Number 109

I would never admit to being interested in sexual conquests for the sake of showing off. But I was indeed part of the First Wave of ‘wide eyed men’ of the James Bond Generation, who desired wickedly beautiful and sexy women with dangerous curves. And here I was in Asia – Thailand, that is: the land of majestic elephants and ancient Buddhist temples.

As the setting sun in Pattaya was slowly slipping beneath the horizon, I was satisfying my newfound obsession in one of the many stalls on Walking Street, and had just observed the most glamorous woman I had ever set eyes upon. The problem was, I felt at risk of losing her. Had I already waited too long to make a move? The philosophy for picking up women dictates it must be done within the first two minutes, or one immediately becomes a ‘stalker.’ Yet still, I hesitated. She was a fantasy come to life – or so I thought.

Within the western world, she may have scored a Victoria’s Secret lingerie modeling contract, become a Hollywood film actress, worked part-time as a dominatrix, or gone to medical school and become a doctor. There were many exciting choices in either America or Europe for such a ravishing knockout. However, being drop dead gorgeous in Thailand meant something quite different. I had to find out what.

There she sat in the private booth, stroking a pair of sheer undies, and there I too sat. Frozen in time, watching her for what must have been half an hour. Finally, I could not take it anymore. Something inside me snapped. I snatched them away from this Princess, paid the merchant outside the booth for their cost, then instinctively snapped, “My present to you!” and finally tossed them back to her.

The whole transaction was over in a matter of seconds, and her shock was palpable. Dumbstruck, she opened those deep blue eyes as big as marbles and trained her gaze upon me. Slowly, hesitantly, I heard her say, “How do you know they will fit me?”

“I didn’t … ” I replied. I couldn’t even finish my sentence. Despair had taken a hold of me. I felt stupid. As I rose to walk away, this divine diva took notice of my loss of faith, and interjected, “Don’t go. It was so nice of you. If they don’t fit me I can give them to one of my girlfriends. Would you like to have an afternoon drink with me?”

At first, I said nothing. In response, she locked her arms together and leaned on my shoulders, facing me intimately. I thought she would kiss me then, but there she stayed – her eyes searching mine. In a breathy, half whisper like an Asian Marilyn Monroe, she murmured, “I can tell you’re a sweet guy. Let’s go get some Irish coffee – if it’s alright with you?”

The anguish I had felt a minute ago had vanished, and in its place – in an instant – was a sensation of elation and awe. My confidence had flooded back to me. We held hands like an old married couple who had known each other for decades. At last, we reached our destination.

The Red Leprechaun was a beer bar decorated all in crimson, including the bar stools. The establishment was a mere half-block away from the open air mini market where we had just met on Walking Street. Soon the bazaar would disappear with the coming dusk. Then the bar girls, ‘katoeys,’ and tourists would take over. The bartender sat us down near the front entrance and brought us our drinks. My diva sat very close to me and put her hand on my thigh, rubbing it ever so slightly – the touch of her fingertips making me quite horny.

“You can call me Anne,” she said. “What is your name?”

“Bobby,” I replied.

She began playing with my name in the manner of some rural farm workers who toil in the rice paddies; women who only speak broken English in that singsong way of theirs. “Bob bee. Bah bee – what a nice name.”

I found it unnerving – the way she had gone from highly sophisticated to a peasant woman and back to cosmopolitan again – was I dealing with a duality – a dual personality? Anne looked as if she were a white Chinese Thai – quite rare for the province of Pattaya.

“I have a – oh, how should I tell you? My English sometimes is not so good. Well it is like this. Tomorrow around 3 o’clock I shall make a small party for my daughter and her friend. I would like it a lot if you could attend the party with me.”

I was taken aback. “You have a kid? How old are you?”

She smiled. For a few seconds I had journeyed into her soul. Her sensuality hypnotized me. “Twenty six. I had my baby when I was thirteen. Many Thai women have baby when they very young. But I am telling about my daughter’s party. I will be very honest with you. I was going to borrow money from a Chinese money lender. But the Buddha put us together for a reason, don’t you think so? Will you help me sponsor my sweet girl’s celebration?”

Could this be a typical hooker con job? Or maybe she was telling the truth. “How much would you need?” I asked guardedly. Anticipating that she would name a large figure, I was set to bolt – but I was wrong.

