The 4 am Intruder
Honolulu, Hawaii to Korat, Thailand. October 1973
As Anna and I reached the third-floor landing, a Caucasian foreigner charged toward us down the hallway. His eyes bulging, wearing nothing but skivvies and flip-flops, he clutched his clothes in one hand and flew past us on a dead run.
“I wouldn’t stay here if I were you!” His words ricocheted off the barren concrete walls as he bounced down the stairs and vanished.
“This is insane! Let’s get the fuck out of here!” I shouted.
“No worry, Sean.” Gripping my arm, she looked up at me with her bright almond eyes and purred, “Anna take care you. Promise.”
* * *
Two days earlier, I’d been safe and sound and smashed in Hawaii. I strolled barefoot in the foamy surf of Waikiki Beach. I’d underestimated how fucked up you could get from a half dozen Mai Tai’s. You know the kind—the fufu drinks with tiny umbrellas. These potent puppies lent a whole new meaning to the word ‘punch.’
While the afternoon sun cast golden beams across Diamond Head, I basked in the warm tropical breezes caressing my face and the sea spray kissing my lips. On my first time off the Continental U.S., the last thing I ever expected was to end up on the shores of Oahu with Honolulu’s skyline gleaming in the background.
After two fabulous days on this paradise island, compliments of the U.S. Air Force, I boarded a C5-A Galaxy, one of the most massive military transports ever built, weighing in at a million pounds. From the Joint Base of Pearl Harbor’s Naval Station and the Air Force’s Hickam Air Field, I rode out the thirteen-hour flight to Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport. After an overnight layover, I was off to the city of Korat, a hundred sixty miles northeast of the Thai capital.
Stepping from the turboprop C-130 at the Royal Thai Airbase, the humid air stole my breath as I clambered down the metal steps. Heat waves rippled across the hundred-plus-degree tarmac. I’d landed smack in the middle of Southeast Asia, in an exotic country whose culture I knew nothing about. Welcome to Thailand. The Land of Smiles.
With excitement and anticipation, I stared out the window as the bus pulled into the station in downtown Korat. It was my first time off the base and my first night in a Thai town. For a fleeting moment, I thought of Neil Armstrong and what he must have felt on that July day in 1969. I stepped off the bus and into another world. A small step that would impact my life forever.
Never having laid eyes on a samlor, I looked on in wonder as skinny Thai men in cargo shorts, and loose, long-sleeved shirts towed passengers on three-wheeled bicycles with attached carriage seats. As if in slow motion, dozens of samlors glided up and down the streets. Drivers pedaled effortlessly, their faces peaceful and content.
Sidewalks abound with GIs and Thai girls walking hand in hand, laughing and smiling. Jewelry stores, Indian tailor shops, and bars dotted the walkways. Aromas of grilled chicken filled the air. Portable stands served bowls of noodle soup topped with bean sprouts and slices of roasted duck. Along the street were pushcarts with glass cases layered with ice and fresh mango, watermelon, and pineapple wedges. On a corner, a woman with short-cropped gray hair wearing a pink floral patterned sarong, stir-fried giant waterbugs in a flaming wok.
The sign read, ‘Oasis Bar’ which sounded inviting to my parched throat. I stepped inside to flickering colored lights reflecting off a haze of cigarette smoke. On a makeshift stage, a band belted out the lyrics to the Rolling Stone’s “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” while couples gyrated on a teeny dance floor.
A barmaid in a white halter top, cutoff jeans, and high heels led me through the crowd to a table near the back wall.
“I’ll have your famous Thai beer,” I said over the music.
“Beer Singha, right?” she pantomimed placing a napkin on a wobbly wooden table.
“Yeah, that’s the one,” I nodded and shot her a thumbs up. I sat back and watched as the lead singer tried to mimic the gyrations of the lanky Mick Jagger. Far from the likes of a Jagger I had to give the guy credit. He threw his heart and soul into every move.
The Singh went down smooth and far too fast. I caught the eye of the waitress and gestured for another. When I polished off the second bottle, the band broke into a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. I spied a curtained hallway off to the right side of the stage. Ah, the restrooms.
As I was standing at the urinal, a girl caught my attention when she flung open the stall door. I glanced over my shoulder to see her zipping up her blue jeans. I hadn’t realized it was a unisex toilet. I should have guessed. It was the only bathroom at the end of the dark hallway.
The girl strolled over to the mirror and ran a comb through sable hair cascading the length of her back. When she spotted my reflection in the mirror, she flashed a smile.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to stare,” I said, continuing to stare. “but your hair’s beautiful.”
“Kop khun kha. You GI?”
“Yep, Air Force.”
“How long you stay Thailand?”
“I’m here for a year.”
“You mean how long I’ve I been here? Or, how long am I going to be here?”
“When you come Thailand first time?” she said, studying me with curiosity.
“I arrived two days ago, but will stay for one year.”
“You come before?”
“It’s my first time.”
“You like Thailand?”
“You have puying? You know puying?”
“Puying is a girl, and puchai is a guy. Right?”
“No, I don’t have a puying.”
“Good. I come sit with you.”
“Guess that’d be alright.” She spoke damn good English, and the words came out of a damn pretty face.
“My name Anna. What your name?”
“I’m Sean,” I said as she shadowed me down the hall. “My table’s over there. C’mon, I’ll buy you a beer.”
“Anna no drink beer. Anna drink Fanta—red strawberry.” She pulled up her chair. “You want Singh? One more?”
