The couch looks like a lonely place to be

by Will Sanders on August 2nd, 2009

June became July and July went by at crazy speed, made me a bit dizzy.  I did a lot of stuff this past month, and I haven’t been writing.  One excuse is I have been busy, blah blah blah, another is that I was out living adventures and couldn’t be bothered to write,  but either way I am sorry, I sort of feel like a school boy who has neglected to keep up with his homework.

So I warn you this isn’t a very sunny blog and it doesn’t deal with sunny subject material, what I am about to tell you may be upsetting for people but it is a reality you should hear about so here goes.

In late June my friend Mark came for a visit, I trucked around in Sumatra with this dude, then he went and lived in Yojakarta for a while studying Indonesian on a scholarship.  Now he is somewhere island hoping on his way to the Phillipens where he wants to start some kind of beach hotel for backpackers.

On a goof we went to an area called Dollys, which happens to be the biggest red light district in South East Asia, maybe the biggest in the world I don’t know.  Please believe we weren’t there looking for girls, we both find the whole thing depressing and disgusting, we just figured if you are next to something so big you might as well take a look, which is all we planned on doing, and I promise it was all we did.  Please believe.

Dollys is a rat warren of streets of open rooms lined with uncomfortable looking plastic couches, on which the whores sit.  When you walk down the street they don’t smile, they don’t wink, they don’t whistle or call to you.  Instead they roll their eyes and go back to texting on their cell phones, johns are expected to walk in and point at one like picking out a lobster at a fancy restaurant and to the back they go, but between guys they all text.  They weren’t pretty either, and there didn’t seem to be any dow eyed kids with hearts of gold and dreams of the big city, No jive ass Julia Roberts waiting for their Richard Gere.   These were woman who were bored at best and caked on layers of make up did little to hide the lives they led in between the time they were sitting on those couches.  The rooms with couches lined either side of every street on and on, the more we walked the more rooms we passed filled with bored looking prostitutes stationed on couches under bright yellowish green flourecant lights armed with handphones.  The rooms went by as we walked one after the other, five to ten girls in each some as many as twenty.  The streets changed and twisted, men standing outside the joints tried to get us to come in tugging at our shirts, little kids with smuggy faces tugged at our pant legs for spare change, rats bigger than cats chased dogs in the dark alley ways.  And the streets echoed with stories that we couldn’t hear, stories of things that happened in the dark room that must be somewhere behind the parlor of couches  where they lay on their backs to earn their wage, stories told on text messages bouncing around in the night  from cell phone to cell phone, plastic couch to plastic couch, one girl to another because who else can they talk to?  The man selling them and taking most of their money?  the johns?  I could be wrong but that couch looked like a lonely place to me.

We stopped to get sate from a street vendor, sate is meat on a stick over a long grill, I had chicken.  We were waiting for the meat when a guy came over and told us in Indonesian that they also had chicken in the bar across the street, but their chicken all had long hair.  The kid making the sate noticed we weren’t laughing and he tried to explain it, we get it we get it we told the kid.  Then we walked around with chicken on sticks and everyone who saw us hollered “SATE” I don’t know why.

We wanted beer and agreed to find the craziest one to drink and take it in, look it in the face I suppose.  The room we entered was dark, closed off from the street.  The first part of the room was pitch black, all couches facing a floor to ceiling glass window which divided the room.  The other side of the window was a multi leveled stage like display case for the girls to sit facing the dark figures lurking in the shadows of the couches on our side of the glass.  The girls were half blinded by huge stage lights focused in their eyes  so they couldn’t see us, but we, the dark figures lurking in the shadows beyond the glass sure as hell were looking at them.  The men in the dark couches were silent, peering at them, forms in black and shapes suggested by outlines with glowing eyes and teeth and tips of cigarettes which glowed amber whenever a dark figure inhaled, momentarily revealing lips, lower nose, and upper chin.  We were lead to the very front couch, just beer we told the guy.  And we sat there, Mark and I, in silence.  Nothing here turned me on, nothing was sexy, I just felt like a creep in a sea of creeps hiding behind glass, watching, lurking.  We made the occasional nervous joke and once every few minutes a girl would be called and have to leave the display case and run into the back to go to work.  The girls all seemed to be fat or skinny to the extreme, suspiciously so.  The fat ones were huge and the skinny ones all had visible ribs poking like black piano keys from under bright red fake leather bras and halter tops.  What sunk it for me was one of the especially skinny ones had a couple of inches of plastic surgical tube leading to an IV hanging out of a hole in her arm, which I take to mean they were starving the skinny ones and feeding them with intravenously, just enough to keep them alive, and for what ever reason force feeding the fat ones.  Or maybe they just hired fat chicks, I don’t know.  And maybe the skinny girl was sick and needed IV medicine, or she could have been a junkie, again I don’t know.  It was strange that so many were so so so skinny.  We just had the one beer, and we finished them fast.  I don’t think either of us suggested another one, we paid and split.  We had had enough.  We looked it in the eye and it was ugly.

So I don’t want to end on that note, here is some non bummer news

Mark stayed for a couple of days, we did a lot of drinking with my room mate cowboy Eric of Chicago on the landing.  Mark mentioned that he and I connect well and I think that’s true.  When he left he gave me his Indonesian to English dictionary which I carry in my pocket every day.  Ever wonder the word in Indonesian for lantern slide?  Well it’s gambar seter.

His last night he had an early flight and we kept him up so fucking late drinking beer, he was so cool about it too, I have no idea how he ever made his flight.  Still feel a bit guilty about that, Mark if you read this, SORRY FOR KEEPING YOU UP DRINKING BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT, MARK!  YOU MUST HAVE BEEN A WRECK THE NEXT DAY!!!

Hey, do you remember Jane from China?  I used to date her and write about her quite a bit.  We started talking around that time, hadn’t heard her voice in a couple of years but she sent me her phone number and I used skype to call her.  So now we talk every day.  Much more news on that soon I think.  Really really good news, but I am keeping silent to try to keep you reading.  I am an asshole that way.  I am smiling a lot though.  I will tell you that.

I am getting spamed in my comment area, so please leave me comments but know it takes me a long time to sift through the dirt to find your jems so don’t be annoyed.

Next post is coming very soon, it will be about my trip up the mountain staying with sulpher minors, then the one after that will be all about my week in Kalimantan Borneo that will bring us up to speed here.  Much less bummer and more crazy adventure kinds of stuff so please keep reading and tell your friends to read it too.

Sorry it’s been so long, I hope you are well and if you would like to hear from me I would love to hear from you, email me or leave a comment or find me on facebook.

thanks everyone for reading


3 Responses to “The couch looks like a lonely place to be”

  1. Marcus Rosentrater says:

    I don’t think I’d be able to speak to the other teachers that live for Dolly’s. Commendable Sanders. I’m going to try to get to that spam problem when I get home. Let’s catch up soon.

  2. amy bugg burke says:

    I hope Jane comes to stay and you fall-for-really-real-in-love and make babies. Not right away, but someday. All babies are cute, but chubby Asian babies are the cutest. =)

    It is hard to believe that there are people in the world who feel comfortable exploiting another person and using them in a way that disregards their humanity. Even sadder that there are people who have to be used in order to survive.

    I enjoyed the pictures in the sulphur camp…can’t wait to hear the story! Love you and miss you Will!

  3. Doug Brown says:

    Is the name “Dolly’s” some misbegotten Dolly Parton ref? I don’t know, sounds depressing and sad. Never trust a whoremonger. That’s my advice. Oh, and yes, of course, I always wanted to know what the Indonesian for lantern slide is. What’s a lantern slide?

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