Chapter 32 – Off the Hinges
On our third and final day in Vang Vieng, I was shaken out of a coma by the O’Shaughnessy’s only to find permanent marker hearts drawn all over my alcoholically poisoned body – one with the words “I AM GAY” on my arm, one reading “BUTT SEX” on my right hand and a large one expressing my apparent love for “ANAL SEX” across the middle of my chest. Unable to account for the past fifteen hours of my life, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how in the fuck my ass and lower back had become so painfully sore – I just hoped that what was suggested by my new tattoos didn’t have the slightest thing to do with it.
“Yo Lal,” Kathleen informed me, “you stole my blanket last night.”
I just stared at her, struggling to compute the information she’d just dealt and wondering why I’d been woken up to be told of this triviality.
“Yeah dude, you did,” Tim chimed in as if it were some sort of intervention.
I took the assertion at face value and shrugged it off. At the moment, I was far more concerned with the brutal pain shooting up my backside than trying to justify a blanket theft of which I had no recollection. After hobbling to the bathroom in a head-spinning haze, I faced my posterior towards the mirror and pulled my pants down to get a better look at the throbbing epicenter whereupon my reflection revealed a black and blue welt coated in dried-up blood spanning from just above my tailbone all the way down to the top of my asshole.
“Duuuuuuuuude,” I walked outta the john and spread my cheeks for the benefit of my friends, “do I have AIDS in my ass?”
“Oh my God dude!” they both laughed. “What the fuck is that?”
“I have no idea. That’s actually why I’m asking you right now.”
“Maybe you fuckin’ landed on some rocks in the shallow water when you went off the zipline or somethin’.”
“Yeah, maybe. Your guess is as good as mine. I blacked out hard as fuck on that Tiger Whiskey yesterday.”
They appeared dressed and ready for the day.
“Well, we’re about to go back down to the river and start drinkin’. Are you and your AIDS ass ready to go?”
“Fuck man,” I sighed, “you guys go ahead. I think I’m just gonna chill today. I can’t handle any more partying.”
“What!? C’mon, don’t be a pussy. It’s our last day in Laos.”
“Shit, you’re right,” I contemplated while standing there and rubbing the back of my head, “it is our last day in Laos. And chances are, I’ll never be coming back here.”
“Yeah, c’mon. You know you wanna.”
“Alright, alright,” I was sold. “Just gimme five minutes to throw up and brush my teeth and I’ll be ready.”
Once as prepared as one can get for another day of madness on the river, we went for the door, grabbed the knob, gave it a pull and, to our surprise, the fuckin’ thing came falling in at us. Each of us did our best to catch it before it could hit the ground.
“What the fuck happened here?” I asked. “Who kicked this door in then leaned it back in place?”
They shrugged, seeming quite unable to put a finger on it.
“Holy shit, look at those mangled-ass hinges – what the fuck! You think we should like, tell the manager about it?”
Tim and Kathleen groaned.
“Well fuck, I don’t wanna tell him either,” I added. “But uh, you think anyone’s gonna try and jack our shit from the room while we’re gone?”
“Let’s hope not,” Tim said, re-balancing the door in the frame as best he could. “We’ll fuck with this later. Let’s go booze.”
We started off the day good and proper by slamming round after round of whiskey buckets at the first bar on the river. Since I’d been severely dehydrated, it took a while before I felt the urge to take my first piss of the day but when my bladder finally filled, I was so careless I decided to just let loose in my bone-dry swimsuit while standing in the middle of the bar. I could tell people in the vicinity had been quite offended by the way they scurried away from me with disgusted looks on their faces as the front of my trunks became increasingly saturated and the stinky yellow river ran down my leg, between my toes and ended its journey by pooling up on the bamboo deck top.
The only other bender I’d ever been on where I’d gotten that bad had been in Cancun for spring break 2010 during my senior year of college. On the first of that five-day getaway, I was so happy to be out of the cold and dreary Milwaukee winter and on to a place which was so warm and beautiful where I could party on the beach with my bros that I actually had enough respect for my surroundings to get out of the pool and walk to the bathroom when I had to take a piss. Day two, I was a little bit hungover and was kinda like, “Eh, fuck it. I’m just gonna piss in the pool. No one’s gonna notice. The chlorine will balance it out. Whatever. Who cares?” And by day three my mind was so soaked in booze that I didn’t give a fuck about anything, especially an issue as diminutive as where I chose to rid myself of bodily waste.
