Let’s meet at Terminal 21 at 6:00pm, her text message had read. We can grab something to eat and head to my friend’s place from there.
By the time we finished eating, it was already dark. I forgot how quickly the night swallows the daylight here.
Just beyond the din of the Sukhumvit thoroughfare, the spicy night air smelled of sun-warmed fruit and oil-spitting frying pans. We meandered down the angel city’s winding side streets together until we finally reached a coral pink apartment building nestled into the middle of a palm-treed residential block.
We let ourselves in and headed up. When the elevator slid open on the 14th floor, we were greeted by a heap of shoes hiding the welcome mat. I slipped off my standard issue street-stall Havaina flip-flops, adding them to the pile, while my new friend knocked on the dark wooden door. We guessed that the cocktail of voices being mixed just beyond the door had drowned out her soft rapping, so we didn’t wait for anyone to answer before walking in.
The apartment was much bigger than I would have guessed. Not that I had seen the inside of many Thai apartments up to that point. But for some reason, I had just assumed that they would be more cramped. This contrarily expansive open space was ornamented with carved wooden accents, and there was an impressively full bar set up in the corner. That was where we found our host, leaning against the bar top with a glass of wine in hand.
“You made it!” he said, walking over to greet us. “Welcome!” He kissed my friend’s cheeks and turned to me. “And who is this?” he inquired. He kissed my cheeks one at a time in the same European fashion before I could say anything. I would eventually come to learn that he was French.
“Christine. She’s new in town,” my friend said to him. "Ally, this is Gabriel, our host for the evening."
Gabriel smiled and gave a showy little bow.
“Please, guys. Help yourself to a drink,” he said jovially. “We have basically anything you could want.”
He left us to greet the next guests arriving behind us, and we followed his directive without hesitation.
“Alright, guys!” Gabriel's voice carried without difficulty over the sea of music and conversation. “We should probably head off. Kandy will not be pleased if we’re unfashionably late.”
It was immediately apparent that we would need more than one cab to get the whole crew there.
I had hit it off with a bubbly blonde girl who had arrived shortly after me. Alexa. She came bouncing out of the kitchen upon hearing Gabriel's announcement.
“Have you ever been on a moto-taxi?” she asked me, stroking my arm in an affectionately friendly manner.
“Um, I don’t know?” I said hesitantly.
“The motorcycle taxi!” she squealed. “Oh my god, you have to do it. It’s so much fun. You and me, we’ll take one and meet the rest of them there.”
She ran over to tell our host not to include us in his count for the cabs.
“Let’s go!” she said, taking me by the hand and leading me out the door.
Bangkok’s hot breath licked at my face as my motorcycle driver jerked and weaved through the mess of tuktuks and honking cars stuck in gridlock.
I peered past the jawline of my fearless pilot, beyond the sea of glowing-red brake lights and vibrating exhaust pipes, towards the clusters of sparkling towers standing proud in any given direction. Something about the functional chaos of that sprawling city never failed to put my heart at ease.
Looking to my left, I saw Alexa, arms and hips clutched loosely around her chauffeur, long golden hair flapping in the breeze. She looked over at the same time, caught my eye in her pearly blues, and smiled back at me.
I don’t know what I expected when they told me that we were going to a launch party for a Spanish magazine in Bangkok. What could I possibly expect based on that description, really? But when we arrived at the venue, frankly, I was impressed.
When we disembarked from our respective motorcycles, the front doors of a beautiful, late 19th-century Colonial-style building were already spread wide open, beckoning us inside. We walked up the velvety carpet, which led to a small staircase where two impressive palm trees stood guard on either side.
“You beat us!” Gabriel called at us from behind as they crawled out of their bright pink cab. “How was the moto-taxi?” He gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze as he asked.
“Way more fun than your cab, I’m sure,” I said with a grin.
Gabriel smiled back and led us all through the lobby. When we emerged at the other end of the short hallway, I tried not to let my face betray my awe. I found myself in a neo-colonial courtyard bordered with palm trees and filled with Bangkok’s budding social media elite. The green pool in the middle sparkled around the dim lights both above and below the water’s edge, making up for the lack of starshine in the polluted night sky overhead.
Where am I?
As it turned out, I chose the right crowd to run with. Alexa and Gabriel were kissing cheeks and shaking hands like it was their job, and it wasn’t long before I had been introduced to most of the room. VIP by proxy.
Kandy, a boisterous young Thai lady, was the lady of the hour. Selfies were non-negotiable and an empty drink was akin to blasphemy.
She reaffirmed what I already knew. “You definitely picked the right friends for a good time tonight,” she said with a wink when she handed me another glass of champagne.
Body heat is always heavier in the dark.
My throat was ruthlessly assaulted by the nightclub’s fog machine; doubling my dose of gin and soda seemed like the most intuitive course of action at the time.
