Outside the bar rain was coming down in buckets. That didn’t bode well for business. Customers seemed to think they would melt if they got wet and an early evening rain almost guaranteed an off-less night for most of the boys working the bars on Soi Twilight. Not that this evening would have set any records anyway;it was the middle of the week when bidness tended to be slow. And as the bar boys showed up to work tonight, the manager informed everyone that the bar was scheduled to be raided by the boys in brown. And that meant the boys in underwear would not be having much of a happy ending to their night.
Lek was excited about the raid. It would be his first. And since he was old enough to work at the bar, had his ID card, and wasn’t a drug user, Wit had quickly clamed his initial fears. Being raided was just part of bar life. Even with all the tea money the owner paid out monthly, there were times when the police had to make it look like they were doing their job. And they made sure whichever bars would be raided knew about it in advance. Doing your job, or pretending to, was one thing. Actually having to work because some unsuspecting bar boys got caught up in the snare was asking a bit too much. So instead of quaking in fear over the visit from the authorities, the manager was busy re-shuffling the acts for the night’s shows so that they complied with the letter, if not the spirit, of Bangkok’s laws. That meant no nudity. Which, in turn meant even those customers who weren’t put off by the presence of police on the soi wouldn’t be as enticed to off a boy as usual. And that was before the heavens opened up. A few boys having heard about the planned raid, for one reason or another, decided taking the night off was in their best interest. They wouldn’t be missing much. Except for Lek’s inaugural performance as a diva. And divas really should play to a packed house.
Since Lek had begun performing his comedy act the bar’s business had been booming. Word of mouth passed swiftly among the local population and since most Thais enjoyed a good laugh, and the gay ones loved a bit of cock to go along with that chuckle, the house filled up during show times on weekends. Lek enjoyed the attention, but in his heart he wanted to take to the stage as the diva he was. So far the bar’s manager had refused.
Tonight, since Lek’s act involved a naked cock – Wit’s naked cock to be precise – the manager suggested he do a different act. Lek thought it was finally his chance to shine until the manager told him to do the ugly ladyboy with sagging water balloon breasts skit that all the bars eventually mixed into their routines. Lek had thought the first one he’d seen was funny. Grandma Nong, his mentor, dissuaded him from that opinion. Laughing at ladyboys was not okay. Laughing with them, like the audience did during Lek’s act, was. So it was his turn to refuse the manager. Which wasn’t an easy thing for a young Thai boy to do. For a diva, it took not much more than a flamboyant snap of the fingers. Suddenly faced with an angry ladyboy, the manager gave in, and with stars in his eyes Lek rushed over to his friend to share the good news.
“Wit! The boss says I can do my act tonight!”
“No! You can’t,” his friend and roommate informed him. Wit knew that Lek’s act wouldn’t fly during a raid. Even though it was humorous, a lot of that humor relied on naked male flesh. And since most of it was Wit’s naked male flesh, he knew better. Wit was happy for Lek’s success at the bar, but performing what amounted to a sex act – in fact a few of them – with his newest member of his family still bothered him a bit. Having the audience laugh when your erection made its appearance on stage didn’t make it any easier. So a night off wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“No not my comedy act! I get to sing! I’m going to do Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” Lek corrected him. “I love Madonna,” he added needlessly.
Wit responded the same, “No you can’t.”
“But the manager said I could. He needs to fill the show and I’m the perfect answer,” Lek explained.
“No, I mean you can’t sing,” Wit shot back. ” I’ve heard you try. It sounds like a kitten being devoured by a hia.”
That hurt. Lek considered mentioning that someone’s cock didn’t always get as hard as it should during their act but took the high road instead. “I’m not going to sing, just mouth the words. It about how I move and look, not my voice.”
“Well you’d better not even hum a note or the only moving and looking that will be happening will be customers looking for the door and moving toward it as quickly as possible.”
Lek slapped Wit with his fan. Wit was getting tired of that damn fan. Ever since Grandma Nong had given it to him, Wit always seemed to have it at hand. And if he was serious about being a ladyboy he needed to do something about getting some tits, not acting as though an embroidered silk fan transformed him into the lady he wanted to be.
Lek had texted Grandma Nong, hoping the old woman would bring her a gown to wear and help him with his make-up. But Grandma Nong too acted as if she’d melt in the rain. And in truth, her make-up probably would and that would be much the same thing. Lek had to bribe one of the boys whose familiarity with yaba meant he couldn’t risk being at the bar during a police raid to take a tuk tuk to Grandma Nong’s place and pick up a gown for her. He was anxious about the boy getting back to the bar in time for the show. And a bit anxious too that the boys in brown had not yet shown up.
