Given this week’s Triple-X rating I guess I should point out, content in the upcoming instalment may offend some readers; I mean, shit, it’s doubtful but, you know, it might happen.
It was while still checked into the Pink Tulip and, having just ended a wonderful discussion with a well-travelled British homosexual named Phil about his (delightfully camp display of) indignation at being mistreated when he had entered, and made himself comfortable at, a strictly Vietnamese restaurant (a street-food restaurant for Vietnamese, not for Westerners – in fact not unlike the one which, according to last year’s Chronicles, I stumbled into while in Hoi An, in the process of benevolently attempting to buy lunch for my boot-maker friend at ‘Ocean’ leather tailors – with very low, Vietnamese-low, prices), that I spoke again to the friendly Dutch expat, Oobit…
Perhaps surprisingly I had made it home the previous night with my body, face, and with my funds, intact; this despite encountering along the way numerous stragglers, loiterers, beggars and other undesirables – as well as multiple offers for a ‘sleepover’ with an utterly exquisite Vietnamese woman (also one or two, admittedly beautiful but probable, men, of a similar niche). I had staggered through the main doors and across the Pink Tulip foyer, then taken the stairs two at a time until reaching the fourth level (experiencing that chest congestion at this point worse than ever), located my room and collapsed into bed. What seemed like only a minute later I was jerked awake by my hotel room telephone; stretching my torso out of bed I made a casual swipe at the wall-mounted phone, knocking the handpiece from its cradle, before regathering and putting the receiver to my ear. “Yeah,” I rasped.
“Hello Sir,” said a hushed Vietnamese voice. “Just calling let you know a girl is on her way up.”
I hesitated, straining through the mental fug; initially I saw nothing then gradually, lucidity pushed through. “Awesome,” I drawled, “thank you Sir.”
The phone clicked. I lay there in bed, trembling. The shock of being torn awake by a phone call, coupled with the news that call had delivered, had left my adrenaline at an insanely high level. (I wasn’t unfamiliar with this kind of sensation, I knew I just needed to allow a moment or two for my heart to stop pumping so fiercely.) A moment later my meditation was broken by the distant audio of clip-clopping footsteps in the hall, therefore it was exactly three moments after hanging up the phone that I bounded out of bed and strode to the door, my head spinning. I yanked open the door to find Noobie standing there with raised hand, about to commence thumping (I recall wondering how long she’d been standing in that position because if it was only a few moments, then catching her like that was indeed a freakish coincidence). My apparently unsolicited appearance startled her; eyes wide she stumbled back from the threshold, a look of astonishment at her pretty face. I noticed she was swaying slightly; in fairness I noticed I was doing the same. “How you know I here?” she asked with an expression of curiosity cum accusation.
“Guy on the desk,” I nodded my head for some reason back in the direction of my room’s telephone, “gave me a call.”
A big cheesy grin took hold of her face as suddenly she lunged forward, throwing herself into me, sending me stumbling back into my room. “Wow,” I recall saying, “I am really drunk.”
Noobie’s face became one of indignation. “How you trunk?” she demanded, shoving me further backwards. My head at this point was so light, I stumbled over something at my feet and ended up sitting on the floor, a few metres in front of her. “You only have six rings,” she said angrily, “why you trunk?”
Honestly, other than to say they were six of the strongest scotches I had drunk while on this particular tour of duty, I had no answer, thus, I did not speak. What I did know was that I wasn’t right; my mental situation, my brain fug had become such, at that moment and for the next few hours, it felt as though I was outside looking in. I could control me, although I didn’t feel quite like I was me (mind you, this just made all that happened over the following while that much more spectacular).
“You go other bar, on way home?”
“No,” I shook my head meekly, “only your bar.” From my position on the carpet, just inside the door of my Pink Tulip hotel room, peering up at the woman of my dreams as she accused me of bar infidelity, it did strike me as odd that she would know precisely the number of drinks I’d consumed that night (of course an explanation to this would come later, and would be corroborated by ‘the book’ that I will read on my final day in Southeast Asia, from the Boss hotel courtyard, Singapore).
“You go to another bar, don’t you?”
“No, I don’t go to another bar … I go straight home – straight here, to wait for you.”
I hung my head between my legs and shook it gently, in the hope of restoring clarity; by the time I looked up, to my mild frustration, Noobie had already stripped naked and was climbing into my bed.
“Hey, no,” I stood up quickly, bringing on vertigo, “you can’t do that, come on, get out of bed, put your stuff back on.” I smiled at my own stupidity, “Oh, come on, Noobie, get back here … Come on, I was going to do that – shit man, you’ve ruined the best bit.”
“Thought best bit starts now….?”
“Hm, not quite,” I stood at the bedside, looking upon the mesmerising beauty who was lying under a sheet, essentially in wait for me. “The best bit, for a guy – for me, anyway – is the build-up, the anticipation of what’s about to come,” I feigned consternation. “In this case it’s seeing, appreciating the miraculous beauty that is your body … It’s touching, tasting, it’s sampling the splendour -”
“Too … Many … Words!” Seemingly Noobie had had enough of talking; missed opportunities notwithstanding I was inclined to agree with her.
…Once again sitting on the Pink Tulip porch, again over glasses of café sua da, Oobit was again imparting more of his wisdom.
“My wife, you know, give birth many years ago, but without husband by her side,” Oobit spoke particularly steadily, “my wife, she is what they call, prostitute.”
Before drawing any hasty conclusions about Oobit’s life choices, I had a feeling something here was being lost in translation. I looked at Oobit’s deep eyes, and clarified, “You’re saying, they called her a prostitute because she gave birth without a husband?”
