Your story is of being alone at twenty-four in Bangkok, sex capital of the world. Skinny, lost, in your coveted American jeans and beat-up sandals, you somehow thought to find a prostitute and went with her. Both of you young, that worthless treasure, unasked for, unexchangeable. In the small, sweaty room where you’d gone with her to lie down, you asked and she told you her story: her village, the family she sent money to, a boyfriend who didn’t like her doing this. Many things you didn’t ask but could piece together, knowing Bangkok, city of a million prostitutes, where women are trained to slither like brightly colored circus snakes, if that’s what is wanted. Or to lie still, for the ones who must have their way. Or to sit astride, massage with soap, with oil, with a curried tongue, each man who comes alone in his own sweat, needing it that badly. In this country there are villages where men come to the parents of beautiful daughters to bargain and barter and buy a child before it has been conceived. In this country there are women, girls, whose lives pass from hand to hand like foreign money in obscure places, beautiful and worthless. But you two were talking. I like to think it was a full moon. Both of you naked but doing nothing, just talking. You being you, the man I know, only younger and alone, your eyes filled as you listened. And she, who had years before stopped feeling sorry for her own sad, ordinary story, heard again in that moment her young girl’s voice, like a door long unused, creaking on its hunger in an airless little room where a strange man, not of her people, cried for her. This becomes my story as I listen to you tell something you have never told anyone. I listen and think about men, their hard, hungry bodies, and how much warmth and pain can cost. The price of a night not spent alone, the price of a story told, the price of telling a story, one’s own story, to someone, the price of keeping silent. The sharp salt smell of our mixed loneliness. When you told me, I did not interrupt or draw away. But for days afterward I found it difficult to leave Bangkok and this woman, this worn-down younger sister, whose life you listened to but could not change. I think of her when I order clothes from a catalog. Clothes cut and stitched and packed by red-eyed women and girls with black hair from places as far away as Bangkok and as poor. I have never been to Bangkok but have my own stories of what I have done or allowed to be done in the name of need. I have my own midnights when shame beats like a hammer, unredeemed, unredeemed. Morning in Bangkok — the sun rose like a burning gold coin. Your goodbyes were awkward and final; only the story you made together lingered behind, hovering, hesitant, dying to tell itself to someone.