Decades of Debauchery & the Human Animal
by Steve Kostecke
I made it once again unscathed on my motorbike through the irrational, messy, dismemberment-just-waiting-to-happen traffic of Chiang Mai and showered the day’s sweat and grime off me. I wanted nothing but a peaceful night. A couple stiff drinks, a recent VCD release, and maybe even half a tab of xanax, if not feeling mellow enough near sacktime. I’d had far too full-on of an eve the night before—involving the typical bar-hopping, binge drinking, bar-girl macking that this city makes possible any night you wish—and knew I had to take things down a couple notches tonight. The cycle of insanity-sanity-insanity needed an ebb.
But then the phone rang.
“Yo,” I answered.
“Kid,” I heard through the static of a cell phone. It was Rusty.
“Come meet me at Jon’s Bistro,” his worn-out voice cracked. “I got something I guarantee you will not believe.”
“Be right there.”
I’m easily swayed.
I hopped back on my bike and followed the moat around the Old City to Taa Pae Gate, the main tourist ghetto. Considering that darkness had just recently descended, the nightlife was coming alive. Strings of Christmas lights were flashing in front of dim-lit front-wall-less bars; in some bars were pool tables, middle-aged foreign men drinking beers and shooting pool with bargirls half their age; the boom-boom-boom of the go-go bars vibrated into the ears. It was the beginning of yet another night on the east side of town. To the tourists—the sex tourists—it was oh-wow-yeah-ho! To me, all the sex for sale, all the sleaziness, all the patheticness: I was barely even aware of it anymore.
I found Rusty at a wooden table in front of Jon’s, amongst an archipelago of tables, many of them occupied by aging men and tiny tawny-skinned Thai girls. This atmosphere was Rusty’s natural habitat. He was in his late sixties—bald, with a dirty gray beard, plus facial skin that looked both acid-burnt and gauged with a chisel—and had been debauching himself since his discharge from Nam however many years ago.
What sparked his mode of life, as far as I could tell, was that Rusty had gotten married soon after his discharge to a Thai girl who, once he bought their house (in her name, since foreigners couldn’t own land), divorced him. She then sold the house, pocketed the cash, and ran off. Rusty never heard of her again. One result of this, he has never had an unpaid-for “relationship” ever since. A second: he’s hasn’t gone a night without drinking, either. These things—Nam, the cheap whores, the endless booze—they all twisted him into one hell of a piece of rot. I would have had nothing to do with him myself if I was not so personally terrified of ending up like him—and studied him to figure out how not to live my life.
“Rust,” I nodded as I joined him at his table.
“Get a goddamn beer,” he told me in his raspy, destroyed voice. Two empty big bottles sat in the middle of the table. He was clearly on his way.
A waitress had followed me to the table and was standing next to us. I told her one big beer Singh. Rusty told her sweet ass. She gave a forced laugh.
“So you got me to weave my bike through death-sweetly-smiling all the way round the moat to meet you here. What’s next?”
“You and the goddamn traffic,” he crackled. “Would you give it a rest?”
“Some of us care if we get dismembered.”
“You get dismembered, you don’t gotta pay your student loans,” Rusty stated.
“Some of us care if we die,” I re-attempted.
“You die, you won’t be able to care.”
My beer arrived and the waitress filled my glass. I drank it half-down gazing at Rusty. Then I spoke: “You make it all seem so win-win.”
“Better than your loser attitude.”
I drank the rest of the glass.
“So what’s with the paper?” I asked. Rusty had that day’s The Nation folded open to a section in front of him on the table.
“Listen to this,” he triumphed, as if I had said the exact correct thing. He lifted the paper up and recited: “TEACHER DIES SUDDENLY.” He stopped and glared at me. We were both teachers, both teaching at the same cheesy language school.
“Someone we know?”
“Of course not.”
“Then why are you staring at me?”