“Yes, my friend, you see, woman without husband, with baby, they call, prostitute.”
“I see,” I said, desperately wanting to see more but wary of any offence this might cause the gentle Hollander, “she wasn’t a prostitute per se, though, before you met her – in that she didn’t receive money for sex – it was just that, when she had her baby out of wedlock, people called her a prostitute … Is that what you’re saying?”
“Yes,” Oobit chuckled, “that is basically what I’m telling you … Not prostitute per se, but of course, in Vietnam, almost every beautiful woman, ‘receive money for sex’, at some time.”
I nodded, indicating my increasing interest, willing him to continue.
“When the war started, do you know, my wife’s grandmother is just a girl, you see, and like most girls in that time, the American soldiers are good source of income.”
“You say ‘girl’ – and I’m assuming you’re meaning she prostituted herself to US soldiers – so how old was she?”
“My wife doesn’t like to talk much about it, but oh, I can do math … She was born in the end of fifties, the war went through sixties and finished in seventies, so you tell me, how old she was…?”
I simply nodded soberly, while in my head I churned over figures.
“My friend, you see, it doesn’t matter how old a Vietnamese girl … The soldiers take their pick and do as they please.”
“That’s horrific,” I shook my head.
“That’s Vietnam … That was Vietnam in the war and, more or less, my friend, that is Vietnam today.”
“Yes … In the war, you see, my wife’s Grandma, either she take soldiers’ money, and have sex, or they rape her, and have sex anyway … It was a choice.”
“That’s shocking … Also, interesting – now I think of it – how many US tourists I’m seeing around here, and moreover, I guess, how well embraced they appear to be by the locals.”
“You see many Vietnam women have American husband, yes?”
“My friend, as I said the other day, don’t believe everything you see in Vietnam … It’s not always what it seems.”
I smiled, not knowing quite how to perceive Oobit’s comment.
He smiled broadly also, then, as if to conclude, said, “You know, to these women, American man, still, very good source of income.”
“Right,” I laughed, “but surely, the same could be said for any Viet woman who takes a White husband…?”
Oobit’s smile similarly became laughter, “You’re a wise man, Tim, and this is true, but it is usually only the American husbands, who are being truly screwed.”
My look of confusion could not be overlooked.
“Ah … Vietnamese woman with husband, usually, totally faithful … Vietnamese woman with American husband, not so much.”
My confusion became revelation.
“It is in the Vietnam culture, my friend, to despise all Whites, you see.”
I returned to nodding, but with a half-smile, “Does your wife ‘despise’ you, Oobit?”
He chuckled, “Probably, but still we love each other.”
“Hm, you also implied that Viet women tend to be unfaithful to their White husbands – do you believe your wife is unfaithful towards you?”
A response this time wasn’t so quick; I thought perhaps I had pushed too hard – maybe my personal inquisition had offended the man. He turned away and sipped his café sua da then inhaled deeply on his Marlboro. Just as I was about to backtrack Oobit spoke up, with greater sentimentality than I had heard from the man. “I hope she is, my friend … I hope my wife finds other men to make her happy, but you know, is not so easy for her, with child.”
I was shocked. “I’m sorry, Oobit, I meant no disrespect.”
“It’s no problem, my friend,” he smiled. “I hope she does when I’m away … Because that’s what I do when I’m away.”
“You said you loved each other though…?”
“We do, love each other, and I help to give her everything she needs … We’re just not that much, how you say, attracted, to each other, anymore.”
I remained silent.
“My wife, beautiful … Vietnamese beautiful … But my friend, I am just man.”
I nodded, understanding. “You are man, you want more.”
“I want more, I want different, I want new.” Suddenly Oobit was back to his old excitable self, “My friend, do you realise, this is my point … This is why Vietnam women mostly prostitute, do you see?”
“I guess I do…” I said, honestly, not all that sure that I did – then it came to me. “Right, yes,” I continued more confidently, “as this influx of tourists arrive from around the world – mainly European, American, or Australasian, and largely men on the hunt for just that ‘something new’ – the Vietnamese woman simply provide the service that these men desire.”
“Yes!” (I think that was the first time I heard Oobit use inflection in his voice) “Oh my God, that is exactly it, Tim, I could not have put it better – they are ‘providing a service that Western men desire’ – and so you see, even over thirty years after the war, Vietnam women still get rich off White man.”
“Brilliant,” I smiled and shook my head slowly, in a display of disbelieving admiration.
According to my phone the time was 10:27 a.m.; I had to hurry. Checkout was not until midday, sure, but the Pink Tulip reception stopped taking breakfast orders – their amazing complimentary breakfast menu which is undoubtedly the reason I consider my stay at the Pink Tulip hotel the best value of any – at 11 a.m.
I had promised Noobie she could sleep until midday so, with a gentle kiss on her cheek, I ducked out the door quietly then dashed downstairs to place my order – ‘bread and jam’ (other options included ‘omelette’ or ‘oats with milk or yoghurt’) with the regulation glass of café sua da.
Upon finishing the meal (complete with little packets of New Zealand’s very own Mainland butter, no less), I sauntered out to the porch to finish my drink in the sun and of course, to speak to Oobit.
When I next checked the time, it was almost midday. I quickly excused myself, dashed through the foyer then just about sprinted up four flights of stairs. Arriving at my room I saw the door ajar. I was certain I had locked it when I left earlier. Hesitantly I approached and ducked my head through the opening. It was too dark inside to make out anything unusual, although the bathroom light was illuminating the far corner of the room; that was new. Outside in the corridor there was utter silence; inside my room I could hear muffled breathing. I pushed open the door and stared.
What I saw made my heart skip.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Gloria S Woman
Photography by R Fray/T Darke