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Soi Twilight’s barkers are not most visitor’s favorite thing about the street. You’ll hear grumbling about the aggressive touts almost as much as you do about the prices bars charge for a drink. The soi’s barkers are pushy, aggressive, sometimes rude, and generally act like their not-too-distant cousins – the leech, grabbing a hold and sucking the blood out of your very soul. They prey on the weak, take advantage of those new to Bangkok’s soi of male flesh for hire, and generally exhibit the same lack of human characteristics as mamasans.

Personally, I like them. They add energy to the soi and are amusing to watch. Hitting Soi Twilight too early in the evening or on a night when business is dead and the barkers are not exhibiting their normal degree of interest in the fresh meat thrown into their cage just doesn’t seem the same. The excitement isn’t there; the lack of hearing ‘Show Now! Show Now!’ echoing down the street allows the neon lit path promising dream boys, hot males, and X-sizes to take on the tacky, shallow, and slightly scuzzy ambiance that is closer to its reality than the fantasy it relies on to bring in the bucks.

The thing is, the barkers know that they are annoying. But it’s their job. If you take the attitude that the whole thing is just a bit amusing, if you let them know you are in on the joke, they’ll leave you alone. Or at least treat you like a human being. And if you treat them like a person instead of the annoying devil spawn that they are, you’ll find they can be a lot of fun too.

Entering the soi, you pass by Hot Male’s barkers first, usually without knowing you’ve done so. They tend to sit on a stool at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the club, a brown paper bag wrapped around a beer that fools no one, lost in the haze the dozen or so beers they’ve already consumed produced. You may feel a momentary tug on the arm as you pass by X-Boys and Fresh Boys. Slow down and one of their barkers may get in your face. But they know that they can not compete with the crew of touts waiting in front of Dream Boys and give up the chase almost as soon as they’ve started. And it’s that group of barkers repping Dream Boys, Boys Bangkok, and Ocean Boys who have been clamoring for your attention from the minute you appeared on their radar. These are the guys everyone complains about. And yet, they are the ones I’ve come to know and enjoy the most.

There’s a slightly older, short but built barker at Dream Boys who, like many of his compatriots, has been around for years. Whenever my friend Noom and I eat at Dick’s he catches my eye and uses hand gestures to suggest himself as a good choice for a three-way. I laugh, shake my head, and he pouts. It’s a joke. But then I’ve notice that though Noom laughs too, it’s not his ‘that’s funny’ laugh. There’s evidently a bit more truth in that offer than Noom cares for. When I’m on the soi without Noom, he smiles, sometimes gives me a wai, occasionally shakes my hand in greeting, but is otherwise uninterested. One of these days I may have to look into the idea of offing him to join us. It’s not that he does much for me, but I’m intrigued by his interest in Noom.

I have a somewhat related running joke with a barker for Ocean Boys. He too has been around forever and smoothly moved from fronting for Future Boys to being one of Ocean Boys barkers with a slight detour to repping Dream Boys while Future transformed itself. The gaggle of barkers from the two bars tend to mingle and most would not realize they don’t all work for the Dream Boy enterprise. At least not until the potential victim manages to allude the guys from Dream Boys. Because then they become fair game for the Ocean Boys barkers. For several years I teased him for only recognizing me when I was with Noom. When we are on the soi together, he always makes sure to come chat with us for a bit. Alone, he’d rarely notice I was around. But after ribbing him about that for a while he caught on. And then made sure to come talk with me, but would act as though he didn’t know who I was.

“Sawatdeekap, welcome to Bangkok!” he’d greet me as though this was my first trip to Thailand. If I played along, which hating to ruin his fun I usually did, he’d go on to introduce himself, “My name Wit,” and then drop into the typical bar boy litany of where you from, where you stay, how long you stay Bangkok. Though he’d rarely get through the whole thing before dissolving into a fit of giggles. I’ve never claimed the Thai sense of humor actually has anything to do with being funny. But watching them crack themselves up can be amusing.

At some point I moved from acting hurt that Wit only recognized me when Noom was around to suggesting he had a thing for Noom. He laughed. But not unlike Noom’s laugh about the Dream Boys barker, his let on that there was a bit of truth involved. Noom used to work for Future Boys, the two of them worked for the bar at the same time. I’d always thought it strange that Noom referred to him as the ‘boy from Chiang Mai’ rather than by name. Now, that lack of familiarity made sense. Noom makes his living having sex with gay guys. And has no problem being friends with his bar mates who are gay. But the locals who seem to have an interest in him, at least the gay ones, make him a bit uncomfortable.

For a Thai, Wit is tall. He has a slender physique, but more of a swimmers build than the scrawny, underdeveloped street urchin look. He has a smooth almost baby face, and his skin is that slightly peachy shade that many boys from the north tend to have. Like many Thais he has a glorious smile, but his puppy dog eyes add to his appeal and the overall effect is a pleasant one. Even at his most aggressive barkerness there’s still a sweetness about him that is hard to not like. And he has a cute little butt.

But Wit’s a barker, not a bar boy, and the familiar ease of being acquaintances has always made our exchanges mutually enjoyable. And I’d never considered he was gay. So with a emphatic, huh, I filed that interesting little tidbit away and then let him off the hook cracking some dumb joke instead of following up on his discomfort.

