|Although this story is about a go go BOY, HIV doesn't discriminate between males and females|
[This the second of two parts about a friend of mine who was working the World's Oldest Profession in Bangkok. If you found this via a search Part 1 was yesterday. There are places where those with HIV can get the treatment they need to prolong their lives if they choose to make the effort, but the best course of action is prevention. If you play, be safe. If you can educate someone else as well, all the better.]
Tiger By The Tail - Conclusion
Pee had no idea of how much time he was out, but told me later that when he first regained consciousness he saw an almost blinding white brightness through his slightly-spread eyelashes - so bright he wondered if he was still alive or in heaven. He drifted under again briefly and was greeted again by the same bright light, although now it was joined by a pain.
He opened his eyes more and realized the light was sun pouring through the window onto him, seemingly made even brighter by the white sheet his face was pressed against. As he became more aware he could tell he was face down on the bed, and the pain was radiating from a point below his waist line in the area he usually called his "back door". He could tell something was very wrong, but the effects of whatever he'd been drugged with still had a blanket over his conscious thinking and he turned slowly to sit up, feeling the need to use the bathroom.
Then he saw the blood. There was blood and another bodily fluid he was no stranger to smeared around on the sheet where he'd been lying, and when he managed to stand up with the help of the nightstand he saw more where he'd been sitting. There was the sickly sweet smell of blood and the somewhat starch-like smell of semen.
He staggered off to the bathroom, leaned on the vanity counter and looked at himself in the mirror, his mind racing despite the after-effects of the drugs. Turning and looking over his shoulder he saw the mess was spread on his lower back, on his sides, on his buttocks and down his thighs. Not a lot, but a mess, nevertheless. He was still woozy so he sat on the toilet and realized for the first time since coming to that he was alone in the room.
He stepped into the shower and washed himself thoroughly, as though he could make it all go away by scrubbing himself well enough. He examined himself after drying off, and other than some bite marks on his shoulders and some scratching on his sides he had no cuts or other injuries, and the bleeding had stopped. There were no towels, and he walked out into the main room naked and wet, hands covering his genitals out of nothing other than habit. Although towels were strewn about the room they were all used and dirty in a manner we don't need to go into here. He finally pulled the top sheet off of the bed and wrapped it around himself before going over and closing the drapes.
The farang was completely gone. His small bag, clothes and personal items were all missing. Pee hadn't noticed when he'd first gotten up and gone into the bathroom, but he'd packed and taken off while Pee was still unconscious. Pee's clothes and small bag were still in the room, although not where he'd put them the night before. Someone had gone through them, and while his wallet, ID and money were still there his "regular" phone was gone. The spare was still zipped into the pocket inside the bag, though, and he called Dum, his co-worker from the club. Although Dum had been sound asleep he hurried to the hotel, met Pee and helped him back to his room, where he cried on Dum's shoulder; partly from the humiliation and shame and partly from the pain that sharply reminded him he'd been violently violated somehow - he just couldn't remember how.
The short version of the "what the hell happened" story is this: the farang had checked in just hours before offing Pee, using a credit card that had yet to be registered as stolen by the rightful owner. He'd paid the night clerk to look the other way, brought Pee back to his room, and then invited a number of others to join him for a party. The night clerk said there were at least six, and Pee was the party favor.
Pee - for a couple of reasons - couldn't make himself go back to work for a few weeks, but he called Tum back home, and after swearing him to secrecy he told him what had happened. Tum, naturally, was worried that Pee had been exposed to HIV, but Pee refused to even speak with him about the possibility. Pee had himself tested for STDs (he'd received a couple as parting gifts at the "party") and he stayed away from work as long as the doctor advised.
Subscribing to the "if it's my time to die, it's my time to die" line of thought Pee returned to work several weeks after he was raped. He had a photo he'd received from the farang over a year before and had copies of it printed and circulated among friends in other clubs, hoping someone might spot him, but that never happened. Anyone familiar with how things go in a club area know how lucky the guy was that he wasn't spotted.
