With a defiant scowl, the dentist turned his back on the woman, deaf to her piteous pleas for mercy. He took one last look at her before slamming his office door and leaving her alone and helpless in the steaming tropical town. “If you want to see your teeth again,” he snarled, “bring the money, in cash, here.” Meanwhile, far away back in civilization, the woman’s dissolute husband was encountering a trauma of his own after pint seven in the Old China Hand, the dingy Wanchai refuge for the lowest and vilest members of Hong Kong’s most untouchable castes. An enormous black prostitute was propositioning him. “Are you Italian?” she demanded in her thick northern Kenyan brogue. “I like Italian men to climb all over my ass!” And with that, she forced the wastrel to the sticky, foul-smelling floor and squatted on him, her vast torso grinding into his powerless body.
Another day begins in the heart of Asia’s leading international business hub, and I try to digest the ugliness of the story. “So let’s get this straight,” I say to wild American friend Odell as he meekly takes a sip from his rice bran and organic ylang ylang latte in a quiet corner of the IFC Mall of Pacific Coffee. “You want me to lend you a couple of thousand bucks because Mee’s repaired teeth are being held hostage by the dentist in Thailand and you can’t get any money because some giant African hooker bent your ATM card.” A rather mumbling response, including a defensive reference to ‘a partial denture’, grudgingly admits that this is the sad case.
I have the presence of mind to take out my digital camera and demand that he re-state his admission in full on a short YouTube-sized video clip. For future reference, in case of tardy repayment. It would pain me beyond words to see someone having to ransom his wife’s teeth a second time.