On one trip, as I do on most, I spent the first night in town hitting bars, checking out what was new, who had the hottest guys, and which shows managed to be erotic instead of laughable. I could, and do, hit the bars with Noom too, but it’s different when I’m with him. On those nights it’s more about giving him a break from his self-impose duties of taking care of me 24/7. It gives him a chance to talk with his friends. And in the bars is one of the few places he’s comfortable in letting me fend for myself.

I should take offense that he thinks I’m incapable of finding my way around town or even crossing a street without his assistance, but I know his care comes from his heart so I ignore what should be a slight. I’m not sure why he’s decided I’m safe on my own in a bar, but it works. The only downside is that being with him removes the opportunity that I might off one of the boys and the whole thing just isn’t as exciting. Hitting bars on my own, even if I don’t off a guy, still puts that excitement of the hunt in the air. So I treat myself at least once on every trip.

On this night, business was slow. It has been for far too long. The bars were hurting. The boys were hurting. And with a dearth of customers entering the soi, the barkers were hurting too. They make a fixed wage but also get a commission on the customers they steer into their bars. Not suffering financially like much of the rest of the world, as I stepped back out onto the soi I slipped Wit a tip. Barkers don’t get tipped very often. But being a Thai he knew enough to accept whatever it was I was slyly passing to him. I patted him on the shoulder as I did so, bid him a good night and started walking away.

Having eyeballed the bill in his hand, he grabbed me before I could make my escape. My gesture had been unexpected. And much appreciated. Wit gave me an honest wai, and then placed his hand on my hip as he thanked me. His touch, while not overtly sexual, held promise. But with reuniting with Noom but a night away I failed to follow it up. But did file it away with a second, huh.

Several weeks later having made a quick trip to Bali I was back In Bangkok again and decided to hit the soi on my own before hooking up with Noom. Spotting me, Wit went into his running gag of acting like I was a new visitor to town. I gave him an obligatory chuckle, he cracked himself up yet again, and I climbed the stairs to X-Size to see the show. X-size tends to have a good stable of boys, but it can be hit or miss. The manager likes men, so there are usually a few studs on offer. Not so on this visit, it was flab or fem and I left before finishing my beer. Back out on the soi, I stopped to chat with Wit for a bit. And then my huhs hit home.

“I think you should come back to my hotel with me,” I told him.

Wit smiled, then laughed. He thought I was introducing a new addition to our running joke. I corrected his misunderstanding. “No, really,” I said. “I want to off you for the night.”

Like every employee at a gogo bar, barkers too are available to be offed. I just don’t think anyone has done so before. He laughed again. And then shot me a look asking if I was joking. I wasn’t. We stepped into the bar, totally confounded the captain who had never before had to consider what the off fee for a barker would be, settled up, and headed back outside. The look on the other barker’s faces was a Kodak moment. Someone had finally figured out a way to silence the group. And that little pocket of silence followed us down the soi as we made our way out to Suriwong, the denizens of the street not believing what they were seeing.

Back at the hotel that I was not dealing with a bar boy became immediately obvious. Instead of reaching for the remote control for the TV, Wit reached for me instead. Labelling a Thai as gay or straight unless you mean top or bottom is usually a non-starter. With Wit, I’d go with gay. Our embrace, kissing, enjoyment in each other as I slowly peeled his clothes off was more like a date back home than a night with a bar boy. When we’d progressed to the point it was time to take a shower, he held onto my hand making it clear he didn’t want to shower alone. And stripped naked, his body was much better than it appeared to be when covered in street clothes. Except for his ass. It was just as cute as it always had promised to be.

Bar boys, even though they get naked on stage and have sex with strangers for a living, can be shy about exposing their bodies. Wit wasn’t in the least bit. Instead of burying under the covers of the bed, he pushed them all to the floor. And while he may have preferred being ravished by Noom, his hard cock proved that settling for me was just fine with him. Intuitive to say the least, he moved freely about the bed, a never ending entanglement of limbs. And just when I steeled myself to having to convince him to bottom, he reached over grabbed a condom package and tore it open.

Finished, spent, sated, we laid in each others arms for a bit. And then he turned to me, put out his hand and said, “Hello! I Wit. Welcome to Bangkok!”

Showering together afterwards was difficult. He kept hitting the shower floor in laughter over his joke. Finally cleaned again and unfortunately dressed, he accepted his tip without looking at it, almost embarrassed at being paid for something he’d obviously enjoyed. But then reality struck and his eyes flew wide. “Don’t tell Noom!” he cried.

I’m not sure if that was concern over Noom’s wrath for nabbing his customer or that he was concerned having done so might jinx his chances of landing Noom himself some night. But I quickly agreed it should remain our secret while thinking there is no such thing as a secret on Soi Twilight.

I don’t know that we actually pulled that off. I can’t believe that someone didn’t tell Noom. A barker getting offed is just too novel of an occurrence to not be gossiped about. But Noom never mentioned it, so who knows. Now all I have to do is figure out how to successfully introduce the subject of making Wit’s dreams about Noom come true. Provided that means there will be three of us in the bed.

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