She looked up, a young face with old eyes.

"You want date?" she asked in broken English, with a calculated glance at the clothes we were wearing and an equally calculated innocent voice.

She was a Patpong girl, one of the many young women sold into prostitution in Thailand, often by their families. She worked at one of the many "fun houses" in the city, for an old woman with a hard look on her face.

She told us that her name was Kau (very likely, we learned from our interpriter later, a lie - one of the survival tactics of the Patpong girls was to use a fake name while at work - apparently helps distance them from their reality). She said she was 18 (also very likely a lie - because so many of the girls are from the countryside, there are rarely birth certificates to prove age and the brothels now at least put on a SHOW of avoiding child prostitution by having the children lie about their ages).

Kau had apparently been doing her job for a few years, as her entertaining and conversational skills were much better than those of the average girl in the house. Apparently, we had rated the best of the best here.

As she looked up at me and asked if I wanted a "date," an invitation to join her, for an additional sum, in her bedroom, I only saw her pain. All I could see was the longing in her eyes for another life, one that she was never offered. Instead, she would live here for a few more years (as long as she looked young - tourists were suckers for the child look), then attempt to reenter society with very little money of her own and a repuatation that would keep her from marrying well or getting into a school.

She was trapped and, like an animal that had been caged for too long, she had begun to accept her fate.

I gave her the money. I wouldn't, however, go up to her room. For a change, I thought, maybe she'd want to be there by herself.

A line from the musical Rent. Mimi says it during the song Light My Candle, in which she and Roger meet. "They say that I have the best ass below 14th street, is it true?" and "I didn't recognize you without the handcuffs!" are the two best quotes in the song.

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