Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Work abroad: Pierre and his KTV gigolo job in Taipei III

Just a reminder this is the third installment of the story of Pierre's work as a gigolo in Taipei. Best to go back and read all in the Pierre and his KTV gigolo job series from work abroad.

After his one stab at paid sex, Pierre had sworn himself off preferring to just drink with the women. Six months later Pierre had found his feet and in doing so rediscovered his sense of the melodramatic, and that melodrama expressed itself in clients with overlapping schedules. He was sure that if a client saw him with another it would be disastrous. His gigolo colleagues told him that it is generally not a problem, but he replied with: “Yeah, right, what I am going to say to her, ‘Sorry, I was fleetingly making someone else’s life less lonely. Now it your turn.”  Still, his gigolo colleagues knew there was no need for embarrassment, but were not interested in arguing (Taiwanese are very good at that) and decided it was best to just play along.
That evening:
He made an excuse to a Miss Chen to approach the bar and talk to his colleagues.
“Has Miss Hu arrived?” asked Pierre.
“No,” said his colleague.
Pierre did his phew, the world isn’t going to end face and waited for someone to be interested.
Nobody was.
Pierre continued: “I don’t know what time Miss Chen is leaving.”
“Should be no problem,” said his colleague again. But nothing was ever ‘no problem’ in the Pierre universe. He started to pull his this is deadly serious, man face, but got no joy. He then pulled it harder and harder until all the energy in his entire body was helping to radiate seriousness; but, all he got was a polite smile (Taiwanese were also very good at polite smiles).
Besides, they had seen and heard it all before: at the start he had just talked about the possibility that he would get a clash of clients coming to the KTV, then he invented them and had everyone running around pretending he wasn’t there, or in the bathroom, or covering for him at a table so that he could sneak out the emergency exit. Now, he was throwing out names that made no sense to them for authenticity.
“Is Miss Chen a regular,” asked a different colleague.
Pierre raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.
“Well…is she?” asked the colleague again.
“She might be,” replied Pierre.
Now his colleague was raising his eyebrows because he didn’t understand. He thought about getting to the bottom of the situation, but decided to walk off instead.
Suddenly Miss Hu arrived and it was a perfect chance to invent a problem. 
“Miss Chen, excuse me, I have a problem...I am really very sorry,” he said.
“No need to be so polite,” she replied. And she actually meant it because she didn’t much like foreigners, and was waiting for someone else.
Pierre went out the emergency exit of the KTV, clambered over the empty beer crates, slipping on a fire extinguisher buried underneath; down one flight to the office below, then took the lift back up.
He straightened his tie as he approached Miss Hu. “Sorry, I have got here. I was late tonight,” he said. Miss Hu looked baffled why he would lie - She knew he was already there with another client, and if he wasn’t popular, she wouldn’t be interested. Anyway, he had told her to be there at 10:00…Insisted in fact.
A little white lie. It wasn’t entirely accurate to say that he had decided never again to take payment for sex. He had decided never to take payment from a nice woman. A few weeks ago Miss Hu had taken a shine to him, and, at the moment, she was certainly fulfilling the above criteria.
Typical Miss Huisms:
“You know, even though I have a lot of money, I like to have normal friends. I don’t show off my money -I have 3 houses, one in the California, but I don’t it doesn’t make me arrogant.”
“I am really nice to my friends. I always forgive people when they are mean to me. But one time, I don’t like to use my power, a friend of mine doubled crossed and one phone call and they had their business closed.”
“My friend are only secretaries, but I don’t tell them that they should do better with their lives.”
“I pay for everything, and I never ask for anything, but I know they don’t respect me.”
