The girl with the chipmunk smile was leaning forward at me from across the table. Her hands rested on her cheeks, elbows to the worn table as I ate Pad Thai to curb the alcohol. I don’t really remember the way we met, but this was my first memory of us: in a makeshift restaurant somewhere on Khao San Road.

She had wavy black hair with blonde highlights at the roots. It parted at the center of her forehead and fell behind her ears to her shoulders, right next to her silver hoop earrings. Her high-waisted jeans filled in around the hips and were folded just above the tongue of her white Converse. As I looked down to finish eating, I thought she looked exactly like the kind of girl who fucks black guys.

Khao San Road was a home base for tourists to Thailand on holiday, but on any night there, Thais outnumbered the white foreigners; farang, as they called us. The Thai girls who frequented usually had a thing for us, but they always said they came instead for the cheap beer. At night, the marquees leaned into the center of the road and lit up as garish markers for hostels and bars. Street vendors harassed farang and other tourists for trinkets or bracelets with lewd text, scorpions on a stick, and the infamous ping-pong shows.

There were a few freelancing whores on the street who would come up to you if you were without a girl, much unlike the ladyboys who would grab your hand with or without one. The rest were African whores with gigantic, bulging asses with dimpled cottage cheese skin. Occasionally, you could see washed out middle-aged Thai street meat. There was one whom I saw every time I came. The ladies of the night gave the road its charm.

The bars, on the other hand, were all next to each other and blasted the same Western pop music; it wasn’t uncommon to hear three or four songs at the same time. Every night, there was a crowd, and so most of the bars put out extra rickety wooden tables. Our friends were sitting at some of these.

We left the plates and waded through the crowd back to our table on the other side of the street. My friend Price was there at a new table now talking with two Israeli girls. I went to sit with them instead of following her and I could feel the blaze of her stare on the back of my head while Price introduced me to the others. He was a wild type of man from a working-class background in northern England. He was not afraid to say and do outrageous things.

One time on a night out talking to some Thai girls, he reached up right between one of their skirts and grabbed her. She and her wide-eyed friends didn’t know what to do after he did it. Their mouths kept opening with no words and then their eyes looked angry again, but they didn’t say anything. They just stood there defiantly. The silence was long and eventually he began bowing his head and apologizing. We left and he said sorry to me, but then added spitefully that it probably wasn’t the first time someone did that to her. When he did things like that, it grew the unsaid distance between us.

He had all kinds of stories where he was getting into trouble. There was the one where he got his face broken in a fight and had to have facial reconstruction surgery afterwards. Or the one where he stabbed a man right in the chest for following him and his girlfriend around. That night, the guy’s friends searched for Price all over town, found him, and then beat him senseless until he woke up on the street in a pool of his own blood. He was always telling stories like this, and he always told them as if people picked on him because they thought he was some kind of nerd, yet he was one of the toughest people I had ever met. I guess where he was from there were a lot of guys “hard as nails,” as he was fond of saying.

He never told a happy story the whole time I knew him, but he had a dark humor that would have me at times hung over with laughter. One time, we spent nearly half an hour laughing at news about English NHS doctors sewing on limbs the wrong way, or NHS surgeons being caught using a “rusty hacksaw” in an operation because they realized they didn’t have the correct equipment for a medical procedure. He retained a keen sense for the absurdity of life, which he seemed to be able to stomach in good taste. When he did speak, he had a thick accent, almost Irish; as an American, sometimes I couldn’t understand him. But he was above all a thinker, and we could talk for hours about literature and politics.

And there we were sucking balloons with the Jew girls and Price was going on about how he supported Palestine. They didn’t take him seriously.

Meanwhile, Tanya was at the table adjacent to ours slumped over, her hair over her beer and craning her head my way from time to time. I knew she could see me, so I went over to her when the conversation tired. She stood up and we walked apart from our friends.

“You like her?” she pointed to one of the Israelis. “I know already. You can talk and go with her,” she smiled.

“I don’t know. Depends.”

My favorite thing about her was that she wasn’t overly sensitive, like the rest of the NPC Thai girls. Sometimes, girls will stop talking to you just for saying something like “hey loser” in a text.

It was getting late. She said she was going home that way, and I said I was going home this way and pointed to the other direction. She told me she would walk me to my side and then go her own way. And so we walked casually together pretending we believed our plan. She hailed me a taxi, and as the driver approached, I asked her if she was coming with me.

