After nine months laying pipe in the Saudi Arabian desert, the dusty concrete towns of northeast Thailand were paradise. Although accommodations were simple, the food was fantastic, and the local people shy but friendly. Our engineering crew was working on a dam near Khon Kaen. Irrigation and hydropower would help enrich the farmers who eked out a living from that salty soil.

Videos and beer were the only entertainment in the little town of Maha Sarakan where we were staying. The beer was good, true, amazingly refreshing after the heat and dust, but my crewmates wanted something spicier. So on our first free weekend, after three weeks on the site, we piled into the minivan and headed south to Bangkok.

When I had arrived the previous month, the airport was all I had seen of that loose and lascivious metropolis the Thais call the City of Angels. My first real trip there was a shock after the tranquil boredom of the Northeast. Chaotic traffic, constant noise, mile after mile of grimy cement blocks interrupted occasionally by skyscrapers and the graceful eaves of Buddhist temples.

One of my mates, Charlie, knew the city well. He checked us into a comfortable, ridiculously cheap hotel in the middle of the tourist district. Bewildered and dazzled, I followed him along sidewalks crammed with vendors hawking watches, tee shirts and toys, trying to avoid tripping on the broken pavement.

Beggars with shriveled limbs extended their bowls in silent entreaty. Blond, ragged-haired tourists in shorts and sandals, slender Thai women in tight jeans and silk blouses, monks draped in saffron, policemen standing stiffly at corners, their revolvers prominently displayed: it seemed that the whole of the Bangkok was here on this one street. Meanwhile, an endless line of vehicles crawled by us: tint-windowed Mercedes, sooty trucks, and rickety buses with people hanging out the doors. The air was heavy with diesel fumes, frying garlic, and jasmine. We dined at a quiet restaurant on a side lane, where the young waitress giggled every time we spoke to her. Then Charlie took me off to see what he called "the real Bangkok" - the go-go bars and sex clubs.

I can't say that I was completely enthusiastic. Yes, I admit that I come from the Bible Belt, but it wasn't that. I've been to strip clubs in the States a few times, and I simply found them depressing. Everybody looking guilty as they try to have a good time. Drunks acting crude, dancers acting coy, everywhere the desperate smell of dirty money and sexual frustration.

I've been with hookers, too. I didn't enjoy that much either. It relieved my physical needs, but it left me feeling empty, sour and old.

My job makes it hard to have a real relationship, though. I never know where my next project will be, but I can bet that it won't be in America's heartland. So I read a lot, and seek my own five-fingered companionship. I didn't think I needed what Bangkok had to offer.

We sauntered into the "entertainment plaza". Three stories of indoor bars and clubs surrounded a central court, which was crowded with open-air bars and stalls selling skewers of grilled chicken, fresh fruit, and fried locusts. As we walked along the second-level balcony, bikini-clad girls tried to lure us inside their establishments.

"Come inside," they crooned. "One beer eighty baht. No cover charge." Briefly, the woman would hold back the dark cloth draping the door, offering a tantalizing glimpse of flickering lights and bare flesh. "Take a look, no charge, come inside."

The more energetic of these young marketeers would grab us by the hand, and laughing the whole while, try to pull us in. It was all good-natured, though. We'd extricate ourselves from her strong fingers and thank her. "Not now," we'd say. "Maybe later."

"Why not now?" she'd say, stamping her foot in mock anger. "Don't you like me?"

Charlie stopped in front of a doorway surmounted by a blinking neon butterfly. "I came here last month," he said with a grin. "The girls are hotter than average." As if to prove his point, an exquisite creature wearing a fringed bra and a practically non-existent skirt came out to greet us.

"Welcome to Butterfly Bar. Come inside, please." We followed her through the curtains and found ourselves in a space much deeper than it was wide, lit like some disco nightmare. Everywhere, clashing multi-colored lights flashed, vibrated, spun on the ceiling. Rock music pounded in our ears. Our guide settled us on a plush-upholstered bench that ran along one wall. In a moment, two frosted mugs of Singha beer sat invitingly before us, and we could turn our attention to the entertainment.

The bar that ran along the opposite wall was also the stage. Half a dozen women wearing next to nothing danced there, churning and writhing to the music. Every single one was drop-dead gorgeous.

One wore a bikini bottom made of chain mail, and thigh-high, spike-heeled vinyl boots. Her long hair fell over one eye, Lauren Bacall style, as she squatted on the bar and circled her hips suggestively.

