Chapter 26 – An Ugly Recollection
Slightly penetrating my comatose state, a phone belonging to Tim or Kathleen began to buzz sometime after the sun had risen. Although I could hear the repetitive droning sound echoing in my head, I couldn’t respond to it and continued catching some hazy-ass Z’s.
“Yo, let’s gooooooooooo,” Tim kicked the side of my bed.
“Fuck youuuuu,” I groaned back.
“Get up, we gotta catch our flight.”
Having anticipated feeling this lousy, there’d been no need for me to shuffle around and gather my shit together because I’d packed it in my bag the day before. Following a hasty tooth-brushing and the deposit of apple-juice-colored morning piss to the john, I staggered out to the front of Home Sweet Home hostel. There, Tim and Kathleen had been waiting alongside a rather chipper Mr. Tino who’d showed no signs or symptoms of a hangover. I acknowledged everybody in the form of caveman grunts and hopped in the tuk-tuk.
As we rumbled along in the auto rickshaw, for the whole ride over to Siem Reap International Airport, I’d felt very distant. It was as if my brain were broken. I felt like Jack Nicholson after he’d been lobotomized at the end of Cuckoo’s Nest.
“Okay,” Mr. Tino said as we came to a halt in front of the terminal entrance, “here we are.”
After hopping from the carriage, Tim and I pulled out our wallets to pay our friend for his three days of loyal service.
“No, no, no, it’s okay,” he smiled. “You already paid me yesterday.”
To me and Tim, this had been a mind-blowing revelation but Kathleen seemed to remember the transaction. Considering I had no cash value in my wallet, I’d received the news as a pleasant surprise.
“Oh, okay. So, we’re all good then Mr. Tino?”
“Yes, you’re all set. No problems, only good times.”
We said our goodbyes, exchanged e-mails and assured our little Asian buddy that we’d recommend his services to anybody we knew who’d be visiting Siem Reap in the future. This had been a promise that I figured wouldn’t yield much business, if any, for Mr. Tino because most people I know don’t consider Cambodia a viable option when they think of vacation spots. Nevertheless, for those with enough sack between their legs that do, you can hit a brother up at: email@example.com.
While standing in the Laos Airline check-in, the lingering toxins from the evening previous felt as if they’d been burning a hole in my stomach. A very large batch of diesel bomb farts had been brewing in my gas chamber and after a few minutes, I was unable – well, unwilling actually – to further hold these stink clouds within. As such, I unburdened myself of the noxious emissions for all those queued up to inhale. Judging by the horrified looks on their faces, the children standing directly behind us at eye-level with my anus didn’t seem to be enjoying Ground Zero.
Not because I’d been concerned about further subjecting innocent victims placed near me on the plane to two-plus hours of undeserved nasal abuse but to settle the grumbling and festering within, I decided I needed something – anything – to soak up the unaccompanied fart-fuel that’d been starting an all-out riot in my gut. To accomplish this task, I had the O’Shaughnessy’s hold my spot in line as I excused myself to go on a hasty hunt for a quick breakfast.
Without venturing too far, the only open vendor I could find in the vicinity had been a Dairy Queen which, to me, seemed random as shit. I hadn’t seen a single other recognizable fast-food restaurant in the country and figured it way more likely to encounter the golden arches of a Mickey D’s than the puckered red lips of a DQ. Either way, I didn’t give a shit. At the time, food was food.
As I perused the menu, I was the only customer in the place and soon found out why.
“You don’t got any breakfast?” I asked the woman behind the counter.
“No. Only item on menu.”
“Shit, alright. Uh…well, can you gimme a chili cheese dog and a mega-sized Oreo Blizzard?”
“Okay. That everything?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
While the cashier rang me up, I pulled out my wallet to pay for this breakfast of champions when I came to the realization that my debit card had been missing in action. Being my only means of ATM withdrawal for the remainder of the trip, my stomach dropped as a nervous sweat began to build and run down my back.
To first solve the problem right in front of me, I handed over my credit card with a trembling alcoholic hand then reached across the counter and doodled an uncircumcised, anteater-snout of a penis next to the “X” on the merchant’s receipt. After taking my breakfast to-go, I resumed my place in line next to the O’Shaughnessy’s and began thinking real hard about the evening previous. Starting with our exit from the floating village bar, I did my best to put the pieces back together…
A little while after the sun had set and Mr. Tino had suggested going to a Cambodian night club, I remember having another drink or two and hanging out for a bit before going downstairs to the first floor of the floating bar. From there we retrieved our whisky-shitfaced skipper and then all helped each other make the mini-leap from the docks over to the rocky boat. Surprisingly, no one had fallen into the diarrhea-colored water.