He read the article to me slowly, not necessarily for effect, but since that was about as fast as he could read on two-and-a-half big beers and in dim light: “Police suspect heart failure caused the death of an American English teacher who died in a hotel room with a 19-year-old prostitute in Chiang Mai early yesterday.”
“Relax. I’m getting to that… Louis Walters, 44, a lecturer at Bangkok University, was found dead in a room of Golden City Hotel in the Old City district at about 3am.”
“Golden City Hotel. Where’s that?”
Rusty cracked into a grin.
“Right behind you, Kid.”
It was true. Right next to Jon’s Bistro, in the southward direction, was the Golden City Hotel. I had never noticed it before. Chiang Mai has over a hundred hotels and guesthouses, and my braincells only so much interest.
“Police said they found heart medicine and three Viagra pills in the room.”
“Again,” I gasped. “It’s amazing how many times that’s happened here now. You’d think these guys would understand that heart meds and Viagra do not mix.”
“The guy was just 44,” Rusty grumbled. “He probably thought the warning was for other guys, older guys, like how we all think warnings are for other guys.”
“Could be. But you know how when you enter Malaysia, they’ve got that big sign that says: WARNING, DRUG TRAFFICKING MAY LEAD TO DEATH? They oughta have one of those signs in Thailand saying: WARNING, HEART MEDS PLUS VIAGRA MAY LEAD TO DEATH. After all, this is the Brothel to the World, as you know.”
Rusty scowled at me. “You finished?”
“They said he had taken the girl from a go-go opposite the hotel.”
I twisted my head back to the Golden City Hotel; then I twisted it to where “opposite” might be. This led my eyes directly across the lane from us. Cozy Corner. Two scantily-clad girls were sitting on tall stools on both sides of the opened door, waiting to greet customers. Inside, I could detect the motions of girls standing on stage and writhing their hips, which was reflected along the wall of mirrors.
“Ho god,” I said and had to laugh. “A nineteen-year-old from Cozy.”
There were three go-go bars in Chiang Mai, Cozy Corner being the worst. Back in the days before the “Social Order” reforms—when the girls could go topless or completely naked—it had been the second best, with a special plastic shower box above the stage where two girls bathed together while the dancers did the Siam Shuffle beneath them. Now, with the morality crackdown of the past year, the place had become transformed. Without the shower show, the quantity of customers had significantly decreased; and soon after that, the quality of the dancers.
“Lt-Colonel Something-Something of the Chiang Mai police station quoted the girl as saying that the American collapsed on top of her. His body was sent to Chiang Mai Hospital for an autopsy.”
“Right on top of her?”
“With his dick still stuck in her,” Rusty delineated.
“Awful? The numbnuts! He mixes meds and dies while fucking some cheap whore, and it gets printed in the newspapers with his full name and where he works? This guy has got to be a candidate for Joke of the Year.”
I killed another halfglass of beer and slowly shook my head.
“Think what it must have been like for the girl,” I ventured.
“Fuck the girl!”
“No really. Think what bad luck that must be to her. The spirits and bad karma and all that. I bet she truly must feel herself cursed.”
Rusty put the paper down and leaned in towards me: “Cursed or not, if her ass is good enough to send some schmuck to his grave, I gotta have me a piece of that.”
Realization came crashing down on me.
“Is that what this is all about?” I asked.
Rusty grinned snakily and took a large swig from his glass.
“I got no idea why I hang with you,” I told him.
“What would I do without you, Kid?”
Rusty and his “Kid” stuff. Always acting like I was some kind of surrogate son. Maybe I was, but in a sick twisted way. Maybe in reality the one thing Rusty would want to do to a real son was send him to hell in a handbasket. That was most certainly what he wanted to do to me. Believe that.
“You got me,” I admitted. “I do want to see who it is.”
“Let’s do this.”