Another beauty had short, curly hair that look bleached, and a faraway look. She cupped her perfect breasts absently as she swayed to the beat, sequins flashing from the heart-shaped patch that covered her sex.

Two other dancers were doing a playful lesbian pantomime, grinding their pelvises together and struggling not to laugh. They all seemed so young, despite their salacious behavior.

Other women, wearing brief kimonos, circulated among the patrons, serving drinks, cuddling, or simply chatting. It wasn't long before we had an entourage of three of these little imps. "You want massage?" asked one, kneading my shoulders with clever hands. "What is your name?" asked another. "My name Ao."

"They want you to buy them drinks," Charlie told me. "Whenever a customer buys them a drink, they get five baht."

"Is that all they want?" I was overwhelmed by the feminine flood surging around me.

"Well, of course they want tips. And if you like one of them enough, you can pay to take her out of the bar."

"They're prostitutes?" I suddenly felt slightly queasy. The atmosphere was so different from a State-side joint, light-hearted and innocent; I didn't want to think about how it might be tainted.

"Well – it's up to them. The bar pays them to dance and to push drinks. If they want to make a private arrangement, it's their prerogative. When they decide to leave for the evening, they simply compensate the bar for lost drink income."

"Hmm." As I pondered this, the music changed, becoming slower and more sensual. Meanwhile, the leftmost dancer stepped down from the bar, and the remaining women moved left to new positions. A figure appeared at the right end of the bar.

Something about her caught my attention. With casual elegance, she shed her kimono and draped it over a bar stool. Then she turned toward the shrine in the corner near the ceiling. Touching her fingertips together, she brought them to her forehead and bowed, her reverent gesture totally at odds with the environment.

I felt a strange ache in my chest as I watched her mount the steps to the bar, smooth and sure on her stiletto heels. She was taller than many of the girls, slender and willowy. Her long hair rippled around her as she moved, perfectly attuned to the melody and rhythm.

She was a natural dancer. Her fluid gestures held me transfixed. She grasped one of the poles leading from the bar to the ceiling and arched backward until her hair brushed the floor. Waves flowed through her, sweet undulations that began in her pelvis and shimmered up her spine. By comparison, the other girls seemed clumsy and coarse. She was not trying to entice, it seemed; she was lost in the music. Yet there was something supremely sexy about her performance. I found myself hardening as I gazed at her, turned on for the first time since entering this den of flesh.

As if she felt my gaze, she released the pole, turned and looked in my direction. Her red-painted lips curved in a smile of invitation. Her eyes locked to mine, she unhooked her bikini top and let it slide off her shoulders, revealing sweet, small, firm-looking breasts, capped with almond-hued nipples that surely were erect. She brushed her palms over them, closing her eyes as if savoring the sensation. My penis throbbed uncomfortably in my jeans.

The song changed to something more upbeat. She shook her hips, did the same bumps and grinds as the other dancers, but the effect was totally different. She was listening to some inner voice. Every now and again her eyes would meet mine, and that luscious smile would light her face. I found myself holding my breath, willing her to turn again in my direction.

Finally, her set ended. She slipped away into the crowd before I could call to her. I felt a sense of loss totally out of proportion to the situation. Then, suddenly, she was beside me. I discovered that I was blushing.

"Hello," she said, her smile even more intoxicating close up. "You like me? You like my dancing?"

"I certainly do."

"You buy me drink?"

"Of course." She waved over another bargirl. "Mekong coke," she ordered. "And you, mister, you want one more beer?"

"Sure, why not?" I looked over at Charlie, hoping for some guidance. He had one girl in his lap, and another whispering in his ear. All three of them were giggling. Charlie caught my slightly desperate glance and shrugged.

"Go for it," he said. "We are. Come on, girls!" He stuffed three five-hundred baht bills in the bamboo tube holding our bill, then headed for the door, one girl on each arm. "Have a great time, Pat," he called over his shoulder. "I'll see you on Monday." Damn him, leaving me alone like that.

I was almost trembling when our drinks arrived. My companion seated herself beside me, her bare thigh pressed against mine, and raised her drink. "Chok dee," she said, clicking our glasses. "Good luck to you."

I was tongue-tied with nervousness. Fortunately my lovely friend managed the conversation.

"What your name?" she asked.

"Patrick. Pat."

"Hello, Pat. My name Lek. Means small." For the first time, she giggled in that girlish way I associated with the other women. "It's a joke, because I'm so big."

