You Can Take The Man Outta The Penh
Rakit headed to Don Muang early to standby for the first Bangkok Airways flight out of Thailand. The previous day he’d been told that all flights were booked solid for 3 days and he wasn’t hopeful. The thought of the alternative overland
journey loomed like dark thunderclouds, weighed heavily on his shoulders and saddening his heart…. after all, he was going home.
The Japanese squawked and clucked in their busloads at the check-in desk. There were enough of them to fill every last seat, crush into the overhead lockers and spill into the hold. His depression deepened with the thought of wasting an entire day in Don Muang to get a flight or worse, not getting one and repeating the fiasco the next day. The clock ticked slowly. The helpful Thai check-in girl had promised that she’d know for sure 10 minutes before boarding, yet as the fateful hour approached, the Japs kept on clucking. He leaned at the corner of the desk, willing car crashes, heart attacks, premature babies, lovers forgiven, smugglers busted, flat tyres, road blocks, failed alarms, drunken promises and changes of heart… anything… ANYTHING that would take him out of Thailand, away from the circus of Nanaplaza, the stinking streets, the revolting ladyboys, the bouncing blubber of the average mangy monger… and home.
“Mr Rakit?”, she neither confirmed nor denied the availability of a seat. This was it. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.”….. ~~~~GET FUCKING ON WITH IT~~~~ “but I’m pleased to tell you that we have one spare seat” ~~~I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU~~~ “so if you could make your way as fast as possible to the Gate, we’re boarding right now”. Rakit floated through the terminal, levitated onto the plane and flew straight to Phnom Penh. An hour or so later he checked into a new hotel just off the Strip, with his haunts of the Walkabout, Shanghai and Heart of Darkness all within easy staggering distance. He was home.
McCock, or rather Mr McCock as he laughingly insisted Rakit call him if abbreviating his full name, arrived a while later. The Walkabout, Shanghai, Howie’s and Sharkeys followed rapidly, McCock determined to drink his way through the jetlag. Eventually, back at the Walkabout, things were hotting up on the babe front. Rakit took a fancy to one who was quiet, compliant, brought drinks as needed and hung out whilst he and McCock were amused by an eloquent but sexually suspect Australian version of William Burroughs and his sweet and obliging Khmer “bodyguard”. “William” started to take a shine to McCock, who discretely asked Rakit to protect his drink against Mickey Finns while he hit the bog – after all, this was Cambodia. Bill the night barman, nicknamed “The Rash” came in. He’d lost weight and the “Grandpa Munster look” and it turned out he’d retired and now just drank there all night without getting paid. “I’ve cut down my drinking from 5 bottles of wine a day to 2”, he told Rakit, who regretted not making his retirement do. A taxi-girl passed and The Rash stage-whispered “great head!!” She turned, gave him the finger and an evil look. “She loves me” The Rash smiled, totally convinced. An obvious sex-tourist, dressed in the classic wide baggy shorts and tee-shirt soaked with the sweat pouring from his head, neck, chest and back was cruising the taxi-girls, who baulked at his wandering, chubby fingers. Rakit said “Hi Buddy” to him and was answered in a lizard-like, creepily strained harsh whisper that reeked of excessive smoking, throat infection and evil intent. Contextually it sounded perfect, synergising all the darkness, suffering and potential evil one might encounter in the Penh. Enter “The Sweat”.
Rakit bailed with his taxi-girl. Back at the hotel he watched her shower and became increasingly uncomfortable with the obsessive, contorted way she washed herself in preparation, as if she was wracked with some dreaded memories, twisting and convulsing as she lathered her body in a squat position. There was something not quite right about the angle of her head, the spaced look in her eyes and the way they rolled as her head moved. Then Rakit spotted a “necklace” of 3-inch long reddish bruises dangling from her neck and whilst her body was golden brown, her face was stark white and she was ranting just a little too much about being sick and needing a doctor. Rakit’s better nature and strong sense of self-preservation prevailed. This bird was scarcely in touch with reality, never mind of solid enough mind to screw a total stranger without further damage. Rakit didn’t want this on his conscience, so he told her no boom-boom and gestured her to get dressed. She burst into tears, pleading “me good girl, Mr no angry me”. Rakit wasn’t angry. He told her no problem, lobbed her $20, told her to see a doctor and hit the Heart to meet McCock. “Not a good fucking start in the Penh”, he thought, self-assured that he’d soon change that.
