This was like three weeks ago. The Indian girl left on Saturday morning… well, wait, she was actually Scottish but her parents are Indian. She has nothing to do with this story, but I’m starting with her because alluding to a sweaty morning bang is a snappier way to start than with something like “I went to Malaysia this month.”
I went to Malaysia this month. The house party the night before I left was a Class-A Rager. I wrote a post a while back about being done with drugs and partying but it was a lie so I deleted it. After the party I slept two hours then motorcycled to the airport out in the rice fields, which is of course where a Vietnamese airport would be.
My visa is such that I have to leave the country every 90 days or else I become an illegal immigrant. Some slight ironies there. I was going to Malaysia because it was cheap and close. I had promised my family I’d visit them in America that week, but I ended up not being able to afford it, because I’m a writer. Actually I’m a legitimately published writer. And actually I’ve been pretty mad since the book came out – everyone thinks I self-published it. Amazon has polluted the prestige of authorship. Have you shown it to a real publisher? everyone asks. Just to summarize: My dream kind of came true and no one knows it did.
I got there at sunset. As I went up the jetway I realized that I knew nothing about Malaysia. I had always been simply aware of its existence, in the same way you know that there is a planet called Mercury out there.
But suddenly there I was in Malaysia.
I Googled “Malaysia” in the immigration line and I read for about twenty seconds, long enough to learn that once upon a time it was a British possession but today it’s ruled by someone called an “elected king,” which is a fact that I found mildly interesting.
The Malaysia that presented itself to me from the train window was a bland one of condos, and featureless factories, and gas stations with attached Starbucks. Did I actually come to America after all? This could be I-95. It was overwhelming how underwhelming Malaysia was.
Then we went by a mosque, with little mini-mosques spread around it like in Aladdin. There we go, baby. I came all this way — show me the exotic stuff.
We cut into the city and I saw the diamond spires of the Petronas Twin Towers. I had to look away. Seeing a landmark is always too surreal for me to handle the first time.
At the hotel I graded papers, napped, did a Tabata workout and ordered food. I was excited. I had never ordered room service before. I was so excited I couldn’t press the right numbers on the phone. My arrival moment. Who orders room service? Published authors, that’s who the fuck orders room service. Except in my case it was going to be just once because I only made about a dollar off that book.
“Can I get some curry and a black coffee for room 1209?” I said.
“OK,” said the guy on the phone. “You have to pick it up on the 5th floor.”
“Oh.” I was in a towel. “Well, can you bring it up here, please?”
“No, we do not have room service.”
He said it like he’d had this conversation two million times and was sick of always being on the front line of this awkward culture clash. These Westerners and their royal expectations!
All right. I went down and got my food. While I ate I fired up Tinder. Half the girls on it had hijabs. Their bios said no sex no alcohol. So don’t you dare disrespect my God by asking to meet for a drink.
Hm. I remembered from my twenty seconds of Googling that this was a Muslim country. The signs were not boding well for my big Saturday night out. And I did have to go out; I have been cursed, you see. In exchange for breaking the hearts of all the girls who have had the audacity to love and commit to me, I have to now try to laid every Saturday night.
You want to go fuck everything? Well you can do that. But you can never stop.
So at 2:00 am I was downtown, in Bukit Bintang, in my tightest T-shirt, on a dance floor the size of a basketball court, dancing, indulging, living out my curse, worshiping at the altar of self, of me, of my own pleasure.
Oh man, it was something else that night. Good vibes, high energy. I had pulled a 21 Jump Street and infiltrated a group of Dutch college kids. I’m pretty much 30 but I look younger; my mother has some Blackfoot blood and gave me a few sweet strands of melanin-laced Native American DNA that’s kept the skin around my eyes tight longer than it should be. I feel very superior about this. I think about this all the time.
The girl I was with was blond and kind of tall so we fit together proportionally like figures on a wedding cake. We were kissing and kissing and kissing. It was that usual Saturday magic. We were both breathless. It was getting to the point where if we kissed any longer she was going to get pregnant with her clothes still on.
“Let’s go,” I said.
“No,” she said.
So we kept kissing. And I really mean kept kissing, for a full hour. I was giving it everything I had. She was into it. She kept pushing me up against the table. Bottles were falling over.
At 3:00 I said “Let’s go,” again, and she said no again, which inspired images in my head of jets crashing and trains colliding into each other head-on – failing, I am failing! – and so I called a timeout and went to the street and had a bottle of water. Three whores from Ghana came up, one after another.
“Handsome guy, let’s go.”
“No,” I said.
“I don’t pay for it.”
“Why not? You are rich.”
