A Tryst Arranged

24 Feb

One quiet evening, Francois’ brother played Mendelssohn on the balcony of our Phnom Penh guesthouse, and he played it well.

Francois is a writer, two young children, separated. The brother is an artist and musician, living in Cambodia, getting by. The kids are skiing with their mother. He is in PP with a friend.

It is a little after midnight, the brother is long gone, and Francois and I are talking French on the roof terrace, as the staff sleep behind their screen.

His friend, he tells me, is déficient. He cannot read. He cannot write. He needs help to cross the road.

They are in Phnom Penh for one week. Then Bangkok for five days more. It seems a tough couple of cities for someone who struggles even in Limoges.

Francois shrugs. His friend likes it. Although the Skytrain in Bangkok makes life easier than here.

A door opens. A pretty, curvy, tiny chick in scarlet lipstick, scarlet corset, hot pants and high heels emerges.

“Bonsoir, Madame,” she says to me, definitively. Francois looks a little embarrassed as the clack of her high heels recedes down the cast-iron stairs.

A friend of your friend? I ask, politely.

Kind of, he says. We acknowledge our mutual euphemisms.

But, yes, Francois says. He did “arrange his tryst”.

Like most things, it sounds better in French. But it seems kinder, more equal, somehow, than the more aggressive transactions I have seen.

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