Raw Thought

by Aaron Swartz

A Saipan Story

The following is fiction. Violent, explicit fiction. However, while the characters are fictional, the setting is entirely real.

Jason wakes up in an elegant DC apartment, sunlight streaming in through the picture windows and making the white walls gleam. He brushes his teeth and showers, before putting on his customary white-collared shirt. Only today he isn’t going to the office. Instead, a hired car waits outside to take him to the airport, where he’ll be travelling (first class, of course) to Saipan, that grand “laboratory of liberty” he’s known so much about, and on which he is due to write an article for some conservative magazine or other (his employers will place it).

He begins the piece in the car: a small island off the coast of Japan, Saipan was made an American protectorate after World War II. Only its unique agreement allows it to ignore many US laws, making it as close to a free-market paradise as could be imagined: a guest-worker program, low taxes, and no meddlesome industry regulation. A tropical paradise indeed. The thrill of the idea sustains him through the day’s journey.

Meeting him at the airport is Jack Abramoff, the conservative hero who set up this Saipan tour program, and a bunch of other, mostly older, faces he vaguely recognizes from around the capitol. Abramoff runs such tours regularly, helping spread the word among his tribe of this all-too-little known conservative success story.

Triana awoke in a Philippines shantytown, ramshackle huts spread amongst open-air markets. She had heard whispers of a better life out there and when, one day, a man offered to take her to America, she eagerly accepted. She was crammed in with a boatload of others for a packed journey to the far-off land. But soon enough they arrived and her hosts showed them all to their barracks, accommodations they’d obligingly provided.

As they were taken to their quarters, she breathed in deep the tropical air. “Ahh, the smell of America,” she exclaimed. She heard a laugh from someone behind her. “America?” he chuckled. “Welcome to Saipan.”

Jason steps off the plane into a tropical paradise, full of verdant palm trees, golden beaches, and a dazzling sunset. Abramoff shows them to their elegant hotel (complete with private beach) and invites them to meet him back in the lobby for the official tour the next morning. Jason changes into his bathing suit and goes for a quick swim, before tucking himself into his lusciously-outfitted bed.

The next morning, Abramoff begins the tour with eighteen holes of golf, carved into a cliff overseen by the mountains and overlooking a fabulous bay. As they play, Abramoff catches up on their stories and dazzles them with tales of Saipan’s splendor.

That night he provides a special treat — he takes them to the red-light district, where incredibly-thin bikin-wearing girls cast mournful, searching looks at the well-suited group of tourists. Jason smiles, but he is almost taken aback by the hungry gleam in some of the older businessmen’s eyes. One rotund White House official grabs two girls, one on each arm, and drags them over to a pay-by-the-hour hotel. The others all go off looking for their fancy. “What about you Abramoff?” Jason asks. “Oh, I’ve already got a girlfriend here,” he winks. “Guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” he adds before heading off.

Jason shrugs his shoulders and heads toward a slender girl, apparently in her teens, with a kind smile on his face. The girl smiles widely back.

They were fenced in, Triana and the others, allowed only to shuffle between the barracks and the windowless, exit-barred factory. If they disobeyed, they would be deported immediately, all their possessions confiscated. If they attempted to escape, the police would chase them down and beat them. From then on, their life was to sew khakis for Californians, complete with the “Made in the USA” labels that give their future owners such comfort.

There were few comforts for Triana. Bathrooms whose access was strictly controlled and whose condition was so filthy that one was inclined to avoid them altogether. Rations so tough one had to saw through them with the plastic knife. And, of course, the constant, seething hum of sewing machines in the semi-darkness.

Each night, when they headed back to their barracks after their shift, they were accosted by men, leaning against their cars and flashing dollar bills. “Come on, just a little something?” one might call. “Let me show you a good time,” another might add. The factory does not pay cash, so the only way for Triana to make some money is to crawl under their steering wheels and extend her tongue.

The next day, Abramoff takes to meet the local pwoer-players. Factory owners gush about the island’s incredible economic growth, and politicians (many of whom got their start as humble factory owners), warn them about the Federal Government’s imperialist (and racist) interference with their local way of life. “They want to shut us down,” one insists. “The leftists can’t stand to have us proving that the free market works!” Even the island’s Democrats have seen the light, signing on to plans for school vouchers, low taxes, and right-to-work laws.

They close off the day with a tour of a model factory. It is a clean and well-lit place, and the employees he introduces them to all gush with thanks for their newfound prosperity in life. Afterwards, Abramoff takes them deeper into the complex and invites them to take a factory girl home for the night.

Jason is struck by one girl with dazzling eyes and is immediately smitten. “Jason,” he says, extending his hand. “Triana,” she replies. She speaks little English, but Jason is satisfied to spend the whole trip back simply staring into her eyes.

Back in his hotel room, he eagerly tears off her clothes and begins caressing her naked body, slowly removing his garments as well. He flips her over and lifts her up onto all fours, slipping on a condom before sliding into her from behind. Triana moans with his thrusts and he thinks about the power he has here, able to instantly have any girl he desires. His thrusts grow harder and soon he is knocking her skull into the bed’s headboard, which only makes him pump harder still. (Outside, a cleaning maid shakes her head at the noise.) Harder and harder he goes until, with a sickening crack, he comes, and collapses onto her back with a thud.