At that point, night had been upon us. With nothing but the moon, the stars and their reflection on the Tonlé Sap to guide the way, all I could see in the distance was the black outline of the jungle which’d been juxtaposed against the slightly less dark sky. Whiskey Bucket Boy cranked up the motor and headed that way.
As we neared the land the captain kicked the speed down to a Hans Moleman pace whereupon we entered a narrow inlet and soon became swallowed up by an all-engulfing darkness provided by the thick canopy of the heavily-forested thoroughfare. While we made our way through this vacuum-black passageway, glowing eyes peered out of the jungle and the rustling of leaves accompanied strange animalistic noises from the riverbanks. Foolishly unaware that the level of alcohol pumping through my veins was probably high enough to send each and every one of them spinning out of control and crashing to the ground like a certain Black Hawk helicopter had over Mogadishu, local mosquitos swarmed about hoping for a taste of the exotic delicacy that is the blood of a cracker.
Eventually we spotted some lights up ahead on the right and the trees gave way resulting in a small bald spot in the otherwise thick-ass forest around us. As we drew closer to this much welcomed electric splendor that’d irritated my dilated pupils, our drunken driver killed the engine and we drifted to a stop near an unfinished skeleton of a frame-only structure on stilts along the shore of the inlet.
Wheelman Shades hopped up and out the boat with a surprising agility for his current state and roped the craft to this dock of sorts. Mr. Tino and the first mate climbed out as well and then reached back to lend us a hand. Apparently, the only way into the nightclub had been to walk through this fragmentary wood framing on one of the many two-inch-wide planks suspended over some mysterious eight foot drop-off dug in the ground next to the water. For the time being, we all tackled this perilous feat as sure-footedly as a pack of mountain goats.
Once safe and sound on the other side, it was impossible not to notice the large, spherical, caged-off area which sat to the right and strongly resembled the Thunderdome where post-apocalyptic freaks fought to the death in the third Mad Max flick.
“Hey Mr. Tino,” I began asking, “what’s the deal with that big cage over there?”
“Oh, that?” he said. “That’s the place where everybody dances, but not until later though,” he squinted down at his watch. “It’s still pretty early right now.”
“Oh,” I replied, taken aback. “I gotcha.”
When Mr. Tino had said we were going to a “Cambodian nightclub,” that’s exactly what I’d been expecting. I’ve never been a fan, but I was pretty sure we were going to a place with strobe lights, shitty music, illicit drugs and a dance floor full of hot bitches with shit for brains being grinded on by popped-collar, steroid-using douchebags who, had they not been on Tool Academy themselves, either are related to or know someone who’s appeared on the program. Whatever that place was, wherever the fuck we were that night – it hadn’t been like that at all. In fact, it was something completely different.
Away from the Thunderdome and to the left, we headed into an area containing a strip of three-walled tin-roof shacks. With their backs facing the waterway, these primordial structures had been equipped with flashy lights which gave the setting a very carnival-esque feel. In these booths whose wall-less fronts had been positioned along a dirt path was an array of games that weren’t being played and a small selection of prizes which weren’t being won. Nearest us and in the center of said dirt passageway had been an out of place, unoccupied plastic table surrounded by the type of cheap plastic chairs that parents often let their children use when opening the premier branch of their burgeoning lemonade stand empires.
Speaking of children, positioned nearby and even more extrinsic than the isolated set of synthetic furniture appeared to be, a shitty-ass television from the 1970s set atop a wobbly stand had been surrounded by at least twenty young Cambodian kids who, for the time being, had remained unaware of our presence. Whereas all of the youngsters had been intently tuned into some bogus-ass cartoon show provided by the bunny ear antenna sitting atop the anachronistic idiot box, some of the children stood, some sat indian-style, a few dressed like ballers in Adidas jackets, a handful were naked as the day they were born and the rest were moderately clothed.
Gazing around at the bizarre scene in the middle of the jungle, I had so many questions to ask and decided to start with the most basic.
“Whoa, Mr. Tino,” I stammered, “where in the fuck are we right now?”
“Cambodian nightclub,” he grinned a strange grin and chuckled at the silliness of my first world inquiry.
Upon hearing conversation in English, a few of the children began abandoning the television and moving towards us foreigners – the new and more fascinating stimuli at hand.
“You should play some games,” he added, sensing how lost I was and offering direction, “then you can give the candy you win to the children.”
“Play some games?”
“Yeah, go play some games! Have some fun!”
Everything about that situation was overwhelming for me. I’d felt like a blind person who someone had cruelly kicked out of an automobile in the middle of a busy intersection.