“All I need is one thousand baht.” I momentarily considered it – about thirty three American dollars. She went on, “You have to be a perfect gentleman, no touching or kissing me and no dirty talk. But I will make it up to you the following night. I promise. Maybe you are asking yourself why a lady like me is so short of small money, yes? Well before you think about it, I will explain. Unlike farang countries like in Europe or America,” – she continued, using the local slang for ‘foreigner,’ – “where your governments take care of old people, Thailand does not. Only family take care. But mom and dad are very old now, and brother and sisters cannot. One brother become young lady boy – very selfish! Other sister wants to be nurse – I pay for her school! Additional sister – she plain looking. Good sister, but hard for her to find man, so she work behind cash register in grocery. No good money for her or our family. I pay for whole household – everybody! You see?”

By this point she had practically broken down in tears. “I embarrassed to tell you my story. At first when I speak a little bit, I have good English, but now I speak long time, English no good. Yes, I think so,” she added hesitantly.

I said nothing. And instead simply took out my wallet and handed her a 1,000 baht note. “Here. Take it now. I know where the pastry shop is. I’ll meet you there at 3 o’clock, and if you need a little more money, I’ll have it for you.”

Anne quickly stared at me with delight, licked her lips and said, “Remember – no touching or trying to kiss me in front of my daughter. No bad language or beer drinking. Perfect gentleman, yes? I think you good man, not ‘Cheap Charlie.’ If everything good with my daughter’s party, I will take care of you with good heart. I promise you!” She walked away – my eyes riveted on her amazing backside.

The next day, I made damned sure I was at that ice cream parlor as if my life depended on it. Anne’s daughter was there with her friend. She spoke English like an American girl, and the two girls seemed to be well educated. Probably Anne had sent her daughter to an elite Thai private school.

Both young ladies were playing computer games on what looked to be new, extremely expensive, smart phones. They didn’t seem to care that I was there, although once in a while Anne’s offspring looked at me with disgust as if I were an annoying fly. Truly, I couldn’t blame her. I was sure I was not the first farang her mom had sort of pushed onto her. This girl knew what time it was.

She did not have her mother’s beauty – probably took after her father in the looks department. She was a dark Thai girl with a ‘plain Jane’ look, and she realized this too. But there was this wisdom, courage and brains all mixed together – it was all there in her eyes.

I’d seen kids like her before. She knew what mommy did for a living. Anne most likely believed she was pulling a fast one on her daughter, but she was just playing along – like I was. Anne’s Special Girl would not end up like her mommy – a girl for hire. A ‘Mamma San,’ maybe; but not a woman of the night. Still, what did I know with my smartass predictions?

Play the game, act your part. Be the ‘Big Shot’ Sponsor. Bring out the vanilla ice cream cake. Who cares what Anne’s kid thinks about me? She won’t give the game away. Just play it cool, and with a little luck tomorrow night, I could end up with the hottest arm candy in town.

The next evening, at 9 o’clock, I called Anne from my cell phone. I was pretty anxious. On her end, the phone rang for quite a while before she picked up – but Anne did confirm our date. So I went into the bathroom to spruce up – trying to figure out how my nose hairs had grown back so quickly.

I had planned our night of debauchery most meticulously. First, we were to have a late night supper at Nok’s Thai Barbecue Restaurant, and then a few drinks at the Red Leprechaun. From there we would walk over to Pattaya’s oldest and most popular dance club – Marine Disco. All of the bars, clubs and restaurants were within prowling distance of one another, and all were in the vicinity of Walking Street; the most infamous ‘Red Light District’ in Thailand – maybe in all of Asia. To me it simply resembled an adult Disneyland.

I knew my customer. In hindsight, it had been pretty smart of me to have invited Anne to a Thai barbecue eatery, otherwise she may not have participated in the dining experience. Long ago, I had learned the hard way that most Thai women do not like farang – that is, foreign – cuisine, but are too polite and fearful to tell their lovers, boyfriends, clients, etc., that they do not care for non-Thai fare.

What sometimes develops – if undertaken improperly – is that the lady in question, once taken to dinner, picks at her food, makes a minor scene, and then tells her companion, “This restaurant is no good,” or, “The food is undercooked,” or that they insulted her. Then the couple makes a hasty exit, but not before the lady of the scene manages to wrest a heavy tip for the house from her suitor.

The farang, totally puzzled as to what has just happened, is thinking it must be some sort of Thai cultural faux pas on his part. Or, if her date is not paying attention, or usually drunk, he would go to the bathroom to “take a leak.” She instead, gets the bus boy to throw away her portion, so when her escort returns, she simply tells him “I was really hungry.”

After a few of these experiences, I learned to have dinner by myself, saved my money, and left my women friends in Pattaya to feast at the many cheap food stands – usually gobbling up food from the region of Isaan, from which many of them hail. But Thai barbecue – that’s a detente between farangs and Thais. It was one place where we could have a successful meal together – and we did.