We called the waitress over and paid the tab. Rusty grabbed her ass. She force-laughed again. Then we sauntered across the lane to Cozy Corner. The two sexy girls sitting on the stools smiled cutely, put their palms together and wai-ed to us in unison as we passed between. You have to love that: we’re foreigners entering into an establishment where men pick girls by the numbers attached to their thongs and then pay to have sex with them, and we get the most culturally polite greeting possible in Thai culture.
The customers in Cozy Corner were, as usual these days, sparse. An elderly pigfat man with thick glasses was nursing a drink while a girl pressing up beside him was stroking the crotch of his slacks. She had a drink: a two-dollar “lady drink,” good enough to get a man caressed in various fashions for at least fifteen minutes. A couple of touristy-looking guys were seated together along the edge of the stage, their heads resting on there hands, seeming bored, or maybe just quite drunk. There certainly wasn’t much to look at on stage. Since the shower show days collapsed, Cozy seemed to attract the highest percentage of post-30 single mothers. The stomachs sagged; the faces looked grim; there was a general sensation of this being one of the two armpits of the world.
We sat stage-side. A waitress brought us drinks, but none of the girls came over and forced themselves on us. I knew why: Rusty had already forced half of them to have sex with him, and he was a sadistic fucker. He bragged to me as much as possible about the ways he could make the girls cry. That seemed to be his biggest thrill in existence: making little girls cry. It frequently involved nonconsensual backdoor action. Or maybe I should just call it anal rape. The girls knew to stay as far away from him as possible. The only way he was able to secure one of them—and I had seen this securement several times—was by grabbing the mamasan and shoving money in her face and telling her which number he wanted. Being what places like Cozy Corner truly are once you’ve torn through the illusion-layers—cages of sex slavery—the mamasan, with that cash in hand, would order the girl to go.
Finally a girl sat down next to me, on the far side from Rusty. We did the usual of what’s-your-name, where-you-from, how-old-are-you. Her nickname was in Thai was Gaew, or Crystal in English, and she was thirty. Definitely not the girl from the newspaper article. I bought her a lady drink and engaged in the usual bar-girl small-talk. Basically, I was waiting for my chance—the proper mood—to ask her who the girl was in the article. I knew that bringing the topic up would be considered bad luck to Crystal and thus culturally rude. I wanted to gently ease it in. Eventually the mood seemed right.
--I heard a story about Cozy, I told her.
--What story? Crystal asked.
--About a girl that works here, and about the Golden City Hotel.
She gave me a reprehensible look like: you bad boy!
--Why do you ask me about that?!
--I didn’t ask anything yet, I answered.
--Why do you talk to me about that?!
--You want another lady drink?
Crystal quickly shot up and marched away to order it. She was wearing a pair of black short-shorts, high heels, and a type of tight black tube top. Human interaction of this sort is always so weird. I glugged from my beer bottle.
“Any luck, Kid?” Rusty inquired.
I shook my head.
“I feel like a Fed paying off an informant.”
“Because that’s what you fucking are.”
“Well I bought her the first drink—you’re paying for the second.”
“Only if you find that killer ass.”
Crystal strutted back with a small plastic cup of soda. She sat down next to me and crossed her legs. Then she looked at me seriously.
--You want to know which girl it was? she told me more than asked.
--That one, she said and pointed to a girl on stage.
I had not noticed the girl before because there was not much to notice. Her general sadness fit in too well with the bar. She was standing on stage in her black bikini-esque go-go outfit, grasping a brass pole and wriggling her body hypnotically to the music. She was short, definitely looked young, but also definitely looked Central Asian.
--She’s Hill Tribe, isn’t she?
--Akha, Crystal informed me.
This was extra bad for the girl. She was selling her body to stinking fat foreign men, plus she was living in a country where her race of people were, at best, treated as outcasts. She was nineteen with nothing.
--She probably thinks she has very bad luck, I said. (The word I used for “very bad luck” had more of a cultural undertone of “bad spiritual luck affecting the future of this life and maybe even the shape of the life to come”.)
