Escape from Comfort Zone 428

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Jenny’s giggling like a schoolgirl holding up five fingers while she says,
“I’ve got five now!”
She’s talking about the boxes of party toys they’re handing out at the door of this nightclub as a part of their festive season promotions.  Inside each one is a whistle with a light inside it, a confetti popper, streamers and a weird plastic bell you shake back and forward to make it ring.  She has made it her mission to collect as many as possible and is busily emptying the contents into her increasingly full handbag.  The reason she wants so many is to have presents for her children and nephews and nieces when she returns home to Vietnam; because right now she’s working as a hooker in Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur - Petronas Towers

Kuala Lumpur - Petronas Towers

I’d mentioned to my mate before that I’ve never been to these kind of bars and he immediately volunteered to take me – purely for scientific research you understand.  During the walk he told me the gameplan.
“We’ll visit three places on this street so you can see how they work.  You rate them in terms of how long it takes for you to pick up a little follower.  We’ll start in the quietest bar, where it can take a few minutes, to the busiest….The last time I was there we had girls appear while we were waiting in line to get in.”
I’m largely baffled by the idea, even though it’s something I’ve heard about for many years, I’ve never been to these countries before.  I’ve got not real idea what to expect, except being propositioned constantly by cute women; which always sounds good.

By the time my friend collects his beer and sits down, Jenny is the second girl to give him a huge welcoming hug and ask if she can sit with him.  Only one jumped onto me and I gently pushed her away explaining I’m here for the beer, the live music and to catchup with my friend. 
“Later then? Later?”, she calls to me as I walk away.
After a while Jenny asks me if she can bring her sister over to sit with me.  It takes several versions of ‘No’ to convince her that I’m quite happy the way I am, but just a few minutes later another pair of girls appear from nowhere and want to know if I’d like to take them both home tonight.  This is getting weird for me already, I’ve never been in a place like this before and the experience is already stretching my world into something bigger and more distorted.  Normally that’s something I aim for and it’s the reason I was happy to wander into a dodgier part of town –  to escape my comfort zone for a while.  My mate has found his comfort zone quitge happily with Jenny standing directly in front of him while he sits on the bar stool.  She alternates between standing facing him stroking his legs and facing away rubbing herself against his crotch. 

I’ve been trying to decide how old she is, because she’s no spring chicken and when she heads to the toilet for a few minutes I ask my mate.
“Well, normally you decide how old you think she is, then add ten years.  Asian girls all look very young.”
“She’s gotta be in her mid thirties then”, I suggest.
“Something like that.  Probably early forties I think.”
“Weirdest cougar hunting I’ve ever seen.  And she’s got kids back home too?”
“Yup, I’ve met a few who are married with kids.  It seems Vietnamese and Phillipino men are terminally lazy and have no trouble sending their wife out to shag foreigners for money.”
“What the fuck?”
“Yeah, another guy I met was saying it’s fairly common.  So their husband sits at home drinking and gambling with the other men while she earns them a living.”
I’m kinda staring into space pondering the parallel reality this seems to be for me.  I’m thinking what kind of messed up culture lets that happen and then begin to remember that this does happen at home in Australia too.  Wives who work to support the family while the husband gets the dole and stays drunk and stoned all day.  Husbands who work to support their family while their wives sit in front of Pokie machines and burn it all.  Couples who just get drunk all day until family services takes away their children.  You can’t take any moral high ground based on culture here, but it’s still offending my personal sensibilities and I’m scratching for some comprehension.

My mate takes his turn to go to the toilet so I ask Jenny how long she’s been in Kuala Lumpur.
“Three days now.  I only stay one month, then back to Vietnam.”
“Do you do the same work in Vietnam?”
“Yes.  Everywhere.  Thailand too.”
“So how long will you stay in Vietnam?”
“Maybe two weeks or four weeks, then I come back here, or go to Thailand.  More money here.  Are you sure you don’t want my sister, she’s so pretty and you haven’t seen her yet.”
“I’m sure.”
My mate returns and we chat for a while, being interrupted every five or ten minutes by one or two girls at a time asking me if I’d like them to sit with me now or take them home later.
“You know, if you just grab one, the rest will leave you alone”, my mate suggests. 
I consider it for a minute and decide it would make it easier and when the next girl, Anna, is particularly stunning I ask her to sit down.  She’s from Vietnam too and the plan works a treat as we continue talking and sipping beer into the night as the girls try to distract us.
“This band is really good, I’ve rarely heard better cover bands in Australia”, I comment.
“Yup.  Mostly phillipinos do it.  Often the women singing are phillipino.  They’re all really good, absolutely together and on top of every song.  Us lazy Australians should take note.”
I laugh for a moment in agreement.  I suppose the difference is when you have to be that good to stand out from the crowd, you work as hard as you can.