Despite being in such poor condition, I remember this incident so clearly. I’d been standing by the side of the pool sometime in the early afternoon, probably already on my fifteenth drink of the day and having a conversation with some random girls I’d just met. While one of them had been in the middle of telling me something about herself and I’d been looking at her through my sunglasses pretending whatever she’d been saying had been the most interesting shit I’d ever heard, I decided it was a good time to “use the bathroom.” As the front of my swimsuit started to become visibly wet and piping-hot beer piss began running down my leg, I’ll never forget how this girl stopped talking mid-sentence and looked down at my feet then back up at my face with a look of utter repugnance.
“Oh! My! God! What are you doing?”
“Hey man,” I casually slurred, “anything goes in Mexico, right?”
As you might’ve guessed, the two girls didn’t think the move was as smooth as I did and that marked the end of our interaction.
It was also on that third day south of the border that I decided eating food and drinking water on spring break was for raging pussies. No time nor energy was to be wasted ingesting anything other than substances that would fuck me up. Because of this moronic trend, by the evening of the fifth day I’d been so fuckin’ strung-out from booze, cigs and coke that I ended up having a full-blown panic attack at some beach party our group of friends had been attending. I tried to relate to my peeps how terrified I was of being alive but they couldn’t understand what in the hell I was talking about. Since no empathy had been offered from those closest me, I retreated to my hotel room to try and handle my demons on my own.
There, as I laid by myself shivering and trying to get some sleep before my flight back to Mil-Town the following morning, I began suffering from a paranoid delusion in which Carlos, the hotel manager I met while checking in, had been hiding under my bed, farting and laughing about it. Of course, when I went to check, there was no one under my bed and it scared the shit outta me. In fact, I’d been so frightened by Carlos’s disappearing fart act that after I’d checked the shower, the balcony and all the dresser drawers in the room for his sneaky-beaner-farting-ass and couldn’t find him, I picked up the phone and made a frantic collect call home in the middle of the night, crying to my mother about how I thought this otherwise very friendly and helpful Mexican dude had been tormenting me with his flatulence.
Because I didn’t wanna have a repeat of Mexico, I decided to slow my roll and take it easy on the booze after having purposely pissed my pants at the Laotian bamboo venue. After spending the rest of the daylight on the Nam Song River, we ended up at that same drug-serving pizza lounge where we’d eaten on our first night in town. Unlike the two evenings previous, I remained coherent whereas both Tim and Kathleen had been in full-on blackout creature mode. Although it was probably the last thing we needed at the moment, we ordered “one marijuana joint for here” from the happy menu as well as a twelve-inch pepperoni pizza.
While the pizza had been being assembled, the waiter brought over a monster J which’d sat in the middle of a platter and served it to us like he was dishing out hors d’oeuvres at a fancy-ass country club gathering. We sparked the shit up and that nice little touch of ganja proved to be the icing on the cake for Tim and Kathleen – the nail in the coffin, the load on the face, their Waterloo. They were absolutely done for.
Shortly thereafter, the pizza had arrived and as I’d been putting a slice on my plate, I recognized a familiar face walking into the restaurant.
“Oh, hey, there’s that Australian guy,” I said while nodding and giving him a little salute from a few tables away. “I can’t remember the dude’s name but it’s one of Harry’s buddies that we were hangin’ out with by the river yesterday before I blacked out.”
The O’Shaughnessy’s turned and looked to see who I was talking about and the kid nodded “hello” to them as well.
“I’ve never seen that guy before in my life,” Tim said before sloppily stuffing a slice of pizza in his face.
“Me neither,” Kathleen added.
“Are you guys fuckin’ insane?”
They just gazed back at me, chomping fat wads of pizza, seemingly unable to decode what I’d just said.
“You’re telling me we didn’t sit at a picnic table with Harry, that dude and some other people for at least an hour yesterday afternoon?”
They both shrugged and continued to treat the pizza the way Garfield the cat treats lasagna.
“Ridiculous!” I spat before standing up and walking over to the Australian’s table to prove to myself that I wasn’t the crazy one.
“Yo man, what’s goin’ on,” I went up and shook the dude’s hand.
“Not much, just gettin’ a pizza. How ‘bout you? Good day on the river?”
“Same, same – just gettin’ a pizza. Yeah, good day on the river too,” I nodded. “But, uh…can I ask you a question?”
“Yeah, sure. What’s up?”
“You remember my friends from by the river, right?”
“Yeah man, yesterday by the river – hangin’ out with Harry. Good time.”
“Right, right,” I confirmed. “Well, they’re fuckin’ wasted right now and they think they’ve never seen you before.”
“Really?” he laughed. “That’s funny. We were together practically all day.”
“I know man, I don’t understand it. It’s drivin’ me nuts right now. Let’s see if we can jog their memories,” I said then called out to my friends. “Yo, O’Shaughnessy’s – over here!”