"You're not big," I said. "At least, not next to me." In fact, she seemed diminutive and fragile beside my six foot two, two hundred eighty pound frame.

She took my hand, and a little shiver ran up my spine. Her skin was smooth and cool. "You have a wife, Pat?" she asked.

I shook my head. "Would I be here with you if I was married?" She doubled over with laughter, apparently finding this hilarious.

"Most men come here have wives. Never mind. You have girlfriend?"

I smiled into her shining eyes. "No, no girlfriend."

"Ok, then, maybe Lek can be your girlfriend." Without warning she laid a gentle hand on the bulge in my pants. "You like me, I think."

I swallowed hard, not knowing what to say. "Yes, I like you."

"I like you, too. Maybe we go to your room? You pay the bar five hundred baht, then we can go."

I felt a chill. All at once this had turned into a financial transaction. Still, I wanted her. "What about for you?" I asked. "How much do I have to pay you?"

"Never mind. Whatever you want, no problem." She pulled me to a standing position. "Come on, let's go. I like you a lot."

On the way back to the hotel, I wondered what I was getting into. Lek was nothing like the hookers I had known. Was she just pretending not to care about the money? She chattered away, apparently unaware of my concerns.

My room was cooler than the muggy night outside, but still humid. The whisper of the air conditioning drowned out the traffic noise from the street. As soon as the door was closed and she had slipped off her shoes, Lek was kneeling in front of me working at my zipper.

I tried to make her rise. "No, you don't have to do that."

She looked disappointed. "You don't want my mouth on you?"

"Of course I do, but..."

"Then let me," she said softly. "I want to." With the hooker, I had to pay extra for a blow job. Lek acted as though I was doing her a favor. As soon as my fly was open, my penis popped out, full and solid as a sausage. She pursed her lips and mouthed the tip, leaving traces of lipstick on the bulb. Then she slithered her tongue down my length, circling the base with her thumb and forefinger while cupping my balls in her other palm. I groaned. It has been a long time since I known anyone's touch but my own.

"Your cock very nice, Pat," she murmured, in between mouthfuls. She took me deep into her throat and kept me there, sucking hard, nursing my cock like a baby at its mother's tit. I'd never felt anything like it.

Already I could feel the come boiling up in me. I began to thrust, jerking my hips, banging the tip of my cock against the back of her throat. She responded by sucking harder, till I felt that her hot vacuum would literally pull the come out of me.

I wanted to stop. I didn't want to come so soon. I wanted to be inside her, those graceful, muscular legs wrapped around me, when I came. But she wouldn't let me go, and finally, I didn't want her to. I twined my fingers in her hair and pulled her head into my crotch, fucking her face until I could bear it no more. The semen surged up my shaft, filling her mouth and overflowing.

She kept licking me gently as my dick shrank back to its normal size. Then she looked up at me and smiled, an angelic smile made sweetly perverse by the creamy remnants of my come on her lips.

"You like that?" she asked archly.

"What do you think?" I pulled her to me and embraced her, tasting my own bitter fluid on her ripe mouth. "That was amazing, Lek." After a while, I released her and looked down ruefully as my limp penis. "Unfortunately, I was hoping to use that to explore some other parts of your anatomy."

"Never mind," she said. "Long night. You lie down there and watch me. You'll be hard again pretty quick."

She was so charming that I couldn't contradict her. I reclined on the bed, while she did a little private strip-tease.

She wasn't wearing much, but she made every garment count. Moving to some music in her head, she strutted across the carpet, then turned her back to me. She untied her halter top from around her neck. Then she turned and slowly lowered the hands, gradually revealing to me those luscious little breasts. Her skin was a dusky ivory that reminded me of the erotic figurines carved from elephant tusks that I had seen in Okinawa. Her nipples seemed large in proportion. I ran my tongue over my lips, thinking about having one in my mouth. My penis twitched, already coming back to life.

Next she unbuttoned her miniskirt, shimmied it down to her ankles, hooked it with one foot and flung it playfully onto the bed. Only her panties remained, a black thong that hid the merest sliver of the flesh between her thighs. Looking into my eyes, she undid the ties at each hip. With agonizing slowness, she drew the cloth forward, through her cleft. Then she held the garment out to me.

My hands trembled as I took it from her. It was warm and moist from her body. I held it to my nose, breathing deeply. Her musk was fainter and more delicate than the Western women that I had known, but still strong enough to bring me half-erect.

