I think the point where I realized that things were not how they were supposed to be was when I opened my eyes. I looked up and saw wrestling superstar The Undertaker poised on the top of the steel cage ready to drop some devastating move on me. Obviously this could not be right because the roles should have been reversed, and oh yes I am not a professional wrestler.
I opened my eyes for real this time. And realized that I was in fact laying down on the rock. The surprised and confused looks from the people around me indicated I was not the only one concerned about this. My brain tried to figure out where I was and how exactly I go there. When I replayed it I still couldn’t figure it out. So I smiled at the people who were hovering above me, not knowing how to say I was okay.
Last thing I remember I was walking towards a group of Cambodians who had motioned to me to join them. As there were some females there I had sucked in my gut, did my hilarious “cool guy walk” and…and…I am not sure what had happened. So far as I knew the cool guy walk did not involve me laying on very hard rocks. And it certainly did not involve the blood I felt as I checked the back of my head to see if I had cut it I was feeling decidedly ‘uncool’. Not wanting to get blood all over everywhere I washed the blood off my hands in the river.
I sat down, and acting as if nothing had happened and asked for the beer which had been offered to me from across the river. If I acted like nothing had happened maybe they would forget the fact I had just slipped and myself in a pool of water that was maybe a quarter of an inch deep. I sat there for a bit, enjoying the conversation and occasionally dabbing the back of my head with a tissue to get rid of the blood.
I guess I must have looked woozy because one of the women asked to look at the back of my head. It was fine I assured her but she refused to believe me. So I relented. So after pretty much everyone looking at the back of my head it was decided by everyone (except me) that I should see a doctor . A doctor? Me? No way! But I was getting the feeling the party was over for me and if I didn’t go and see a doctor willingly they would call an ambulance and I would get strapped to a stretcher and I would be forced to go. Brilliant. I am Cambodia less than twenty-four hours and I am already going to the doctor. Well, it just confirmed in my mind that I was not leaving Cambodia in one piece.
After saying goodbye and having a half a bottle more of beer I made my way back. I walked clear around the puddle and pondered giving them a thumbs up sign as a joke, but with the way my luck had turned drastically for the worst, well I heeded the lesson and kept on going. Getting across the river again was another challenge. I had slipped and hurt myself on a quarter of an inch of water, how in god’s name was I supposed to walk get across all the slippery rocks. Simple I thought to myself, I will crawl across them on all fours. What had previously been a confident five minute walk across when I made the journey the first time was a difficult , nearly impossible return that took nearly twenty minutes. The affects of the one and half beers I had drunk and the wooziness from smashing my head combined with the fear of getting knocked down by the river made the crossing nearly impossible. But I finally made it. When I got back I put on my shirt and hopped on the back of Smang’s scooter. Where as to the river I had greatly enjoyed the ride, this time I was struggling to keep consciousness. I was positive I would fall off.
When I got to the doctor who worked in the countryside hospital I figured the doctor visit would be brief and the doctor would agree with me that nothing needed to be done I was wrong. The doctor looked at my head and within seconds said I needed stitches. Lovely. The stitches hurt like hell. I ended up bleeding more and in more pain when he put the stitches in than when I hit my head original. I was pissed.
Smang drove me to the pharmacy and we got the pills the doctor said I would need. From what I understood they were to help prevent infection. All I knew is that they were expensive and were further eating away at the precious little cash I had. Smang asked for a tip on top of the money I had promised him and after a bit of arguing he finally got the hint that none was coming. He tried to make arrangements for picking me up the next day but I was in no mood to see him and it was not necessary, I was going to the bus station to pick up the bus and could walk there. I desperately wanted him to leave me alone and when it became evident he would not, I turned around and started angrily walking to my hotel room.
I went to the bed and tried to sleep but could not. I took a shower (avoiding getting any water on my head) and that help calm me down. I tried closing my eyes hoping to drift into sleep. I looked at the time , realized it was time to take the first round of pills. I ate some snacks I had stored in my backpack and ate them. I got the pills and washed them down with some of the water from the free bottle the hotel provided. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep all day but I wanted to. It was amazing to me how much worse my day had gotten from the brilliant start I had.