The vodka redbulls were flowing. McCock told Rakit that William the suspect Aussie had said he was looking for a heroin mule. When the “generous offer” was rebuffed, William dwindled, seeking the sucker he desperately needed. No doubt he’d find one – this was Cambodia and almost every cunt you could easily meet was on the run or had their angle. Outside the Heart, “The Head” a bodiless beggar who they knew from previous trip was reciting his usual “hello, have a nice night” and extending his cap. He seemed bigger and stronger than before and the boys offered him $2 for a photo. He almost snatched their hands off. Something entrepreneurial must have clicked, because from that moment on, his repertoire changed to “hello, have a nice night, want photo?”
The boys headed for Martinis. Maybe the adrenalin buzz from the first visit had worn off but the gash seemed to be of far lower quality and consisted, in the main, of the long-chinned, blazing-eyed skanky skeleton type. Only one stood out – short, but curvaceous and very sexy to a drunken Rakit who bought her a drink and sealed the deal. She then had to suffer the boys drunken ranting for another 3 hours. Rakit split with her, leaving McCock to his customary last-minute trawling for a short-time blowjob whore. Interestingly, Rakit had never seen any of McCock’s gash as he scored very late, alone and kept them for very short time and yumyum only. Only once had Rakit known McCock to spend the night with a bird and it was rumoured that in this instance he had reduced the short time rate because of the favour he did her as she had nowhere else to sleep. Compassion, especially where money was concerned, was not one of McCock’s strong points.
Next day Rakit met McCock in Shanghai with the 2 top quality gash from their last trip. They heard gunfire in the street and went out to see a Khmer-Khmer shootout up by Howie’s. Barangs ran for their life, Khmers sat passively, watching. One guy’s gun jammed and he scarpered, the other shooting after him, then into the air in a show of power and victory. No sooner had he emptied the magazine than the other guy came running back, firing a new or unjammed gun at his enemy, who took off down the street towards the Walkabout, seeking cover behind moto drivers, passing cars and cyclos. Bullets whizzed and ricocheted off walls and the road. Rakit and McCock ducked back into Shanghai to catch another drink, relatively unperturbed; after all, this was Cambodia.
Back in the Walkabout, Burroughs arrived with another beautiful boy, this time Irish and clearly yet one more nothing-to-lose casualty of western life. William had either found his mule or his bitch, or both. By this time, under influence of firewater, Rakit was calling the bent junkie “William” and he was responding, albeit with caution. McCock later told him that William had quietly asked if Rakit was dangerous. McCock was laughing as his own first encounter with Rakit led to him telling a couple of seriously fucked-up ex-pats in the Walkabout “you want to have seen the crazy fucker I met last night”. In sobriety, McCock quickly came to realise that Rakit’s automatic self-defence mechanism in dangerous situations was to adopt an air of non-confrontational intimidation, thereby discouraging potential hassle from starting. After some reflection, Rakit understood how a 15-stone 6 footer, out of his head on morphine and vodka redbulls and riding a 250cc motorbike at 2am in Phnom Penh might give just that impression. When Rakit gave a different name when introduced to the serious fuck-ups, he told McCock in an aside that “there’s no way I want those cunts in my life in any way, shape or form”. Something clicked in McCock and a mutual respect and trust developed between them from that point on, which lasted the rest of the vacation, continued back in their respective home countries and was now in force back in the Penh.