This is how a working girl thinks. He has money; therefore he buys sex. Neither of those facts were true about me. But there was something endearing about hearing this new perspective. This is why we travel, isn’t it?
Back into the club. 4th quarter of the game. Time for the comeback. The Dutch girl was still there and we made out for another full hour, and at 4:00 I invited her back again and she said no again, so I got a taxi.
God damn, that was a lot of kissing.
At the hotel the cab fare was 20 ringgit.
“Actually it’s 30 ringgit,” said the taxi driver.
“No, the meter says 20.”
“After midnight there’s a 50% surcharge.”
“I don’t believe you,” I said. “I’m paying the meter and the meter says 20.”
“There is a sticker on the window with the rule,” he said.
I looked. Sure enough, there was a sticker and it said “50% surcharge after midnight.”
I was beaten. Tonight had been a string of very small disasters. I drew another 10 ringgit and paid up. “You probably made that sticker at home,” I told him as I slammed the door.
I didn’t actually say that.
In the morning I had to do laundry and called down to the desk.
“Is there a laundry service?”
“No, you have to do it yourself. Down on the 5th floor,” said the receptionist.
“This is barely a hotel, you know that? Do you want me to work the front desk for you too?”
I actually did say that, but only after I’d hung up.
Then I took the metro downtown. I had to figure out where to change lines, which was a little fun. I like the puzzle of a new city. I went to the base of the Twin Towers with the rest of the lemmings.
We all stood there, identical. Everyone, including me, following the same programming to get the same picture. I saw myself in the glass panes of the lobby door. Sweaty polo shirt plastered crooked on my torso, sunglasses on and camera held up just like every other dope. I got my dumb little picture and then beat it and got on a random bus.
From the bus I saw a white girl across the road, alone, standing next to a banner with Malaysia’s elected king on it, taking a picture of the towers. She was getting a good angle on them. She was going to have a better picture than everyone else that day. My kind of girl.
The bus hummed through a roundabout and then exited, shooting off into the city like a rogue comet. When I looked back, I’d lost her.
Then it was dark. I was eating alone in the market and it started raining so they consolidated everyone under the umbrellas and put a British guy at my table. He was ten years older than me and looked precisely like John Oliver, which I did not bring up because I hate being unoriginal and I’m sure he hears that a lot.
He said he was the head of the English department for an international school.
“They put me up in a six-star hotel for free,” he said. “And I save $5,000 a month.”
I flashed back to unregistering my fredcolton.com domain name because I can’t afford the $27 annual fee.
I lied and said, “Yeah man, I’m doing pretty well too.”
Maybe we were both lying to each other? I hope so.
We split a big bottle of beer. We spoke of women. He’s doing about as well as I am. In that we both do so well that we don’t enjoy it anymore — but if we didn’t have women at all, we’d hate that too. And if we just had one woman for the rest of our lives, that would be even worse.
The moral of the story, I realized halfway to the bottom of my glass, is that everything sucks.
The sky sealed back up and the rain stopped and we parted ways. I was pretty annoyed that he hadn’t offered me a job.
So I went to a pub where there was cricket playing on the flatscreens. The owner sat down at my table on the sidewalk. He was an Irishman because of course he was, this was a pub. He was huge, old, no hair, all belly.
“I know the general of the Thai Army,” he told me. “I met him when he came here.”
I don’t what it is about my face that makes people say things like this, but this happens a lot. I have a listener face. I hate it. This must be another curse.
“In Bangkok we have parties,” the Irishman said. “They pick me up in a limo on the tarmac and off we go. You can have anything you want. Drugs and girls.”
“Heh!” I said, because I didn’t know what other sound to make.
I ordered a Guinness, thinking he’d say it was on the house. But he made me pay.
“Sometimes the parties are out on the islands,” he said. “The officers bring death row prisoners out there with them. Do you know why?”
He was smiling hard. I was drinking hard. The man was straight out of the underworld.
“The generals kill them! They’ll have the prisoners run across the marshes and they’ll take turns shooting after them. These guys were going to die anyway.”
“Oh man,” I said.
Then there was a girl standing at our table. “Which team do you like?” she asked. She was talking about the cricket on TV.
“I don’t watch cricket,” I said.
She was either Indian or Pakistani. Young, and perfect English.
The pub owner gave me a hoo boy! little eyebrow raise and gave the girl his seat. I saw deep joy in his eyes. He was rooting for me. He was remembering what it was like to be a young person — and still resemble a human being — and to talk to a woman who wasn’t a sex slave.
So there we were. The ogre across from me had been swapped out for a young doll. She turned out to be Indian, which meant that the girl from the first sentence of this story now kind of had something to do with it after all.