Usually when a raid was conducted the police arrived just after the bars opened. It was slow then. They could make the appearance someone higher up’s face required and then be gone before business really started up. But the boys in brown were not fans of getting drenched, so it looked like tonight they would arrive later. Which usually meant at the very end of the night. That way their business wouldn’t interrupt the bar’s business, or cash flow, still. But if his barmate didn’t hurry up and return, that could be smack dab in the middle of Lek’s turn on stage. And if that happened, the tears he planned on gushing for his number would become real ones. And ladyboys didn’t like getting drenched either.
Fortunately the little yaba addict appeared before the police did. And he had Grandma Nong in tow. At least Lek thought it might be Grandma Nong. He’d never seen the diminutive octogenarian not in drag before. And the quick finger to her lips said no one else should know they just had either. That she had braved the weather – and braved facing the world as a man – just to see Lek’s diva debut meant a lot. A hell of a lot. Grandma Nong as a man was quite a hideous sight. His face looked like a bad tattoo. Even if he wasn’t a ladyboy Lek thought he’d still benefit greatly from a liberal application of make-up before going out in public.
The house lights dimmed just as Lek put on the finishing touches to her own make-up. Wit and the other bar boys in the candle act took to the stage, their sheer silk scarves draped over white undershorts instead of their normally erect cocks. It just wasn’t the same. And when the customers realized it wasn’t going to get any better, several paid up their check bin and left. Lek was glad she was up next. Or there would be no one left to appreciate her fabulousness. With a spotlight causing the rhinestones in her tiara to shoot rainbows across the stage, she made an entrance worthy of Madonna herself (although Lek had shaved his armpits; emulating your heroine was one thing, allowing body hair to grow au natural was quite another). Lek wasn’t sure whether the audience applauded her entrance or not, in her head she heard the standing ovation. And with the first tear beginning to spill over and drip from her right eye, she lip synched the opening words, a chanteuse’s lament for the love of her people who didn’t love her back quite enough.
As Lek got to the line about having had to let it happen, about having had to change, her stage tears became real. She was no longer not-singing about some farang dictator’s gik; it was her life, her decision to move to Bangkok and become the person she always knew she was. It was her song, her words. And her audience was soon forgotten. By the time she began belting out the words, “So, I chose freedom,” she wasn’t lip synching any longer. Her voice rang out across the stage. Which normally would have been fine, the bar tended to keep its sound system at an eardrum shattering decibel level and no one would have heard her off-key warbling. But with the spotlights blinding her, Lek hadn’t noticed that just as she’d feared, the boys in brown had made their entrance during the middle of her act. The manager cut the music. The audience winced, thinking Lek’s voice was just a particularly nasty bout of feedback. And the next line of her ballad was trampled over by the noise of the bar’s customers reaction to the sudden presence of a squad of the local constabulary in their midst.
Grandma Nong breathed a sigh of relief.
The house lights came up, the spotlights on the stage dimmed, leaving Lek stranded on stage and unsure of what to do as she attempted to dry her tears, which began flowing even more freely when she realized her debut as a diva had just been ruined. She stared out at the audience, at her bar mates being hustled into a group by a few of the cops, looking for someone to help her, to tell her what to do. She spotted Grandma Nong, or the elderly man she was passing for, but the old ladyboy’s signals were about her mascara running and not about whether she should flee or finish her act. And Wit, who would have let her know what to do was busy looking worried about a pee test the police had begun administering that had not been part of the raid’s schedule.
Just as she was about to panic for real, Lek felt a presence next to her on the stage. Through teary eyes she saw a large brown blur approach. And then a gentle hand at her cheek, a smooth thumb brushing away her tears. As her vision cleared a handsome Thai in uniform appeared. No, a gorgeous young uniformed hunk, not just a handsome one. And he smiled at her as their eyes connected. Lek thought she might faint.
Lek felt his strong arms envelope her. And then in her ear he whispered in a lilting voice (and completely in key), “The answer was here all the time, I love you and hope you love me.” And as he helped her off the stage he followed up with what Lek thought was an even sweeter serenade. “My name is Khemkhaeng,” he told her. “And I hope we can become very good friends.”
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