Lek’s feet hurt. Even after having switched from high heels to sneakers. He’d thought of going with a sensible pair of pumps instead, but where was the fabulousness in that? Not that there was anything fabulous about hawking bags of barbeque to early morning commuters stuck in Bangkok’s parking lot-like traffic. But his sister Noi was intent on satisfying her entrepreneurial itch and Lek just wasn’t strong enough to say no. The window of a car the color of city dust rolled down, a handful of baht popped out, and Lek passed over a baggie of grilled meat skewers while seriously considering it was time for a break. Or to start using his balls while he still had them.
The weather remained malignant, even as the sun slanting through the murk burned the last of the early morning gloom away. The pavement was barren, defying photosynthesis. Lek’s shadow was barely a splash underfoot. He loved this city, loved its sleaze and glamour; its old ramshackle hotels and spangled high rises, its sultry winds; its flagrant decay. But he loved it more at night when neon lights came out to play, when after hours of getting her ready he helped Grandma Nong into a taxi, when 80 baht later they alighted in front of a club, two ladyboys, one young, one well past her due date. That, Lek thought, was his job. And while it only brought in a hundred baht or so, it promised a future for him. Unlike Noi’s get-rich quick scheme.
Lek couldn’t blame her, Noi’s job brought in less than the other roommates’, even if hers was steady and fairly consistent and theirs was not. She worked hard manning Mama Khem’s food cart and received a paltry, unfair share of the profits considering it was Noi’s barbeque sauce that had turned the business around. But then no employee ever got rich; that was a privilege reserved for business owners. Which Noi now considered herself to be. Even though her business used Mama Khem’ s to survive without the old woman’s permission. Or knowledge. If Noi wasn’t family, Lek would get busy whispering some timely gossip to spread through the neighborhood putting an end to his torment. Instead he got busy trying to unload the last few bags of grilled meat.
Three nights before, Lek had been helping Grandma Nong with her act at a gogo bar on Soi Twilight when he’d discovered the naked, erect hunk he’d been ogling on stage was his roommate Wit. He was shocked by the surprise. Both of them had been. But not as shocked when later, after Wit had made himself scarce, Noi’s husband So had walked out of the club’s dressing room; he worked there as a gogo boy too. Since Lek had arrived in town he’d noticed where Wit’s eyes tended to travel (truth be told he noticed everything about Wit) and assumed he was gay. He just hadn’t been expecting to find out that So too sold his body to men; there was nothing gay about So. But the lights and glamour of the bar had already worked their magic on Lek and he was more upset that So had an in that could mean a job for Lek performing on stage than he’d been about what So did to earn a living. That only added to Lek’s frustration. So had told him his boss didn’t hire ladyboys.
There were obviously gay boys working at the bar, quite a few even more fem than Lek. Both nights since then he’d raised the subject with So again, usually after the bar closed when they shared a taxi ride home. Lek thought it was more about So being uncomfortable having Lek at the club, especially when he was on stage, naked, and hard. But after a quick peak the first night, Lek kept his eyes elsewhere when So was performing; So’s act made him a little bit uncomfortable too. And a little hard. But as long as Lek was going to be there with Grandma Nong, he figured he might as well be working for himself. He’d try to convince So again tonight. Maybe if he promised to not wear make-up So would agree to get him a job as a gogo boy. Lek figured once he was working for the bar it wouldn’t be that difficult to move into being the club’s resident ladyboy act. Even if he did have to go with customers to prove his worth first. Anything had to be better than getting up at such an early hour to sell Noi’s cooking on the streets.
A vividly pink taxi slid to a temporary halt next to Lek, filled with farang passengers. Backpackers. Not a usual sight in this part of town. Lek caught the driver’s attention, gave him a free bag of barbeque and then smiled while he convinced his fare to purchase the remaining three bags left in Lek’s hands. Getting money out of farang was like shooting fish in a barrel. He checked while passing over his stock and wasn’t surprised to see the taxi’s meter wasn’t on. Probably headed to a tailor, a gem shop, or some super secret travel agent shop where the backpackers could buy bus tickets at unheard of prices. Too late now, Lek thought, he should have added another 10 baht to the price of his barbeque. Or not. Bringing back even greater profits wasn’t the way to convince Noi to let him off the hook and free his mornings up for himself. But at least for today he’d sold out of stock quickly and had an extra hour to enjoy. Lek headed back to their room to sneak in a quick nap.