And it went on and on…he was sure he was going to go mad. The first time he entertained her was the first time rage had been so intense he could have killed someone. Everyone, from time to time, was stuck talking to someone they didn’t like, and watched their clock desperately hoping the next sentence would be the last and you could get away. That first time, he had watched her lips and wondered how such beautiful, thick things could allow such obnoxious, arrogant drivel past. Didn’t they have a sense they were being showed up? It quickly became clear there would be no respite, so he concentrated his attention on those lips, convincing himself that when they stopped, she would stop. Unfortunately, they’re momentary stops were only pauses while she gathered together another snippet of self-absorbed reflection. Still it helped to see them unmoved for just a second, it was a moment’s relief before the torturer put the electric tongs back on his balls. Each sentence hammered into his head on the same spot. And it was so much worse because he was not just required to appear to listen to someone else but to actually listen and respond - She continually asked him what he thought and pulled him up if he wasn’t listening, but she wasn’t looking for a discussion, merely an acknowledgment of her plight: your empathy showed that you had digested what she was saying.
While he tried to keep his attention focused his teeth clasped tight, and his eyes stared forward, then he was hit by the sensation the parts of his face had got so close together they could feel the presence of the others and were about to engage each other in conversation. When she went he just stumbled around dazed, shell-shocked. He was afraid to go to sleep – Initially surprised he had not gone mad, he then decided the experience would be like when you play on an injury and get used to it, but the next day, you have done so much damage you are out for the season. He expected to wake up dribbling and babbling; or somewhere in a small African country, having undergone plastic surgery, carrying a new identity, with no knowledge of the past twenty-five years, only of unspeakable past trauma. He tried to run and hide second time she came, but she sought out the manager, who asked him to do a favor, and therefore he had no choice. It got better from then in - You will get used to hell. He knew what she was going to say, developing the ability to wake back up just when she was finishing a sentence. She was so obsessed with face that he could wrap her around his little finger: Keep telling her what a nice person she was; misunderstood, down to earth, sincere, and she would keep coming back. And, he wanted a woman who he could rip off, but had been restricted by conscience, so a candidate like this, that he disliked so intensely, wasn’t going to appear too often. He knew he shouldn’t miss hopping on the broom stick.
The next evening we were all out together.
“Have you sorted anything out yet - what you want to do?” I asked.
The fact that it had been eight months now since Pierre entered the KTV club, wasn’t lost on his friends either. He was still talking about how: he was going to change the world, do something different, not rely on his status as a foreigner to earn money, and now the period in which we were too impressed to say anything was over.
“I have been working 4 nights a week. It was not as easy as I expected you know,” he replied.
His expression was humble, introspective, and everyone wanted to feel sorry for him, but nobody could really take it seriously: you don’t believe the gambler who says he has quit, you don’t believe Pierre will start approaching life by realistically assessing his strengths and weaknesses.
Sometime during his upbringing his parents stopped trying to tether his self-belief to reality - Presumably, as he is still alive today, it was sometime after teaching him to cross the road, but the indications suggest not long.
He continued: “Having to drink so much everyday and deal with the people, I don’t think you boys could handle it.”
Ah, back to normal, we thought.
“What about that cash? You must have a stack saved up.”
“I have some, but meeting business contacts is not cheap here. You have to keep up appearances.”
We didn’t believe the excuse. We also disputed he was working at the club four nights a week --The regularity with which we saw him meant there would have to eight or nine days in a week.
Anyway, we knew he was spending the money. You can pretend this is independent cinema and invent the killer who likes to prune roses or work with disabled children when he is not lopping and dismembering, but in the real world, most of these guys follow the stereotype. Pierre and his colleagues spent fortunes on clothes, cars, drinking, and cards in illegal gambling houses. It was stuff right out of the movies for Pierre – dumping one or two thousand US dollars on a bet and losing it all. At times, we wanted to feel sorry for the na├»ve boy who we were sure was going to regret it bitterly later, but there was no need to feel sorry for him: Pierre only remembered the experience.
Still, even the most optimistic guy can have a few regrets. The Miss Hu situation would come to be one.
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1 comment:

Bill Grote said...

Keep it up (the blog).

Interestng to read of the real Taiwan culture that my relatives keep hidden.