She posed for a moment, silent and desirable, her gold chain and Buddha amulet glinting between her breasts. Then she came and stood by the bedside, her thighs parted, her hairless mound close to my face. "Touch me," she said. As nervous as a virgin, I reached out my finger and slid it into her folds. She sighed as if in bliss and closed her eyes, twisting her nipples between thumb and forefinger

Her flesh was slippery and unbelievably smooth. I thought of sun-warmed porcelain, or stones rounded and polished by the river's kiss. My fingers found her clit and massaged it gently. I was rewarded by her soft moans. My cock swelled to fullness as I imagined probing her more deeply.

Lek somehow knew that I was ready. She climbed onto the bed. On all fours, she presented her ass to me. Her pale, swelling cheeks flowed like sculpture under my hands. I wanted her as I had never wanted any woman.

Fumbling in my pocket, I found a condom and slid it over my now-rampant penis. Then I slipped my fingers back into her cunt, spreading her juices.

Lek looked back at me over her shoulder. "No, not there," she said. "Take me the other way. In the other hole. Like a whore."

Her crudeness, so out of keeping with her earlier manner, shocked me and excited me. I spread her cheeks and placed my forefinger on the crinkled ring of muscle. "You mean here?"

"Yes. There. Like that. You want to, don't you?"

I did. I had never done such a thing, but oh, I had read and I had imagined. I was afraid, though, afraid of hurting her, afraid of the dirtiness of it, afraid of the unknown.

"Are you sure?"

"Do it. Please, now. Fuck me like a whore, Pat."

"You're not a whore, Lek..." I began, but I couldn't continue. My cock surged, hardening to pain. I didn't hesitate any longer. I smeared some of the lubrication from her pussy over my cock, until I was as slippery as she was. Then I pressed my nob against that tight whorl, that gateway to the forbidden, and pushed. To my surprise, I slid halfway in, halfway into the tightest, hottest space my cock had ever known.

I grabbed her hips and pulled her toward me, fully impaling her. She sobbed, in pain or delight. From the way she arched her back and pressed herself against my hardness, I thought it was the latter. I began to move inside her. Her muscles gripped me, rippling around my rod. Each time I thrust into her bowels, she moaned, urging me on.

The sensations and the thought of what I was doing fed on each other. I was butt-fucking a beautiful woman. Reaming her. Screwing her brains out with my cock buried to the hilt in her ass. And she loved it, I could tell, from her mewing cries, from the way she writhed beneath me and thrashed her head about until her hair was tangled all over her back.

It lasted a long time. My cock seemed to swell with each stroke. Her passage got tighter and tighter. Finally, I could bear it no longer. With a yell, I rammed myself into her and let the orgasm take over. It tore through me, sweeping away all thought in its path.

When I came back to myself, she was stretched out beside me, stroking my hair. Sweet satisfaction shone in her eyes. "Khorp khun kha," she whispered. "Thank you."

"Thank you, Lek." I gathered her in my arms and showered her with small kisses. I had never imagined such generosity in a woman.

We spent the weekend together. The next morning, breakfasting late in the hotel coffee shop, I was self-conscious. Then I looked around and realized that we were by no means the only Thai-foreign couple in the place

She was magnificent company, and a wonderful guide. She showed me the bejeweled Grand Palace and the National Museum. In the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, she lit incense and knelt silently for a long time. I watched, amazed, remembering her reverence in the bar.

We wandered through the weekend market laughing and sweating in the sun, while she bargained for sarongs and cheap jewelry. We toured the canals on a rice barge, ate fiery curry and fried bananas.

And of course, we made love, a dozen times in a dozen different ways. Finally, I got the chance to sink myself into her cunt, while looking into her eyes. It was clear even to me, though, that she preferred entry via her back passage. I was more than happy to oblige.

On Monday morning, we held hands while waiting for the minivan. All at once, I remembered that I had not paid her. I had bought her gifts and given her money for treats, but nothing to recompense her for her time and her physical bounty.

I reached for my wallet. She put her hand on mine. "Never mind," she said.

"But, I haven't given you anything. I have to pay..."

"No, no pay, Pat. I'm your girlfriend now. Just take care of me, ok."

I shook off her hand and slipped five thousand baht from my billfold. Folding it, I stuck it into her palm. "You know I'm going to be gone for the next three weeks. This should help you take care of yourself. I'll see you when I come back, Ok?"

"Ok, Pat. I miss you."

