Songs Bangkok Taught Us, or, Hookers, Crystal Meth & Justin Bieber

The nightclub, open all night, is where johns who haven't managed to score with a prostitute in any of the bars, brothels or strip clubs go to hook up with hookers who haven't managed to score a john in any of the bars, brothels or strip clubs. The brand new glass, steel and plastic interior, complemented with flashy neon, black light, lasers and strobe, give the impression you've just stepped into a nu-R&B music video. Except the place is tiny—a fact concealed not only by disorienting lighting, but by the distraction of eyeing so many beautiful women in one place, all swaying for attention, about as arrhythmically as the Western clientele of gawping, awkward men who were obviously never the centre of any party or else we wouldn't be here (and in any case you can tell just from the way we move)…

Ah, but you think the girls are beautiful, until the strobe—which against all sound neurological advice flashes continuously, without pause—is cranked up to coincide with one of those near-climactic, trademark techno DJ bursts of beats signalling an imminent change in the music. The strobe begins to flash so rapidly it defeats itself, the flickering near invisible as if the house lights had just been turned on and for the first time you properly see the morning-after face of the woman with the flawless body, in all its winking, grinning, half-toothless, crooked and pockmarked glory.

This revelation is soon forgotten as you turn around and a girl grinding to the beat raises her already minimal mini-skirt to flash you her clean shaven slit in a come-hither pattern of slow, suggestive thrusts, her hips rotating as she lowers her curves to hover over the dirty dance floor, practically sweeping it with her clean and taught Lolita skin, and you catch yourself thinking, «What's in a face, anyway?»

There are screens on the walls and music is always accompanied by its video clip, so the DJ is obliged to play singles. The DJs in this town all play the same songs. It's a crash course in more or less current hits, and you end up hearing—perhaps for the first time—the squeaky clean voice of teen idol Justin Bieber, his adorably childlike face adorning the wall. All of a sudden the hookers go weak at the knees, squealing, giggling. Finally, it's their turn to fancy a minor.

The room—and the club can best be described as a room—has a typical group of young, male upstarts travelling together in a group on their first venture to the other side of the world, as well as older hooligans and businessmen and nerds and perverts and hopeful writers and even an old age pensioner—this one geezer of about 70, waving his arms in the air to hip-hop beats and sidling up to a 20-something Thai girl who can't help but smile at his indomitable zest for life. It's an unlikely place for the face and sentiments of young Justin, whose squeaky clean sneakers are far too neat for this floor.

But you haven't really experienced Justin Bieber until you've had a head full of ice in a room full of hookers and johns, your eyes and mind dazzled and confused by epilepsy-inducing lights and lasers, a girl on the other side of the room trying to feign one of those «shared moments» by giving you a cracked look of desire, all serenaded by the machinery behind a sexless baby face from Stratford, Canada whose balls dropped only last week, singing, «I'll buy you anything / I'll buy you any ring / 'Cause I'm in pieces / Baby fix me / And just shake me till you wake me from this bad dream / I'm going down, down, down, down…»

And when the spectacle that is a discotheque at the heart of a Bangkok Red Light District has sunk in, you notice the girls in the periphery. Girls just standing there by the wall, immovably, alone and never in groups, not even talking. They're not wallflowers. They're waiting, scanning, planning, working (always working), the look on their faces the same as anybody's who'd rather be elsewhere, doing something else.

Whatever semblance of fun there is in this room comes courtesy of the discipline and manic contrivance of those pay-to-play ladies trying to make the best of it out there on the dance floor, and of the men telling themselves that this is the life! They're not convincing anybody, least of all themselves. Yet still they try, their awkward dancing and forced smiles fading with their level of drunkenness until eventually the unwanted men's faces are unmasked, revealing bitter and menacing, primal looks, fixed on you—as if there were such a thing as a rival in a place where everything may be bought.

It's then that the most perverse song ever recorded comes on—that happy-go-suicidal radio anthem familiar from the insides of taxis worldwide: «Damn all these beautiful girls / They only wanna do your dirt / They'll have you suicidal, suicidal…» You decide against getting another drink and start thinking about running along home, meth dick between your legs, to grind in your jaws all those thoughts, fragmenting as reason disintegrates. Sleep approaches in the slowest of motions; the nervous system is numb, but the eyes flit uncontrollably behind their lids until consciousness, some ten hours later, finally releases its grip, too spent to produce dreams of Justin Bieber and suicide…

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