I decided to go to Guam while smoking opium by the Mekong River in Laos. I had come to South-East Asia to break from my increasingly toxic lifestyle in Tokyo. Erika had been there for two months already, mostly alone on a Thai island, she had been working in Tokyo for even longer than me and I suspect had hurt herself more there, she needed the time away. We reconnected on a sultry evening mid December in Bangkok, she received me with an embrace and I felt as if I had been pulled from a car-wreck. She examined the damage thoroughly, my face was swollen, my eyes sunken, for myself I felt that my body was screaming; it was used, hurt, broken. I had had a lot of fun in Tokyo but what had I done to myself?
We stayed in Bangkok only to see Christmas through, which she, an Israeli,threw herself into celebrating with far more enthusiasm than I. Boxing Day we took a bus up to Laos. The next few weeks were a cloud of opium, rivers, temples, smiles, singing voices, yoga, hash milkshakes and, disappointingly, Friends episodes. At some point I decided I’d go work in Guam, I already had the information, I knew that they would pay for my ticket, give me a place to live and a salary, rationalizing it as a paid vacation, I decided I had nothing to lose.
The club manager had never answered my emails requesting an address to mail my stripper clothes to, so recklessly I packed them in my suitcase and strolled up to customs with them anyway. The officer eyed me suspiciously--looking back it must have been obvious--but it was late at night, she looked tired, so she told me that it was my lucky day and let me through anyway. I called the manager and got a message telling me that she was in California for the next few days, which left me alone in the airport with only the name of the club I was supposed to be working at. I went outside to look for a taxi, there was only one car there out of which I watched a hulking, tattooed Chamorro get out, he turned out to be the club’s bouncer sent to the airport to pick me up.
I was received warmly by the club owner, an energetic Chinese man whose short temper and fury I would not have guessed at in that moment. After welcoming me and gathering that I had no desire to work that night, he produced a roll of bills from his breast pocket and slid one in to the bouncer’s hand ordering him to take me out to eat. The single bill would easily have covered more than the Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast I was treated to but I kept quiet. The conversation over the meal concerned the bouncer’s recent jail time and trouble with the ex wife, his responses to questions about the club were minimal--besides letting me know that I needed to get a tan.
I met my roommates the next day, one heavily tattooed woman who had not been as lucky as I at customs; she had been found in possession of a crack pipe and was unable to leave the island due to jail time, court proceedings and rehab. The other roommate was quiet--sweet but very paranoid. We were a small group of dancers at the club and while there was never any shortage of drama, we were quite close.
I went to Guam with the intention of having a paid vacation and that is how I treated it, I made money but not as much as I would expect nowadays, I was lazy and confused, it was my first time working in the American system, in Japan the Mama-San seats you with the customers, you do not approach them yourselves, this took some time and reluctance on my part in overcoming.