That night at the bar Lek decided the only way he was going to get So to help him land a job at the club was to make it too uncomfortable for him not to. Sitting at the edge of the stage attired in Grandma Nong’s finest, the perfect vision of pseudo-femininity, as soon as So’s naked form appeared on stage Lek stood up and faked a flamboyant swoon. The audience laughed. So scowled. Lek ‘recovered’ and began fanning himself like a bitch in heat, drawing a few more chuckles from the crowd. When Wit appeared naked on stage a minute later, Lek used his hands to pantomime Wit’s size, greatly exaggerating its length. And then began choking, an obvious reference the audience quickly picked up on with glee. Not surprisingly, Wit wasn’t bothered by the additional attention. But So’s scowl deepened with every laugh Lek coaxed from the crowd. Between the night’s two shows, Lek busied himself with selling Grandma Nong’s cigarettes and lighters, hauling in a surprising amount for once, an acknowledgment of the audience’s appreciation of his antics. But when the second show began, he went right back to putting pressure on So. Getting him angry might not have been the smartest move, but sharing his spotlight gave Lek a thrill beyond what he’d expected.
The silence in the taxi on their way home that night was deafening. Lek feigned a deep interest in the polish he’d applied to his fingernails. There were benefits, he thought, to being a man who wasn’t yet a lady. His testosterone levels told him to keep quiet instead of trying to fill the silence with a discussion about how So was feeling. Instead he let So stew in his discontent, accepting that once he’d worked it out in his own mind he’d speak up. Which it didn’t take So long to do.
“Why you want to do this?”
Rather than share the faulty logic that told him a job as a bar boy would lead to a starring role as a ladyboy on stage, Lek went with an excuse he knew would play well. “We need the money So,” he said. “I can make more working at the bar than I can with Grandma Nong or working for Noi.”
“But you work at bar you not be ladyboy.”
Damn, he thought, not the no ladyboy crap again! But he knew what was expected of him, what he needed to say. “I know. No make-up, no dress, no high heels.” And then with a twirl of his hand making the glittering polish on his nails twinkle in the light cast by the headlights of passing cars he added, despondently, “No fabulousness.”
So was taking their discussion more seriously. “You know that means going with farang,” he said.
That was part of the dream Lek had avoided allowing to seep into his consciousness. But seriously, how bad could that be? So did it and he didn’t even like men. Besides, Lek thought, with hunks like So and Wit on stage there wasn’t much of a chance he’d be offed often anyway. Rather than share his concerns over that aspect of the job, Lek allowed a nod to serve as his acknowledgement of So’s point.
So let out a long exasperated sigh. Noi wouldn’t be happy. But then Noi probably wouldn’t let Lek off the hook and would still demand he sell her barbeque even if he was working at the bar. That thought made him laugh; Lek wouldn’t last long working both jobs and Noi wouldn’t allow him the choice of which to give up when he decided the two were too much. “Okay, fine. I talk to boss,” he said, hoping that wasn’t a decision he’d live to regret.
Excited beyond belief, Lek almost peed himself. Then began humming the tune to Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. A quick look from So made him stop; a sly smile began spreading across his face. He was in. He was going to be a star.
Two nights later, after spending both afternoons practicing the few acts he would take part in during the shows, Lek stepped onto the stage at Bangkok Bois for the first time. Not dressed in the long flowing gown he’d envisioned, but in the revealing shorts the bar used as its uniform instead. In Lek’s mind his appearance was greeted by a standing ovation. In reality, the small weekday crowd barely noticed. Worse, he could feel the eyes of the few that did judging him, scrutinizing every inch of his exposed flesh, zeroing in on what wasn’t exposed. It wasn’t the feeling of stardom he’d been expecting.
He let his eyes travel to the mirror on the back wall, catching a reflection of a young man uncomfortable with standing exposed on stage. Lek had expected to feel a bit nervous, he hadn’t considered the reality of being undressed in full view of a room full of strangers. Selling Noi’s barbeque on the streets suddenly didn’t seem all that bad. He wanted to flee , to get off the stage, to go hide in the dressing room. The thought that when the show began he wouldn’t even have his underwear to hide behind started to bring tears to his eyes.
