Sunday, July 7, 2013

COME ALL YE FAITHFUL by Peter Nolan Smith

Pattaya is not a city known for monogamy.

Promises of fidelity last, until you leave the room, because this city on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard offers temptations by the thousands and those temptations rarely say no. Bar girls, rent boys, ka-toeys, booze, and drugs added up to damnation according to Reverend Joe Stannis of the Holy Revival Church located down the street from my old soi. The born-again Christian preached through a megaphone to passing motorists. “You are all going to hell.” The black-suited minister of the faith liked shaking his fist. Thais thought he was 'bah' or a fool. Attached to his concrete chapel was a sign pointing the way to the Angel Inn, the nearest ‘Love Motel’, where rooms rent by the hour or day. Anytime I drove past the reverend I'd shout, "Heaven on Earth." "And damnation to you." Born-agains have no sense of humor, especially in a city whose motto is written on tee-shirts. “Good men go to heaven. Bad men go to Pattaya.” This quip was borrowed from Mae West’s epithet. “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go anywhere they want.” Nevertheless this doesn’t mean everyone in Pattaya was a sinner. Even Sodom had one good man, for my friend Richard has never cheated on his wife. Several years back Richard, Nick, and I were sitting at the Buffalo Bar. Beers were before us. The DJ was playing HOTEL CALIFORNIA. Richard explained his faithfulness. His girlfriend was at his side. Lee was old school, but her beauty was a mystery after 10 years in Pattaya. “I’m too lazy to be unfaithful and it’s not in my nature.” Richard was a contractor from the UK. He worked 10-12 hour days. Lassitude only pertained to matters of the heart, but the Brit doesn’t know that his Thai wife sleeps with another man. His friends never tell Richard either. It's considered bad form. “No one is faithful in this town.” Nick was a Tottenham Spurs fan. They were his only love. His girlfriend worked as a service girl at the Buffalo Bar. Fen was too pretty for words. “Fen has a boyfriend. He pays for her schooling. She sees me when he leaves town and considers herself ‘faithful’ to both of us. Fen never asks me for money." And you think you get free sex?" “Nothing is free in Pattaya.” Everything had a price, even if it was marked ‘free’. “So is Fen your mia noi?” Richard asked Nick. “No, she not mia noi. She geek,” Richard’s girlfriend explained waving for another gin-tonic. “What’s the difference?” Richard was clearly confused by the demarcation of fidelity. The question was directed at his girlfriend. The seeds of suspicion were worming into his trust. Lee stammered for an answer. Nick saved her from having to tell the truth. “A mia noi you take care. A geek is someone you have sex with and care about but only a little. You see her when you see her and it’s no big deal.” Nick obviously had been educated in the difference. “But your girlfriend doesn’t think she’s your geek?” “No, I wouldn’t say that.” Nick was hardly defensive with this answer. “Fen is what she is.” “So you never say the love word?” “No.” Nick shook his head. “It’s a sex thing.” “So she is a geek?” Richard couldn’t fathom why people sleeping together for purely sex. “No, not geek. Not mia noi. Not friend.” Richard’s girlfriend was exasperated by the his husband’s density, but he only wanted to know where Nick’s girl stood in the scheme of things. "You like her?" Yes, but I'm in love." He had told me many times that he wasn’t faithful to her. Not like she was to him or Richard was to Lee. I got up and left to avoid any examination of my situation. Jamie Parker was sitting at the other end of the bar. When I told my friend about the discussion, the New Yorker smiled slyly and said, “This is not a town for the pure of heart. Some women here regard their husbands as faithful if they don’t bring anyone home or aren't seen with another women by their friends. Other women think you’re cheating if you look at another woman or think of one. Men will believe any story by these bar girls to grant them immunity from a life of sleeping with complete strangers. I call it the Eliza Doolittle syndrome. I can rescue her from this life of sin. Ha, but it’s not the farang boyfriend most men have to worry about. It’s the Thai ex-. They never die, even if the girl says his husband was killed in a motorcycle accident.” “I’d heard that story twice.” “Bet every man in Pattaya has heard it at least once.” Jamie had little use for stories. His girlfriend had been working on Soi 6 three years. Ort liked being a bad girl and so did Jamie. “Everyone has been unfaithful in either thought or deed and I don’t know what’s worse. Thinking about it and doing it.” “Doing it.” “Yeah, but at the end of your life are you going to be sorry about not doing it or doing it?” “Regrets I have a few but then again too few to mention.” There had been twins at the old Blackout a Go-go. I had been faithful to my previous girlfriend. She left me for an Italian. “Sinatra the Philosopher.” “Aristotle to be is to do. Kant to do is to be.” “And Sinatra do-be-do-be-do.” Jamie crooned off-key and several bar girls stared his way, as if he was a dog with his paw stuck in a door. “Are you thinking about going home with someone from here?” “No way.” I lived two minutes from the Buffalo. Mam was my steady. We had been seeing each other for over a year. I hadn’t been with anyone in that time. Something was wrong with being faithful in Pattaya and I thought that maybe she had dowsed me with a love potion. “Is Mam that jealous?” “She’d cut it off and feed it to the ducks.” Castration was a favorite punishment Thai women inflicted on philandering males. So much so that Thai doctors had become the world’s premier saviors of amputated penises. Accordingly Thai women cast the severed member to the duck pen, since quackers, unlike pigs, eat anything. Even cock. “Better to keep your sins in thoughts.” Jamie advised, for Ort was equally vicious when it came to a roaming eye. “Deeds we can save for the after-life.” “Or secrets we never tell anyone else. Is it a sin if no one knows?” In this town everyone knows sooner or later. Mam also knows that once I’ve had two drinks all I really want is a couple more drinks. She accepts this fallibility as the least of all evils and I went home to surf through the ennuidom of international TV. Mam was playing cards with her friends. She wasn’t answering her phone. The night was still young, but I shut off the TV and went to sleep with dreams of becoming a saint. At least in deed. Thought was another story. We’re all going to hell. At least according to Reverend Joe Stannis of the Holy Revival Church and that preacher knows sin.

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