I have never paid for sex. Well, not in the traditional way of exchanging money for goods or services. I have, however, paid through other less direct means. Dinners, holidays, clothing, jewellery, heartache, angst, slashed tyres…
For those keeping score at home; I don’t think that there is anything wrong with exchanging money for sex. A business transaction that happens between two, or more, consenting adults is strictly their business and by no means grounds to judge.
That said; it’s not something that I myself would do. My rationale being: why pay money to remove the pleasure of mutually thrilling exploratory conversation? I like conversation. Conversation with a girl you find physically and mentally stimulating is the greatest invention of all time.
With that in mind, the following tale of a man coming face to face with his socially aggrandising contentions and internal dilemmas is once again set against the exotic backdrop of Bali in the middle of a perpetual tropical summer.
More specifically, it’s set amongst the waist-high breakers of Kuta Beach.
Travelling alone I arrive at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar on a balmy Balinese midnight. Being a seasoned Bali traveller I have the layout of the airport hard-wired into my memory and have the arrival procedures down to a fine art.
Armed with only carry-on luggage, as is my way, I leave the plane as fast as humanly possible and make my way through the usual airport obstacle course. I’ve filled out my declaration card correctly and truthfully. I have my passport out and opened to the current page. I have the correct amount of money to pay the arrival tax. I have no metal on my person. Fine art.
As I make my way through the airport proper I already have a grin on my face in anticipation of what awaits me. The doors open and the sights and sounds of Bali instantly assault my senses. In a good way. Like being assaulted with cinnamon rainbows by melodious supermodels.
Incense, sweat and a poor sanitation scheme all combine forces to invade my olfactory senses. The almost physically tangible heat instantly bitch slaps the beanie from my head. The sound of a language I only marginally understand dominates my auditory synapses. I see travellers bursting their Bali cherry being overwhelmed by the overly eager tumult of men offering their taxi services.
And it’s brilliant.
I find the right taxi driver and ask him to take me to any reasonably priced accommodation nearby. After some playful bartering, and a clear declaration that this is far from my first time here, we reach an understanding. I get a room and I sleep.
The next morning I make my way directly to Kuta Beach.
For those unaware, Kuta Beach is an oddly successful melting pot of humanity and encompasses the broadest spectrum of society’s supremely disparate socio-economic classes. I’m not sure if it’s the cheap beer, the friendliness of the locals or the fleeting emancipation from ones responsibilities that makes it work. Possibly it’s a combination of all three.
Regardless, it’s a nice place to spend a sunshine-y day.
That said; it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that I don’t entirely enjoy Kuta as a whole. It is not even close to the best Bali has to offer and if you’re limiting your Balinese experience to Kuta/Seminyak/Legian you’re doing yourself a grave disservice.
My main Kuta based complaint is that there are far too many things designed specifically to appeal to westerners. There are far too many westerners taking advantage of the cheap alcohol in lieu of all other cultural experiences. Frankly, there are just far too many westerners in general.
If I wanted to spend my time with westerners I would’ve journeyed to the mystical and exotic Australian Gold Coast.
I do, however, enjoy a day of lounging on the beach while handing over ridiculous amounts of money to kindly middle-aged Balinese women for things priced well beyond their material worth. And drinking inexpensive ice-cold beer.
Turns out it’s a razor thin line between what I do when I’m in Bali and what I abhor other westerners doing in Bali. Poignant self observation right there. I arrive at my destination and walk onto the beach; The Only Man Wearing Doc Martens On The Island.
I dump my backback onto the sand and remove my dated footwear. I step over the beach long bath ring of noodle packets, plastic bags and water bottles and enter the water. It’s not something that you read a lot about in the tourist guides but Kuta Beach can get DIRTY.
Imagine yourself swimming in what appears to be a pristine swimming environment. Between the determined sun and the few beers you’ve had a pleasant buzz creeps over you. You’re completely oblivious to every single thing happening in the world at this very moment outside of the water surrounding you.
When suddenly, from the murky depths below, something unseen brushes against your leg and immediately conjures the most vicious sea dwelling denizen imaginable…
Anyway, purifying myself in the polluted waters, I feel all of the responsibilities and stresses of everyday life seep out of my pores. Not being a particularly pious man, and outside of sex, floating along with these gentle waves is the closest I have ever come to having a religious experience.
Something in the periphery of my vision coaxes me out of my imagined isolation by revealing two beautiful shapes sauntering along the beach. Under closer scrutiny this pair of beautiful shapes turn out to be women.
The taller of the pair was a dark haired lass with a slim body and the slightest hint of a developed musculature. She also had a beautifully sculptured face, as if it were carefully carved out of porcelain by the gods themselves.
Her partner in crime was also beautiful, in her own way, yet not quite up to the lofty precedent her friend had set. Being at least a full foot shorter than her accomplice, and significantly blonder, her proportions were all out of whack. In a good way.