The boys’ rotation on the stage didn’t end quick enough, and what seemed like hours later Lek was once again safely tucked away back stage. Catching a glimpse of Grandma Nong headed his way Lek felt even worse. The ancient ladyboy had not been happy about losing her helper, had been disappointed with Lek’s decision to go on stage as a man instead of as the woman his soul told him he was. After his brief stint on stage in his briefs, he was almost ready to beg for his old job back. Steeling himself, he watched her approach, waiting for her displeasure to be vocalized.
“Attitude, my dear,” Grandma Nong said tapping him lightly on the shoulder with her fan. Sensing his misery, she offered Lek a sympathetic smile and reiterated her point. “I told you before, attitude is all that matters.” She looked down at the bulge in Lek’s underwear that almost wasn’t and muttered more to herself, “And that’s probably a good thing.”
Leaning in closely she whispered in Lek’s ear, “When we appear on stage they expect to see a man dressed as a woman. It’s the unexpected that pulls off that transformation, it’s attitude that defines who you are.” Snapping her fan closed, she handed it to Lek and reverted to her usual regal state. “Come. Now let’s get you ready for the show.”
Lek’s big moment was scheduled for the third act of the show. A minor, but pivotal part in the barely discernable plot, he was suppose to join Wit who’d already be on stage faking awaking from a deep slumber, his erect cock hidden by the silk scarves playing the role of bed sheets. Lek was supposed to pull the material away exposing him before Wit pulled Lek’s equally diaphanous covering off; the two would then engage in a bout of simulated sex the show’s choreographer mistakenly thought actually looked like the way two men have sex. Like most of the show, it was a flimsy excuse for nudity. During practice the two roommates couldn’t stop laughing. But Lek was secretly happy, and a bit relieved, that his first time on stage being naked would be with Wit. That he was being paid to fondle Wit’s hard cock helped relive the nervousness he expected to otherwise feel. But that was before Grandma Nong got involved.
When the lights came up, as planned, Wit was laying center stage, his hardness easily discernable beneath the gauzy fabric covering his midsection, his eyelids half closed waiting for Lek’s appearance as he stretched lazily as though having just awoken. His eyes popped wide open when Lek walked onto the stage. Instead of the scant piece of silk he was supposed to be wearing he was decked out in a shimmering blue and green kimono, a jet-black geisha-style wig sporting a pair of chopsticks completed the assemble, his exaggerated mincing steps in wooden clogs already bringing a chuckle from the primarily local audience who usually required a ladyboy’s smile showing a blacked out tooth to know when an act was supposed to be funny. But then the Japanese were always good for a laugh to Thais.
Instead of exposing Wit’s cock as scripted, Lek kneeled next to him and playing the role of a Japanese tourist began chattering away about the beauty of the country and how large it was, the double entendres coming fast and furious, the laughter building from the audience almost drowning her words. Wit wasn’t sure that a room full of laughing men was a good thing when his erect penis was on display, but he let Lek go on with her act not knowing what else to do. When she pulled the chopsticks from her hair and used them to quite expertly pull his cock out while switching over to a patter about Thai food and how wonderful the mix of salty and sweet tastes incorporated in it were, he couldn’t stop himself from laughing too. And when she went down on him, muttering about how small the portions were served back home, his laughter quickly turned to moans of pleasure.
Wit’s reaction and the audience’s laughter egged Lek on, although the taste of Wit in his mouth almost made him forget where he was. Wiping a bit of pre-cum from the corner of his mouth as he brought his head back up inspired a line about sticky rice; the audience howled. He offered to ‘share’ his meal with an elderly farang sitting next to the stage, the crowd’s laughter reached a crescendo while the man considered taking Lek up on the offer. Lek finished off his patter with a complaint about the drudgery of pounding mochi back home, using her hand to illustrate the point and finishing off Wit at the same time. It was further than they were supposed to go. But Lek caught a glimpse of the manager laughing too. And even So, watching from backstage, had a slight smile on his face as he shook his head in disapproval.
Back stage Grandma Nong’s smile was so wide Lek was afraid she might have a coronary. Several of his new barmates slapped him on the back as they headed naked for their turn on stage, a few repeating some of her funnier lines accompanied by chuckles of their own. Wit came over, cleaning his cum off his chest and graced Lek a glorious smile. Maybe, Lek thought, that blow job would lead to others off stage too. So’s disapproving head shake turned into a nod of approval. The bar’s manager pushed his way through the boys and told Lek her ‘act’ was now part of the show. Lek wanted to push him to allow her to perform her singing act too, but decided to wait. Because whether he realized it yet or not, a star had just been born.
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