“Seriously! The games are right over there,” he shooed us along. “I’ll grab a round of beers – just go ahead. Start playing!”
At a complete loss for anything else to do with ourselves during our arrival to the “nightclub,” we picked out a game that we deemed least “gay” of the bunch – the one where you throw darts at balloons pinned to a wall – and played a couple rounds. Upon hearing the popping of these pressurized oxygen bladders, one-by-one the remainder of the children ventured away from the flickering images of the outdated television and began to gather around us. Within a minute, we’d been completely surrounded.
Following my last dart tossed, I was given a handful of candy by the woman running the show. With the little vultures standing uncomfortably close behind me – especially considering some of them were naked and might piss or shit directly on my feet – I laid the pile of sweets on the ledge of the booth and gave them the go-ahead. Tim and Kathleen did the same. Leaving the beasts to their sweet prey, we stole away from the feeding frenzy and took a seat at the nearby, cheap-ass plastic table which’d now been occupied by Mr. Tino and the two other guys. Also awaiting us was another round of awkwardness-neutralizing beers.
As we sat there and chatted about god-knows-what while the kids enjoyed their Halloween-come-February, out of nowhere, using English-speaking capabilities I didn’t know he had, the first mate sprung up out his seat and decided to take our relationship to the next level.
“You want meet my mother!?”
I wasn’t exactly jazzed by the idea of the introduction of a strange mom to our drinking circle in this already outlandish scenario but the guy was way too excited for us to deny him the pleasure.
“Yeah! Sure man,” we cheered with the helping hand of alcohol. “We’ll meet your mom! Go get her! Great idea!”
“Yes, yes! I go get her!” he smiled, revealing a gold tooth. “Y-you stay, okay?”
As soon as we offered reassurance that we wouldn’t sneak away while he was gone, he skipped off like a school girl to go fetch the woman whose boobs he once upon a time sucked for sustenance.
While he was away, a few of the children who weren’t able to get their fill from the initial pile of sweets began to hover around the table hoping for more whereas the satisfied or indifferent ones resumed their place in front of the riverside television that – along with all the lighting in this remote area – had been powered by electricity from a source I couldn’t fathom. To pass the time and to offer the kiddies a few more treats, I went to play another quick round of games.
After I’d popped a whole mess of B’s, I decided that the kids’d had enough candy to keep them busy for a while and resumed my place at the table. Moments later, Professor Goldtooth returned with his mother who, to me, came across as the Cambodian doppelganger of Mac’s mom from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
“Hi, it’s nice to meet you,” we all introduced ourselves as she sat down and pretended that we didn’t exist.
After making this terrible first impression and continuing to ignore everybody at the table including her own son, this woman’s level of intoxication became quite clear in her head-dangling mannerisms and the blank stares she offered. Having all the makings of a total slob, throughout the rest of the session, this heavy hitter would slug down tall frosty one after tall frosty one at double the pace of everyone else while spending nary a minute without an unashed cigarette dangling from her lower lip.
“So Mr. Tino,” I began asking to divert my attention away from the newly introduced and terribly unpleasant company, “Mr. Chan’s your brother, huh?”
“Well, no, not really,” he replied with a bit of a solemn tone. “His parents actually took me in when we were children.”
“Oh shit, really?”
“Yes. We are just really good friends, but since we’ve grown up together – we like to say we are brothers.”
“Oh, okay, okay,” I said with a nod while sparking a ciggy. “I can respect that.”
He too nodded and looked away to say something in Khmer to one of the children who’d been standing next to him at the table, shyly peeking over his shoulder to look at us.
During the lull in conversation that ensued, I glanced over at Goldsmile’s mama whom I could see out the corner of my eye had been fumbling around with something. After tightening the ends and sparking up a personal joint, Mac’s Mom took a huge first hit, began hacking up a storm and turned to spit a big chunky loogie on the ground. Unfortunately, this turned out to be her routine after each hit she’d taken from the J that she’d offered to no one else which is a selfishness that I was quite okay with.
As the old intoxicated hag continued to punish her body, her son sat with a huge gold-toothed grin, elated that we’d met his mother. Meanwhile, several more children approached the table then hid behind Mr. Tino and the boat driver. Bashfully, these little munchkins peeked over their shoulders at me and the O’Shaugnessy’s as if we were strange specimens from another planet.
“Mr. Tino,” Kathleen eventually asked, “why are all these kids so shy?”
“Well, it’s because they’ve never seen a white person before.”
“What?” she nearly spit out her drink. “Are you serious?”
“Yes, very serious.”
He turned to the kids behind him and encouraged them to say “hello.”
