Tuesday, February 3, 2015
An excerpt from Just Another Number
The dim club sparkled with the multicolored lights that outlined the stage. Blood red bulbs blared behind the boyish, flat-chested bodies of Thai adolescents scantily wrapped in lingerie. A strobe light flashed and white disco dots swam around the ceiling, walls, and floor. The strip club was strategically designed to be our funhouse of guilty pleasure. We, the wealthy westerners, were dukes and duchesses, while they were our jesters and whores. We gulped tequila shots as we sat atop our thrones. We cackled at the spectacle of people becoming objects.
I was supposed to be having the time of my life.
I felt nauseous.
But the real show was offstage. Dozens of men lounged along the tables that circled the main attraction. They ranged from eighteen to eighty, skinny to fat, stout to lanky. I saw home in them. I saw fathers, grandfathers, brothers, boyfriends, professors, bosses, and preachers. I imagined their houses, their families, their jobs, the coffee shops where they bought breakfast pastries, the hospitals their children were born in, and their neighborhood route for their dog’s morning walk. I saw the gleam in their eyes as the girls swiveled around poles, sashayed in their direction, and sat atop their laps like children visiting Santa Claus. They seemed to love their oriental dolls with a toddler’s English fluency. They had their happy endings. They would soon be boarding planes, flying far away from the poverty, the mental and emotional collateral damage, and the possible babies they conceived. Thailand was theirs. It was their escape, their medicine, and their sanctuary of sin.