Love in the Gutter, where bad guys always win and good guys are just another kind of loser.
It's Just A Matter Of How Much by Gregory Rodrigues
Kanda ran a small café-bar in one of the red light zones. She was drop-dead gorgeous. Flashing black eyes, a great rack—unusual for a Thai woman—and a waist so slim I imagined I could encircle it with my hands. Underneath, the best set of legs in sin city. When she wore a teeny pair of cut-off jeans, it would’ve taken a pair of pliers to peel my eyes off her ass.
One day, I was sitting at my usual table.
“Well, here he is, the man himself.”
I immediately went into threat assessment mode. He’d spoken in a tone heavy with something unpleasant and there was underlying anger. It was a British accent and from the rough industrial north. His eyes slowly picked me apart. He had a crewcut, days of stubble, and a belly running to fat. A sleeveless t-shirt, advertising the glory of Manchester United football team, revealed arms covered in a mess of tattoos. More tattoos on legs that looked like they more properly belonged on a fat pink pig. In short, the classic English football hooligan. I would have laughed in his face except he was taller and heavier than me.
“Good morning,” I said calmly. “I don’t think I know you, mate?”
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Australia, if you must know. But, what are you on about?”
“In Australia, is it ok to fuck somebody else’s girlfriend?”
“Mate, it’s nothing to brag about but it happens. Just like anywhere. But, again, what the fuck are you talking about? I don’t know you.”
“But you know my girlfriend really well. Kanda. You’ve been fucking her.”
“That’s bullshit,” I said.
“You’re here every fucking day. People have told me.”
“Told you what? That I sit here and drink coffee? This is a café. What the fuck else would I do?”
We both stopped talking at the sound of the scooter motor. Kanda pulled up at the door. She’d gone to do an errand for a few minutes and had asked me to mind the café.
Kanda looked at the man angrily.
“Why you come here?” she asked.
“So you fuck him everyday,” he said, pointing to me.
“I not fuck him. Not your business, anyway. You not my boyfriend, no more. What the fuck you come my shop and talk bad customer.”
“Your shop? You use money I gave you. I never said you can start a business with that money.”
“You fucking fuck,” Kanda shouted, “I start shop my money. Not your money!”
“Bullshit, you just used me. You’re a fucking whore!”
Kanda went white with anger. “You fucking motherfuck. Fuck off from my shop.”
I thought it was time to come to Kanda’s aid. Yes, he was bigger than me but I still had some macho pride left.
“Listen mate,” I said, “it’s her fucking café and she wants you to go.”
I’m an ex–cop. Burned out and jaded as all hell, I’d left the force five years ago to wallow in an Asian gutter. The sleaziest of Bangkok’s red-light districts had suited me just fine. Now my sword was rusty in its scabbard. Half a bottle of Jack every day and limitless Thai pussy does that to a man—but I still should have known better.
Now, I was soft and slow. Worse, I was still sitting down when he rushed me. His arms were around my throat and squeezing. Then a fist the size of a pink ham slammed into my face. My bottom lip split open.
He would have pounded me again but his face suddenly twisted with fear. He jumped up and ran for the door. Kanda charged after him holding the largest kitchen knife I’d ever seen.
“You fucking die, you come back my shop,” she screamed.
A minute later she came back inside. My lip was pouring blood.
“I so sorry,” she said.
“Don’t worry,” I replied, holding the wet towel she brought me against my face. I could tell she was impressed that I had stood up for her. Despite the split lip, I was thinking of a very specific way she could show her gratitude.
The next morning, with my lip throbbing in pain, I walked to her place for my usual café noir. The door of the café was shut. A sign hung down tied with string. Some chicken scrawl in Thai and the word ‘closed’ in big red felt-tip letters. The woman selling fried bananas on the road was in her usual spot. Yesterday she had witnessed the whole drama. She saw my puzzled look.
“Kanda close shop,” she said, “go with that man.”
I looked at her in complete stupefaction.
“But she chase man away with knife. Kanda too angry,” I said.
The woman shrugged her shoulders. “Man come back when you go. Him stupid. Say he give Kanda 300,000 baht if she close shop, finish and live together with him. Be ‘mia noi’ (paid mistress) for him. Kanda say ‘No.’ Man say give her 400,000 baht. Kanda say, ‘Go bank now?’ Man say ‘Yes.’ So Kanda close business. She go with man.”
I stood silent for a moment, numb with disappointment.
“So it was just a matter of how much,” I half-muttered to myself.
“What?” the woman said. “I no unnerstan.”
“Same same like, ‘No money no honey.’ Kanda just want money,” I explained bitterly, “That man very bad to her but she not care if he give big money.”
“Yes, Kanda want money too much. ‘No money no honey,’” she said, looking amused. Then she threw more bananas into her bubbling wok and forgot about me.
“Yes, it was just a matter of how much,” I thought. “What a fucking whore!”
My lip throbbed painfully.
I walked away.