FIVE A DAWA, SHE SAID.
Her name was Kim and she worked out of the Blue Note Club. There was at least one Kim at each of the six clubs in the Village of Song Song Ni, South Korea, in the sweltering monsoon season of 1966: The New York Club, The Chicago Club, The Detroit Club, The St. Louis Club, The Mamasan Club and The Blue Note Club. Each club was a single room built of concrete blocks, with a single overhead light bulb, a concrete floor, a wooden plank that stretched between stacks of concrete blocks, a shelf on the back wall holding bottles of bourbon, scotch, gin and vodka, tonic water and warm cola that had long since gone flat, a half dozen grimy glasses, and a phonograph that played the latest Motown hits—Aretha Franklin’s Respect, or Otis Redding’s Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay or Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine. Each club had a Mamasan and four or five girls she watched over, and at least one of them was named Kim.
Five dollars for all three of us, Harry said. Right? Harry had been in the country a year and was doing the talking.
Aiee! You fuckee clazy, GI? Five a dawa you, five a dawa you, five a dawa you! she said, pointing at each of us in turn. Fuckee clazy GI! Fuckee you think, huh?
Fifteen dollars! Harry said. Who’s crazy now, you little bitch?
I didn’t like that he called her a bitch. She had a pretty face and a small, pouty mouth and I could have loved her clear on the other side of the world, but Harry was doing the talking. He and Kim haggled a few minutes and settled on the odd amount of eight dollars for the three of us.
Kim’s house was a single room of bamboo and rice paper, eight feet square, lit by a single small bulb in a pagoda-shaped lantern on a wooden box. Her bed was a futon on a platform a foot off the wooden floor. She took her clothes off in the dim light. She had small breasts, a nearly hairless pubic mound and, like I say, a small, pretty, pouty mouth, which emitted now the rancid odor of kimchee, a sour spicy cabbage, the smell of which could drive you out of a room. She lay on her back and spread her legs. Ok, first a one, she said. Harry had done the talking; he’d go first, then David. I only had two dollars, less than my share, and would settle for sloppy thirds. Harry took off his boots, dropped his pants and shorts and settled himself between Kim’s legs. David and I sat on the floor on opposite sides of the room, and while Harry’s butt went up and down between us like a full moon that couldn’t decide if it was rising or falling, we drank our drinks and talked. I told him about growing up on a farm in the Midwest; he told me about growing up on the mean streets of Patterson, New Jersey. Harry grunted, Oh, yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah and Kim reached under the platform of her bed and pulled out a piece of bulgogee, a spicy barbecued beef, took a bite and nibbled at it like a little rat.
Harry finished and rolled off with a moan and Kim said, Ok, nexa you.
David dropped his pants and drawers and mounted Kim, and while Harry and I looked over and around his bobbing butt and drank our drinks and talked about how fucking fucked was the fucking army, a girl’s voice outside called Kim’s name, and she called back and they carried on a conversation in Korean through the rice paper walls till David finished his business and rolled off, and Kim said to me, Ok, you nexa.
I dropped my pants and drawers and took David’s place and he took mine. Kim reached up and touched my face and said, Aiee, you numma one babysan, you! I was eighteen years old and looked a few years less. It was my first night in the village, and Kim was my introduction to the mysteries of oriental sex, but the warm vodka, the muggy monsoon air, the sour breath that wafted up from Kim’s pretty face, and the reek of Harry and David’s come that wafted up from her vagina, all conspired to make my intro a forgettable one. I pumped once, twice, three times, the room spun and I lost my lunch somewhere between Kim’s small breasts and her small pouty mouth. She screamed like I’d set her hair on fire. David said, Gross! And Harry laughed and said, Right on, Brother!
Just then—it must have been eleven o’clock—the generators shut down and the lights went off and the village was plunged into darkness. Minutes later Harry and David and I made our drunken way down the muddy path through the little village of Song Song Ni and queued up with the other GI’s making their drunken way back to the base after a night of drunken revelry. I didn’t imagine I’d be spending time with Kim from The Blue Note Club any time soon, but it didn’t matter much; there was a Kim in every club.