The band rocking out

The band rocking out

The next time my mate heads for the toilet, Anna leaps into action.
“You want to take me home?  Five hundred ringgits all night long with me.  I massage good, I have sex so good, you keep me for days”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why not? I think you want me”, she adds, narrowing her eyes and looking deep into mine.
“So how long have you been working like this?”
“Oh long time now.”
I think she’s in her late twenties, she says she’s twenty seven.
“Do you have a boyfriend or a husband too?”
“Oh no..I’m a bad girl, no man wants me.”
“So how long will you keep working?”
“Until my pussy turn black”, she says with a strangely bitter laugh.
There’s something in her mood that suggests that might happen sooner rather than later.

My mate returns and suggests we should move the next place.  As we’re packing up Anna looks at me and says,
“You don’t want me, but I’m working tonight, you should give me lucky money.”
“What?”
“Lucky Money.  For good luck, you give me.”
“How much do you want?”
“Fifty ringgits.”
I consider that for a while.  It’s just under AUD$17.  What am I paying for exactly?  She has sat with us for an hour and half and it has meant we’ve been chatting without interruption.  It’s been a strange experience, maybe that’s worth something.  I suppose she is working and I’ve stopped her finding someone else; but I told her from the start I wasn’t taking her anywhere.  As we leave I pass her twenty ringgit and disappear into the night.  I think it’s lucky money because they’re lucky to get it.

At the next place my mate acquires a phillipino girl about ten seconds after we sit down outside with our beers.  She seems to already know him, but he says they all behave like that.
“When I first came here I thought they all knew the guy I was with, but they all act that way to get to you quickly.”
“You like phillipino girls hey?”, Sarah asks me.
“I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve ever had a phillipino girlfriend.”
“Oh but we’re the best, you want my friend?  She’s just inside, so pretty, you must have phillipino girl now.”
I agree and she bustles off to fetch another cute girl, Isabelle.  Neither of them are incredibly good looking, but both are pretty easy on the eye.  It’s taken less than three minutes.  Isabelle puts my hand on her thigh and moves it slowly upward before I gently return it to holding a beer glass.
“You like my skin? You want more?”, she asks me almost pleadingly.
“You like phillipino girls now?  You should take her home with you tonight and find out why we the best”, Sarah adds.
I smile and shake my head.  This constant pressure is already wearing on me, but we stay for another few beers and watch the world go by.

At the last place we attract even more attention.  It’s late in the evening now and it will close in just over an hour, so all the girls are desperate to find some work.  As we’re walking to the bar we both pickup followers without a word.  By the time we sit down he’s got one girl hugging him permanently and I’ve got three girls surrounding me.  They all say they’re from Vietnam and one of them launches into a serious pitch.
“You want three girls tonight, look at us, all beautiful for you.  One girl is no fun, four hundred ringgit, but only one girl, we do you deal.  Three hundred ringgit each for all of us.  I suck you, she suck her, you watch, then you fuck her, boom boom good night.”
I haven’t had time to even get a word in and the only thing they’re interested in hearing is me saying ‘let’s go’.
“I need to go to the toilet, where is it?”, I ask, looking around.
“Okay, okay, you go with her, she show you, maybe hold it for you”, the sales girl says with a cheeky laugh.
I end up following the youngest of the three through the very full club and upstairs to the toilets.  She tells me she’s twenty four, which is probably true, because she looks about nineteen to me.  While the other two are definitely in their thirties, she seems a lot less confident with the whole hooker routine.

“So how long have you been doing this work?”, I ask as we’re walking back.
“Oh I don’t do this work at home, only here.”
“Why is that?”
I ask the question twice, but she just looks shyly at the ground and wont answer. 
“So how long will you be here?”, I continue.
“One month.  I arrived just two days ago.”
I begin to see a pattern emerging.  An influx of these Vietnamese tourists just before Christmas is probably good for business – especially with thousands of drunken westerners hanging around.

