I was woken up by the toilet. It gurgled and burped. Someone in a nearby flat taking a dead-of-night shower or, maybe, a bunch of people flushing their toilets simultaneously. Usually I keep sleeping through the effects of dodgy plumbing but this night was too hot and my sleep was probably shallow.
I sat on the edge of the bed with and looked through the window at the apartment building opposite mine. Lights were still on. At four in the morning people were still watching videos, having fights, eating, drinking, and smoking. One of the reasons I loved this town was that nobody seemed to care about time. Even people who worked in banks would sleep in the afternoon and stay up half the night.
Suddenly there was a sound of something crashing. I walked over to the balcony and saw a farang running across the courtyard between my building and the next. He was followed by the sound of screaming and then the beautiful ladyboy from the flat two floors above mine came running out screaming and running after him dressed in nothing more than a white towel. No way was she going to catch him but she was having a go and screaming for people to help her. At least I thought that was what she was screaming as it was too fast for me to catch. I don’t think anyone was going to help her though. In the general chain of disdain Thai ladyboys were even lower than farang.
I knew her. Well… I sort of knew her. I didn’t know her name. I just knew her in the way you kind of know your neighbours if you see them every day and live in an apartment block with a hundred flats. That is I knew her by sight. I knew her to say hello to but I didn’t know anything about her. I didn’t know if she was an addict. Half the people in the block seemed to be. The police were always raiding rooms for yaa baa. I didn’t know what kind of a person she was. I saw her often hanging around the lobby chatting to the operator. I saw her giving milk and fishes to the stray cats. I never saw her speaking to any of the other ladyboys in the building and, up until tonight, I’d never seen her with a guy.
The one thing I did know was that, as far as you get crushes on ladyboys when you’ve never actually gone with a ladyboy, I did have a bit of a crush on her. She didn’t wear loads of make up or camp it up like a drag queen. Most of the time she seemed to have a kind of dignity about her. That is when she wasn’t rushing out naked into the street. Her hair was straight and long and full. Her lips were classically full, she had a small scar like a knife scar on her forehead and when she looked at me she would hold her gaze a second longer than a woman would inviting something deep and dark in the pit of my soul to respond. I had sometimes fantasized, in absent minded moments, that if I ever went over to the dark side she would be the one to drag me there.
Of course there was no dignity now. Now she was transformed into a shrieking voiced ladyboy chasing after a cowardly client. Maybe someone who had been drawn to her beauty and sex appeal but who, once in her room, was caught up by a sense of heterosexual guilt. Seeing her running across the courtyard in this state took her into a different area. She was no longer the mysterious and attractive ladyboy from two floors up. Now she was just another crazy junkie whore without a shred of dignity.
The other tenants emerged from their rooms downstairs to get a piece of the action. Nobody who lives in a place like this needs to watch soap operas. There’s a more over the top piece of drama in every room left open to the hall.
The ladyboy came walking back looking broken pulling the towel up to cover herself. She wasn’t shrieking any more. Now she was just someone else who’d lost something. It occurred to me that the man hadn’t just been a runaway client. He’d stolen something from her. There are plenty of farang in Bangkok who are low enough to behave like this. Maybe she had some gold and he took it because he wanted money for drugs.
Amidst the gleaming chrome motorbikes and darting rat sized cockroaches Thais were milling about and talking about what had happened. I was three floors up and couldn’t hear what they were saying so I thought I might just wander down, casually of course, and find out what happened. I got dressed and went down in the lift trying to look more like someone who’d just come back from a late night out than one of the nosey Thais standing about in their pyjamas yapping about what had happened.
There was a broken plant pot on the ground and I asked the friendliest and most talkative of my neighbours what all the fuss was about. “Falang… Sadit…. Him want beating ladyboy when she come out the shower but she kick him ass.”
“Not cool… She hurt a lot. Him break Buddha her mum giving her. She want police come but I know police not going to do anything for help her. Solly Roy but sometime I hate falang. Him don’t care anything.”
I asked her if anyone knew what he looked like or where he came from. and nobody knew. The ladyboy was back in her room now. Probably cleaning up. Probably getting dressed.
I started walking. I don’t know why I started walking. I guess I just didn’t want to go back and sit in my room while, at the same time, I felt uncomfortably representative of my uncivilised race. I walked around in the heat for a while. I sat at the mouth of the soi watching bike gangs storming up the avenue taking advantage of the relative emptiness of night-time roads. By the time I walked back the ladyboy was sitting in the operator’s booth. She was dressed in tight powder blue jeans and a white T-Shirt. Her hair was wet and she had a plaster a few inches from her mouth. She was telling the operator the story I guess. Both she and the operator looked up at me. I thought for a moment that I was going to be the indirect object of farang bashing but the ladyboy smiled at me. And it wasn’t just the empty Thai smile that gets flashed at every customer in tourist zone in the country. It was… I don’t really know how to say it… It was all compassion. It was the sort of smile that makes you feel, however cynical you might be, that there is hope for your life.
At that moment I fell in love with her.
My lift came and I tore my eyes away from her.
Back in my room I considered a coffee. I considered not going to sleep. I considered how weird I felt. But then I just lay back on my bed and sleep claimed me.
There was a knocking on my door. I got up and answered it. The ladyboy was there wearing nothing but the white towel. I let her in and she kissed me on the lips. She lay on my bed and suddenly we were both naked. I didn’t see what was between her legs. I didn’t see anything. I just held on to her and she told me that we could run away and nobody would be able to judge us. I didn’t want to be judged because this flat was now a classroom in my school. Without anything obviously happening we were both running down the school corridor from a bunch of kids with hate filled faces. But the thing was that because I was with her there was nothing terrible in this. It seemed right. The next thing I knew we were swimming in the sea and the ladyboy was a mermaid and I started thinking that this was getting too fucking far fetched.
When I woke up and there was still a knocking on the door. I wasn’t quite sure if I was out the dream yet or not. Blearily I walked toward the door and opened it. The operator was standing there telling me she had a message for me. I thought it might have been some urgent family call and asked her who the message was from. She shrugged saying almost teasingly that she didn’t know and handed me the folded over paper before walking away.
I opened it up and it simply had the word “Sofia” followed by the number “507”.
This was about an hour ago.
© Roy Wilson. All rights reserved by the author.