The life of a Bangkok bar girl has come to an end.
Sunday night Dos died. She hadn’t been feeling well for some time, months, years, who was to know as she didn’t tell anyone until near the very end. She had cancer, internally but we don’t know exactly what organ was the origination point, the stomach, the liver (aaahh the liver, when it comes to the real drinkers, as Dos was we must always suspect the liver), the kidneys, the lungs as she was a smoker, nodes on all or one of them, we don’t know for sure. It doesn’t matter because Dos didn’t opt for any of the treatments our pain delivering medical advisors rush to prescribe. Dos decided to keep the bad news to herself and continue to live her life as always. She wanted to drink and laugh with her friends until the end. She succeeded in that.
Of course when one says living as always about Dos, one is talking about an enormously unhealthy life style in any event. At the time I met Dos, about ten years ago, she was in her mid thirties and definitely not a healthy picture. She was medium height for a Thai girl, possible 5 ft. 4 or 5 inches tall, and quite thin. She had at some point on her path adopted the punk/biker girl look complete with boots with spike heels, chains, always in black, jeans and t-shirts, a tattoo here or there, nothing too flagrant. It was to be sure a bit of a silly picture. It’s hard to project a tough biker girl image when you’re so thin a strong breeze might blow you away. Dos was, for all her adult life and possibly much of her adolescence, a creature of the night. Prostitute? Amphetamine user? Probably, she had been a working girl as they say for some years, but when I met her doing research for my book, “Bangkok Pool Blues,” she was part-owner of a pool hall which also had bar girls for rent and part of Dos’ job was to supervise the girls. Some sponsor, a past customer one guesses, had paid for her interest in the pool hall and was her patron still at times.
None of the above really says anything about Dos, just about her situation. I liked Dos. It may seem a bit of a stretch to some given the description above but she was a likable person. An Englishman, a manager at a pool bar she worked at previously as an assistant manager, described her as “sweet” and much too softhearted a manager herself. She always had a smile and wanted to laugh and enjoy life with all. She supervised the working girls but never with a heavy hand that I saw or heard about. It was all just part of life. She did like to drink and many is the time I saw her at the beginning of the evening and she would say she was moving slowly, that the last night had been a bit too much. Certainly when I finished my pool games and went on home she was well lubricated. She would sit outside the door to the pool hall with one or two of the girls, drinking her drink, smoking her cigarettes, greeting incoming customers, saying goodnight to outgoing customers and joking about the absurdity of life. Poor Dos, life was a bit too much for her. It seemed as if she never got a grip on it. Of course she had the absurd part right.
She didn’t die well as one might guess. She felt terrible, racked with pain, and went home early, ten or eleven pm, from the pool bar. At home she got worse, had trouble breathing and started to bleed. She called the bar and asked some of the girls to come and take her to the hospital. The girls went and found her semi-conscious and bleeding. An ambulance came to take her to the hospital. She stopped breathing along the way. At the hospital a doctor tried to resuscitate her but it proved impossible. She had died. She was 45-years-old and left a 20-year-old son.
Now, a few months later, there is a very Thai footnote to this note concerning Dos. The Thai are very strong believers in the next life and in ghosts. They believe that the ghosts or spirits of the departed often come back to familiar places. In this case it was Dos’ place of work, Jim’s Pool bar. On a recent night the shades were pulled at closing and the all night gambling and card games continued with women seated at the low stakes table and the men at another table playing for much higher stakes. In this case the winner went home the next morning $3,000 up. During the night there was a power outage. This is common in Bangkok, a city whose distribution grid leaves much to be desired. After a few seconds the lights came back on and the games continued. However within a few minutes there came another power failure and everyone immediately understood and yelled out virtually in unison, “Pi Dos ma” meaning Dos’ ghost had come back to visit and was signaling to get their attention. The reaction was laughter and happiness, in reality a sort of tribute to Dos. Of course the important thing, when the lights came back on a few seconds later, was to give Dos’ spirit what it wanted and that was Dos’ signature drink, a Black soda. One of the women went behind the bar and opened a bottle of Black Label scotch, as Dos did each evening, and mixed a strong shot of Black Label with soda water and then placed it, along with a small plate of bar snacks, on the table just outside the front door where Dos sat many a night talking with the girls and greeting customers. Then, with Dos’ spirit content, everyone went back to the gambling. The lights stayed on.
Author of: Shrapnel Wounds, Bangkok Pool Blues, and the Matt Chance thrillers Viper's Tail and Murder in the Slaughterhouse.