You see, um, I’m not sure that there’s any dignified/un-misogynistic way to say this, so I’ll just throw it out there. She had the biggest… right, the biggest ones you’ve ever seen. Aside from this, ahem, significant characteristic, she had a cute chipmunk thing going on. To put it succinctly she looked like Miley Cyrus transmuted with Jessica Rabbit. Which isn’t the worst possible combination.
Surprisingly, these physically attractive beach lovers acknowledge my existence with a smile and a wave. Being functionally signal retarded I vaguely smile back then go back to my existential bliss. This small sign of recognition causes both girls to place their belongings upon the sand and set up shop.
It isn’t long before the ever so slightly less attractive woman (with the cartoonish, out of proportion breasts) takes the initiative and makes a beeline directly towards me. Just my luck.
As she makes her way subtly, yet deliberately, towards your humble protagonist, she begins acting flirtatiously coy, if such continued juxtaposition is possible. Or tolerable.
Until she’s close enough to boldly grab my hand and begin spontaneously frolicking with me. At this point my motor functions are running themselves without any input from my brain. I’m strictly in DEFAULT mode. My poor ol’ brain is overloaded with information and is doing millions of calculations, and quantum mechanically attempting to deduce all possible actions/reactions and the timelines they’d cause.
Now, I’m no stranger to female attention. Arrogant it may be but I acknowledge that I seem to have a certain rugged charm. Don’t get me wrong; I’m no Elvis circa 1956. But I’m no Elvis 1977 either.
However, her playful assertiveness was so sudden and these women were so incredibly attractive that it took me completely by surprise and blew my semi-arrogant, fragile, little mind.
The frolicking escalated and she began splashing herself playfully/suggestively. Giggling away, all without a single word spoken. Devouring me with her eyes.
Sweet Christmas. Is this real life.
Finally accepting that I was the luckiest man in the world at that particular moment, or having an aneurysm, I decided to run with the situation. That was until the long forgotten words of a long forgotten Balinese taxi driver began echoing in my mind…
It was a different time. It was a different era. It was 8 months ago. Lady Gaga was inexplicably popular and I was being driven to the airport. I’d just spent a month in Bali and after many different adventures I was begrudgingly returning home. While in transit I happened to see an incredibly attractive blonde girl in a white dress. Amongst the blurred thrall she stood out like the radiant amalgam of a magic eye/pop up book.
“My god”, I said aloud, not necessarily intentionally, “She’s beautiful.”
“Who? Where?” The taxi driver asked while simultaneously moving his head from side to side like one of those a fairground clown games on crack; completely ignoring all oncoming traffic/road signals/pedestrians. All faculties now completely focused on finding the source of my awe.
“There man, in white.”
“Ah, I see. Chantik. (Which means beautiful in Indonesian) You like?”
“Yeah man, very chantik,” I utter, still somewhat too entranced at this fleeting vision of beauty for my mouth words to work properly.
Even though I had never met this girl and had no idea who she was, it made me a little sad (re; forlorn) to think I’d soon be thousands of kilometres away from her. Which is a little sad (re; pathetic.)
“You want to fuck her?”
It took a few beats for the question to penetrate my daze.
“What? Man. What did you just say?”
He repeated the question. Slightly taken aback by the unexpected abruptness I stumble on…
“No! Yes. I mean. Sigh. She’s stunningly attractive but I couldn’t just…” I trail off.
“Yeah you could. She’s a prostitute man. Hooker.” He said, “What do you call that in Australia?”
“A prostitute,” I acknowledged. “Or a Hooker.” No language barrier there.
He then went on to tell me a most heinous tale of Russian hookers invading Bali. Much like the original Red Dawn, but with vaginas as the weapon of choice instead of machine guns. I’d obviously stored this information next to my multiplication tables in my memory filing system under things you’ll never need to remember.
Which brings us back to now…
It was only as this waterfall of forgotten truth cascaded over my present that I happened to notice a somewhat haggard woman of indeterminable age appear out of nowhere and begin speaking to these young beach nymphs in a very firm, almost intimidatory, Slavic sounding dialect.
For reasons unknown this confirmed it.
“That’s Russian!” I thought loudly, “These are Russian prostitutes!” I thought more. “Just like the taxi driver said!” It also then inexplicably dawned on me that 7×7 = 49.
Somewhat startled by my own revelation, of information I already possessed no less, I unlinked our hands and made the most awkward goodbye ever. Our first verbal communication.
I think she said that she didn’t understand what I was saying in Russian, which I didn’t understand because it wasn’t in English.
So I politely gesticulated my goodbyes as best I could, most assuredly looking like an epileptic Jack Sparrow, and promptly fled the scene.
To this day I wish I could say I learned something profound from this most random of encounters. Something about acceptance, or the dangers of generalisation. But, unfortunately, I didn’t.
The only things I took away from the preceding tale that could even vaguely be considered as lessons learned are; you will never, ever, need to use your multiplication tables outside of school and Balinese taxi drivers are highly wisened fountains of future information. Listen to them.