They both turned and the kid waved. Again, they stared for several moments like a pair of Schiavos before turning back around and continuing to devour the pizza.
“Yeah, wow – they really don’t remember me.”
“Weird, isn’t it? Well, I guess I talked to some Swedish girl one-on-one for like two hours when I was blacked out and then had no idea who she was the next day so I shouldn’t be the one to judge.”
“Well, thanks for that reassurance – thought I was losing my mind. Have a good night man.”
“You too,” he added as I returned to our table where the O’Shaughnessy’s sat in front of an empty pizza pan and looked like they were about to throw up on each other.
“Dude, what the fuck!? I only got one fuckin’ piece!”
They had nothing to say for themselves.
“Well, I haven’t eaten today and I’m still fuckin’ hungry. We gotta get another one.”
They both shrugged in what I interpreted as an “okay,” so I went ahead and put in another order. As I sat watching an episode of Friends on the projector-screen TV to pass the time, a few minutes later the bro and sis had both fallen asleep at the booth.
“Wake up yo! We got a motherfuckin’ pizza on the way.”
They were unresponsive.
“Seriously, wake up,” I shook Tim’s arm. “I’m not gonna be able to eat a whole pizza by myself.”
He grumbled and looked around, not exactly sure where he was at.
“Nice, you’re awake. Now stay that way – the pizza will be here any minute.”
“Dude, I don’t want any more pizza. I’m gonna go to bed.”
“Yeah dude,” he said while standing up and shaking his sister to come join him. “Yo Kathleen, let’s bounce.”
She too rose from the table like the undead clambering out a grave.
“Alright fags,” I sighed as they began staggering off, “I guess I’ll see ya back at the hostel.”
“Yeah,” Tim nodded. “Later.”
Growing quite tired and impatient myself as I awaited the arrival of the second pizza, I suddenly realized that with no cash and the absence of an ATM card which’d gotten gobbled up by a rogue machine back in Cambodia, I had no way of paying for any of what we’d ordered. Panic began to set in and just at that moment, the second pizza was laid in front of me.
“Uh, could I have the check please?”
“Yes, one moment.”
As I contemplated running out the door with a free pizza, the “one moment” passed quicker than I’d anticipated and the waiter returned. Knowing that a shitty restaurant made of bamboo that openly sells drugs wouldn’t accept the plastic, I didn’t even let the guy set the bill down before I handed him my credit card to at least make it look like I’d had the intention of paying.
“Oh no, we no have,” he handed it back and pointed across the street. “ATM there.”
“I don’t have an ATM card. No money either,” I opened my wallet to show, “just this. Credit only.”
He frowned and walked away. I knew it was a stretch but I needed to buy myself some more time. Without a phone to contact the O’Shaughnessy’s – as if they were coherent enough to bail me out anyway – I had next to no options of getting out of that rut. It would’ve been the simplest solution to the problem but, as tempting as it was, I simply couldn’t work up the balls to bail out on the bill. As the manager sauntered over looking quite a bit less than happy, I knew I’d missed my final chance to dine-‘n’-ditch.
“You order pizza and have no money for pay!?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry, I only have this. I thought you guys’d accept credit cards.”
“ATM right over there!”
“Oh yeah, see,” I held the Visa up to his face, “it’s credit only and it doesn’t work in the ATM machine. That’s what I was trying to explain to the other guy.”
“Why then, why you order pizza when you don’t have any money!?”
“Well, my friends were here. See, these were their drinks,” I pointed across the table, “but they left and they had all the money. Maybe if you’d just let me walk back to the hostel, I’ll get the money from them and return immediately to pay the bill.”
“Maybe I call police over here and you go to jail,” he sneered, not being nearly as understanding of my situation as I’d hoped. “How you like that?”
“No, no. I’d prefer if you didn’t do that.” Spending the night in Laotian prison, getting up close and personal with some bleedy, diseased, Asian prisoner dicks wasn’t the ideal ending to my three day stay in Vang Vieng. “You’ll get your money, let’s not make a big thing outta this here.”
“Well then, how are you going to pay for pizza?”
I looked around the room rubbing my forehead in exasperation when I saw what was quite possibly my last chance at getting out of this situation without either bolting or dealing with the authorities.
“Hold on, this guy right here will help me with the bill. Gimme a minute,” I pleaded while returning to the table of the unrecognized Australian. “Dude, you think you can help me out? I’m really in a jam here. My drunk-ass friends left with all the money and I have no way of paying for this meal right now.”
“Eh, I dunno man,” he looked at his two buddies who seemed equally skeptical of my situation.