The boys joked that if they were stranded in Cambo with no cash, William’s junk would be target number one and McCock would be the sexual bait albeit at his age, they’d have to hope William would bite at the thought of a rentman, rather than a rentboy. The Sweat was again cruising the chicks, pawing anything that moved and professing undying love in his classic, rasping Penh voice. He couldn’t play pool worth a shit, looked like an arranged-marriagee’s nightmare but even so, dollar speak loudly in the Penh and the Sweat could score as well as anyone.
Rakit negotiated, to the tiniest detail, the performance, actions and cost penalties for non-delivery of a double-blowjob from 2 birds, but by now it was more laughter than anything else, the whores loving the banter and the drink as refreshing respites from the darkness that drove them to the Walkabout. At 6.30am Rakit split with one, leaving McCock in his favourite hunting environment and thinking “now the Rash has retired, maybe McCock’s found his niche in life?” He wasn’t so sure however that McCock, being partial to any description of gash, could live up The Rash’s boast of not being with a white woman for 15 years. Rakit’s girl was tidy, showered up well and he liked her body. Four hours later harsh reality hammered home and she jumped up and dashed to the bathroom, leaving a single red spot where her sweet ass had been. Rakit nursed a sore head, a developing cold, cursed the drink and fell into a fitful sleep which lasted most of that day and the next night.
At 3am he headed out to find McCock in the Walkabout. Sure enough, he was there in deep banter with some Irish and an ex-pat Yank dubbed “the Sniff” because of his method of deciding whether or not to wear a condom. The Sniff was looking leaner, cleaner, and well-shaven, with new gear on. The English teaching job must be paying well, but his head hadn’t changed. He told a tale of woe about losing his friends in the tsunami, but had inexplicably forgotten about his long-lost mother dying just before Xmas.
Another familiar face came in, one that McCock had connected with previously. The Vamp had long, straight black hair and dressed all in black. She was 40ish, had a great body and was allegedly split from her husband in Bangkok. She was back on the Walkabout prowl, this time with a Cambodian ladyboy in tow and waved a huge wad of notes. Noticeably avoided by the taxi-girls, she had an air of danger about her. Of course McCock was yet again unable to resist this Draculic combination and went into sniff-mode. Rakit played pool with the disappearing Chocita from yesterday or… earlier today?…fuck knows… this was the fucking Penh where days and nights blend into one continuous drinking and whoring fuckfest. She bought him beers to say sorry for disappearing. That was a first! A scummy long-haired character arrived, not catching anyone’s eye, yet eyeballing everyone shiftily, guardedly. His face reminded Rakit of a rat looking through an old, dirty toilet brush and his generally terrified but shady demeanour left no choice but to dub him “On the Rule”.
Next thing McCock’s getting heavy lip from some yabba-ed ex-pat whose body language spelt trouble. Some shit related to The Vamp was hitting the fan. Rakit kept one eye on the situation and positioned himself discretely at the ready, pool cue in hand. There was something about McCock – the fuck-ups always wanted a piece of his ass, but in this instance nothing developed and the yabba-head went back to animatedly shouting at his friends, the taxi-girls, the barmen and anyone else who came within 6 feet of him. Hours later he was still wildly gesticulating at all and sundry and was yet to supply McCock with a reason for his rage at the Vamp. “That’s what 12 years in the Penh does for you” laughed McCock as he split with the Vamp, looking like a man on a promise. Surprisingly, he arrived back less than an hour later and told Rakit that they’d gone to bed for free but she refused a sexual encounter, telling McCock that she’d “never love another man”. Wondering to himself “does that include that fucking ladyboy?”, McCock turfed her immediately, not caring about her emotions as he only wanted yumyum, not love. “A tad risqué”, thought Rakit, knowing that he’d have to watch McCock’s ass from now on.
At 7am, the sun rose and kicked new life and light into the grimy depths of the Penh’s premiere knocking-shop. The previously grey-dead chicks’ faces that usually reflected the drab décor took on a golden shine as they worshiped the rays, their smiles celebrating the survival of one more night in the Penh without tragedy and the morgue was transformed, albeit briefly, into a pussy shrine. In these golden moments, Rakit was transfixed by lust. He’d been aware of her all night, but now she became irresistible. One drink and she was compliant to leaving discretely. She was smooth as silk and 60 minutes later, after breakfast, she really started to show her talents. Rakit praised her beauty, made her feel like a real woman and after a 100-shot photoshoot that she seemed to enjoy more than him, both of them were so turned on that when they made love, for the first time Rakit could remember in days, a Khmer actually came when he fucked her.
