I meet Anna tonight in Pontoon – Phnom Penh’s hottest ex-pat nightclub – who I haven’t seen for ages. Don’t recognize her at first with her new hairstyle.
I ask her where she’s been. She says she’s just back from the Province. Her dad died. She mimes a knife slit across the throat. I smile, thinking she’s joking. She isn’t. I say I’m sorry.
Anna’s young, I’d say 25, and pretty, perfect beauty. Lively, bouncy, with a smile that can stop strangers. But she looks skinnier than before.
I ask her if she’s working tonight. She nods. Wide-eyed. Hopeful. Moves a bit closer to me on the couch, her arm resting on my leg. She has no money. Tonight’s her first night back in Phnom Penh. She’s penniless. Bright brown eyes shining like the rabbits in Watership Down.
A thought goes through my mind of rescuing her, taking her as my girlfriend. All these girls are Cinderellas looking for their Prince Charming. I take the thought captive. There’s only One who can rescue her. Not me. And not Prince Charming. The Prince of Peace.
I stroke her hair, tell her how beautiful she looks, then say in broken Khmer.
“I like you, but, I’m sorry, I can’t pay for sex. I’m Christian.”
I lift my sleeve to show her my Cross tattoo.
She shrugs, and says:
“I have to work. I need money.”
She raises her hand and gestures to the myriad of women in the club, and says, matter-of-factly, looking me straight in the eye:
“None of these women want to be here. Not one.”
I leave her to catch her fish…or rather her shark. I go to the bar and get a beer, wondering how she chooses which man to approach, how she selects her victim.
When I turn around she’s gone. The next I see her she’s approached a white-haired man in his 60’s.
Easy pickings. Easy money.