Chiang Mai, 9 am.
It's already wintertime hot.
A hideously fat man in flimsy shorts and a tee shirt struggles to get from the backseat of a car up the curb to a bar. His legs are white and dimpled and spotted with red; bandaged strangely around the knees. His bumpy scalp is visible through the few curling grey hairs covering it. He leans on his cane and one Thai woman pulls him by the arm toward the bar while another supports him from behind. As he makes it over the curb, the woman supporting him reaches down and with her nails lightly kneads a small circle of the expanse of ass.
As they disappear out of the sun into the dark, I hear the man rasping “Now, two girls,” and the women echoing “Yes, two girls...”
I go for a bikini wax while I'm here, because they just don't exist in Luang Prabang. I've forgotten that in Thailand one generally takes everything off for the process, so this is already a more intimate encounter than I'd bargained for. Then somehow the limits I'd described were misunderstood, and the procedure becomes unexpectedly intrusive. (I'm pretty sure that just briefly, there was penetration. Full disclosure: at this point, I really don't mind.)
So I'm lying on my back, much more exposed than I'd expected to be, being tugged at in places I'd thought were well hidden, when there's a knock on the door. And the door opens. And another Thai woman wanders into the room, talking to the waxer. She walks over the the table and plops her hand down on my (unshaven) leg and begins absently stroking it. They talk in Thai; I lie on the table, defeated. After a few minutes, she asks if I want my legs waxed. No, I'll just shave them, I reply, as if they care about my hair-removal choices. Her hand stays on my leg. They continue to chat. All I can understand are numbers. She moves down toward the foot of the bed so the waxer can continue her truly unnecessary spelunking, but instead of releasing me, she slides her hand down to rest on my foot.
After two months of flip flops, I have the feet of a farmer and the one pedicure with my best girlfriend B has long faded. I'm mortified. Her hand stays, though, and she amazingly does not insist on giving me a pedicure before I leave—perhaps she thinks I'm a lost cause. I have one woman's face inches from my crotch and another one who won't stop touching me in the only other places I'd really prefer no one notice. And I'm paying for this.
The waxer at one point patted my stomach and said “No baby. Very good,” which was an improvement over the only other comments that I've gotten, both from the tailor I took a shirt to to have copied. When I came for my fitting, he commented that I have “big arms.” (I assume he meant 'long,' which is better, but not much.) Then later, he told me my friend was very pretty. Thank you so much, sir.
I suppose it's as good a time as any to go back to Luang Prabang.