“That’s it!” the restaurateur said upon overhearing the Australian’s unenthusiastic response to my request. “I calling police!”
“No! Wait! Don’t!”
“Yes, I calling police right now!”
“Just shut the fuck up for a minute!” I lost my cool on the guy. “I’m workin’ on it!”
“Hey,” the Australian kid said. “Don’t tell him to ‘shut the fuck up.’”
“Dude, I didn’t mean to. Look, this whole situation is so fucking frustrating right now.” I looked over at the manager. “I’m sorry I said ‘shut the fuck up,’ but please give me one minute to sort this out before you call the police.” I looked back to the Australian kid. “Listen dude, he’s gonna call the cops and I don’t feel like eating dick in prison. I just wanna eat this pizza then pass the fuck out in my own bed. I know it’s asking a lot, but if you could just pay for this meal, you can walk back with me to the hostel, I’ll fully reimburse you, give you an extra five dollars and you can take half of this untouched pizza we just got. Can you do that for me? Please dude?”
“Well, which hostel are you staying at?”
“Fuck man, I dunno. I don’t remember the name but I know exactly where it is. It’s right out this door and down the road to the right. I will pay you immediately.”
He took a deep breath before reluctantly responding…
“Yeah…I guess I could do that.”
“Thank you dude, thank you.”
After settling the bill with the angry Laotian pizza man, we took the trek back along the main dirt road through town and finally made it back to our hostel.
“I’m really sorry dude. I really appreciate what you’re doing for me here,” I said as I led him through the pitch black courtyard on the way to our quarters. “Follow me and watch your step, our room’s right back this way.”
Finally about to put an end to this miserable ordeal, I swung open the door which I’d forgotten had been broken off the hinges and heard several glass bottles shatter inside the room as the detached barrier to the outside world came tumbling down on top of them. Earlier in the day, the O’Shuaghnessy’s and I had discussed setting up empty Beerlao containers just inside the entrance as a makeshift alarm system to compensate for the door’s inability to be locked. Of course, when we’d spoken of this idea, I’d assumed we’d only be doing it once all three of us had returned safely to the room. Despite our discrepancy in specifics, the system worked. The tumbling of the door and the shattering of the glass caused them both to pop up in their beds.
“Yo Tim,” I half-whispered, “you got some money to pay for the meal we just ate? I didn’t have any cash on me. This guy paid for it all and now we owe him.”
While T. Osh had been pulling out his wallet, I grabbed four slices of the twelve inch pizza and set them on the foot of my bed to consume momentarily. O’Shaughnessy handed me a bunch of Kip and I paid the guy accordingly, thanked him again and sent him on his way with the still-in-box other half of the pie. After taking care of the door situation, I got settled in bed and was finally about to crush my share of the pizza when I noticed two slices had gone missing. Tim was already fast asleep but, looking towards the other side of the room, Kathleen was in the process of finishing the first slice and about to go to work on the second one.
“Gimme that shit!” I tried to grab it from her. “You already had yours!”
“No!” she shouted then rolled over, hiding the pizza under her pillow and immediately putting her head down on top of it.
As I sat there eating my minimal ration of “za,” I kept a close eye on Kathleen to make sure she wasn’t faking sleep and about to eat that last slice without me noticing, but from what I could tell the snooze was real and the piece of pepperoni remained in Tooth Fairy territory. While I continued to stake out the situation, Tim rose sharply from his bed and, without a word, hustled into the bathroom. Slipping on the wet floor and falling to his ass with his arms up in the air, the Osh-Man hit his head on the wall as he slid and crashed into the toilet like a base runner trying to break up a double play. With his head trickling blood the way it had back in college when he popped up from behind a turned-over table and I’d hit him square between the eyes with an empty Busch Light amidst a drunken can-throwing fight, Tim began yakking his brains out.
While I sat there out of food and still hungry, I looked over at Kathleen who remained asleep and figured if she hadn’t heard her brother’s raucous vomiting, then she probably wouldn’t feel me stealing the pizza from beneath her pillow. Carefully picking up the headrest, I pulled out the coveted comfort food as gently as possible. Leaving a red stain on the sheets and having become a bit fuzzy to the touch, this piece of pizza under normal circumstances would belong right in the trash, but after all I’d gone through to get it, I went ahead and crushed.
“Yo guy, you alright in there?” I asked while listening to Tim as he conjured and spat the last sour remnants of spew into the toilet.
He said nothing as he reentered the room, sprawled back on the bed and resumed his slumber. With only about five hours left before our bus departure to Vientiane from where we were due to catch a flight to Bangkok, I swallowed the last of the pizza and shut my eyes knowing that the next day was going to be a living hell.