When we get back to the table the pitch continues relentlessly.  I like the sales girl less and less with each passing minute and when she next stops talking I say,
“I only want her”, pointing at the young shy one, “you two can go find someone else.”
What follows is a string of what must be vietnamese expletives; but I’m particularly impressed with the way the two of them take turns in this tirade of abuse.  I feel sure the cursing is as insistent and well practiced as the sales pitch and I’m surprised they think this is going to get money out of me.  So, never being the kind of man who backs down in the face of adversity, there seems only one course of action.  I stare down the sales girl and tell her very calmy,
“What part of ‘fuck off’ is confusing you?”
The two of them angrily grab their handbags from under the table.
“If you want just her, you must pay five hundred ringgit for the night.”
“I’ll be sure to discuss that with her once you’re gone.”
“No, she’s with us, you pay now.”
I was planning to just keep her around to ward off others, but now a flash of anger comes forward.  I didn’t ask for their pitch and madness, I’ve already tried three times to suggest they go somewhere else and all that time in China has made me twisted.  I don’t even want her, but now we’re fighting over money and I feel myself change over to angry bargaining mode.
“No.  I think three hundred is enough for her, at least she will have some work, not like you two.  Why are you waiting here? Don’t you have some other men to chase?”

Me trying to ignore sales girl on the left and her friend on the right.

Me trying to ignore sales girl on the left and her friend on the right.

They look at me with the kind of hatred that gave rise to the phrase ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.  Curiously the third girl is standing next to me completely impassive and apparently unaffected by the whole scene.
“No, you buy us drinks now, give me money, I go and get it now.”
Just as she says that the lights turn up in the nightclub in the universal sign of closing time.  I smile particularly evilly and point at a group of men on the street.
“I think they just said they’re looking for two angry whores.  You should go to them.”
I receive another tirade and one of them seems to be threatening me with some kind of promise that no girl in the club will ever come near me.  That’s the kind of curse I’d quite like to have and I smile happily and wave at them as they stalk into the night.

I sit down and light another cigarette as a particularly large and evil smile spreads across my face.  My mate is laughing openly across the table.
“That was fuckin weird..but kinda funny”, he says.
I can’t suppress a giggle either and sip my beer again.  One of the bartenders comes by the table and asks if I’d like another drink.  I suddenly remember the third girl is still here and ask if she wants something.
“No, not really.  So are you going to take me home now?”
I burst out laughing again.  The night has been surreal and that seems to be some kind of punchline.  I send the bartender off to fetch me a beer.
“No, you know I just wanted to get rid of them, are they really your friends?”
“Kind of, they help me to meet men here.”
“They’re not your friends and you don’t need any help.  I think your style is going to work better than theirs.”
“So you will take me home now?”
In another lifetime perhaps I would, but right now the face on my mind belongs to a rather sweet, smart girl called Maria who stole my heart last year.  I’m sure she’s already going to beat me up for being here in the first place.  We’ll be together soon and that is way more interesting to me than anything the present moment could offer.
“No, I wont. I’m sorry.”
I don’t know why I’m apologizing, but I just felt her heart drop and for some reason I care now.
“Here. Lucky money for you.”
I pass her fifty ringgits.
“I don’t really want it.  It’s not…”
My jaw drops in surprise and she can’t finish the sentence.  She looks at me with a strange sadness that turns inwards on herself.
“Just don’t tell your friends you got anything from me.”
“I can’t.”
She pushes the note back to me and glances to her left.  I turn to see the two banshees staring at us menacingly through the fence.  She shakes her head and walks out without a word.  The night has gone from weird to bizarre and I just don’t know where to look until the bartender arrives with another beer.

I’m staring at the ground when another girl appears at my side.  I’m just not ready for more of this, but she’s quite calm and isn’t asking the normal questions.  She puts one hand on my shoulder, looks me straight in the eyes and says,
“You’ve got a good heart, but you’re unlucky in love so far.  It’s okay, your heart is good enough to get you through with all your friends.”
Now I’m having my fucking fortune told???  I just don’t know how to respond anymore and can’t find any words.  I thank her for her kind words and finish my beer.  My mate is ready to go as well and we part ways before I dive into the first taxi I find outside the gate.  I just don’t know what to make of it all, but I think that’s the point of pushing your comfort zones.

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