|Photo of a passage-brothel, taken hurriedly and on the sly|
The most bizarre joints, though, are a series of long and narrow passages facing the sidewalks. The entrance half-hidden by a rag used as a curtain, a pale pink light coming out of the clear sides, from which it is possible to peep at a sequence of run-down doors, each one watched over by a scantily-clad lady leaning on a doorpost or seated on a plastic stool. A pimp with the typical attitude of a human-spider (I was about to write spiderman, but I've read comics and watched cartoons and I know what the difference between good and evil is) is sitting or standing just outside. The customers enter and leave the places quite hurriedly, perhaps to comply with their embarrassment. Other people, with countenances ranging from the shady to the cutthroat, loaf around yelling, laughing, jeering at or shoving each other. A summary of urban social dreariness.
Family-run tiny brothels: in some of them you can even catch a glimpse of a kitchen and, in the back, as in every respectable Chinese house, a small and colorful Buddhist shrine. There are dozens of them, shameless, dismal, dirty, undisturbed.
The pimps invite the passersby to take a look at the offers of the day. I often walk past some of them and am systematically ignored. I might cherish the fond hope that I am different from those other men, that I don't have the whoremonger's demeanor, but I know better than to fool myself like that. The shares of sexy man! and handsome guy! - all of them strictly fake -, that over the years the Thai bar-ladies have yelled at me too, wouldn't allow me to do that.