"I'll miss you too, Lek." The van pulled up, and at the same time, Charlie and the other guys tumbled out of the hotel, looking tousled and somewhat the worse for wear. I kissed her lightly on the lips. "See you soon."

The next three weeks were the longest I had ever endured. The days crawled by in a haze of sunburnt dust. The nights I spent fantasizing, remembering Lek's sweetness and her lust, thinking of new things we would do when I saw her again. I wished that I had a picture of her, but then I knew no photo could do her justice. No photo could capture her dancer's grace, her whimsical sense of humor, her gentleness, or her blazing carnality.

Finally, I couldn't bear it any more. I had to hear her voice at least. I had forgotten to ask Lek for her mobile. I asked one of the Thai members of our team to find the telephone number for Butterfly Bar, and one evening around six PM, when I figured it would not be busy, I tried calling.

The phone rang and rang. Finally it picked up. "Kha?" a woman's voice answered.

"Is Lek there?" I asked, miserably aware that I might not be understood. "I'd like to speak to Lek, please."

There was a silence, then the woman laughed. "Oh, Lek, yes, of course. One moment, please."

The line crackled with static as I waited. Dimly, I could hear the thumping beat of rock and roll. I had no idea what I was going to say. I only knew that I needed Lek in some way that was totally new to me.

Finally, I heard a clicking, and then her softly accented English. "Hello? Lek speaking."

"Lek, it's me. Pat."

"Pat!" she almost squealed with excitement. I heard her say something in Thai to someone in the background. "Pat, I miss you!"

"I miss you too, Lek. That's why I'm calling. I just had to hear your voice."

"When you come back to Bangkok?"

"Not until the end of next week. Friday. I'll meet you at the bar, OK?"

"Ok, Pat. See you then." There was a pause, filled with static. "Everything good with you?"

"I'm fine except that I wish you were here with me."

"Want me to come upcountry to see you?"

I laughed at her enthusiasm. "No, no. I've got to work, and this place would be pretty dull for a gorgeous girl like you.”

"If you there, not dull," she said firmly. "We make excitement together."

"You're certainly right on that score, young lady. But no, I'll see you in Bangkok. Maybe we can go down to Pattaya and hang out on the beach."

"Crazy farang," she laughed. "No Thai girl goes to the beach. Make us black."

"Well, whatever. Maybe we'll spend the whole weekend in my room."

"Mmm," she sighed. "I like that."

Another moment of staticky silence. Finally, she spoke, so softly I could hardly hear. "Pat? I love you."

"I love you, too, Lek," I heard myself say. I realized I meant it. "See you next week."

The last week seemed even longer than the previous two. Then, when Friday afternoon finally arrived, and I was packing for the trip south, my boss dropped by. He needed me to stay until tomorrow, he said, to supervise the grading of the site. "Can't Charlie do it?" I asked, a bit testily.

"Charlie's sick. Got some stomach bug or something."

As soon as the boss left, I tried calling Lek's bar. This time the phone rang and rang, unanswered. I tried again, around eight o'clock, and again near midnight. No response. I prayed that Lek would not be worried, or angry with me for standing her up.

The grading went like clockwork. I was headed toward Bangkok by two PM, driving one of the company jeeps. My spirits rose with each kilometer that brought me closer to her. I pulled in at the hotel around six, took a quick shower, and then immediately set out for the Butterfly.

The place was already jumping, full of men in white naval uniforms. Maybe that was why no one had picked up my call the previous night. I sat down with a beer and looked around for Lek. There was no sign of her.

"Hello, mister. Remember me?" I recognized the round face and pixie haircut from my last visit.

"Hello, Ao. Of course I remember." She looked delighted. "Would you like a drink?"

"Yes, thank you." As she was leaving, I grabbed her hand.

"One moment, Ao. Do you know where Lek is? The tall dancer with the long hair?"

She shook her head. "She not here tonight, I think."

A bolt of panic surged through me. Did she think I had abandoned her? Had she left the bar with some other man?

"You ask the mamasan," Ao said, pointing to a woman behind the bar. "Maybe she know about Lek."

I picked up my beer and sat down at the bar, inches from the spike heels of one of the dancers. I gestured to the mamasan.

"Excuse me, but do you know where I can find Lek?"

The woman looked me over critically. She was a well-preserved forty, with short-cropped hair and glasses, wearing a fitted hot pink suit.

"Lek buy herself out of the bar tonight. Today her birthday. She want to take the night off, celebrate with her friends."

"Do you have any idea where she might have gone to celebrate?"