“What time do you have work tomorrow?” I asked.

“8 o’clock,” she replied, then slumped back against the black leather seat of the cab and leaned her head into the window glass.

We came to mine, giggling all the way up to the 13th floor, where I took a shower and she lay on my bed with the blanket over her face.

I came out in my towel dizzy still and climbed up to meet her lips. We would begin using tongue, and as it started to heat up, she would stop and just look at me. When she looked at me, there was no expression on her face in the dark. We did this a few more times, and with a final sigh, I gave up and passed out.

***

In the late morning glare, there she was again, still awake in my bed and rolling around sleepless, flailing her arms and being annoying as fuck. It was half past eight and she was late for work. With my eyes closed, I lay restless, too. I then thought what a waste it would be if I didn’t finish what I had started, so I hit her in the face with a pillow, and while she yelled stop, I got on top of her. I took it off of her face and I laid on the first kiss. Her lips didn’t move.

I became cross and more aggressive, and seeing no withdrawing from her, realized I’d have to do the whole thing myself. I took her clothes off single-handedly, except for her bra, which she got up and removed as if a matter of inevitability; slowly, normally, as she probably does before bed on a Tuesday. With all her clothes off, she asked me if I had a condom, and as I put it on while balancing above her, she just lay and glanced around my ceiling, looking everywhere except my eyes. I thought this was a half-step above rape.

As I put it in, her attitude didn’t change, and as we moved with the bed, we didn’t look at each other. For the next five or so minutes, there was soft whimpering across the pale and quiet brightness of morning seeping through the edges of my curtains. When it was finished, she wiped herself and lay there for a few more minutes out of courtesy, and I was strewn across my bed in strange relaxation.

“I will go now,” she said.

“Okay.”

She closed the door and left.

***

I next saw her on the road two days later while out with my other friend Dylan. She was with a haggard woman a year or four over 30. The woman had a gluttonous stare and a body shaped by the excesses of alcohol. There was a blue circular tattoo on the back of her right shoulder and she always wore dresses that showed it. As Dylan and I were entering Khao San Road, we saw the two of them walking in our direction. Tanya made no eye contact with me when we stopped for each other. The dinosaur woman took an interest in Dylan right away, and therefore he in her, and soon the four of us were doing balloons at a nearby table. By proxy, we were together again and this was disagreeably etched into her face.

Dylan, like Price, was a thinker who also had a great sense of humor; however, it differed in that where Price’s verged on the absurd, Dylan’s was full of mirth, like a cheerful grandpa. He was from the Pacific Northwest and grew up in a stable family, and unlike our lot, he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. A lot of expats in Thailand had inner conflicts which could be glimpsed in this bundle of words or that, a somber facial expression, or an empty stare, but Dylan’s deviancy seemed to be of a different root.

He told me a story one time about how he had to introduce his ladyboy girlfriend to his parents when they came to visit him. They were real heartland American and everything. His father was an electrician who fixed power lines along the highway in the Midwest, drank Budweiser, and loved Bruce Springsteen. His brother was a pilot in the Air Force. Dylan had been dating her for a year and decided to introduce her to his parents without telling them she was he. He said they all got along well. When he told them the truth about it afterward, his mom said she would have never noticed. I’m not sure if his parents judged him for it—they seemed like the private type—but sometimes, to me, he would say that maybe he needed to acknowledge some things about himself. I thought he had slept with about as many traps as I had biological females. But I never saw him as gay or bisexual—even if he was, it wouldn’t have mattered—and anyway we were always chasing the girls together.

Tanya was across the table from me now, face down at her phone, looking at Facebook and listening to music with headphones dug in her ears. She wouldn’t even gloss me with an eye.

I began flicking her, smiling at her, giving her shit. When she finally cracked that chipmunk smile, her whole world opened up to me again like nothing had happened before. But when we walked to the edge of the road again together and hailed a taxi, it didn’t feel like success. The second time with a woman is never as good as the first; even if the sex is better, possibility is gone. You never get to see her naked for the first time again. I guess this was all part of our neophilia.

***

In that glare of morning again, I woke up to her talking to her friend loud in Thai. She was choking on her own laughter and making other related cultural noises.

OOOIIY

She climbed on the bed and pointed her phone at my crusted eyes. It was a photo on Dylan’s Instagram where he was dressed up as the Little Mermaid. Her and the friend he fucked were gossiping about it.