“Sure, this Thai beer is good. We don’t have big bottles like this back in the States.”
As the band struggled through “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” Anna cruised through small talk. “You know what Thailand famous for?”
“Pretty. Like me?” She scooted closer. “But Thailand more famous for smiles. Thai people like to be happy.” Anna brushed a finger lightly across her lips and parted them to reveal the moist tip of her tongue. She reached under the table, and her hand found my groin. “Oh! What we have here?” A smile sparkled her eyes as she raised her eyebrows. “You go with Thai puying before?”
“Nope.” I shifted in my seat to allow more room in my pants for the growing hardness between my legs.
“Good, I want be first time for you.” Her fingers honed in and found the spot. Slowly swirling, pressing, then releasing. “Umm. Tonight Anna do for you.”
“Right now, I’m not sure I can walk.”
“Mai pen rai, kha. That Thai for—is okay, no problem.” Anna giggled. “No hurry, we have all night.”
After a couple more beers, I was drunk on passion and ready for just about anything. Outside the bar, Anna hailed a samlor. The kid driver pedaled us to an obscure area of town and turned down a nameless soi. I knew soi meant “street,” but this narrow, deserted alleyway hardly qualified as one. In the distance, a yellow and black sign written in Thai flickered on and off in the darkness. A torrent of apprehension swept through my mind. Where’s this girl taking me? To a hotel? Can I trust her? Should I trust her?
“Come,” she whispered and took my hand.
“You sure about this?”
“Yes, mai pen rai. Remember? No problem.” Anna squeezed my hand tighter. “Room very cheap, only twenty baht. One dollah American.”
Keys hung from metal hooks on a wall rack behind an empty reception counter. A clerk who must have been dozing behind the counter appeared with shocks of black hair sticking straight up. He handed Anna a white plastic key ring with 308 embossed in black, two threadbare towels, and a sliver of soap. “Yee sip baht,” he said, holding up two fingers in a V sign that meant two, for 20 baht.
When we stepped onto the third-floor landing, the berserk foreigner charged toward us down the hallway. “I wouldn’t stay here if I were you!” He disappeared down the stairs.
“This is insane! Let’s get the fuck out of here!” I shouted.
“He crazy farang. Bah-bah, baw-baw. Anna take care you. Promise.”
I nodded but wondered if I was pushing my luck. The farang’s warning still rung in my ears.
Anna unlocked the door and switched on the bare, overhead fluorescent light. Tossing the towels on the bed, she scampered over to a chest of drawers, lowered her shoulder, crouched, and tried to push it.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Over there. The door.”
“Okay, I get it. Let me help you.” With one collective heave, we shoved the dresser tight against the door.
“Good. We okay now.” Anna stepped back to admire her ability to fortify the room. She grabbed a bottle of water water from the mini-fridge, set it on the bedstand along with two glasses, and patted the mattress. “You sit. I go shower.”
I plopped onto the bed and slid the pillows behind my back as Anna pranced into the bathroom. My first time with a Thai puying and this is where I end up? In some shady hotel? Am I crazy as that other farang? Or just plain stupid? Probably both.
Minutes later, Anna stood in the doorway. Soft light fell on her smooth rounded hips above slender, mocha-colored legs. A hint of firm, pointed breasts poked against the towel. “Now you take shower.”
Standing under the shower head, I turned on the faucet. “Jesus Christ! Water’s fucking cold!” I gritted my teeth and set a personal record for the fastest shower of my life.
When I opened the door, light from the bathroom spilled into the dimly lit room. Anna lay naked on the bed with her head propped on a pillow. Black satin hair spread over the white sheets like an enormous Chinese folding fan. I was dumbstruck, wide-eyed, and motionless. A “wow” shot through my mind. Fuck fear. This is a dream come true. My body kicked into gear.
I was deep in sleep when the noise crept into my ears, the grating kind that sent shivers up and down my spine. When the dresser screeched across the floor tiles, my eyes snapped open. A bare arm reached through the widening crack between the door and the frame. Naked, I bolted from the bed. I threw my body sideways against the dresser, smashing the arm with the door. An agonizing shriek rose from the other side. I released a tiny bit of pressure to allow the intruder to struggle free, and the metal latch on the doorframe tore into his forearm. Another scream echoed through the hallway.
“Get the hell out of here!” I yelled, wedged the bulky dresser back into place, and listened as his flip-flops slapped against concrete and faded away.
Awake and smiling Anna sat upright, her teacup breasts and perky nipples beckoning me back into bed. She’d done as she promised. She’d taken care of me—in more ways than one.
When we checked out the next morning, the clerk from the night before was busy at the reception counter. I scrutinized his arms as he reached for the key. No scrapes. No blood. No bruises. His face showed no hint of guilt, but I wondered if he’d been in on the attempted intrusion.
In front of the hotel, a samlor driver peeked up at us from beneath his reed pith helmet. As we climbed on, I took one last glimpse at the ominous yellow sign and thought about the half-naked farang and wondered what had happened to him. We settled back in the seat, and Anna nestled her head against my shoulder.
The samlor glided to a halt in front of the Oasis Bar. I hopped off and fished ten baht from my pocket. When the driver reached for the money, I spotted the red gash and swollen welts on his forearm. I gripped the note hard so he couldn’t budge it from my fingers. He looked up, and our eyes met. In those brief moments, he knew. He knew that I knew. A don’t-ever-fuck-with-me-again threat crept across my face as I let the note slip into his hand.