The Farang was back in Bangkok, and So wasn’t entirely sure if that was a good thing. He’d been excited when he received the email telling him he was arriving soon, more so than he would have expected. Good or bad, farang were farang and as customers not all that different from one and another. Some were nicer, more kind, more respectful than others, but in the end their farangness overshadowed their differences. They weren’t Thai, they didn’t think or act like Thais do. Farang were strange. Which didn’t help So make sense of why he was feeling so strangely about this one.
Several nights earlier at the bar, before The Farang showed up, Wit had noticed how anxious and excited So had been about The Farang’s arrival and had teased him about being in love. But regardless of how nice he was, regardless of how much So had enjoyed their time together on his previous visit, The Farang was a customer. And what’s love got to do with that? Maybe Wit, being gay, allowed his emotions to color his relationships with customers, but So wasn’t. So was straight. And married. Falling in love with a man . . . well, that just wasn’t possible. Having sex with one was tricky enough.
When he first started working at the bar, back in his late teens, that wasn’t a problem. In those days it seemed he was constantly in a state of arousal; it didn’t really matter that the person he was in bed with was a man, or old, or wouldn’t qualify as attractive in anyone’s book. Flesh was flesh and it was all about So’s flesh and his orgasm anyway. As the years passed those acts became more familiar, and therefore easier too. But So no longer got hard from just slipping out of his jeans. Now he had to coax his cock into an erect state. Where once just being naked was enough to get him hard, now he had to fantasize that he was doing something that his body wanted to do. With someone he wanted to do it with. More often than not, that meant thinking of his wife Noi; closing his eyes and letting the sex they’d had the night before replay in his mind usually did the trick. At least while his customer of the night was busy performing acts that didn’t require So to look him in the eyes.
The Farang awoke, rolled over, and noticed that something was playing on So’s mind, its movements replicated on his face. “What’s wrong?” he asked in a voice that barely made its way across the bed.
So looked at the face that had so quickly become familiar and a part of his life, thought of how he could explain – and then thinking better of it – smiled, settled himself back into The Farang’s arms, and whispered, “Nothing.” But something was wrong. Noi was suddenly on So’s mind. And the fact that now was the first time he’d thought of her over the last three days worried So.
When So had called her the night The Farang arrived to let her know he wouldn’t be home for a few days, he could tell she was torn between being happy about the income his multiple day off would bring them and the long expanse of nights she’d spend alone in their bed because of it. That she didn’t trust farang deepened her concerns. Noi was protective of her husband and knew how easily bar boys could fall for the lies visitors told them when spinning their fantasies of love and friendship. And she was a woman naturally resonant with worry.
In her typical way of not addressing what was bothering her directly, Noi had offered her warning instead through gossip, recounting for So the story she’d just read in the newspaper about a 30-year-old farang who’d been convicted of killing his Thai wife after she destroyed his prized collection of Star Wars toys. In his defense, the farang had told the court that he’d long put up with abusive treatment from his 28-year-old wife, but that the destruction of Darth Vader and company had sent him over the edge. And if that didn’t tell you how strange and dangerous farang could be, Noi didn’t know what did. But So felt safe snuggled deep within The Farang’s arms. Still, perhaps, it might be a good idea to check his luggage in the morning to make sure he didn’t have any Star Wars toys packed away.
Not that So was worry-free himself. He’d trusted in farang customers before, only to be disappointed, used, abused, and burned. He’d learned their promises were as believable as a politician’s. They just paid better. And when his heart had been hurt in the past, Noi had always been there to comfort him, ready to soothe his pain. But she was just as ready the next time to remind him of those farang who’d treated him badly in the past. So was more of an optimist. And he believed some things were best left buried in memories that stayed safely tucked away in the farthest recesses of his mind. He didn’t think every wound needed to be poked, prodded, and opened like Noi did. Not every wrong needed to be reexamined, or dragged kicking and screaming into the light. It was better to just let a disappointment or hurt heal, even if it didn’t heal quite right. Those emotional scars, he thought, could deepen you, could give a greater luster to your colors, a richer resonance to your view of the world. That is if they didn’t destroy you, if they didn’t burn away your optimism and spirit. And your capacity for dreams. So believed sometimes it was better to leave some things in the dark and remind yourself not to go stepping into shadows when you could just as easily avoid it.
