A Late-Night Surprise in Vietnam
Jayden came stomping through the door to our shared hotel room. He was completely oblivious to the fact that it was 2:32AM on a Wednesday night, and his roommate was trying to sleep.
In the quick 10 seconds it took him to reach the side of my bed, I decided that I was asleep. I smelt the alcohol drifting off him, and his nightly routine of smoking before bed was fresh.
“Nadine, you awake?”
I didn’t answer. He said nothing and awkwardly stood by my bed. Slowly, anxiety started to sink in. Could he see through the act? Were my legs laying in a weird position? Was my eye twitching?
The longer he stood there, the more I started to feel guilty for ignoring him. He could have been hurt for all I knew. I was forced to answer the idiot.
“Yeah Jayden, what’s up?” I mumbled, turning over to face him.
Jayden towered over me, a moonlit silhouette covering half of his face. He sported a slimy grin to match his dirty Bintang singlet. I snuck a quick look around him. An elegant Thai woman stood by the doorway, tall and slim. How’d he manage that?
“I need a favour.”
When I first met Jayden, he seemed cool in a nothing-bothers-me-kind of way. On day one of our tour through Vietnam, I arrived in our room first and started setting up my clothes for the next day. Jayden arrived an hour later. He opened the door, gave me a huge grin and shouted, “Sawadee Khrup!” I don’t think he released he was saying hello in Thai even though we were travelling through Vietnam. But even if he did, he wouldn’t have cared.
I knew I should have kept an open mind, and I was trying to not be so judgmental of others, but it was hard when I learned I was assigned to share a room with Jayden. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist except for the topics of booze and weed. He liked his women, especially Vietnamese women.
“Yeah, what?” I asked, preparing myself.
“Could you be asleep?”
I flicked one more look at the woman by the door. “Why?”
“I have a girl outside,” he stated as if it was a normal thing to tell his roommate of five days. “So please, can you just, like, turn around and pretend to be asleep?”
Like the pushover I am, I turned over and bunched the covers over my shoulders. Jayden got the message and his footsteps left my bed. I pressed the side of my head deeper into the pillow.
It was times like this I wished I had a backbone. I could hear my mother saying, “You need to stand up for yourself more!” I’ve never been that type of person, too hunched over with anxiety to even try.
I didn’t close my eyes, as if doing so would help me hear clearer. Instead, I stared at the bleak white wall, relying on only my hearing to understand what was going on. I had nothing to do. I was trapped inside my body, with only my mind to distract me.
Footsteps and a few giggles in, and I already wanted to jump out of the open window above the bed.
“Here, here,” Jayden whispered.
More giggling filled the room and I froze. I became hyper-aware of myself. Do I look asleep? My neck was cramping, but I couldn’t move.
The springs in the bed creaked. More giggles and clothes hit the ground with soft thuds. Lovers mumblings were exchanged. I moved my head a little to the side, conscious about the sound of my hair scraping along the pillow. How embarrassing! If I get caught, I’ll be called a pervert, I thought.
I tried to imagine I was somewhere else and not privy to what was happening over my shoulder. It was difficult to push the wet sounds out of my head. Unfortunately, our sense of hearing is one thing we can’t turn off.
The commotion started to pick up pace, maybe due to Jayden being too eager.
“Um, what is this?” Jayden asked. The shuffling stopped.
“Oh boy, boy,” the lady giggled again
“Oh shit,” Jayden exclaimed, close to a high-pitched squawk. “Um okay. I don’t like boys.”
She wasn’t happy about that. She spat a vociferous flurry of foreign words, which made me flinch. Maybe she was trying to wake me up. Clothes were rustled about, and a minute later, a door was slammed, blocking out any light from the hallway. Our neighbours had probably heard everything that happened within our small room.
It was quiet for about a minute before Jayden jumped to the floor and thundered over to my side again.
“Holy shit, Nadine, she was a guy,” he laughed.
I ignored him as I tried to silence the anger that was quickly consuming me.
“She was a fucking Thai ladyboy!”
I didn’t say anything; I just stared at the wall with a passive-aggressive shrug directed at Jayden. As much of a selfish prick as he was, at that moment, he could read body language surprisingly well. He gets the hint and turned to walk away, sniggering to himself.
“Well, I’m going out again,” Jayden chuckled and grabbed another freshly rolled cigarette.
The next morning, while Jayden was still in his booze-induced coma, I paid for a single room upgrade.
Cover by Annie Spratt