"You're very strange. Why didn't you ask me to go home with you before?" she asked, in the taxi.
"I asked you if you wanted to walk outside," I said.
"Who wants to walk in high heels?" she said.
"Well, that's where I was going to ask you if I could go home with you." I didn't add that I still wasn't 100 percent sure she wasn't genetically female.
At her apartment she told me to wait a few minutes, and the follow her in because she didn't want people to see us together.
Her apartment (or rather, her boyfriend's apartment) was gigantic by 3rd world standards, with kitchen and full bathtub and everything. Pictures of her and her boyfriend were all over the walls; the place was well-decorated, and in an office there was a computer and a fax machine and scanner for pictures. Even a small piano and a picture on an easel!
During the week, she said, she took private lessons in painting, acting, and piano. Her acting teacher, she said, told her that she wan't really pretty enough to be an actress.
"It takes all kind of people to make movies, though."
"That's what I said. In SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES, there's one pretty girl and seven ugly little people. Somebody has to play the dwarves."
Her bedroom had a big bed, a TV with a VCR, a stereo (on which she put an Enya CD) and a lot of stuffed animals. A poster of "New Kids on the Block" hung among more pictures of her and her boyfriend, who was rather a sincere-looking 30-ish Yuppie Scum type.) She said "New Kids on the Block" had personally sent her the poster after she'd written them -- they said she was their only fan in Vietnam.
We talked some more; she smoked a lot of cigarettes, and said she smoked four packs a day sometimes. She revealed she'd had a baby a couple years ago, and had to have a C-section; she said the scar looked like a zipper. (That would seem to settle the issue of her genetic makeup but there was no indication of a child in the place.)
"I look like I fought a tiger, I have so many scars," she said. She showed me some on her face near the hairline; she said she'd been hit in the face with a bottle during a fight with another girl.
"Nothing wrong with scars," I said. "They just show you've had an interesting life."
She wanted to know why I seemed so emotionally distant. "Most guys would have been licking my toes to go home with me," she said.
"It's been a rough last few years," I said.
She said everybody has done things they're not proud of, but you just keep moving forward and trying to do better.
I explained that for me, trying to do better, was not getting involved with people.
She told me a story about a pet rabbit she'd had when she was 17. She'd kept it in a small cage because she didn't want it running away, but its legs had become very weak because of this, however, and when she did let it out of the cage, it got killed by a dog because it couldn't run fast enough.
She said this bothered her a lot, though it might sound silly.
I said I understood perfectly well.
It was about 6:00am by this point, and I was tired. "Aren't you attracted to me in a man-woman way?" she asked. I was tired, and felt emotionally drained already, but I didn't want to be impolite.
We undressed and got at it; she didn't have a penis. My dick wasn't up to much, at that hour of the morning, so we ended up mutually masturbating each other.
Afterwards we dozed a little; then I said, "I guess I'd better go back to the hotel."
She didn't like that. "I thought you were different because you're strange, but you're not."
I apologized and said I'd stay if she wanted, but I had no clean clothes, no toothbrush, no medicine for my athlete's foot, and I could never sleep well around other people.
She got up and walked into the other room and began playing something classical on the piano, which was out of tune. I recognized it but couldn't quite place it.
"What's that?" I asked.
"Nocturne," she said. "I play it when I feel frustrated."
This was every bit as surreal as it sounds.
I left and told her I'd call her. And I actually did, the next day; she seemed surprised and hesitant but not unhappy, but she didn't want to go out.
Health note: athelete's foot is better, finally ...
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For more tales of SE Asia, English teaching, and backpacking in the 90s, read