Chapter 24 – Poo-etic Justice
After spending two weeks hitchhiking around the remote mountain terrain of Kham Tibet and getting in touch with my spiritual side, I couldn’t wait to get back to civilization where I could dump a whole mess of drinks in my system in the company of fellow alcoholics. Via email, I’d planned to meet up with my buddy O’Shaughnessy in Yangshuo during the first week of November. Osh had spent those same two weeks with his girlfriend doing “couple stuff” and was equally excited to convene with a fellow bro and revert to Irresponsible Drunken Asshole Mode.
From where I’d been in the middle of bumblefuck out in China’s southwest, to get to Yangshuo I was gonna hafta take two buses to Kunming – the capital of Yunnan province from where I’d planned on picking up my Vietnam visa – before taking an overnight train to Guilin and finally another bus over to Yangshuo. Needless to say, I knew I had one hell of a journey ahead of me that, in the end, turned out to be worth the trouble.
During my time in Yangshuo, I took a shit in the middle of the street, covered it in Chinese money, stomped it down and left it for some unfortunate bastard to find and pick up. I rented a motorbike when I was super hungover and, since I’d never driven one before, mistook the gas for the brake and ended up crashing it into another motorbike that’d been parked on the side of the road, breaking off a huge piece of mine in the process. And last but not least, I got super hammered, had sex with a Chinese hostel owner named Monkey Jane, opened up all the drawers on her dresser, pissed on her clothes and was woken up by her the following afternoon as she asked my butt-naked self who’d been sprawled out, blowing bare-ass stink-farts in her bed, “Oh, you’re a dirty boy, aren’t you?”
Great times they were. But before those great times were had, getting from the country’s wild west back over to its civilized east was by no means a trek for the faint of heart.
Very early on the first morning of the first day of my quest, I showed up to the one-room bus station in Xiangcheng to catch an eight-hour bus to Shangri La. After approaching the ticket window, I was rudely shooed away by the woman behind the counter which turned out to be her way of telling me the bus was full. After taking a few minutes to formulate a game plan, I pulled up the calendar on my iPod touch, went back over to the grumpy old ticket bitch and pointed to the square for the following day with an inquisitive look on my face.
“Shangri La?” I asked.
She nodded affirmatively, didn’t offer to sell me a ticket then went right back to ignoring me. I took this to mean that I could just show up the following morning for a bus that wouldn’t be filled and get on then. And so it goes, I was left with twenty-four hours to kill and absolutely nothing to do.
Sure, there was a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in town but I’d seen enough of those over the past two weeks of travelling throughout the area and didn’t really care to explore another one. Unable to find any books, internet, fellow foreigners or a single person who spoke a word of English, I spent the day wandering desperately, wishing I could just hit a fucking button and fast-forward myself into the future.
Following that day of all-encompassing boredom, when I showed up the next morning at five-thirty – the daily bus to Shangri La leaves at six – and the same ugly bitch again shooed me away from the counter, telling me the bus was full, I nearly lost my fucking mind.
“You gotta be fucking kidding me!” I shouted. “Why wouldn’t you just sell me a ticket yesterday? What the fuck is your problem? You gotta be the biggest fucking cunt I’ve ever met in my entire fucking life! Oh my god, get me out of this shithole fucking town!”
A pair of guys in their thirties heard the commotion and walked over to see what was up. They too didn’t speak any English.
“Shangri La?” asked one guy while holding up his ticket for me to see. “Shangri La?”
“Shangri La,” I nodded. “Shangri La.”
They nonverbally indicated that I stay close to them. Unlike the xenophobe at the desk, these guys seemed interested in helping me out, so I did just that. During this time they were able to convey to me that they were brothers.
At about five to six when the bus rolled into the lot and everyone started filing out the station to pile on the thing, the brothers told me to follow ‘em. Standing outside the door to the bus had been a Tibetan-looking ticket-collecting agent with whom the brothers began talking. A few seconds later, the guy looked at me.
I nodded and he waved me on the bus.
The brothers took the pair of seats at the all-the-way front on the left-hand side and indicated that I sit on the floor right in front of them, just behind the driver.
As I sat there waiting for the bus to take off – it’d still been dark at the time – some monstrous, lurching Chinaman that looked like a Scooby Doo bad guy boarded that bitch and started shining a flashlight in my face. I arrived at the conclusion he’d been some sort of safety inspector by the way he waved me and the woman who’d been sitting on the floor across from me off the bus. The evicted woman started walking away then looked back at me and gestured that I follow her lead. She and I hid behind the bus until the inspector got off whereupon we climbed right back on and resumed our seats on the floor.
Within the first hour of the ride, the driver pulled over to the side of the road and picked up a Tibetan Buddhist monk that’d been wearing a blood-red robe. Even though he was young – in his twenties perhaps – out of respect to his supposed religious devotion, one of the two people in the seats directly across the aisle from the two brothers moved to the floor to make space for him.
The young monk’s head was shaven completely bald. He was wearing expensive-looking gym shoes and for some reason had been donning a headband that made me think he looked like an Asian Rajon Rondo. Throughout the duration of the ride, when this guy wasn’t fucking around on his cellphone, he was eating candy and drinking Red Bulls and then tossing the empty cans and wrappers right out the window.
