Is Wendy beautiful? I cannot say. She wears a tiny orange singlet that covers part of her slim torso and a matching skirt that covers little more. Comic book eyelashes, long coloured nails and a cosmetic disguise. She sits at the bar of the dismal Boomerang playing Candy Crush. She has no drink. Khe Sanh is blaring in the background but she doesn’t know what it’s about and she doesn’t care. Some silent, dull eyed ancient blokes around her sit up slightly as though they’ve heard the opening strains of the national anthem.
She’s usually here from around six. If it’s quiet she’ll try the nightclub around the corner instead but she prefers it here. The Lotus has too many girls; they have to fight over each guy. Not at the Boomerang. The Boomerang is easy, so long as it’s not too quiet.
Wendy has no interest in working at the hostess clubs. She could never work for somebody else. She chooses her customers for herself. Any barang is okay; young, old, fat, whatever. But no Asians. Not even rich Chinese or tall Koreans. Certainly no Cambodians or Vietnamese. No Philipinos. No Thais. No Japanese. She lists every East Asian country, ruling out the men from each. What about Indians, then? No. Only barang.
Both Wendy’s parents were absent during her childhood so her grandmother took care of her. At sixteen she took positions in Malaysia and Singapore doing domestic work, nannying, cleaning. She worked for strict mistresses and naughty children. It was tiring. She returned to Cambodia at eighteen. That year, her high school teacher fell in love with her and married her. He was in his twenties.
The teacher-husband did not work out. Wendy knew nothing of sex. At night she would sleep in another room or escape to her family home to escape his meek advances. The marriage failed without having been consummated.
Later she had a boyfriend, Vietnamese. He knew what sex was and got it, though he only detained her for a minute or so each time. She wanted to have two children. The first time she got pregnant she had to ask her mother, who was by then back in her life, where the baby would come out. The second time it was twins so she had one child too many. The boyfriend was useless. He demanded money instead of providing it, often gambling it away. Though heartbroken, Wendy got rid of him for the sake of her children’s material needs.
She took jobs; working in factories, restaurants, as a seamstress. Each job was exhausting and not lucrative despite wages growing rapidly across the country. Like so many village girls before her, she decided to go where the streets are paved with gold. Aged twenty-five she took the bus to the capital. At the terminal she had to ask the tuk tuk driver where to find the rich barang. He took her to the Boomerang.
At first it was difficult. Wendy could speak good English from her time abroad but she could not pick up a man, nor would she know exactly what to do with him if she got one. She was earning no money. But then she had a boyfriend, a Scott. “He taught me how to fuck,” she explains. She gained confidence, becoming a skilled lover. She now goes home with many men. She will not go with an Asian for love or money. An Asian man broke her heart so she will never accept another.
Two years later the Scott is no longer around and Wendy is sitting in the Boomerang playing Candy Crush.
“What have you been up to, Wendy?”
“Eating cock! I sucked cock at one o’clock this morning, so early.” She means one p.m., which is morning for her. She is proud of her ‘eating cock’ and employs the term whenever possible. “Some girls don’t like to eat cock. I can do it. The other day I ate two guys’ cocks for, like, five hours. They didn’t cum ‘cos they were on drugs.” She boasts that she did not get tired. She shows photos of their hotel room. It is pretty fancy. Five hours was fine for them, they could pay.
Despite this gregariousness Wendy can show contrasting naivety. She tells the story of the German man who offered her money to spank her bottom for an hour. She agreed, assuming he was joking, and was in tears by the end. Or another customer who confused her by asking her to hurt him. I tell her a little about the weird and wonderful clubs in Tokyo and their varied services. She listens politely, showing not the slightest sign of belief. She worries about crazy customers. “Some guy could kill me,” she says. “Then who will make money for my children?” Still, she admires those who take great risks for quick wealth. She talks glowingly about the Canadian customers who made a fortune through credit card fraud before escaping to Cambodia. Her eyes shine dreamily at remembrance of that criminal cock.
Wendy’s main complaint is lack of customers. So long as she has punters she can earn much, much more money than the Boomerang’s bar staff, the tuk tuk drivers who ferry her to and from hotels, or the receptionists who copy her ID card without blinking so that she may accompany men to their rooms. She can cover rent, food, even a caretaker for her children. Other girls are jealous of her, especially when she earns good money just for ‘short time’ and generous tips from appreciative clients. She says that some of the girls use black magic against each other. She doesn’t believe in it, she asserts unconvincingly. She can fuck many guys in one night but without customers she can’t earn much. She wants to save up, get back into seamstressing, which she enjoys. She has some training and can make any item of clothing from a pattern. She knows she can’t keep hooking forever. Other women in the Boomerang have been at the game too long. They give wrinkled smiles to the barang as they come in, like doting aunties at Christmas. Who goes with them? How much do they cost? Who knows.
Some girls get attached to their favorite customers. Relationships are commonplace, marriages not unheard of. But Wendy is strictly professional. “I don’t want boyfriend,” she asserts. “Cost too much money. Just take my money. I want to look after my children.” Wendy is not cold. She is a chatty girl, happy to converse with a friend during long, boring periods of down time. But mostly she plays Candy Crush, hoping for some business before she returns to her village by scooter in the early morning light.
Further reading: Being a Gigolo