Everything was working out just as planned. The barbecue joint’s food was excellent, and the drinks went down nice and smooth. Anne seemed to be totally into me. She was laughing, touching me intimately, and her eyes never left my face. But there was a problem, and it wasn’t Anne – it was me. Anne was dazzling. She was alluring. The type of woman you could lose yourself in by looking at her too closely. Only now had I realized how powerful this femme fatale could be. Here I was in the Winner’s Circle – only I could not take the pressure.

From the time we had left Nok’s Thai Cafe to when we arrived at the Irish beer bar, we had picked up three stragglers – they had followed us. And of course I had to go to the bathroom. I didn’t even expect her to be there when I came out! But there she was – waiting for me – not even flirting with the jackals that had surrounded us.

Anne communicated to me with her eyes and body language, giving me her full attention – that she was thoroughly annoyed with the situation – and now there were five instead of three. Cock blockers! Younger, better looking, and probably with a lot more money in their pockets too. Dark, cunning faces glared at me, trying to judge how I would react, feeling out the vibes. And with their predatory, feral eyes, they were eating Anne alive – even women were looking her over. Lipstick Lesbians! It was getting to me. If I had a gun, I would have shot them all; but there are always replacements when it comes to a beautiful woman, and you can’t win them all! I had lost my war before it had begun. I could not stop the world from swallowing her.

“Anne, I don’t think it would be a good idea for us to go partying at Marine Disco. I’m getting a little burnt out. You can go on your own. We could meet later at my hotel, if that’s alright with you.”

Anne looked shocked. The pain registered on her face – and I felt it too. I was a coward. After that, she didn’t say too much. She was clearly drawing the dividing line. “Bobby, these stupid people mean nothing …” I had already turned my back on her. Very quietly she said, “I will be at your hotel at four o’clock – be ready for me.”

I sat in my room, feeling depressed. I could not believe I had just sabotaged my date with Anne. I simply could not understand it. I couldn’t get around it. And the worst part was, I knew it was my entire fault – she had done nothing wrong. In my mind, I went over what had happened many times. What we ate, what we drank, the faces of those men with their hungry eyes, those women with their pouty lips.

I came to the conclusion that you have to be a special type of man to be with Anne, and I was not an Alpha Male. Going back to prehistoric Cro-Magnon man, I would have been the guy in the tribe who got thrown the loincloth smelling of female sweat, for the privilege of jerking off into it. Maybe I even fought off the other morons in the clan for the honor of climaxing on it, while the Alpha Males had the women they desired.

I was the Hyena Man. The man with the fetishes. The man who could sustain an erection at the odor of a female, but not be with a female. “This is Thailand, for god’s sake!” I told myself. “If you don’t make your scene here, then where?”

And yet I had forgotten the many ex-pats who supposedly came here for wine, women and beach, only to find the tallest buildings and fling themselves off their rooftops. Yes, there were many suicides in the ‘Land of Smiles,’ and mostly they were of middle aged men who were foreigners; men who wanted a second chance, but were either too old, too sick or just clean out of luck.

I got up from my chair, laid down on the bed and pulled all the sheets over me with the lights still on. I did not even have the energy to get up and turn them off. All I wanted was oblivion. I recalled an old horror movie from the ’50s, The Incredible Shrinking Man. That’s what I wanted. To dwindle down to nothingness. To ride an atom to nirvana. If I had to be alive, let me have amnesia.

I remained like that for quite a while, listening to the hum of the air conditioner. I must have dozed off, because all of a sudden I was jerked awake by the sound of loud knocking. I looked at the dirty yellow clock on the wall. Four a.m. She would not go away – the persistent banging kept me awake. It was driving me crazy.

It was Anne. I let her in, jumped back into bed and turned to face the wall. I did not want to deal with her.

Anne said something that I couldn’t make out – some Thai curse words perhaps. She spoke up again, loudly. “Look at me now or I’m leaving, and if I go you pay me strongly! You not waste my time! Why you sweet mouth me and you treat me bad? I nice lady with good heart for you. Tell me!” I rose from my bed as if I were sleepwalking, and turned to face her. Wow! Anne had gone nuclear!

She wore a light blue lace see through garment over an aqua blue bikini that matched her fantastic eyes. This was not what she wore when I had taken her to dinner earlier. Goddess, I thought. Somehow we gravitated into each other’s arms, and I tasted her salty teardrops, as I felt more Thai curse words, and even some English ones, wash over me.