--She went to the temple and made merit.
--A little, Crystal told me, whatever exactly that meant.
--So she doesn’t have to worry now, right? I tried.
--She still worries.
Rusty nudged me suddenly.
“You find out, or what?”
“It’s that girl on stage.”
“That little Karenni bitch?”
“Like it fucking matters, Kid,” Rusty groaned.
At this moment I realized that I should not have told him. But it was too late. Rusty snapped his fingers at the mamasan—a rotund, meanspirited-looking woman standing along the wall of mirrors behind us—and she stepped towards him, fully frowning. Rusty pulled two 1000 baht bills out of his pocket and thrust them at her. The money equaled about fifty bucks, more than enough for the total cost of “short time.” Rusty knew he had to pay more than enough; he was in no way being generous. (Rusty was incapable of such an emotion.) He had already argued with this mamasan about the price he had to pay at Cozy Corner long ago. There was no need to utter any words. Just thrust the money at her and point. The mamasan looked at where he pointed—the sad Akha girl—and smiled back. When mamasans like this mamasan smile, it’s sheer evil expressed.
At the end of the girl’s set, mamasan approached the Akha girl and informed her of whose lap to sit on and act happy. This the girl did. She sat on Rusty’s lap and he immediately slid his hands up under her top and squeezed her small breasts and laughed his sand-papery eery-assed chortle. The Akha girl pretended that this was okay with her. After all, he had already paid in full for her: everything to come was forced without choice. For the next two to three hours she would have to earn her $25 (assuming that the mamasan kept half of what he gave her, more than she should) in the most humanly degrading method possible.
Feeling depressed, and having served my “purpose,” I told Rusty I was leaving.
“What? The fun’s just beginning,” he rejoiced, pulling the Akha girl’s top down and exposing her tiny maroon-nippled breasts to me. “See?”
“Good-bye everyone,” I announced and stood up.
“Fine, be that way,” Rusty spat. “Just meet me back at Jon’s tomorrow at noon.”
“You got it.”
I left. At least the traffic wasn’t bad now, since the three hours of rush hour were finally over. I was able to ride my motorbike at ease, freely.
Next day at noon I coasted back to Jon’s Bistro and found Rusty sitting at a table out front again. It was Saturday, noon, thus he was already on big beer number two. He was the only one sitting out in the islands of tables. Not even any bar-girls had reported to work yet. But Rusty looked particularly happy.
“So,” I said, while joining him at the table. “Looks like you’re still alive.”
“Ho yeah,” Rusty answered, barely able to keep back laughs. “That bitch didn’t kill me, that’s for sure.”
“Was the ass as good as you thought?”
Rusty broke out into his rough, phlegm-clogged laughter.
“Listen to this, Kid,” he said, leaning in, and all excited about what he was about to relate. “I took that Hill Tribe whore to the Golden City Hotel…”
“Oh man. You didn’t.”
“Fuck yes I did. Where else were we supposed to go?”
“What did she say?”
“Say? You’re talking like these bitches have the right to say anything.”
“The damned thing was, I couldn’t ask the clerk which room that putz croaked in, since the girl was right there with me. I didn’t want her to know that I knew. But it would’ve been much better if I’d gotten that room.”
I didn’t understand exactly why, but was too uneasy to ask.
“Go on,” I said.
“Get a god damned beer,” Rusty told me.
“Is there even a waitress here?”
“No, I’m sitting at a closed bar, and brought my own.”
“That wouldn’t surprise me,” I told him.
Rusty broke out into raspy laughter. He was in one hell of a good mood.
“It’s too early for me to drink,” I said. “Just talk.”
“Aw, fuck you.” Rusty pounded his glass of brew. Then he creepily chortled again. I was getting a very bad feeling now. “So I get the bitch in the room and we do the usual. She showers, I shower, I shove my cock in her mouth, roll a rubber on, mount her ass…”
“These are far more visuals than I need.”