“He a ladyboy?” she chuckled.

“No.”

I lay between sleep and relaxation, neither of which I could reach, and she kept pacing at the edge of my room shouting through the phone.

“I have to go,” I raised my voice to her and got up out of my bed.

She rushed out the door quickly and without a word.

***

The next time I saw her there, I was with Price sitting on plastic stools near our favorite bar. We were in company with a fedora-wearing British lad with a Napoleon complex who was telling us he could find some real acid. I saw Tanya unexpectedly at a table or two over from us. She rushed towards me without saying anything, sat on my lap, and started making out with me in front of all my friends.

Naturally, I wanted to stay, but Price insisted I come with him to get the acid because he didn’t trust him and didn’t know what he was getting into. So I told her I would be back soon and walked with them to some Chinese hostel down the river that ran through Bangkok. I didn’t know it would take about 20 minutes by foot. When we got there, the lobby was dark and empty and the British guy took off his shirt and disappeared up the stairs for a few minutes and came back apologizing that the drug dealers were asleep and that he could probably get it tomorrow. He compensated us with a joint and we shot the shit with him and some other German guy still awake there. Tanya had been calling me to come back for over an hour now.

While I was walking back to her, she was still texting me, telling me to hurry. She even called me not long before I arrived. But when I got there, I found empty streets and her sordid, fat friend sitting outside on a table by herself doing balloons.

“Where is she?” I said.

The butch girl said nothing.

“Is she with another guy?” I pressed.

Silence.

“Sit down and wait for she here,” she said finally.

I left to go scan the road to see if I could find her somewhere, but I couldn’t.

***

I never thought I’d see her after she cucked me like that, but a couple weeks later, I met eyes with her while celebrating my friend’s birthday. We were with these two other girls at a table near our friends, one was grabbing my arm and kissing my cheeks, and my friend Dylan was trying to convince her we were gay so she would stop. It had also been said she was getting married next month.

Going out regularly and chasing girls with your friends is fun and all that, but you realize you’re probably never getting married. You see things from the other side. Women willing to cheat on their boyfriends, husbands, and even fiancés. It makes you harder in a way.

From here, I could see the two girls Dylan and I had pulled a couple weeks before, Tanya and the voracious woman. They were standing in the middle of the street. Tanya was looking at me jealous or amused and smoking while her friend went off with an Arab guy with a suitcase. I stood up and went to Tanya.

I stole a cigarette from her and checked out her crop top, which said “Bad Girls.”

I pointed to it. “Like you, huh?”

“Noooooooo,” she pleaded.

We went on this way for a half an hour without ever mentioning what had happened before.

“Where’s your friend?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Where your friend?” she said.

“I’m waiting for him here,” I lied.

I told her I was going to walk to the end of the street and she came with me. She got a taxi driver to take me home, but was reluctant to go with me. After verbal push and pull, she joined me and fell back on the leather headrest and leaned against the window.

“What time do you work?”

“8AM.”

When we got to the 13th floor, I expected the usual, which was still better than porn, but this time it wasn’t dead fish sex. She gave me a bruise on my neck so bad that I couldn’t meet girls that I was seeing for a week. Afterwards, in bed, I pretended to close my eyes and I could feel her staring up at me. Sometimes, I would open one eye and see that she was lost in thought at me and I never knew what it meant.

We woke up earlier this time. She was rubbing herself against my leg under the blue rays and put her head down under the blanket. I felt the warmth inside of her mouth.

I put on a rubber and we took our time with kisses as I entered her and put my lips and teeth to her chest. I turned her over on her back and fucked her from behind as she nearly pulled my sheet cover off, gathering the fabric between her fists. I swore this was the wettest she ever was and I came into her with birds chirping and the rising of the sun.

I wiped the sweat off of me and pulled out the condom, which I saw was blood red.

“Are you on your period?”

Her lip quivered.

“Nooooo. Period five day ago!”

“So then what’s this?”

She disappeared into the bathroom to clean herself up and I was left with a murder scene.

***

She texted me sweet things the following days, saying she hated when she saw me with other girls and other gay shit. It was romantic and unwarranted, as if she was living in a dream where I wasn’t, but all the same I played along as if life were a stage. I didn’t know why I always did this. Three days later, I noticed white discharge and I knew I would never see her again.