THE MAN SITTING NEXT TO ME is trying to swindle a bracelet for free. The woman in front of him holds out a few colours, and he chooses black. He is muscular and hasn’t shaved in a few days, with green cargo shorts and a loose, sweaty v-neck. She looks like a rainbow of Thai kitsch, from goofy hat to floor-length skirt.
He changes his mind about the bracelet, but it is too late: He has made the mistake of not saying no, and now the woman won’t leave. She bides her time, standing still, raising trinket after trinket for him to reject. He lights a cigarette and fucks around with her, giving a listless thumbs up at everything, fueled by her attention. Their war of patience is a draw.
After she eventually leaves, some 20 minutes later, he assumes a different posture. Sterner. He leans forward. But a new Thai woman approaches him, wearing a small purple dress, and he reverts back to the way he was, reclining in his white plastic chair. She sits next to him, his arm slides around her: “Hello again.” He convinces her to place her two hands together in a scissored position, as if showing her a magic trick, but instead grabs her hands and gives her a wet willy. He’s maybe 45-years-old.
“Shot?” he tries. She quickly leaves, and returns with beer. He has a crudely drawn pig tattoo on her right shoulder blade. “Eighty baht,” she tells him. He pays her a hundred. She does a funny dance, exposing the scar on her right calf, though he doesn’t notice it. He laughs.
He holds out his hand, expecting 20 baht in change. She murmurs something only he hears. “No tip,” he replies. “Give me money.”
She leaves and returns again with two glasses. She sits down suggestively. “Okay,” he says, and grabs the beer and one glass. He pours himself the beer and ignores her plea to join. She mocks sadness, and reluctantly hands him his 20 baht. They share the beer, and clink their drinks.
Abruptly, she turns to me and touches me on the arm. “Harree Pottah,” she says, laughing and pointing at my glasses. I smile. We lock eyes, reading each other. Will I, too, engage her?
“Thanks,” I say, and return to my notebook.