Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Soporific Brothel - Andrew Crofts

          "Of all the advantages that ghosting offers, one of the greatest must be the opportunity that you get to meet people of interest."
          The idea came from the girl’s husband, a British engineer who had been working for several years on a project in the Far East. He’d met her through mutual acquaintances. They fell instantly in love and married despite the fact that they didn’t have a language in common.
          Over the following few years, as he taught her English, he learnt the story of his young bride’s life from the simple village where she was born to the brothels of Bangkok and eventually to freedom and security through marriage to him, a kind and gentle foreigner. He was proud of everything she had achieved and he thought that she deserved to have her story recognised, so on a business trip back to England he made contact with me.
          “I would need to spend time with her,” I explained, “would she come to London?”
          “It would be better if you met her in Thailand,” he said, “then you could see the actual places where the events happened.”
          Nobody paid any attention when the girl and I checked into the reception of the “hotel” in Bangkok where she had worked as a teenager. They were used to local girls and foreign men using the rooms upstairs.
          One wall of the reception area was made of glass, behind which a selection of scantily clad girls and women sat or lay or wandered around, like bored specimens in an exotic aquarium. One of them was actually knitting as she waited. Every time a man moved towards the glass they would all burst into a frenzy of flirting and pouting, putting on performances that they hoped the shadowy figure behind the glass would find attractive, all wanting to be the one who was chosen to go upstairs, to be given a chance to earn an hour or two’s wages.
          Having paid the receptionist, my tiny guide and client led the way up to a small room furnished with nothing but a double bed and a bathtub. The ancient air conditioning unit wedged in the window was stubbornly silent and the heat was overbearing.
          “We can talk here,” she said, climbing onto the bed, sitting cross-legged and opening her handbag. “You want a coke?”
          Grateful for any sort of fluid I accepted the proffered bottle. When I unscrewed the lid a jet of warm sticky liquid sprayed out in a 360 degree arc, soaking the already grubby sheets. She covered her mouth with dainty fingers, prettily smothering an involuntary giggle.
           I took the tape machine from my pocket and laid it on the pillow.
          “You sweating bad,” she said, pointing to the dark patches on my t-shirt. “You take off shirt.”
          As I struggled out of the clinging t-shirt she took a swig from her bottle and lay down with her head beside the tape machine. I pressed the record button.
          “Okay,” I said, “let’s start from the beginning.”
          I stretched out and propped my head up with my arm, so that I could watch her as she talked and show her that I was listening, encouraging her to keep going even when the words became difficult. Both of us sipped from the cokes. Once the bottle was empty my head was beginning to feel uncomfortably heavy on my arm and my cheek stuck to my palm with a slick of new sweat. She had her eyes closed most of the time so I thought it would be okay to put my head on the pillow too. When my eyelids also grew unbearably heavy I thought it might be a good idea to rest them, after all I could continue talking and listening.
          By the time her husband showed up to see how we were doing the recorder lying between us had run out of tape and both of us were so deeply asleep we didn’t even hear him coming into the room, only waking up when he sat down on the end of the bed and coughed politely. 














1 comment:

julia jones said...

I love this story. Thanks Andrew