“Hi there,” Kathleen smiled. “Mr. Tino, these kids are so cute but we’re way too messed up to be the ambassadors for white people right now. I don’t want them to grow up thinking we’re all this drunk and stupid.”
Perhaps keeping his buddy’s mother in mind who’d been much worse off than us at that point or just not giving a shit in general about the kids’ perception of white people as total embarrassments, without a word Mr. Tino shrugged in an “it is what it is” manner, finished the rest of his beer then went to take a piss over by the river. After waiting until he was shaken dry and zipped up, I went to unload immediately after.
At this designated bathroom area which’d been no more than a pitcher’s toss to a catcher away from the table and the television, I whipped out my wiener and began to urinate into a tall patch of riverside grass. As my main vein was being drained, a cloud of mosquitoes started to rise up from the brush and began attacking my shins. Seconds later, the enemy had been floating up my shorts, dive-bombing and trying to suck my man-meat from every direction. In an effort to prevent malaria from entering my bloodstream, I stepped back and started swatting at everything I could. Although I managed to escape the ambush without getting bit during this hasty evacuation, my temporary inattention to the original task at hand resulted in a half-moon shaped piss stain soaking into the bottom front part of my shirt.
I forget what about, but as I went to reclaim my seat I remember Tim being in the middle of telling some intense story filled with all sorts of dramatic hand gestures that I’d been glad to find was gripping the attention of everyone at the table and diverting it away from the evidence of my urinary inaccuracy. Although she might not have been understanding a single word coming out of his mouth, even the sloshed and stoned grandma had been looking on with intrigue. At the climax of this intense tale, my road dogg started to get a little carried away in his storytelling. As he swung his arms outward, he backhandedly smacked over my just-opened can of booze which had landed on its side and started spilling all over the place. With nowhere else to go, most of this beer began to cascade off the edge of the table down onto my crotch. In a weak-ass attempt to prevent any further pelvic saturation, I leaned back in my seat and in doing so the shitty plastic chair had exploded under my weight. Initially, just the two posterior legs had broken off causing me to fall straight backwards but, upon impact with the ground, the front two cracked off as well. The back of the chair had also been fractured in about three different places.
As I laid there stunned in the now muddy dirt atop the shattered piece of furniture with beer continuously running off the side of the table down onto my crotch, Goldtooth’s mother shot up out of her seat, ran over to my side of the table, pointed in my face and started berating me in Khmer. Laughing hysterically, O’Shaughnessy helped me clamber back onto my feet as I continued to get verbally assaulted by Mac’s Mom. I tried to neutralize the situation by getting all apologetic but it didn’t seem to work. She just pointed at the chair and kept yelling in my face. To quell her tantrum, I whipped out my wallet and handed the ranting woman a five dollar bill. Although that’d been enough to shut her up, an uncomfortable silence had thereafter befallen the party.
“Okay,” Mr. Tino said, “I think it’s time for us to go now.”
I had no idea what time it was. I had no idea how long we’d been there. All’s I know is that I was fucking wasted and the last thing that I can clearly remember from the evening is the whiskey-drinking driver pulling up the boat for us in the area I’d just pissed so we wouldn’t have to re-walk the planks of the unfinished dock we’d traversed upon our arrival. With a spinning head, hopping back into that boat is where my memory fades.
“Yo,” I called out to my travelling partners as we sat at the gate awaiting our flight to Vientiane, Laos, “what happened last night after we left that messed-up Cambodian night club?”
“Well,” Kathleen began, “I’m actually not surprised you don’t remember on account of how fucked up you were.”
“Yeah, I know how fucked up I was – so what? Where’d we go? What’d we do?”
“Well, we all climbed back in the boat except for the guy with the goofy tooth who stayed there with his wine-o mom then rode back through that dark jungle, through the floating village and back up to dry land. There, after docking the boat, the driver with the broken heart packed into the tuk-tuk with us and Mr. Tino gave him a ride home. He lived in this tiny little jungle hut that had a bed sheet for a front door.”
“Yeah and the guy was almost as drunk as you and couldn’t really speak English but knew how to say ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ and kept apologizing to us because of how ashamed he was that we had to see his house.”
“Shit, why? Were we making fun of it or something?”
“No, not at all – just the opposite, actually. We all kept telling him how we didn’t mind and that we weren’t gonna judge him by the type of house he lives in and shit like that. But then,” she said, “I guess their bed sheet front door isn’t exactly soundproof and all his apologies and us talking back must’ve woken up his girlfriend that he’d been fighting with and she stuck her little head out from behind the sheet to see what was going on.”
“Really? What the fuck. So then what happened?”