Nature likes to keep things balanced. When I a was standing there with the water washing the sand over my feet I did not realize that in about eight hours I would be laying in my bed with stitches in my head. I was very relaxed. Too relaxed. Nature would remind me the need to keep things in balance, but even if had tapped me in on the shoulder and said “Erm I am going to make you smack your head and require stitches” I would not have moved from where I was. I was in the middle of something very important.
The water was hardly clear. The wind ,waves, and rain from earlier in the morning had churned up the water. The sky was cloudy, but the weather was not too cold. Not cold at all. Smang stood back several hundred feet perhaps being more wise than I was.
But I needed this moment. Standing on the beach with water washing the sand on and off my feet is one of my favorite sensations. For me it is an emotional and physical massage. The past two years had been pretty awful. I had to leave a job that I liked a lot but quite simply, wasn’t able to keep up with inflation. I had started growing confident in my life. For the first time I set boundaries about what I felt was acceptable and unacceptable behavior towards me. I don’t blame people for seeing the behavior as irrational or worse. After all for most of my life I have been the obedient son., the dutiful brother, the undemanding boyfriend. Then all the sudden that had changed.
I had started being unreasonable. Asking people to consider my work schedule when they visit me or when they asked me to visit them. I started getting irritated at friends who would make plans with me and then canceled them, usually after we were supposed to meet. I had gone to asking how high to jump when people asked to giving them a solid kick in teeth when they asked for things that simply were not of any intrinsic benefit to me. I wouldn’t say that all of was justified. I wouldn’t say that it was as unjustified either.
And right there I was thinking of none of it. I was letting the water wash it away. I was finding out on a very personal way why nearly every religion uses water to wash away a person’s sins. I felt the water take away my stress and my worries witch each wave that hit my legs. My stress went into the water and was washed to sea.
The first beach Smang and I had visited did not do this for me. It was too artificial. It was set up for rich people to feel near to nature without having to get dirtied by it. It was very nice, but it was not natural. Smang showed me around there a little bit and I took some photos. We then hopped on his bike and headed to the second beach. This beach, the one that would feast on the very poison that had been starving me emotionally, was simple. Aside from a small and very modest shop that sold some food and soda and had some hammocks to rest on after what was probably very good meal. It was also empty. It was completely desolate except for me, Smang and the shop owner and her son. The wind whipped the hammock to a perfectly into a perfectly verticle position and , although the shop owner assured me that nothing would happen I didn’t want to tempt the gods and decided to walk on the beach instead.
After we spent an hour at the beach Smang took me on a long meandering trip back. We drove over the Mekong. I asked him to let me off for a second so I could take some pictures. I wanted to take pictures but a small wooden boat on the water fascinated me. I asked Smang which river this was. He told me the Mekong.
The Mekong. Where thirty five years ago Americans would set off in patrol boats to find Viet Cong further up the river near Vietnam. Some of those patrols would come back, but many did not. I did not let that tragic thought stay in my head for more than a moment. Instead I spent more time watching this boat with a child like fascination. I had been reborn and I had a new set eyes, devoid of any history, to enjoy things with.
A car whizzing by me jolted me back to this world and I decided I better take the pictures and jump back on the motor scooter. Smang drove me eventually got us back to near where the first beach was. But there was a problem. Construction equipment that had previously been idle was taking up all the space on the only paved road in a pathetic effort to dig out the mud that had fallen into what I assume had been a neatly dug hole. The digger would pick up a clump of mud and other mud would seemingly pop up and take its space. It was nature’s way of providing a subtle hint that there shouldn’t be a casino built there. Funny how money makes us blind to even the most obvious of subtle messages.
We had a problem. We had to get back to the other side of the construction site and the only way across was a very deep and muddy “road”. Smang drove us to the road. It was obvious the mud was very deep and would not support the weight of Smang, myself and the motorcycle.