So’s current worry wasn’t so much about the what, but rather the why anyway. Or maybe that was the how. Back before he’d met The Farang business had been slow, and money was tight. One Thursday night So had stopped at the Ganesha shrine in front of CentralWorld to ask the deity for some help. And not unmindful of the gods’ needs too, to make an offering to the god whose realm dealt with business success, money, and wealth. The next night The Farang walked into his bar. Which didn’t surprise So in the least, that’s the way the spiritual world worked. But while he’d been in the area he asked for a blessing from Trimurti at his shrine too, since it was only meters away from Ganesha’s. Just to cover his bases. Because Trimurti was a popular deity for those looking for success, prosperity and happiness too.
But timing can be everything and the Trimurti shrine, around 9:30 on Thursday nights, was known to be the place to go for those seeking happiness in romance. So had made an offering using nine red joss sticks, a couple of red candles, and nine red roses – 3 roses for each of the god’s heads as was custom. But he’d been thinking of Noi and the bit of a spat they’d had because of their financial problems. At the time he hadn’t really considered that the shrine was known to be especially successful in matching foreign mates with Thai partners. After meeting The Farang, he’d stopped back by the Ganesha shrine to make an offering of thanks. But now he was beginning to suspect he’d been giving credit to the wrong god. As most Thais knew, getting an assist from those gods you most often honored was not unusual. But like gods everywhere in the world, they tended to have a wicked sense of humor.
Whichever god was responsible, feeling The Farang’s arms wrapped around him So felt blessed. This one did seem different. And generous. Already he appeared to understand his duty in taking care of So. Already So’s financial situation had improved. And the blessing the gods had bestowed upon So was beginning to translate into money that would allow him to live the life he aspired to for his family. His and his wife’s future already looked brighter. A fleeting thought of Noi and he staying at such a fine hotel as this, their bodies cocooned together in bed, danced across his mind; So felt his cock stiffening at the thought, and then felt guilty as though that brief vision was a betrayal of the one whose arms encircled him. Feeling The Farang’s warmth radiating outward to encompass his entire being, So’s cock finished extending to its full length. One of his barmates claimed that he always got hard after eating a full meal. Maybe that was all this was, elation over having his immediate needs filled. If sex could be considered as a meal, then the two of them had certainly just had their fill.
So laughed, felt The Farang move in response, stirring just enough that his bare arm dropped down across So’s chest, his hand now resting just above So’s throbbing cock. He pressed his ass cheeks up against The Farang’s crotch, feeling safe, secure, and drifted back to sleep with the thought that he shouldn’t question what blessings the gods decided to bestow upon him. He should just be grateful for what he had. However it came packaged.
Noi awoke in the early dawn, the noises Lek was making, quite on purpose, stirring her from her slumber. She stretched, moved to reach out to So, and then remembered he was still with his farang customer. She groaned and pulled herself out of the bed, ready to get an early start on her day. She had made a bargain with Lek that if he took over running the food cart this morning he wouldn’t have to sell bags of her barbeque to the morning’s commuters. He’d jumped at the opportunity to avoid the work that he hated, but still couldn’t resist letting her know his displeasure over being forced to work two, almost three, jobs. But what he made at the bar wasn’t much. The owner paid him to perform his comedic ladyboy act, but Lek didn’t work as a bar boy. And booking customers was were the real money was at. Noi decided he could make all the ruckus he wanted; what mattered was that the baht kept flowing freely.
Working seven days a week didn’t give Noi much in the way of spare time. Usually it didn’t matter. Her job running Mama Khem’ s food cart kept her busy and tired her out enough that the evenings and nights she spent alone usually ended up devoted to a nap. But now with the extra money coming in from Lek selling her barbeque too, Noi had decided it was time to take the next step in her and So’s marriage. She wanted a child. Maybe a boy. Who would grown up to be as handsome as his father. So didn’t yet know they were trying to have a baby. And Noi wasn’t sure that she should tell him. He still needed to please his customers, but so far his efforts with her had not turned out as she’d hoped. She was afraid that he wasted too much of his power on those who booked him, draining him of the gift she needed him to give her. But if she mentioned it, he might not book as many offs. And they still needed the money bookings provided to survive. Noi had decided before she brought So in on her plan she’d try something else. And now she had the morning free to do so.
