A BIMONTHLY THOUGHT
With a day’s worth of time to waste before our bus left Bangkok under the blanket of night, we were left to wander about, ignoring the insistent invitations for rides from the tuk tuk taxis. We’d already seen the Indian tailors’ shop that one had brought us to against our will and had been left unimpressed by the selection and service—although the price had been more than accommodating.
After a brief but relatively expensive tour of Bangkok’s notorious snake farm, we found ourselves suddenly on the main drag of massage parlors. This area of the city also shares an intersection with the gay bar strip. My two traveling companions and I noted a sign for “Cock’s Bar” fixed aptly above the sign for “Ball’s Bar”.
As we strolled down the road, fully aware of the quantity of time we had to kill, the massage invitations began to wear on us. Pretty Thai girls—or convincing Thai boys—squealed giddily for us like American schoolgirls during the British invasion. Our vanity began to show from all the proclamations of “Handsome Man!”
I suppose we should let these women rub our bodies, was our conjoined thought. They seem so interested; we’d be doing them the favor by stripping down and getting our pasty western hides unknotted.
After shopping around for a suitable parlor, well priced and yet lacking that distinct seediness that warns of a gamble over your masseuse’s double x-chromosome, we settled on Lisa’s Massage Parlor. As it was the third Lisa’s we had encountered in Bangkok, we assumed it to be a chain, and thus would meet all qualifications. This was an odd moment of American nationalism during our vacation, akin only to our prior refusal to eat breakfast at anywhere other than Denny’s in Tokyo.
Crossing the busy street to our parlor of choice took a minute, providing time for the shocked staff at Lisa’s to absorb the approach of customers. They didn’t appear used to their verbal invites baring fruit. As they merrily filed out to wave us inside an unknowing tuk-tuk driver approached.
“Massage?” He inquired.
Hands on our hips, we smiled and shook our heads. As we were already heading for one, the man would be denied his delivery commission.
Stepping up the stairs and into Lisa’s, we felt the firm guidance of lady hands on our backs. It was clear both that their hands were trained in the art of massage as well as that we weren’t getting away until we had gotten our money’s worth.
They sat us down at the front desk where one woman, moderately trained in the English language, outlined their menu of services. At first we opted for their cheapest deal. This was met by a chorus of boos from the gallery of masseuses that spied from their break lounge of pillows nearby. The woman explained that for a mere two hundred Baht more—a pittance for us mighty westerners—we got an oil massage in a private room that included a shower. As we were damp with sweat from wandering through the summer balm of Bangkok, the shower seemed like a wise investment.
With an agreement reached and all sides contented, we were asked to take off our shoes. After slipping on the provided sandals we looked up to see a line of three smiling at us with apparent excitement. They led us upstairs with that familiar firm guidance. We weren’t sure who was for whom until halfway up when one would strike up conversation with a particular one of us. We began to couple off accordingly. Luke was led away first, down the hall. He gabbed interminably to the young woman despite her obvious lack of understanding as he disappeared behind a sliding door. Shortly thereafter, I was pointed into my room, leaving Dave alone in the hall—He later informed me of a panic he felt upon discovering himself alone with his pretty Thai miss.
In the soft candlelight of my private room I was able to discern that my masseuse was clearly the elder of the bunch. While teenage girls, blushing and inexperienced, were assuredly rubbing down my companions, I was provided the veteran. Pretty, but clearly a hardened woman, she prepared the room with an efficient routine of small talk and direction. Her English was adept, and though I can’t be certain, she might also had been the woman negotiating deals with us earlier. My inability to discern between two Asian women filled me with politically correct shame.
She pointed to the shower, handed me a towel and left the room. I took a moment to acclimate to my surroundings before undressing. I kept the sandals on as I climbed into the shower, supposedly to maintain a reassuring layer of separation. My mother had warned of foot fungus in public showers when I first went off to college. The advice seemed applicable in this setting as well.
Not a minute into my shower, the veteran returned, much to my surprise. The curtain was only half the length of the tub, which troubled me greatly. I attempted clumsily to keep the partition between us as she puttered about, placing and lighting various things. I turned the shower off in an attempt to signal a desire for privacy. She responded by ripping the curtain open and handing me a towel. If she had seen my genitals at this moment—highly likely—it registered not in the color of her cheeks. Her professionalism soothed me and I took the towel.
As I stepped out of the shower, while tightly wrapping the towel, the veteran scrunched her faced in annoyance and pointed to my feet and their now wet sandals.
“Off!” She demanded, and I responded in an apologetic rush. I was humiliated for appearing apprehensive regarding the cleanliness of their establishment, even if this was certainly the case.
She smiled off the misunderstanding with savvy business acumen and nudged my toweled body to her table.
