The afternoon rain has washed away the humidity. It’s one of those perfect evenings for just hanging outside at one of the many cafes in Johor.
From where I am sitting, I can see the Sultan palace up on the hill. A few meters ahead is the open air massage corner where I had a foot massage last night.
An Indian selling beads and copper bracelets starts his sales pitch. Before I know it, he has the bracelet on me and he’s giving me quotes in Singapore dollars and Ringgit. It’s the weekend and the Singapore surcharge at all hotels is bringing in instant income.
The seller’s friend comes up and they are both giving me the pinch as one of the guys gets out his nail clippers and secures the bracelet on my wrist by lapping over the ends. It’s all a con so I’m hamming it up too. Get it off me.
The two man tag team back off when Koon, the Chinese manager, threatens to boot them out if they don’t take off the bracelet. I had my fun and the Indians are now looking for a real customer. It killed two minutes before my food arrived. I’m a big fan of live entertainment when I dine.
Moments later, a cripple pushes a lovely looking lady with deformed legs in a wheelchair into the food court. They park outside my table while she sings a song. She is only in her 20s, fair skin, and very pretty, and belts out another song. Her microphone is attached to a speaker that is supported at the base of her wheelchair.
The cripple won’t move on until I put some money in the collection tin.
As she is wheeled out of the building, she belts out a Chinese number.
I haven’t seen any of these clowns all week, so it must be the promise of big bucks from the weekend Singaporean tourists.
On the way to another cafe, the pimp at the Chinese restaurant escorts me inside to show me his girls. Sitting out the back around a table, are ten bored whores. The pimp says for 200 Ringgit I can fuck them out the back. Or if I’d prefer, I could have a meal and then choose a lady.
A very plump Vietnamese grabs my hand and kisses it, with a “I love you.” Miss Batam from Indonesia, also very comely, shakes my hand and licks her lips with her pierced tongue. I make a quick retreat. Maybe tomorrow, I tell the pimp, as I move on to another cafe.
A Chinese, in his 70s walks up to my table. I introduce myself and shake his hand. It’s wet and slimy as he puts his handkerchief back in his pocket and joins me.
More guests arrive at the busy cafe and sit at our table.
Dee barks at the Indian waiter, saying that it’s our table. The waiter says they are guests who want to eat. He points out that I’m the only one who has ordered a drink. Dee says he was about to order a drink but the waiter cuts him short with another tongue lashing and a stabbing in the air of his fleshy index finger for emphasis. The Indian guests hearing this, move to another table as the waiter continues to wiggle his finger at Dee until he’s quiet.
Dee tells me he is from Penang, down here to visit a friend in Singapore. He smokes like a trooper and complains about how he was ripped off today. “The fucking Indian bitch charged me an extra fifty cents for my cigarettes Normally they are 3.50 Ringgit. ”
He pulls out a lottery sheet, and says to find the vendor who sells them just around the corner. “That’s where you can buy cheap cigarettes.” Sounds like a treasure hunt challenge and on every street corner there’s someone selling lottery numbers. Instead I order another tea.
Singapore is playing Malaysia tonight in a soccer match that is aired live. I think it’s going to be a lively night in Johor, as some locals jeer at the Singaporean player who scores a goal. It hasn’t got to the stage of throwing rotis on the television yet. Dee is making fun of the Indians watching the big screen. “How much do you think they would have to pay to watch the game?” We are getting funny looks from the Indians sitting next to us. I’m not sure where he’s going with this, but if he keeps it up there will be a riot.
The rain picks up and we hear a gunshot. “Just another night on a border town,” says Dee who can’t wait to return to Penang after the weekend. He’s trying to foist another cigarette on me. I can’t keep up with Puffing Billy and I’m truly touched at the same time with his generosity. I suspect he’s a local who use to live in Penang another lifetime ago. He’s too quirky to be from anywhere else.
It’s not even midnight and I’m sure Johor is just warming up.