A DAUGHTER’S INQUIRY • by Paul Salvette

A man pulled his daughter to the edge of the sidewalk to politely make room for a woman and her son approaching them. Despite the unevenness of the sidewalk, the woman skillfully maneuvered down one of the most crowded streets in Bangkok with black heels, a scandalously short dress, and an inviting smile on her face as she passed the man. Her son’s filthy “Mickeyy Mouse” shirt indicated that this family was a charity case.

The daughter turned her head after the two had passed and asked, “Daddy, is that woman a prostitute?” In this chaotic and poorly planned city, it was typical that places like the prestigious Bangkok Achievers International School and Pussy Cat-a-go-go were within walking distance of each other. However, the bargirls usually were not flooding the streets at the same time that he walked his daughter home from school.

“Daeng, come on. Our driver is waiting at Daddy’s office.” The man had enough trouble comprehending the endless array of characters that lurked in these streets, and he had been living here for ten years. He was ill-equipped to explain the seedier elements of Bangkok to his daughter in the second grade.

“I just want to ask, because the girl was wearing the lipstick. That means she wants a gentleman.”

“That is a very impolite thing to say, Daeng. Even if she is a prostitute, you are not to judge her, as you have never had the burden and responsibility of taking care of a child. Everyone needs employment to survive and to take care of their family. Some people, like Daddy, work for a company, and some women work in a bar. That is the way the world works.”

“But, Mommy never worked for a company. Before you got married, did she work for a bar?”

Frustrated, the man stopped walking and asked, “Who are you hearing this from?  Why do you think that all Thai women work in a bar?”

Daeng appeared nervous at her father’s direct questioning, and she replied, “Teacher Michael said Thai women like Mommy sometimes work in a bar, because they need money.”

The man chuckled and said, “Of course. Teacher Michael is so quick to assume things about everyone else. Daeng, I am being honest when I say that your Mommy has never worked in a bar. But you should talk to your pretty Aunt Nuu, because she sees Teacher Michael at her bar all the time.”

Paul Salvette is the Personal Assistant to Mechai Viravaidya in Bangkok, Thailand. He occasionally enjoys writing when his wife allows him.

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