll be leaving now. “Good night, Mrs. Scott.”
My mother does not move. She simply glares at Penny as she passes by. I do not apologize to Penny for my mother’s behavior. I don’t want to antagonize my mother by appearing to side against her but I also know from Penny’s stories that she has been through similar scenes with other Alzheimer’s patients before. I will call the agency in the morning and make certain they know Penny did nothing wrong.
I sit on the couch. “Mother, would you please sit beside me?”
She moves slowly and warily. She sits down two feet from me. As I speak, she cuddles Honey in her lap. She looks only at the dog, not at me.
“Listen to me, mother. You are not stupid. I am your son. Therefore, I am not stupid. If anyone were trying to hurt you or trying to hurt Honey I would know about it. And I would never let them do it.”
She makes a grunting sound as if skeptical of or in disagreement with what I’m saying. I continue on. “I know this is a very difficult thing to ask. But I want you to trust me. Not only to trust me but to trust me more than you trust yourself.”
She speaks without looking up. “Why?”
“Dr. Parsons says you have some dementia; that means some of your brain cells are under attack.” I am still skirting the use of the “A” word but I am coming closer. “It’s not your fault anymore than somebody getting cancer isn’t their fault. But he says it’s the kind of dementia that makes a person suspicious of others, especially of those close to them. So what I want you to do is to believe what I say and ignore what your brain tells you when it says somebody is trying to hurt Honey.” She continues stroking Honey. The dog has at least stopped shivering. “I want you to understand that I love you and will always be loyal to you. I came all the way from Thailand to take care of you. Now I promise you: nobody is going to hurt Honey.”
I remember my stepfather saying he hopes he goes before Honey does because he knows how lost mother would be without the dog. He was with her when she lost another one many years before. A peek-a-poo: half Pekinese and half poodle. It was as if she’d lost a child. Jim buried it in the back yard after dark. I have come to realize that, among other things, retired communities in America are illegal graveyards for beloved pets.
I stroke Honey’s soft golden curls of fur a few times. “Now Penny is gone and you should take Honey and go to bed. Get some sleep.”
“I don’t want that woman in this house again!”
“All right. I’ll call tomorrow and tell them not to send her again.”
“Why wasn’t Barbara here?”
“I told you, mom, Barbara is a Mormon and sometimes she goes to conferences or some kind of meeting up near Orlando. But I promise you she’ll be back tomorrow.”
Mother picks up the dog and walks slowly into the bedroom, all the while speaking softly and soothingly. To the dog. I get up and snatch a pillow from a living room couch, and lie down on the computer room couch facing my mother’s bedroom. I am between her bedroom and the door to the outside. I cannot take the chance of mother trying to leave when she’s like this. I’ll have to stay awake the rest of the night, then call Dr. Parsons in the morning. I can only hope this is just a one-night episode. But it’s obvious I can’t chance Helping Hand sending black women again. The next time Barbara can’t make it, I’ll have to play the racist and ask them to send white women. I have no idea if they’ll accede to a request of that nature. Or even if they have enough white women on staff to fulfill the request.
I also realize I will have to again change the return date on my plane tickets to New York and Bangkok. Everything is taking longer than I thought it would and I find it impossible to make plans to return to Asia when things here are so unsettled and volatile. There are several Thailand websites I want to visit and one or two Bangkok forums I want to participate in, but I am much too drained of energy to go into the computer.
I turn off most of the lights and settle back on the couch. I suddenly remember something in the folder for Harbor House, the assisted living home we’ve chosen for mother. Something about how they take people only if they are not disruptive. If they become disruptive while they are already there, they can still stay on. I know that if the medicine is failing, then I’ve got to get mother into Harbor House as soon as possible.
I sift through a stack of papers and documents near the couch and pull out the folder. I cannot find what I want but I find an assessment form that has to be filled in. Most of the questions involve boxes to be checked Yes or No:
Does the person engage in any of the following behaviors?
Urinate in inappropriate places
Attempt to exit a building without needed supervision
Demonstrate anxious, disruptive or obsessive behavior requiring additional attention
The way it works, of course, is that the more boxes checked the more it will cost to place someone in that assisted living home. And on a deeper, visceral level the questions really relate to human dignity; each question is really asking how much of the “person” in question has been lost.
Does the individual need assistance with the following?
It isn’t long before I can’t concentrate and I roll over slightly to place the folder on the floor. I feel something cold and wet along my shoulder. I hadn’t realized the dog has peed on the couch.
Look at him: Reverently kissing my ass, adoring it, slowly stroking it with the palm of his hand, even pressing his cheek to the flesh of my buttocks as if I’m some kind of female deity who can grant him his wish if only he can prove the devoutness of his worship. He’s strange, all right, but not half as strange as some of the others. Compared to them, he’s almost boring in his normalcy; of course, I’m not about to tell him that. If Stephen wants to think he’s some kind of intrepid explorer treading sexually and psychologically where no man has tread before it hurts no one to let him cling to his self-image.
I’m just thankful he’s not one of those into body fluids (except of course for my helpings of viscous sexual emission which he can’t seem to get enough of). He’s not into men, including ladyboys, he hasn’t asked for an enema and, despite his suggestion that we spank one another, it’s pretty clear he’s not the type who wants to give or receive real pain.
True, he wants to kiss my feet and that I really don’t like, not Thai custom as we say, but sooner or later I might relent. And since he’s in the insurance business I figure he’s making good money so I can string him along for awhile until I give in. And probably he’ll pay extra for that privilege. Nothing in Thai custom that says we can’t make what we can from sex-starved foreign men.
Well, actually, he doesn’t seem to really need sex as such, he’s obviously had plenty of that in his life. All of these men from abroad seem desperate for something – something feminine. Or maybe just affection. Or maybe just a woman who doesn’t judge them for their bedroom urges. Whatever it is they’re searching for, they seem to get it, and they’re extremely grateful when they do. And they always come back for more.
What amazes me is how the transition most of them make from staid family man with a steady job to love-struck libertine hanging around Bangkok go go bars is almost always unexpected and impulsive and out of character. They arrive in Bangkok with or without their Western wives and within months they’ve left those very same educated, sophisticated women to cavort with women half their age with big smiles and little education. They all tell us how demanding their wives were and how we’re not. Well, of course we’re not, because all we have to do is smile our famous Thai smiles, bat our long eyelashes over our almond eyes, and show off our feminine curves and long jet-black hair while we dance and they give us everything without our asking. So what’s to demand?
I just don’t understand what it is with Western women that they don’t seem to be giving their men what they want. What they need. Whatever it is, these guys have to come all the way to Thailand to get it, and, not to sound immodest, but it’s pretty obvious, once they’ve tried Thai women, as the novelist said, they can’t go home again.*
· *Readers might be mildly surprised to learn that a basically uneducated Thai ricefield worker cum go-go dancer should be acquainted with the works of Thomas Wolfe to which the author can only respond that compared to the many larger mysteries inherent in Bangkok nightlife, this somewhat jarring incongruity is of little importance, and should not trouble the reader further. Besides, we have bigger fish to fry. DB
Copyright Dean Barrett 2009
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