I was blown away that someone who is so revered for his religious status could be so careless and so self-absorbed and set such a poor example. I was equally as shocked that the person on the floor didn’t seem to mind that they’d given their seat up for such an asshole. Then again, littering in western China had been quite regular and seeing people in fresh kicks staring at screens for hours on end is just part of the age we live in. But still, this left me feeling rather disappointed. I guess I just expected better behavior out of a Buddhist monk. I wanted to see him more in touch with the earth and with things that actually matter in life, not acting as apathetically robotic as the rest of humankind.
Sometime around noon we pulled up to some roadside food shack for some lunch and a bathroom break. Since my bladder had been quite full, before grabbing anything to eat I followed the crowd behind the main building where there’d been a pair of ten-foot by ten-foot cinderblock sheds – one for each of the sexes.
As far as ten steps away from the door leading to the men’s facilities, I got a whiff of the rancidness within and was quite tempted to just pull out my dick and piss outside behind the restaurant so I wouldn’t have to go in there and subject myself to such torture, but in the interest of not offending anyone, I ignored my instincts and followed the herd.
Upon entering the nightmarish den, I saw that there’d been neither toilets nor urinals. What they had instead, around the outer edges of the room was a foot-wide concrete canal cut out of the cement floor that’d been pitched on an angle so the excrements would wash over to and down the holes in the corners which had been about a square-foot in size. All along the perimeter of the canal had been an assortment of men squatting down and shitting alongside others who’d just stood next to them and pissed. There was shit all over the walls and, although the piss didn’t have much trouble flowing to the aforementioned holes in the corners, the logs tended to just lay where they were dropped.
With my game face on, I stepped up to the only unoccupied area I could find at the time which happened to be next to some middle-aged fat fuck who’d been squatting down while squinting and wincing, looking like he was having an awful hard time pinching one out. Doing my best to keep my eyes on my stream and my stream alone while breathing as little of the air in there as possible, I couldn’t help but notice that nearly all the pissers around me had been trying to spray their streams on stagnating pieces of shit as their way of helping clean up by disintegrating the logs so they too could flow where they belonged, down in the hole. Although I appreciated the teamwork, this action resulted in little shitty droplets of piss bouncing everywhere as the fecal erosion gave birth to one of the most vile scents I’d ever come in contact with.
Once my bladder had been evacuated, I hustled outta there as fast I could and washed my hands in some faucet that’d been running on the outside of the building. After seeing and smelling all that I just had, I’d pretty much lost my appetite and decided to skip lunch. Upon seeing me, however, the two brothers waved me over to a small table at which they’d been sitting to join them for some tomato and egg with rice on the side. Despite my disgust, I ended up assuming one of the two unoccupied chairs at their table and began to chow.
Some hose that ran alongside our table which sat between the restaurant where it’d been connected to a water source and our bus which’d been filthy from driving on the unpaved dirt roads out that way had been being used to spray down the dusted-up windows of our vehicle. It was a shitty old hose that had several holes in it at different points. The water pressure must’ve been pretty decent out there because at the points of rupture, the dihydrogen monoxide was spouting out at least five feet into the air. And one of the holes had been dangerously close to our table. Fortunately, at the time it’d been spraying downward but had been making the area all around the unoccupied fourth seat at our table all sorts of muddy. And all’s it would’ve taken for any of us to have gotten wet would’ve been a quick jerk of the line – a repositioning of the holes – by the guy that’d been using it to spray the bus.
When I was a kid, my mama always told me that “nobody looks cool while taking a shit.” And up until my experience in that bathroom just before lunch, I’d never really had the opportunity to confirm the verisimilitude of her theory.
A couple minutes after I’d sat down, the fat fuck that’d been struggling to take a shit in the bathroom that I pissed next to came up with a bowl of shaved pork and onion and set it down on our table. My mom was right, that guy definitely hadn’t looked cool taking a shit. In fact, the image my mind captured of him taking a shit made me sick to my stomach. Merely seeing his face when I was trying to eat mentally dropped me back into that hellhole of a bathroom. What I’d seen of this man made me think of him as less of a person with thoughts and feelings and more of a filthy barnyard animal. And truth be told, it made me uncomfortable having his dumpy fuckin’ ass anywhere near me in the presence of food that I planned on putting in my body.
As the story goes, Porky was just about to sit down in that fourth seat when the guy cleaning the bus tugged at the hose, sending a stream upward which miraculously sprayed the motherfucker right in his stupid fucking face. The brothers and I looked at each other and began laughing hysterically as the man turned around and started cussing out the dude cleaning the bus who, in return, just shrugged back at him like, “Whattaya want me to do about it?”
Once he’d said his piece, fatso turned back towards the table, wiped the water off his face, fixed his jacket and got ready to sit down and enjoy his meal. But what he didn’t realize is that when he’d stood up and turned around to yell at the guy, he’d accidentally knocked his seat a foot or two further back than it had been when he was originally about to sit down on it. So as he let all his weight go backwards and the chair wasn’t where he’d been expecting it to be, he lost his balance and fell ass-first into the puddle of mud that’d been created by the same hole in the hose that’d moments ago sprayed him in the face.
Everything about the scenario was so beautifully poetic. Seeing Piggy roll back and forth, splashing around in the mud as he tried to get back on his feet was the perfect outcome for a guy who I’d first seen taking a shit like an animal. And even though we didn’t know any bit of each other’s languages, the two brothers and I spit out our tomato and egg as we roared with laughter and high-fived about the incredibility of the event that we’d just seen unfold.