Her scarlet tongue pierced my mouth, and we started fucking standing up. We stopped midway – somehow she got a condom on my cock – and we fell back onto my bed doing it doggy style. Twice more we had sex this way, until I was spent. We lay there for quite a while tangled together, while Anne continued to weep quietly. Just before the darkness of sleep overtook me, my last memory of Anne was her half asleep muttering the words, “Chan long taang,” which in English meant, “I am lost.”

A few hours later she woke up. Rays of morning sunlight engulfed my room. There was no escaping the bright daylight. Anne was dressed in a pink sweat suit. I guess I hadn’t noticed her arriving with an overnight bag during the previous moonlit hours.

“It is ten in the morning and I have to go. You need to pay me,” she said abruptly.

I got up, took out my wallet, gave her some money without counting it and said, “Is it enough?” She walked to the door, was about to leave, and then stopped midway, with the door half open.

I have something to say to you,” she intoned. “Is it alright to speak to you?” I nodded my head, and accompanied it with a “Yes.”

“Good. I will close the door. We don’t have to let the people in this hotel know our business. Anyway, this will take only few minutes.” I nodded again. She took out the money I had just given her and counted it right in front of me. I noticed when I had rewarded her with my payment, she would usually just push the money into her pocket without looking at it. Now she nodded. “Good money. You pay well. I did not really have to count the money. I knew you would pay me nicely. Not Cheap Charlie.”

She flashed a smile, only for her serious face to return. “Do you know how I have this knowledge? Because you have a good heart. You cannot – how I say this to you – change who you are. I believe you think I am a whore. I am not. Do you know what I always wanted? A kindly, sweet man. Yes you! But I am cursed with beauty. I would have been better off ugly. Men like you, are always out of my reach. I don’t understand. Maybe it is the Buddha’s will – I don’t know. A handsome man, a wealthy man, they are no good for me! Good is what I want, but I cannot have! Many men come to Thailand from Europe, Russia and America. Some bad, some stingy. Many are nice men, but they come broken, hurting inside, confused. I ask myself what is going on with the foreign women. It is a mystery to me, yes I believe so. I go now. But Bobby – always remember who you are. I have strong feeling you would like to be something you are not – like big boss, or playboy, but no! You are a nice guy. Maybe you think it is a curse to be a good man, but to me it is a blessing.” Then she left, and I did not see her again for two long years.

I drifted back and forth for the next indeterminable months between New York and Pattaya – unable to really stay the way I wanted to – as I now acted as a health provider for my mother. All this time I thought of Anne and what she had said to me, but I never had the heart – or maybe the guts – to call her. In the meantime, in the states, I dated many women. But Anne was always there – waiting in the back of my mind. Finally, I picked up her card.

In the picture, she was not trying to be provocative, but still she couldn’t help herself – posing in a swimming pool, floating on top of an inflatable plastic raft. Everything was blue – the bikini, the water, the raft. But her skin was bronze, her face a mask of sensuality. Her card was good advertising. Many men must have called her by now. Still, I called.

Her phone rang five times. Seven times. Twelve times. Nobody answered. I started calling every day. No answering machine. No human voice. Nada. Nothing. I kept on calling like a madman. I obsessed over wanting to hear her voice. I continued to call every day -even from NYC – racking up the long distance charges like a madman.

In October, I returned to Thailand, and on the second day I called her number and magically, as if the Buddha willed it by karmic design got her in. It was three o’clock in the afternoon. Her voice seemed hollow – or maybe that was just me, feeling deprived, lost and paranoid. “Hello, who is speaking please?”

“It’s Bobby. Do you remember me? You know – from New York – America.”

There was silence for a few seconds. Then she said, “Yes, I remember.”

I moved the conversation forward – a junky trying to get a fix. “I would like to see you. When can we get together?”

Silence again. Then in a cutting whisper, she said, “Number 109, Soy Six. Bobby, so nice to hear your voice – you did not forget me! But things are different now. I would like so much to see you. Come see me!” Mysteriously, suddenly, she hung up.

I had no idea what to make of it. I got dressed and ran out of my small room like a rodent leaving its hole. I jumped on a Tuk Tuk, and it dropped me off on Soy Six. The heat was fierce, and there weren’t too many people venturing out. I had dressed in a British white cotton shirt, and I hadn’t shaved in two days. All I cared about at this moment was finding Anne, but I also wanted to look good for her. I was a different man now – or was I?

Standing in the middle of Soy Six, I located number 109. It looked like a second rate massage parlor. There was dirt on the floors, and the walls could have used a new paint job. Five women were there, standing around. Business must have been slow. None of them was Anne. A young woman with braces came up to me. I pulled out Anne’s card and put it in her hand. “Does this woman work here?”