“Well, then we all said goodnight, gave him a tip for driving us in the boat and you and Timmy were shouting something about ‘good luck’ and hoping that he’d get some ‘make-up goo’ from his girlfriend.”
“Nice,” I chuckled. “That sounds about right.”
“Yeah, so, after that, Mr. Tino did a bang-up job getting us back to Siem Reap without any fatalities despite his and all our impaired conditions and that’s when we paid him and made plans with him to pick us up from our hostel at eight this morning to get us to our 10 a.m. flight here.”
“Annnnnnd that’s it?”
“Not quite,” she laughed, “but after that we didn’t go far. We just walked over to some local bar near the hostel where Tim and I cut you off because your eyes were rolling into the back of your head and you looked like a total fucking creep to a group of Irish girls you kept trying to talk to at the table next to us.”
“Irish girls? There were Irish girls involved?”
“Well, not for you,” she explained. “Tim and I talked to them for a bit but after we said ‘no more booze’ you stood up and started wandering down the street asking random people for cigarettes and talking to strangers.”
“Yeah, that happens all the time.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed. But, uh, after that we grabbed you and went to another bar that turned out to be more of a restaurant where we immediately sat down and started slamming more shots. You spotted a piano and couldn’t resist but were waaaaayyyyy too fucked up to play anything and created a huge disturbance for all the late evening diners. And then the manager – some dude in a white suit – came over and asked us to leave and we did but not without you two idiots yelling something on the way out about his suit making him look like he takes it up the ass or something like that. And then that was it for me, but you guys stayed out longer.”
Once having gotten the rundown from Kathleen, I took a minute to marinate on all the information I’d just been given and the events from the rest of the night suddenly came falling into place.
After Kathleen had decided to go to bed, Tim and I went out on the prowl in hope of getting some stank on our respective hang-lows. Since I’d already blown all the money in my wallet paying Mr. Tino, my first order of business before heading to another bar had been having some random tuk-tuk driver stop off at the nearest ATM. After I’d inserted my card, the screen went blank and the machine had swallowed it up. That piece of plastic had been my only access to cash for the next three weeks. Actin’ like the ShamWow! guy and treatin’ the ATM like a hooker’s face, I started kicking the machine, punching the screen and smashing my fist into the buttons until a security guard from the hotel where the thing had been located stepped in and removed me from the premises.
“What was that all about?” Tim asked upon my return to the tuk-tuk.
“Fuckin’ thing swallowed my card!”
“Oh shit. Really?”
“Yeah. And now I got no fuckin’ way to get my money. Guess I’m just gonna hafta live off you for the rest of the trip…if that’s okay.”
“Damn. Alright. Yeah, I could spot ya.”
“Well, whattaya wanna do right now?”
“I need a drink. And some bitches. You still wanna stay out for a bit?”
“Yeah I could stay out for a few drinks.”
I turned my attention to the front of the tuk-tuk and raised my voice.
“Yo, hey, driver!”
He looked at me.
“Take us to the bitches!” I said while clenching an invisible pair of tits hanging from my chest. “Bar. Beer. Girls. You understand?”
“Yes, yes,” he nodded and fired up the engine.
After a bit of driving, the wallah turned down a narrow, nasty, disgusting, trash-strewn corridor in some untraveled-by-tourists part of Siem Reap. At the dead-end terminus of this passageway, he came to a complete stop.
“Yo, what the fuck is this,” Tim spat. “Where the fuck are we?”
Without a word said, the miscreant climbed off his bike in the middle of the pitch black alley and began pointing into a doorway which led to a kitchen.
“What the fuck is that?”
“Girl, girl!” he responded, pointing in at some young Cambodian chick who’d been busy washing dishes. By the looks of her, she couldn’t have been more than fifteen. “Girl. Girl for you.”
“Good girl. You like.”
Tim and I were outraged by his offer to pork this underage teen and in return he appeared confused, seemingly unable to understand why we’d been so offended. I wanted to make it clear but apparently had been too wasted to do so.
“No kids, man! I only like fucking old ladies!”
“Dude,” O’Shaughnessy said, “old ladies? What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Man, fuck! I dunno!” I replied. “I’m drunk, I’m pissed off and I don’t wanna be here right now! This is total bullshit!”
“Hey asshole,” O’Shaughnessy said to the driver, “we wanted to go to a bar, not to fuck some little girl washing dishes. Take us back to the hostel. We’re done with this shit.”
The guy continued to stare at O’Shaughnessy with a look of bewilderment.
“Hotel! Back! Now! Hotel! Go! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
The message got through and that was it. Aside from our hungover ride to the airport with Mr. Tino, that was the last memory I have of my time spent in Cambodia.