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The cold water hit my spine and slid down my back. I was in the women’s change room of the community pool in Buriram, alone. It was approximately noon. I had finished my laps and was preparing to go pick up some lunch.
There was a knock on my shower door. This was unusual. I asked who it was. It was one of the pubescent boys I had met in the pool.
The conversation as I remember it:
“I’m showering. I’ll see you when I’m done.”
“I want to shower too.”
This confused me.
“I’ll see you when I’m done.”
“I want to shower with you. Can I shower with you?”
The fact this individual was approximately fifteen years old, pleaded as though he was eleven years his junior combined with the implication of his request further baffled me. What was this kid thinking?
“No. Get out of here.”
“I want to shower with you.”
Silence. He left.
My body dried and clothed, I left the stall and walked to the mirrors to care for my hair. The boy returned. He slid into the women’s change room as comfortably as if it were the men’s.
He requested money. I told him I wasn’t going to give him any. The specifics of the conversation currently evade me, however I do recall the blank stare which emerged moments before he placed his right hand above my left breast. My words are lost in the past as are my actions, I remember little between the flattening of his hand against my bone and his hand retreating. I distinctly remember the frown that followed. He continued whining. He wouldn’t physically leave. The boy’s presence in the change room evoked great unease within me. I didn’t physically fear him, rather I was worried about the possible consequences of being seen alone with him in an incriminating location. People more often than not seem to be assumed guilty before innocent in the social politics of the Thailand I know, and the last thing I needed was for anyone to propagate the tale that I propositioned this kid, or worse, touched him. Including him. Being a Foreigner works against me in this situation. It wouldn’t be a huge jump given the nature of my predicament to conveniently position me as a sex tourist. There are a lot of Foreign creeps out here. A story as such could possibly haunt me in ways I hadn’t experienced. At the very least, it would get me kicked out of the pool.
The boy followed me from the change room, through the main lobby, out the front door and to my motorbike. He asked for a ride home. I told him to beat it. He asked for money again. I told him to beat it. He left frowning.
The situation was annoying but he wasn’t the first pubescent boy to proposition me at the pool. You can read about my first experience here.
What I found both interesting and disturbing were the warnings I received from the people I relayed the story to. Their precautions were the same. It was dangerous for me to be seen alone in the change room with the boy, not only for my reputation but also for my pocketbook. If he had witnesses, he could accuse me of having sex with him. His parents could then extort money from me in lieu of being arrested and possibly charged with having sex with a minor. Civil disputes between Thai nationals and Foreigners, from my experience, always go in favour of the Thai. In addition, it was warned that the parents of the boy could work together with the police in an effort to extort a great deal of money from me. I was told this is something I really should be cognizant of as a Foreigner. In fact, his parents could have told him to follow me into the change room for that precise reason. True? I don’t know, but nothing I’ve witnessed here would make me dismiss the possibility.
Next week, on the death of a friend.
Friday, May 4, 2012