"Why? Who are you? You her new boyfriend?"

I blushed, but then nodded. "Yes, I'm Pat."

The mamasan's suspicious manner changed abruptly to friendliness. "Oh, Pat. You call her last week?"

"Yes, that was me."

"Oh, Lek very much in love with you."

My heart did a little flip of gratitude. My dear girl was not angry with me.

"I love her, too."

The mamasan took my hand. "That is so good, mister Pat. She looking for someone to love her for such a long time. Ever since her operation."

Some vague uneasiness gripped me. "Her operation? What was wrong? Is she ill? Did she have an accident?"

The mamasan laughed. "Oh no, no accident. But last year, she have operation to make her a real lady. No more katoey, lady-man. She always want that, save her money for five years to have operation."


"Yes, you know." The mamasan gestured toward one of the dancers, a long-legged, sultry-looking temptress. "Like Nong. Before, Lek a man but look like woman, dress like woman, want to be woman. Now, after operation, she really a woman. No more pretending."

My stomach lurched. I thought for a moment that I would vomit. Lek, sweet, delicate, feminine Lek, was a man! I was in love with a man. I had had sexual relations with a man. The flesh of my penis was crawling, as if loathsome creatures swarmed over it. I was filled with shame and disgust.

"No!" I yelled. I jerked upright, spilling my beer all over the bar. It made a little pool around the heels of the dancer looming over me. She watched me curiously, surprised and shocked by my outburst, wondering what the crazy farang would do next.

"Mister, never mind. Lek good girl. She love you. You lucky man."

"Lucky?" I roared. "She played me for a fool. She defiled me! She's a devil in angel's guise!" I stormed out of the bar. The girls cringed and shrank away from me as I passed.

Without knowing how I got there, I found myself in the shadowy cocktail lounge of my hotel, gulping down a double bourbon. I lay my head in my hands and sobbed. The Filipino band was warming up. I hoped that I would pass out before they started playing their set.

Suddenly there was warmth next to me, and a faint hint of jasmine. Cool, slender fingers touched my arm. I opened my eyes.

"You!" I hissed, jerking away from her hand. "Get away from me, you filthy whore!"

"Pat," she said softly. "Please forgive me. I want to tell you, last weekend, but no time. Always we were laughing, or making love."

A vision of her taut flanks straining back at me. A recollection of the dark scent of her butt-hole. "Get out of here. Don't touch me, you, you abomination!"

I could see tears gathering in her eyes, making them shine even more than usual. I felt a brief pang of guilt, and something else I could not name.

"Never mind, Pat. You love me. I know you do. Man, lady, lady-man, same-same. All human, all love. Please, Pat."

She looked tiny, suddenly, frail, crushed like a wilted flower. My anger left me, but I still came close to retching when she took my hand. "Look into my eyes," she said softly. "Look at me, and tell you don't love me. Then I go."

I took one last look. Her raven hair shimmered in the multi-colored bar lights. Her ivory skin glowed golden, stretched firm across her high cheekbones. Wet traces of tears streaked her face, but her lips smiled that same luscious, sensuous, loving smile that I first saw across the room, three weeks, a thousand years ago.

I looked at her, and I wanted her. My cock stiffened even as my gut turned over and tried to expel its contents. I was more terrified than I had ever been in my life. I wrenched my hand away.

"Go away," I whispered. "Leave me alone. I don't love you."

She did not hesitate any longer. She turned on her heels and walked to the door, an epiphany of grace. I bit my lip, and wondered what I had done to deserve this hell.

My work on the dam will be finished in another two months. Meanwhile, I don't bother to go to Bangkok on the weekends anymore. Charlie keeps bugging me to join the rest of the guys. He knows that something happened between Lek and me, though of course he doesn’t know the whole story.

“Come on, Pat. Forget her. You’ve got to be a phee-sua, as the bargirls say, a butterfly flitting from flower to flower.” I just shake my head and turn back to my Orson Scott Card novel.

After this gig is through, I think I might go back to the States. I’ll settle down in Cedar Rapids to be near my folks and find some nice girl. Someone blonde, comfortable, totally unexotic.

Then I catch a glimpse of some nymph in the Maha Sarakan market, sarong hugging her hips, jet hair trailing down her supple back and I’m drowning in memories. My cock like granite, my throat burning with nausea, an ache knifing through my chest. Desire, disgust, unbearable longing.

In those moments, I wonder if I’ll ever find a place to rest.

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