This particular girl was 22 and an exchange student. From the east coast of India, which apparently means the same thing in India as it does in America (money). Rich dad who had divorced her mom for a younger one.
She told me she was hitting up the whole street and making friends with the bar owners so they would give her free drinks. I didn’t get free drinks, even in exchange for listening to tales of rape and murder, but she got free drinks simply for being 22 and female.
“Does that always work for you?” I asked. “Just walking into a place and getting drinks?”
She had glasses and a long white patterned shirt, a kind of shirt which I’m sure has an Indian name, and tight blue pants. She definitely had curves.
“What do you do when you’re not drinking on the streets?” I asked.
“I do standup,” she said.
“How do you deal with bombing?” I asked.
“I don’t bomb anymore.”
I was starting to think this night wasn’t real. She had fallen out of the sky right next to my table. If this thing with this girl went well tonight then my curse would continue, and I was going to have to stay single for another ten years or something, because this night would end up being further encouragement for staying single to meet more girls.
There was soon more beer and we got on to sex talk pretty fast.
“What’s your top score?” she asked.
I thought that was a cute way to put it.
“On Super Mario Brothers?” I asked.
“You know what I mean.”
“One hundred,” I said. “Both with women, and Super Mario Brothers. I can’t get past the shrooms in the game.”
“Mine is seven,” she said.
“Oh my God, that’s so many. That’s the most I’ve ever heard.”
I’m not witty. I’m already tall and handsome; no one gets a third superpower on top of those two. But I’m good with basic irony.
“Let’s go to another place,” I said.
If she follows, you’re good.
We walked over to the next bar. I was wired, alive, in the hunt. There was that feeling that it could fall apart at any second. That uncertainty is better than the connection.
We sat and then of course we were kissing.
I moved my mouth to her ear. “Let’s go,” I said.
“No,” she said.
All right. That’s it – you lost, I thought.
At least in that instant I got the inspiration to write this piece. I could write about not getting laid and then intersperse it with the horrifying stories the Irishman told me. Talk about the Malaysian skyscrapers as well and god damn, you’ve got yourself a blog post, son.
But for now — you lost, man. Go home.
“I don’t have data on my phone,” I said. “Can you get an Uber for me?”
We went out to the street. Stood on the corner. When the Uber came I opened the door, pivoted, and fired the Hail Mary pass.
The ball was in the air. She paused for a hundred years, and then another hundred, and then said, “OK, but you’re not getting lucky.”
I was getting lucky.
We were in my room. This was the entire reason to get a hotel. The logistics. You can’t get laid in a hostel.
“I’m glad you’re here,” I said. “Now we can watch Malaysian TV.”
I turned on a soap opera and she groaned and kicked a pillow at me.
“OK, pillow fight it is,” I told her.
More kissing. When she took my shirt off I put one hand in her underwear. She was ungroomed, like the 80s, and like every decade before the 80s I guess.
She nodded down at herself. “I wasn’t ready for anything like this tonight,” she said.
“Me either,” I lied, and put her thighs around my head like earmuffs.
A minute later she said, “Do you have a condom?”
“No. I didn’t expect anything like this to happen,” I lied again.
“Go get some downstairs.”
There was a 7-11 right nearby. The guys in the lobby watched me go across the parking lot and come out with my hands in my pockets. They knew. They gave me huge breathless grins when I came back in. They probably saw this ritual all the time.
On my way back up to the room I was drifting slow, taking my time, leaving her space to bail if she wanted.
I unlocked the door. She was still naked under the sheets.
“I’ve never slept with a guy on the first night,” she said.
“I hear most guys are disappointing the first night. Myself included.”
“I’m going to talk about this in my standup,” she said.
I wondered what jokes, what angles she’d seen tonight that I hadn’t.
“And I’ll write about you,” I told her, and crawled onto the bed.
She left and I set two alarms and ordered a wake-up call and was surprised when the front desk said they’d do it. I had expected them to say that in this hotel, I had to call and wake myself up.
It was critical that I woke up on time. If I missed my flight I would have no money to re-book. I would be literally be homeless in Malaysia. Hot dread was in my veins as I slept.
The Uber driver took a while getting me to the airport. It was 50km away and he snuffled along in the slow lane the whole time. It was like the car was trapped in a dream. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t make it. I thought about being a white beggar at the base of the Twin Towers. That car ride was the closest thing to pure terror that a safe Western prince like me can experience.
But I made it. I got on some café wi-fi and saw my photo of the Twin Towers was killing it on Facebook. It made me happy for 30 seconds. And then everything sucked again.
I boarded and the plane took off.
“Please crash,” I thought.