Lying down, I struggled to maintain my cover of white cloth. All for naught it was as she whipped the towel off, baring my pale behind to the Gods, and moved it down to cover my legs. Tense and rigid as a board, I wondered what she thought to hide down there. The point of the towel appeared moot.
Though I had my suspicions concerning what to expect, I wasn’t certain of what a massage in Bangkok denoted until the actual rub down began. The veteran’s oiled hands pressed down my back, then further still. Into the trenches she leapt with a confidence reserved for a master of one’s trade. Every graze of my back cavity got my teeth clenching. And then she went further still, circling the globe to my taint and beyond. This continued into routine and I settled into a state of complacent awareness.
While in Rome, I thought, do as the Romans do. While in Bangkok, expect your junk to be touched.
So my prostate exam progressed and I maintained my calm. Never a moment of arousal arose, for which I felt deeply thankful. The marked professionalism went a long way toward keeping it innocent.
I eventually began to enjoy the feeling of my muscles being massaged, and relaxed completely as she turned attention to rubbing my limbs. Soon enough, she held the towel an inch above and asked me to turn over. I performed a quick flip and miraculously maintained the cover.
On my front, much in the manner of my back, she went to work. Though I was now prepared for the scrotal grazing, I couldn’t bring myself to open my eyes. It was assumed that eye contact, a moment of recollection, would bring my much-labored tranquility to a crashing demise. She requested the occasional status reports, which I responded to with brief two-word encouragements.
“Very nice, thank you,” was a reliable response.
Settled in and drifting toward sleep, I was suddenly pulled back to my toes with a tap-tap-tap on the shaft of my penis.
Special massage?” The pro inquired.
I didn’t wait to hear the price before shaking my head and laughing off the offer. She pressed the matter.
“Friends doing it,” she whispered in my ear. This was a crafty maneuver and gave me pause. My mind somehow refused to acknowledge that she had no way of knowing this. All I could think about was being left out of a crazy travel story because I wimped out. She might as well have done a chicken dance right there in that candlelit room.
My mother’s words once again came to mind. In fact, a staple of parental advice in my mother’s voice came to mind—I’m not even sure if she has ever actually said it—“If your friends jump off a bridge, that doesn’t mean you should jump too.” Rephrasing but preserving the lesson, “If your friends get rubbed off in Bangkok, etcetera, etcetera.”
So I held firm—not literally—in my convictions and the massage continued as it had been. The pro tested my will gently twice more, though I’m certain she knew my mind was made up. It ended happily enough with a pat on the back, and she left me again to shower.
I was very relaxed under the running water, finally able to take note of the fine job she had done. She returned at the tail end of it, but I wasn’t squeamish about the nudity this time around. The job was done, in my mind, and we were now as chummy as old friends.
She chuckled and made the jerk-off motion as she re-entered, implying that at least one companion had gone through with it. I second guessed my decision but smiled anyhow and said “girlfriend” in defense.
“Good boy,” she complimented, and I was appeased. I smiled and appreciated her specialized skill set, certain that she would have provided a damn fine hand job.
Leaving the room, I could hear Luke’s muffled voice accompanied by girlish giggles down the hall. I ignored my suspicions concerning why he was first in and last finished, and continued downstairs.
I found Dave seated on the first floor and knew instantly. He looked not like a man following a soothing massage, appearing rather tense and deeply contemplative instead. My presence took several seconds to register. He looked to me for companionship, but I could only chuckle as I denied him that satisfaction. As we waited for our friend in the Thai massage parlor and handjob freelancer, Dave admitted feeling duped. Apparently, she had assured him that we were also getting the special. I comforted him by pointing out that Luke was still upstairs, and that perhaps he had fallen for the same ruse. As if on cue, our third companion descended, still wise cracking to his girl despite her obvious lack of understanding.
Dropping down next to us, he exclaimed, “She did not understand why I didn’t want a handjob!” Dave’s face dropped a little.
Before leaving, we all tipped our ladies. Dave was shy and avoided eye contact as he handed his masseuse a hundred Baht (ten dollars). She giggled blushingly in response, as did Luke’s. Only my pro, my veteran, appeared politely unfazed by the unrequired service charge.
We continued through Bangkok, an hour shaved from the day. Dave received an onslaught of questions concerning specifics, along with plentiful praise that seemed to provide a little hop to his step. We were amazed specifically at how he’d haggled the price down to that of a ticket to the snake farm. A professional jerk for that price certainly felt like a much better deal.
It seemed appropriate, the outcome of our time in a Bangkok massage parlor. Someone needed to get the “special” if we were going to get the full experience, and since Dave was the only bachelor among us, he was the chosen one. He relaxed and came to terms with his decision as Lisa’s shrank behind us, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel a pang of envy for my soft-spoken, Midwestern, and otherwise wholesome friend.
He got rubbed off in Bangkok. No one will be able to take that away from him.
All he asked was that we never tell anyone. We promised we never would.