The Labyrinth of the Girls

After stonewalling the 440 Board of Directors for months, alcoholic, womaniser, and 440 columnist Mac Hathaway has returned to his role as guide to the labyrinthine complexity of hostess bars.

This sudden turn of events occurred two weeks ago, when a horny little rabbit-like creature, who as a child must have dressed up as Santa’s Little Helper to make money around Christmas time (i.e. the esteemed Keeping it Riel), approached me in DV8 with a fistful of soiled $1 notes.

He grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled my face down to his own. Wrinkling his nose at the repulsive stench of my breath, he gave me a hard look with his steely blue eyes and told me to listen in a voice so firm that the fog of vodka momentarily dissolved from my mind.

He said, ”Mac, stop writing those boring big bike articles. No one reads them. Go back to talking about bargirls. Just imagine yourself as the fat, balding, middle-aged, male Sarah Jessica Parker that you are, man.”

So here I am again, writing about sex in Phnom Penh. Or, rather, Kompong Som. And about not having sex, actually. Because that’s what’s happened. And that’s the problem. And the mystery.

Let me set the scene. The day after a submerged coconut, in a grotesque parody of the Titanic disaster, hurled me headlong into a sea of shite, my mate Davie banged on my door.

I threw a sheet around my waist, staggered to the door, and found him there asking if I was coming to the beach. If I was, he’d ditch his girlfriend in the capital, and we could party like boys – she’s a tut-tut type.

I’d been putting off the decision about what to do over Pchum Ben. But at this point, I it seemed like a good to get out of the city for a break. I told him I’d follow. He went to the bus station. I hit the highway to Kompong Som.

That night, we partied like boys, starting with a glutton’s feast of sushi, shrimp, crab, barracuda, and meat pizza. Then, being with Davie, a sleazy old git, with crooked teeth, a bulbous red nose, and a few sprouts of scraggly hair poking out of his lumpy skull, we took the first steps toward that slippery alcoholic slope that usually finds me waking up with mysterious cuts and burns in the morning.

The sound of my phone roused me the next morning. This is where I conclude the setting of the scene and introduce you to the subject of our study – a slim, graceful, intelligent young girl I’d met three weeks before, Miss L. N.

She was at the halfway point to Kompong Som, and she was coming to meet me. I didn’t know quite how to react. I’d invited her the week before, and when she’d declined, I’d turned my mind to a boy’s weekend with Davie.

I tried to figure out her sudden change of mind. She’d done the same thing before. Every time I asked her out to dinner, or to meet for a drink, she’d turn me down and then call up later ready to go.

I assumed that she’d brooded all night. I was in Kompong Som alone. Then impulsively, perhaps jealously, she’d jumped on a bus that morning – with nothing but the clothes on her back and a novel by Dickens.

I banged on Davie’s door. I told him about the situation. He was rather amused. I’d been infatuated with this girl for weeks, chatting to her on the phone every night, and trying to sort out the contradictory details about her life.

I had mixed feelings. I felt sorry for Davie, who’d been eager for this holiday, and was a bit disappointed myself. But on the other hand, I dreamed of spreading L. N.’s soft, fuzzy, naked body on the bed and licking it up and down.

The weekend turned out to be something completely unexpected. She came to my room for a shower and then she huddled on the floor like an autistic child. I left her in the room to sleep, and went to the beach with Davie, and returned later to take her to watch the sunset.

She spent the whole evening staring blankly at the sea, answering each question with nodds and monosyllables. When I took her out to eat, she picked at her meal, rested her elbow on the table and propped her head up with her hand, and said she wanted to go home as soon as we’d finished.

That night, she wouldn’t come within two feet of me, let alone give me a kiss, let alone anything else – and went to sleep on top of the sheet that I was under, with a towel wrapped around her loins and a pillow clutched to her chest and face.

So, now, Gentle Reader, let us analyse the puzzling behaviour and mysterious history of this sweet, juicy, little, brown fruit.

Fact 1: She was sick and tired when she arrived, after staying out all night again with friends who seem to be up for a bit of rough and tumble.

Analysis: Despite appearing rather innocent, she’s playing the game in a secretive way and has more experience than I care to recognise.

Counter-Fact 1: She doesn’t dance or drink.

Fact 2: She speaks impeccable English, and has studied long-term at some of Phnom Penh’s premier educational institutions. She says she pays for the courses herself, which is unlikely, nay impossible, given the salary that she makes.

Analysis: The money must be coming from somewhere. There’s a foreign donor lurking in the background.

Counter-Fact 2: She has no gold or mobile phone, owns just two pairs of shoes, and acts quite thrifty.

Fact 3: She claims to have been all over Asia, to several remote provinces in Cambodia, on at least one boring big bike trip, and to upscale foreign restaurants like the FCC.

Analysis: The foreign donor must have lived here for a bit and taken her on a few trips. The fact that there was only one boring big bike trip, however, suggests there might have been an itinerant boyfriend in addition to the foreign donor.

Counter-Fact 3: She claims that she has only had her present job for three months and has never had another job. She could not have met a foreigner in that time-span and been to all of those places. Also, she acts so shy and virginal, suggesting she doesn?t have much experience.

After consulting Mr. Keeping it Riel, himself a highly-regarded analyst of the Labyrinth of the Girls, we came to several hypotheses.

We ruled out the fact that she could be supported by a wealthy Oriental man. ”School fees,” Mr. Keeping it Riel went on record as saying, ”are not their style.”

So we surmised that there must be a Westerner lurking in the background. He couldn’t be here, or I wouldn’t have walked on the beach with my cat-eyed little peach, so he must be back in the Wasteland.

Then there is the pesky issue of money. School fees can be paid in advance, so there is a chance that the foreign donor is out of the picture, but she must have owned some gold and a phone at some point – they all do.

That leaves only the question of travel. There are two possible solutions. Either she is lying and she’s worked elsewhere before or she met this foreign donor some place we would never suspect.

So we were left with this best hypothesis. She had a Westerner. He paid the school fees in advance. He then went back to the Wasteland. She broke up with him, or received insufficient financial support, and sold her gold and phone.

But then again, Gentle Reader, this is just a hypothesis – and often the best one can do, even when one has known a girl here for a very long time, is wander this Labyrinth with one?s hypotheses. Everything she said could be true – or even something more unbelievable.

I suppose that’s why, lately, I’ve been put off these girls – no matter how much you like them, and I like this one very much, you’re left with the feeling that you’re lost and will never find your way out to the truth.

Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome. And hate-mail, too. Except from bearded liberal nazi hypocrite cocksuckers. You know who you are and can fuck off. I am not sensitive to the needs of others. Write to [email protected].

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