Please, Sir!

I had predicted to my American friend that Newt would be showing up at my placeĀ as soon asĀ the money was gone. The way she’d been behaving suggested someone unable to get her life together and who’dĀ inevitably be seeking another infusion of cash. (I’d had an aunt who was like this.) What shocked me was how soon what turned out to be the grand finale took place.

If I had not been up late watching a movie, I would have missed the soft, tentative taps on my door. As I peered through the peephole, I could only make out a dark, bedragged figure that must have mistaken my apartment for that of another fellow. (My neighborhood being the sleeze center of Bangkok meant there were often women coming and going at odd hours.) Opening up, I took an involuntary step back. Before me was Newt with greasy, unkept hair hanging down over the shoulders of a rumpled, dirty blouse. On the verge of tears, she pointed to a large bruise on her upper leg while mumbling in a self-pitying voice. Destitute andĀ helpless.Ā 

What the hell had happened? That large sum I’d transferred into her bank account a while back whenĀ combined with my prior “donations” meant Newt had enough to comfortably get by on for three or four months. Yet now here she was, barely four weeks later, in dire straits all over again. SuspectingĀ that the money hadĀ been wasted,Ā and more than a little pissed off,Ā I firmly shut the door. While not denying her wretched misery ā€” like a characterĀ out of a Dickens novel ā€” this was also an attempt to wheedle a knee-jerk reaction out of me. Something like Newt…? Oh my God! Come in! Unfortunately for my visitor, I am a veteran ofĀ Asian woman mini-dramas and had no interest in following theĀ script.

Temporarily repulsed, Newt slumped to the floor next to the door, out of my sight. There was no thought of admitting defeat. Rather, this was the next act: to try andĀ makeĀ the soft-heartedĀ guy reconsider the plight of the forlorn woman huddled onĀ his doorstep. Someone with nowhere else to go. (Cue heart-wrenching music.)

I didnā€™t even bother to peek out as I reached for my shoes while trying to keep my mind clear; I knew she was there, playing the game. Yet despite my experience in these situations, Newt had nevertheless shocked me ā€” thisĀ was not the woman I thought Iā€™d known (ah, and how many Western men here in Bangkok have uttered that lament?). It was time to put some distanceĀ between us.

OK, then. The first step in these predicaments is to removeĀ the ladyĀ from the premise. Stepping out past my supplicant, I motioned for her to come with me, which to my relief she did, no doubt anticipating another trip to the ATM. (If she had remained, I was prepared to head out on my own and leave her there.) As we descended the second flight of stairs, Newt re-engagedĀ her Oliver Twist persona, stepping with herĀ good leg, then painfully dragging the injured one down besideĀ it, all the while grasping the railing. The performance was so compellingĀ that in a better mood I might have applauded.

At the gate to the apartment complex I suddenly stopped, mentioned the amount of money I had given her so far (some $1,500), then crossed and uncrossed my arms like an NFL referee signaling an unsuccessfulĀ field goal attempt. I wanted to make it clear that nothing more would be forthcoming, that this…was…the end. I then quickly turned and headedĀ back to myĀ apartment, leaving her standing there, silent. On my way I stopped and asked the guards not to let that woman through again.

oliver-twist

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