“Geh cheh guh chuh!” Rusty gurgled.
“Is this all going somewhere I need to go?” I enquired.
Rusty settled down. “Just fucking listen, Kid… I get on top of the bitch and start fucking her the way she needs to be fucked, and I’m fucking her and fucking her and fucking her… And finally I get to the part where I blow my load and I yell out as loud as I can and…” Rusty started choking on his phlegm with laughs. “And…”
“And?” I said, with mocking, bored tone.
“And I close my fucking eyes and collapse on her!”
“Kid, get it? I fucking die right on top of her!”
This was the realm of anti-funny.
“You did not,” was all I could say.
“Of course I fucking did! What do you think this was all about?”
He kept choking on laughs.
“I die right on top of her… Eyes closed, arms stiff, holding back my breaths, cock still inside her, crushing her beneath me.”
“And what did she do?”
“It’s the best part, Kid. The very best… She actually believes that she’s killed me! I’m not looking at her, but I hear her scream and she pushes me off of her… And I just lay there like a beached whale on the bed. I’m totally fucking dead!”
Rusty broke out into so much laughter at this point, that I thought he actually was going to keel over. But unfortunately that did not happen.
He gathered himself up to continue. Tears were streaming from his eyes.
“So I’m totally dead, and she starts pushing my body like I’m gonna wake up, but I’m not gonna wake up… I hear her scream again and then she starts breathing really hard, like I’ve never heard any girl breath so hard… She keeps pushing me and pushing me and trying to turn my body over, but I’m not letting her…She does this for like five full minutes… Then all the sudden she stops pushing me, she gives up, and I don’t know what she’s doing since I’m keeping my eyes so closed, so dead and all… But I keep hearing her breathing hard and having these really big heaves, like the deepest heaves you can imagine… And I still got no idea what she’s doing, but I can hear her right next to the bed… Then…” Rusty cracked up in uncontrollable laughter again. He was beside himself with glee. “Then I countdown in my head: Three, two, one… And BAMM! I flip my eyes wide open and stick my arm out and point at her and start laughing as loud as I can… And the little bitch, she’s crouched there on the floor next to the bed—you know, crouched like over a squatter—and she’s got her two hands over her ears, and there’s so many tears going down her face that her make-up is running all over place, just a total fucking mess… But Kid, I tell you, not ever in my whole life have I seen so much pain and terror on a girl’s face… I, I…”
Rusty couldn’t go on. He had about as many tears of joy streaming down his face as that girl must have had tears of terror.
“I think that’s enough, Rust,” I suggested.
“It’s not e-fucking-nough!” he shot back. “It’s never e-fucking-nough with these bitches!”
“Isn’t forcing it in the backdoor enough?”
“Oh no… No siree… This mind-fuck stuff is gold.”
I didn’t bother saying anything.
“Just let me finish, Kid. Just let me fucking finish.”
“Nobody’s stopping you.”
“That’s right they’re fucking not!”
Again I didn’t bother saying anything. Rusty continued:
“I open my eyes and point and laugh at her, and she screams… Not like she’s scared, or like she thinks I’ve come back to life, but like she can’t take the misery of… I don’t know… Everything… And then she jumps up, grabs her handbag and clothing, and runs out of the room with nothing on!”
Rusty cackled and choked so hard he couldn’t speak another intelligible syllable for the next three minutes. I ended up ordering a beer. As I drank it, and as Rusty retold the story to me, furthering every detail—me just being an echo board for him to bounce his story off of, to hear him speak it to his own ear—I drifted off on a tangent, contemplating about what horrible thing I must have done wrong in my previous life, or maybe even in this one, to have ever come across someone like Rusty, let alone allowing myself to have become, how could I say this, his “friend.”
[WARNING: GUYS LIKE RUSTY ACTUALLY EXIST IN SOUTHEAST ASIA.]