On our second night in Jakarta, we were sat in a bar, sinking suds, watching the football.
I returned to our table with a fresh couple of beers.
“Hey Mike, do I look especially wretched, desperate and lonely tonight?”
“No more so than usual. Why?”
“Well, a fifth different prostitute has just offered me her services”
“Oh right. Maybe Jalan Jaksa is a seedy part of Jakarta? What did you say to her?”
“I politely told her that I am not yet wretched, desperate and lonely enough, and that she should either ask me in ten beers time or just come and ask you now”
Just as Michael was about to reply, a couple of pretty looking girls came over to our table. Except for the fact that one of them looked Indonesian and one looked Chinese, they both shared similar features: a bright smile, dimpled at the cheeks; long shiny black hair and a potent pair of dark chocolate eyes.
I lifted my eyebrow in Michael’s direction, as if to say:
“Careful, Michael, they could be ladies of the night”.
Michael furrowed his brow slightly and twitched his cheek, as if to say:
“I know, play it cool Rich. Let’s see what happens”. (We later discovered that the bar we were in was next door to a brothel)
“Hello, my name is Isabelle,” said the Indonesian looking one, the more confident of the two. “Is it ok if we sit down with you?”
“My name is Christine”, said the one with Chinese features, as she sat down. Conversation started flowing and the girls told us they both worked in marketing. Oh yeah, I thought, here we go, what are they going to try and sell us. But they didn’t. They were just genuinely interested in coming over to talk to us. I kicked myself under the table for being so presumptuous. I kicked Michael, as well, just in case he had been too.
For the next couple of days Christine took us under her wing and did a great job showing us Jakarta. Highlights included a trip to the zoo, trudging knee deep through putrid fish guts at the fish market and an excursion to the Cibodas Mountains, a welcome respite from the congested, urban sprawl of the city. We also experienced the uglier side of the Indonesian law enforcement’s character.
One night we were in a taxi with Christine when a police car, attracted by the silhouette of Michael’s western hairstyle, pulled us over. He demanded our passports and then, through Christine, commanded we go with him to the station.
For some reason, the officer’s attention was on me. I had apparently committed a misdemeanour and Christine pleaded with him for perhaps 15 minutes.
Eventually she paid him a sum of money, the value of which she never divulged. It was a constant struggle with Christine in regards to money. If she had had her way, we wouldn’t have ever paid for anything. At times, we literally had force money into her hands to maintain some kind of balance.
Without the bribe, she told us, I would have spent a night in the cells. This altercation was minor, however, and it paled into insignificance when compared to the next ordeal.
We decided we deserved a massage to relax are battered, travel weary limbs. We walking into a plush hotel-like reception, lit with red low level lighting around the side of the black room.
I was guided into the small massage room and I sat on the table eagerly awaiting my masseuse, when a little smiling woman, about 60 years old, tottered in.
I didn’t notice it at the time, but now I think about it I’m pretty sure she had sharp teeth, a fork tongue and the red fires of Satan in her eyes.
She started things off with some light pinching of my legs. This is weird, I thought. Little did I know she was about to unleash the full extent of her repertoire of playground bullying techniques.
After she’d tenderised me slightly with her girly, kiss-chase style, pinching, she started pummelling me with a series of brutal dead legs, right on the sweet spot. I bit my lip and braced myself as she pottered around to work on my arms where, with an iron grip, she literally started administering Chinese burns, the savagery of which would have made Genghis Khan wince, had he been there to witness them.
“You sleepy mister?” she mocked, before nearly lifting me off the table with a couple of nipple cripples. When she went to do my shoulders I half expected her to get me in a head lock and give me a noogie.
The she-demon did not offer me a famous “happy ending,” but if she did, I can only assume that it would have involved her standing over me, on all fours, before kneeing me square in each testicle with all her might. She then would have stood by the door with her hand out, expecting a tip; or, more likely, she would have demanded my lunch money and then given me a wedgie as I limped out of the door.
Somehow, despite this cruel and, yes, sometimes unusual torture inflicted upon me, I did not give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry. I did, however, have some residue sun-cream in my eye, so if that devil-woman starts gallivanting around town boasting about how she made one of the bulés cry, she’s a dam liar.
Of course, Michael loved his massage. In fact, his was such a bonding experience that I’m pretty sure I heard him offer his (male) masseuse a “happy ending” (this may not be true).