Things had escalated significantly since we left the more chic magazine launch. As our inhibitions fell by the wayside, we traded in classy mingling and champagne flutes for sweaty body swaying and glowstick necklaces. I noticed pills and powders making their rounds in the misty shadows. Part of me really wanted to join in, but the other part was too afraid to forthrightly invite myself to their chemical party. Especially in a foreign country where the law might kill you if the drugs don't do it first.
Alexa was living her best life, twirling like a flower child on acid. Gabriel kept disappearing to not-so-subtly sneak key bumps in the bathroom or behind the DJ booth. My head was buzzing just thinking about the variety of spirits I had consumed since we had started the night at his place only hours prior.
Gabriel and I stumbled into the each other on the dance floor as I was innocently making my own way to the bathroom.
Placing his warm hand on my lower back, he leaned in close and yelled into my ear. “How are you doing?” I still struggled to make out all the words over the whomp-whomp of the nearby subwoofer. “Are you having fun?”
“Yeah!” I shouted back. “Thanks for letting me tag along!”
It wasn’t until then that I realized I had absolutely no idea when I had parted ways with the girl who had invited me out in the first place.
“No problem,” he said, smiling - cherub lips, but hellfire eyes. “Hey, uh… I was going to ask you earlier, but I got the impression that you are a good girl.”
“Good girl?” I laughed and shook my head. “You really shouldn’t be so quick to judge.”
Gabriel raised his eyebrows at me. “Oh, really?”
I stared at him, waiting for him to get to the point.
“Well, now that you’ve made it this far with us, I have changed my mind.” He pulled me in a little closer. His breath was hot on my ear, but oddly odorless. “Do you want in on this?”
He glanced down, gesturing subtly to a little bag of powder in the palm of his hand.
“Uh, yeah, I mean…”
Up until then, I had never really made a habit of indulging in those kinds of party favors, nor did I understand the unspoken etiquette that goes along with them.
“If you’re offering.”
“Yeah, yeah, of course!” he said. His mischievous eyes lit up as he scanned the room. “Come with me.”
He took me by the hand, pulling me through to the centre of the black mass of sweat and flesh, where we finally found our way to Alexa - our resident maenad leading a hedonist dance ritual. While I watched him lean in and kiss a whisper-yell into her ear, I planted both of my feet in place for the first time in hours, absorbing the bass beats through my soles. Blondie smiled sweetly and took my hand from him.
“Come,” she said. “Let’s go powder our noses.”
We locked ourselves in the small bathroom. It was even darker in there than it was on the dance floor, but I swear she was glowing. And I wasn’t even high yet.
While I made use of the facilities, she scooped up some of the powder onto the end of Gabriel's key. “You know how to do this, yeah?” she said, offering it to me.
“I’m sure I can figure it out,” I said sheepishly.
“Oh! No problem,” she said. Mother Goose and the Cheshire Cat rolled into one; her warm latin accent made every word purr. “I’ll show you.”
One sharp inhalation through her nostril, and it was gone. She looked in the mirror and dusted off any stray particles. With the flushing toilet serving as her cue, she twirled and passed the tools to me.
As I mimicked her technique, she strode over to the toilet. When she pulled down her dark jeans, I involuntarily sneaked a peek at her as she took a seat. Her skin was caramel smooth from the waist down.
The icing sugar dust was not as harsh as I had expected it to be. Hot without burning.
Our eyes met in the mirror as I checked my face for anything that might be amiss. I don’t know what came over me. “God, you are super pretty,” I blurted out.
What a weird thing to say to someone while they’re midstream...
“Oh, no!” she said. I had embarrassed her. “I definitely need to work out more and my skin is a mess right now.” I peeked again when she stood up to flush.
I laughed and my eyes rolled spontaneously. “Oh, come on. I’m being serious. You’re fucking gorgeous.”
I sounded like every other douchebag in the club trying to get laid.
Maybe I am just another douchebag in the club trying to get laid.
I pouted at this realization. Our eyes locked in the mirror as she washed her hands in front of me. She fluffed her hair and turned to face me. “You’re sweet. Thank you.”
When I handed the baggy back to her, she slowly stroked her fingers over my hand. Her neon eyes flashed hot when I reached up and caressed her cheek.
Cautiously, we leaned in towards each other. She smelled like coconut and cigarettes. But as soon as our soft, pink lips met in the middle, we were rudely interrupted by an aggressive bang on the door.
Suddenly aware of the scene, we both rediscovered our modesty, and she dug into another quick mini-hit.
Then her dilated pixie eyes locked in on my mouth, she stroked my bottom lip with the pad of her fairy-dusted thumb...
And promptly pulled her teasing hand away.
She shoved the little plastic bag into her back pocket, checked her face again, fluffed her hair once more, and opened the door for me as if nothing had happened.