She looked at me crestfallen. “No, this lady not work here.” None of the other women responded. This was a waste of time I thought to myself. I walked out dazed and confused. I was sure this was the address that Anne had said over the phone. I called her back. Nobody answered. I slowly walked up and down the Soy – trying to scope out a place where Anne would be working at. I was so dumbfounded, caught by this outlandish surprise, that finally, I ended back where I had started. There was nobody outside. It was just too hot. I was sweating up a storm.

Then I saw an old Thai peasant woman walking in my direction. She was elderly yet stout looking, with a dark complexion, and she wore a little hat on her head and a long sleeved yellow shirt. I approached her in desperation, held Anne’s card out to her, and pointed to her picture. The old lady looked at it quite firmly, studying it for a while, and smiled, a bit of betel juice dried on her lower lip.

“My English no good, but how you say?” She trailed off, appearing to have gone comatose for a moment or two. Then with a chuckling grin she said, “Lady may be over there!” and pointed right at the building we were standing next to. There was a sort of facsimile of the Playboy logo on it next to an artistic portrait of a sexy Asian model, molded into the building’s front entrance. The elderly woman gazed at me for a few seconds more – a puzzling look came over her – then, as she departed, I walked over to the main doors, and a fashionable doorman wearing a tuxedo and tails opened the door for me to enter.

Inside, a modern hotel lobby awaited me. I walked right up to the front desk and spoke to the nearest desk clerk – a slim young man with a mouthful of gold. “How may I help you, sir?” He addressed me in English.

“How did you know I was American?” I inquired.

“I didn’t, sir, but everybody in this part of Thailand speaks English. It is the international language of the world. Many years ago French was.”

It was a nice history lesson, but I pressed on. “I’m looking for a lady in Room #109.”

At first, he looked puzzled. His gold teeth were shiny, immaculate. “We don’t have a room number of that kind, sir. Only eighty rooms in this hotel.” Then a sly look overcame him. “Are you looking for a certain young lady?”

“Yes. Her name is Anne!” I was getting frustrated and the clerk knew it.

His teeth glistened away as a satisfied smile overtook his face. “Ah yes. Number 109 – is that the number? I think I can help you after all. Give me a minute or two.” He entered a room behind the reception desk and closed the door.

A few minutes later the concierge returned, looking quite pleased with himself. He stared at me with all that gold, and the next thing I knew there were two men flanking me, one on each side. Mr. ‘Goldmouth’ said, “These two men will escort you to where you want to go.” I was pinned between them, thinking of a gangster film where James Cagney says to the stoolie, “Let’s take a ride,” – a ride that would inevitably be the passenger’s last – much like me, being strong-armed by two gangsters.

Then I realized – they were not Thai – they were Japanese. Thug-like all the way. Had my intuition been correct? I feared they were from that dreaded crime organization – the Yakuza. I cannot say fear hadn’t entered my soul.

They walked me down to a huge ballroom. An aged ‘Dragon Lady’, dressed all in bright green, met us at the door. She had to be in her late seventies, her skin resembling that of an Egyptian mummy – she actually had that papier maché look to her skin.

The Madame brought me a cup of hot tea. “American?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“I hear you make inquiries about 109, hmmmm?” The Dragon Lady’s English was raspy, but good enough.

“She’s attached to a number, isn’t she?” I said rhetorically, as if answering her quiz question. The old lady then broke into a smile.

“Yes, quite an excellent one. She like lottery number! Why don’t you enter the hall and take a cookie?”

I followed her direction, and found myself facing a vast stage with a large heavy old-style chandelier hanging overhead. There had to be a horde of around 200 women crowded on that platform. I had expected it to be noisy. However, silence ruled the day.

The stress of the moment had come upon me like some bad karma descending. Now I would see the past, present and future of Anne. I knew then and there that there was no way out – unless I paid them their price. Anne was in the back. She saw me, and waved her sign at me.

I wanted to get to Anne, so I approached the Mamma San and said, “How much for Number 109? Can I buy her out?”

The old lady cackled until she coughed. “Number 109 cannot be sold – she is big money maker! You can have her for one hour of pleasure for three thousand baht.”

I just stared at that old bitch and those thick Yakuza hoods. I shook my head and said, “No thank you.” As I slowly backed out, I heard Anne yell out to me, but it was too late. Much too late. I was shaken and stirred.

A few years later, back in the States, I married a young woman who was studying to be a pharmacist. As I lay beside her, I was haunted by Anne and her number – Number 109. Anne. 109.

–David Huberman


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