At 11.30am Rakit hit the sack. What a fucking night! What a fucking city! This place may be perilous because of the disease and the guns, but there’s actually another and more sinister danger. It drags you down, into its belly, embraces you and your vices and your weaknesses and encourages you to celebrate them in all their sordid glory, then pats you on the back and whispers “Well done Son, but you can take it a little further next time… trust me… you know you want to”. And you do. So you do…. and the story’s the same the next day except you’re a little further down that line, your concept of home and safety a little vaguer and the brutal tenuousness of Phnom Penh reality a little more apparent. But you don’t give a fuck. After all…. this is Cambodia.
Later that day they visited the Russian Market, seeking souvenirs in the antique shops that line the south side. Horrorshow, a freshly-melted and very severe facial sulphuric acid attack victim, who’d frightened the life out of them on their last trip when he’d rushed them, dressed in sackcloths and bleating “yum-yum, yum-yum”, chatted nonchalantly with a tuktuk driver. He was now dressed in real clothes, his face much better and scarcely bothered to look up as the Barang, who had to go to him to give their dollar, went past. Clearly his disfigurement had paid well and the boys wondered how long it would be before a fresh acid wash was needed to keep his income at its current level. Souvenirs scored, the hotel, a doze and a shower called.
Later they stopped by the Rose Bar and the Zanzibar opposite, where more girls, including the mamasan, wanted their photo taken. The Rose had huge, if antiquated rooms from $14 and Rakit made a note as some of the gash here were high quality. Making a proposition to the best of them however, he was met with “I know you want to hear my heartbeat, but I cannot do that until I am married” and a beaming smile, “but I will come with you dancing if you like?” Considering this very attractive proposition for less than 10 seconds, the boys’ fucked off to Martinis.
In Martinis, Rakit met a very classy Viet with polite, good English, flawless smooth skin and a lightly muscled, shapely, lithe body. She was intelligent, had an expensive haircut, good eye contact and none of the lathered white makeup that characterises the usual Viets. McCock also met one of his early morning encounters and whilst Rakit now realised why he kept them secret, it seemed the boys had scored well for their last night. Perfect.
They hit the Heart, but there were just too many faces there that wanted a piece of them and the Heart is just the sort of place it could kick off badly you trod on the wrong toes. A silenced bullet in the belly as you bop, the assassin walking quickly out the door, protected by the bouncers, the connected Khmers and their bodyguards and you could be lying there in white hot screaming agony, bleeding to death from your offal with the toxins building up fast, the nearest hospital of any repute Bangkok and the next plane 6 hours away. The prima donnas from Shanghai who the boys had decided to ignore made a few disparaging remarks; some girls from the Rose Bar who had offered to accompany them were unhappy to see they were with common taxi-girls; the Vamp and her ladyboy glared; a few of the so-called hard men Khmers they’d brushed against on the last trip nodded over and whispered to bodyguards; a white-dressed dangerous Khmer whore who’d apparently worked in Paris and Rakit had nearly taken on his last trip until she turned nasty got a bit mouthy; some rejected taxi-girls from the Walkabout were less than polite and to crown it all, the ubiquitous Sweat loudly declared that the boys were his “best mates” and went back to pawing all and sundry female on the dance floor, including some good Khmer girls who had boyfriends present. “That cunt’s gonna get shot”, thought Rakit as they split, knowing it was now time to go in more ways than one. It doesn’t take long as a butterflying Barang with attitude and a long-term eye for top-quality gash to get known in Penh. Beneath the smiles of some Khmers, at times and understandably, lurks a real hatred for these bastards with money who come in and cream off the things they desire, then disappear leaving their damage in their wake. As McCock once said, “if it really kicked off on the Strip and we were getting it bad, these cunts would love it”. Rakit couldn’t disagree.