Three months to the day of the rape Tum took the bus down to visit Pee, accompany him to get his HIV test and stay with him until his results came back.
Pee tested positive. Later it was determined to be a particularly difficult to treat sub-strain.
Even knowing it was a distinct possibility he'd be positive Pee was stunned numb, while Tum was inconsolable and cried on and off for the rest of that day. Pee wept some also, naturally, but he'd been steeling himself with the aforementioned fatalistic attitude learned at his father's knee years before, and his tears were more for Nee and his daughter. Tum also felt that this was an unalterable death sentence, even though I spoke at length with Pee about treatment. He took medications for a while, but had trouble tolerating them and finally just said "if it my time, it my time".
Despite being intelligent on so many other levels Pee believed this was beyond his control. He began going to the temple on a daily basis, meditating and praying for hours at a time. He ate well and still exercised, but he dropped his gym membership and began to decline offs. "I have enough money," he said one time on the phone "If I die my family will be good. They have a house, they have the farm, they have the animals and a lot of money in the bank" - and he was probably right.
"Yes, but they won't have you, Pee," I tried to explain one time. "Think of Nee and your daughter." He couldn't be swayed, and as I was feeling somewhat hypocritical for pushing him (I abhor how people all too often push their dogma on others) I backed off.
Pee's popularity declined with his looks and his health, and after he left his original club the places he worked became less and less desirable. Eventually he was only getting offers he knew were risky or dangerous to his health and the siren song of home finally won out. He packed up a few things from his rented room, gave away the rest to friends and called Dum. "I'm finished. See you in a few hours." Dum met him at the bus station. He told me later that he couldn't keep from crying at Pee's appearance when he climbed slowly down off of the bus.
From the bus station Pee returned to what he used to joke about as his "Farang Palace" - the house that multiple Jacks had built. Nee still wanted to marry him, and so a ceremony was arranged and they began what they both knew was to be a shorter than usual life together. Pee loved his daughter and happily took over as many of the daily duties as he was able to, just to spend the time with her - while his health continued to decline.
I asked Tum to please promise to send updates on Pee, and I told him if I could I'd make time to go see him when I was there this Spring. Tum promised he would, but since Pee was no longer seeing a doctor, taking any medication or accepting any help whatsoever there usually wasn't much to report, other than he wasn't doing well - which I could guess myself.
Two weeks ago while I was preparing a family party to celebrate several January birthdays my phone chirped to announce the arrival of a text message, and it was from Pee's phone. Being the eternal optimist I'd hoped it was some good news from him (sometimes he'd text a greeting for my birthday or other holidays), but it wasn't from him - it was from Tum.
Six words: "Pee die today. Email to me."
I stopped what I was doing and sent Tum a short email asking for a little more detail. He must have been right there to receive it because he replied within 15 minutes.
"Pee happy now," he began. "Now he in heaven and resting much. He sleeping three days before, no drink no eat. Nee and me stay him all. He stop breath today, now his spirit go to heaven. Pee want me send you something. What address you?" I sent back my mailing address, thanked Tum for letting me know and for being a good friend for Pee and went about my duties setting up the party, although my thoughts returned to Pee's death more than a few times throughout the day.
The next morning when I was doing my usual routine of candles, incense and trying to make peace with the universe I offered up a wish that his passing was peaceful and that his journey continued smoothly. As usual I added the hope that perhaps someday our paths cross again somehow.
Three days ago an envelope arrived from Thailand, and I saw it was from Tum. Inside was the photo from years back of Pee and I that my translator friend had taken. Our arms were still over each other's shoulders, and we were both still smiling. There was a piece of note paper folded in thirds over the photo. When I opened it up I could see writing too shaky to be Tum's, so I know Pee had written it. It said:
"Remember happy times.
From friend Nong Pee."
I'll look at that picture and remember him often.