We were supposed to meet at Starbucks at 8:30, and from there, go out and party. I got there, but the girls hadn’t arrived, so I sat down with a green tea and read about the paranoid psychosis that is the North Korean government. Twenty minutes later I heard a faint screaming through the glass doors, and looked up to see three brightly dressed girls running across the busy street, waving their arms, and laughing hysterically. The homegirls had arrived.
We all spent the last ten days together meditating in the monastery, and at least three of us were ready to let loose. One girl, Susannah, was able to laugh and talk, too, but I sensed that her mood was several notches below everyone else’s. The girls swooped me up in a wave of sparkling bindi beads, exotic perfume, and contagious enthusiasm, and we were off.
We went to the THC bar first, six floors up from the busy, sprawling city, and with a roofless view of the sky and crescent moon. The place was full of Westerners, kids with dreadlocks and colorful clothing. We ordered beers, took pictures, and laughed over everything. It felt so good to laugh again, to talk, to ask questions, to listen. Those girls, who I knew for a week and a half only through a few shared words, and in all white clothing, came to life in a new way outside the monastery.
Yana wore a blue dress and black eyeliner, and when she laughed, she crumpled over, and grabbed your arm for support. Everything was hilarious to her. Her white teeth gleamed, and anytime she began laughing, I began laughing, too. The good mood was flowing freely between all of us, with the happiness mingling and growing as the night wore on.
Susannah told me about the Islamic man she loves, but might leave. She was more withdrawn, and sipped on orange juice instead of beer, but she was a warm spirit, and I think she found some relief in being out in the city and amongst talking friends again.
Rowena was dressed like an Indian goddess, with blue eyeliner, a glittering swirl painted between her eyes, tons of silver jewelry, and pink, sparkly clothing. When she danced, she opened her arms to the sky. When she talked, she opened her blue eyes wide, huge, and threw back her head in laughter, exposing her long, white throat. We were having a great time.
Later, we made our way down to the river, to a bar that sprawled three different floors, and had a packed dance floor of sweating, swaying people who rocked out to a Thai cover band. Dancing in that mass of people felt so good. Sometimes, when the mood is right, and my mind is relatively clear, dancing is a tonic for me like no other. I can let loose and allow the music to flow through my body. I raise my arms over my head, stamp my feet, shake my hands, twirl my hair, and kick my feet. In that place, with my girls by my side, we jumped, and shook, and spun, and shouted the words to the songs. We laughed over and over, and I’ll tell you what- Coldplay has never sounded so good!
Later, when we collapsed back at the table, my sweet stripper, Rowena, surprised me again by telling me that she:
A) Was twenty-three and already had an ex-husband.
B) That her ex-husband first became her husband after being possessed by demons during a three-day bender of ecstasy and speed, and that the only way to break the possession and win him back was for her to conduct a “grounding” marriage ceremony that tied her soul to his, and thus broke the spell.
C) That lovely Rowena herself had been possessed by a goat-headed demon spirit while being initiated into a cult, and that during the initiation ceremony, she ate acid and smoked toad venom, and after being possessed by the demon, collapsed and blacked out. (She later declined membership in the cult, which infuriated its leaders.)
D) She practices magic and believes in witches.
E) She of the Burning Eye Contact is in a long-distance relationship with her male partner, but she is wildly bisexual, so they have agreed that she can sleep with as many women as she likes in his absence, because “She has to have to have a deep emotional connection with a man in order to strip down and get naked, but with women, it’s purely physical. And who doesn’t need a smooch and a snuggle every now and again?”
F) That while she’s not saving lives in the field as a traveling nurse, she makes great money on the side by pole-dancing and giving private lap dances. She was more than happy to demonstrate her techniques for us, sucking on her fingers, and twirling around the nearest pole.
It was a great night 😉