He breathes in deep, but there’s a strange smell. He opens his eyes to find a line of blood running thru Triana’s hair and down onto the blood. “Shit!” he exclaims, and pulls out, his erection fading. He spins the girl over and shakes her violently, but her body feels strangely limp. He feels her pulse and she is gone. “Shit!” he says again, only quieter this time.

He is breathing heavily; he needs to focus, needs to think of a plan. He looks around the room. A window! He wraps he girl up in the sheets, and hoists her over to it and tosses her out, making a quiet thud on the ground below. Turning back to the bed, he notices more sheets stained with blood. He tears them up and tosses them out too, covering the body. Luckily, however, the bed is so lusciously appointed that nothing has gotten through to the mattress and very little is on the headboard. He wipes it clean, showers the blood off himself, and takes a deep breath before heading for the front desk.

“I’d like to rent a car,” he tells the concierge. “Of course, sir,” he replies. Soon he is loading the bundle of limbs and sheets into the trunk of an SUV and heading off down the coast. He finds a boat rental spot and manages to smuggle the body on board the craft. He ties on some ballast for good measure and then takes it all some ways out into the ocean, before pitching it overboard.

Back in his hotel room (his bed having been quickly remade), he stares at his hands. He has murdered, he has taken a human life. And yet, he has gotten away with it. The women here so eagerly give themselves up to be used here, used and discarded, discarded like just another market good. And nobody cares if they are gone — nobody cares about them at all. What power, to be able to control human life like that. What power, to be that kind of man.

That night, the sex is incredible.

Unfortunately, his island carouse is fast coming to an end. The next day Abramoff takes them back to the airport and quickly he finds himself back in his DC apartment, showering and putting on his white-collared shirt, before heading into the office. He finishes off his story on Saipan (“Maybe we on the mainland can learn something about freedom from our far-flung island commonwealth,” he writes. “Imagine: an island paradise where newcomers are welcomed and enterprise flourishes.”) and sends it to his bosses. But even with the job finished, he can’t shake the island from his mind.

His life of white apartments and gray offices seems stale now, he longs for a little excitement in his life. He heads to a Adams Morgan bar, but the girls here are all involved in their own scenarios, with none of the come-hither looks of those on the island. He nurses a beer at the bar, trying to put the longing out of his mind. An attractive girl comes to the bar, ordering drinks for her friends. As she scoops up the drinks and heads back, Jason calls out at her: “Hey there, can I get you anything?” She turns around and stares at him, before turning back and walking away.

He has to get back to Saipan.

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September 14, 2008


You tread a dangerous line with this pseudo fiction. Are you proposing that a journalist murdered somebody? Are you trying to make a point? It reads like provocative, deliberate confusion to me.

This type of line crossing between fiction and fact is a misleading one. You write the story with references as if it might be true, but also conveniently claim it’s fiction.

It leaves a bad taste in my opinion.

posted by Callum on September 16, 2008 #

callum, be sensible. if he got away with it, it couldn’t exactly be non-fiction could it? also, journalist? i mean, dur?

posted by quinn on September 16, 2008 #

As a long time resident of Saipan, and as an opponent of the Garment industry, and for that matter as a liberal conservative.. I find your story filled with inaccuracies about Saipan and other details. Number one.. Police don’t “beat” anyone up here. Never have. Number two.. not a single factory worker, male or female, has been picked out of a factory and forcibly made to have sex.. not a single claim or instance of this. Number three.. there are no places in the “redlight” district here (or elsewhere), where you can grab two girls and take them to a “pay by the hour” hotel. For one, there are no “pay by the hour” hotels in the redlight area, and secondly.. the bars don’t let you walk off into the street with their employees. Number four.. there are no “boat rental spots” on island. You can charter a boat for four or six hours of fishing(trolling).. there are no boat rentals. Number five.. the “island’s democrats” have never shared the same ideology as the stateside party. They are unaffiliated. “Island democrats” by stateside standards, are extremely conservative.

As I stated.. I didn’t like the garment industry. In fact, it was no industry for this island, which already had an amazingly strong tourism industry. That being said, a piece riddled with such blatant inaccuracies, does nothing towards making a real point about what was going on here. It doesn’t help “the good fight”.

posted by Lil on September 25, 2008 #

“Small island off the coast of Japan?”

“Crammed in with a boatload of others?”

C’mon now, Saipan’s a 3.5 hour AIRPLANE flight from Japan and folks don’t come here from Japan by boat unless they’re merchant seamen or military.

With gross inaccuracies such as those to start your little story, do we need to further poke holes in your “while the characters are fictional, the setting is entirely real” claim?

Lil’s being nice. And I’ve never liked fiction anyways.

posted by SteeleonSaipan on September 27, 2008 #

Number one.. Police don’t “beat” anyone up here. Never have.

My source for this is Thomas Frank’s The Wrecking Crew. I suspect he got it from John Bowe’s Nobodies but I don’t have a copy to hand.

posted by Aaron Swartz on October 9, 2008 #

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