With the sun just beginning to drop hints of red and gold across the windows of the high rises lining the street, Noi caught a tuk tuk into Pratunam. The driver, a wizened old man who looked even older than Noi was feeling this morning, only had a vague idea of where her destination laid. He made a few wrong turns, stopped to ask directions that only seemed to confuse him further, and then finally pulled up at the wrong hotel. The security guard stationed at the entrance knew where she was headed though, and Noi decided to walk the rest of the way rather than find herself delivered to some other place she didn’t want to be. Her circuitous route took her to the back of the hotel instead of its entrance, but since that’s where she needed to go anyway it worked out just as well.
The Swissotel Nai Lert Park had changed names over the years; when Noi had first heard of the place it had been called The Hilton. Some farang Hollywood star, one Noi wasn’t familiar with, had killed himself there, involved in some weird sex act – supposedly with a ladyboy – that the women in her neighborhood had all giggled about but didn’t understand. Farang. What could you expect? Noi thought they may have changed the hotel’s name after that, possibly in an attempt to remove the bad luck his death would bring to the place. Not that it mattered. The hotel was just a landmark, where she was headed pre-dated its existence, under any of the names the building had been known as.
The fetid scent of the klong provided her the direction she needed to go, as she skirted the outer boundaries of the hotel’s swimming pool and parking lot. A small garden opened at the edge of the pavement, its walkway lined with gaily painted wood phalluses of every imaginable size and shape. A large ficus tree shaded the area; this was the home of the spirit Chao Mae Tuptim, and it was her shrine that Noi had come to visit and pray to.
Years before the hotel had been built on its grounds, the owner of the property, a businessman, found a spirit house floating in the klong and placed it on the bank of his land next to a large tree. A local woman came to pray at the shrine asking the gods for help to conceive. Chao Mae Tuptim, a tree spirit who resided in the tree next to the spirit house, heard her prayers and nine months later the woman gave birth to a healthy child. She was so pleased that she came back to the shrine and left a large wooden carving of a giant penis as thanks. Word spread of her good fortune and since then hundreds, if not thousands, of women had made the same pilgrimage; their successes evidenced by the growing number of lingam left as offerings. Some were small, some were painted in realistic hues, one was twice the height of Noi. And at the shrine she could sense the power of the spirit.
Not unlike her husband had a month earlier and just a few blocks away, Noi brought offerings of candles, incense sticks, and flowers; in this case lotus blossoms to symbolize birth and jasmine because that was a blossom that Chao Mae Tuptim was particularly fond of. She knelt, and then kowtowed before the shrine, beseeching the goddess for assistance. A feeling of calm entered her soul as she explained to the deity why she should intervene on her and So’s behalf. Noi pictured their future together as a family. She had not planned on staying at the shrine long, just long enough to give the spirit its rightful due, but now found it difficult to pull herself away. It was peaceful and quite here. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city, the shrine was a small oasis of serenity, the shade of the tree Chao Mae Tuptim called home cooling the small garden, its branches providing a temporary perch for a flock of small birds busily twittering above her head.
Noi thought she might spend the afternoon here, and then got busy cleaning up the spirit house, straightening offerings left by others, and gathering the stubs of joss sticks that had burned out to discard later on her way home. Even at rest she had a difficult time in not making herself useful. She thought the goddess would approve of her efforts, but as she knelt again to point out the good deed she’d just done – gods may be all knowing but it never hurt to make sure they recognized your labors on their behalf – she heard someone nearing, a gradually approaching noise that soon turned into giggles, and then out-right laughter. A small group of farang appeared, all men, the kind who patronized the bar So worked at from the look of them. They ignored her, ignored the shrine, didn’t even seem to notice the spirit tree, and began taking photos of each other standing next to and climbing on the phallus offerings that surrounded them.
Noi finished her prayer. And then apologized on the farangs’ behalf. She’d rather have told them off, but lacked the English to do so. Besides, she was worried that one of them may in fact be a customer of her husband, and that the spirit may have recognized that fact. She lit another set of incense sticks, just in case, before leaving for home. Noi didn’t believe in coincidences when it came to the spiritual world, and as she made her way back out to the street decided the appearance of those farang may have been a sign from the goddess. Noi decided when So got home, though that may still be another few nights away, she’d tell him she wanted a baby. Even if that meant fewer bookings for him for a while. Because so far, their love for each other alone, hadn’t been enough to bring her the child she desired.
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