“Are you a university student?”, asked the Korean businessman

“Are you a university student?”, asked the Korean businessman, and I could tell he wanted the answer to be yes. I wasn’t the only one with fantasies to fulfill.

I had misjudged. Any man can buy a good suit here, but in Asia it’s the shoes that separate the rich man from the poor. My eyes had lingered on him from my sidewalk table, looking away and looking back again for just a second, lingering here in the golden dust of a Vientiane afternoon, but that was before I saw his shoes. By the time he sat down, it was too late.

It was the young men my age that drew my eye, smiling and shy like birds, laughing with their friends, but I wasn’t averse to my own Marguerite Duras moment, here in the former colonies. If you recall, when Duras was 16, she had a love affair with an rich older Chinese man, in Saigon. Her telling of it, the novel L’Amant, won her the Prix Goncourt in France.

There was something to be said about a rich Asian sugar daddy with a vice for white girls, being ushered into languid hotel rooms by white-gloved staff to fuck, being treated like a princess, a little girl, an expensive habit.

Because that’s the thing about older men: they pay and they adore. They take you out and make you feel like a woman. None of this nonsense about going dutch that has infected my generation. At least, cheap old men never get laid.

But back to this Korean. He smoked Laos cigarettes and he offered one to me. He thought it was sexy that I smoked. I pretended that I never did, only with him. I knew my part in the script, you see.

He switched between English and Thai. I was impressed at his smoothness in this world, so far from his home, but he still should have chosen better shoes.

He tried to convince me to have dinner with him, and I smiled and said no. But he made me feel pretty, like young men rarely do, and I understood why my friends, the money boys, always chose older men.

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A blog about culture and technology in South-East Asia.

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