Out of the Heart, Rakit relaxed and was delighted with his Vietnamese girlfriend for the night, especially when he saw her naked. There was not a single blemish on her whole body and she had soft, well-cared for feet, a particular passion of his with the right woman. He dined on her whole body and they fucked for a long time. Rakit was very satisfied and said he’d like to stay friends with her, perhaps maintain contact and see her again. She looked it him with a perplexed countenance. “This not possible”, she said “big cannot be friend to small. You go soon enough. Same-same every man”. Curious, Rakit took her to the Flamingo rooftop, where over 2 hours she told him about herself. She’d been sent to Phnom Penh to work 4 months previously when her father bailed out for another woman and left the family with no income. She worked in one of the Chinese massage parlours, where her services attracted up to $100 a night, only a fraction coming to her and only went to Martinis if she had no other customer or was strapped for cash. She hated it, especially the Chinese who frequented the place and treated her like dirt, came on her face, in her hair and on one occasion forcibly in her mouth, violating not only her body but her trust, humanity and a gentleman’s agreement. 20 days previously, she’d returned to Vietnam for a break, only to watch her husbandless sister bleed to death during childbirth. 2 days later, with no time for mourning, she was sent back to the Penh by her mother who’d inherited another mouth to feed, simultaneously losing a worker and gaining an unpaid job. Reciting this story she struggled through real tears and at the height of them talked of her sister haunting her dreams, of her nightly dread of sleep, her tears of anguish about her losses and situation and of her desperate need for familial friendship. “But in Phnom Penh”, she said, “nobody hears you cry”.
They exchanged phone numbers. When it was time for her to go, Rakit offered her $21 dollars for her time. She refused, saying “I no take money for no work, $10 short time. No cost talking”. Rakit gave her $11 and as she left, slipped another $20 in her jacket pocket as they hugged. He knew he’d never see her again, or if he did she’d be a lot harder. But at this moment she tugged hard at his heartstrings and he was gutted to see her leave, wishing he was staying a few more days so he could penetrate this incredible woman on more than a physical level. As he watched her elegantly step up onto a moto, blow a kiss, then turn so he could see her beautiful shoulders heading off down the street, he cursed himself for being so engrossed with her that he’d forgotten to take photographs. But they’d connected and in the Penh where pussy was cheaper than a decent meal and a few drinks, this had more real value than a trophy shot or two. If he lived in Phnom Penh, this was the girl he’d take to stay with him. “At least for a while”, he thought cynically as he hit the sack to catch the 2-hours remaining to him before the blasted alarm went off.
7am and Rakit got up, called McCock to get packed and lashed his gear in his bag. They needed to be at the airport for 08.45 to make the 09.30 to Bangkok. Whilst Rakit usually cut things fine himself, he didn’t trust McCock’s nonchalant attitude to timekeeping. He was packed, showered, fed and checked out by 08.00 and waiting for “last-minute McCock” who insisted on dallying over breakfast.
As Rakit sat waiting for McCock (as fucking usual), the girl from the photoshoot the other night walked by the front of the hotel. He waved and she came in and they talked. She’d been supposed to meet him the next night but hadn’t shown up for some reason. Or maybe it was Rakit who went elsewhere. Time, agreements and people had a way of blurring into a jumble of drink, sex and money in the Penh. She’d been great company and good value, so when he told her he was leaving in a few minutes and she put the bite on him for a few dollars, Rakit didn’t mind too much as the memories of her sensual, willing body were still strong and he had the photos to prove it. He gave her $10, a hug and left. As the minibus pulled away, the girl burst into loud tears in the middle of the road, her wailing audible above the revving of the engine. Rakit was shocked at the impact he’d obviously had simply by doing what he liked doing best and more than a little thoughtful about having said goodbye to the best 2 women of his trip within 3 hours of each other. They drove on in silence. McCock was first to speak, quietly and with unusual and highly unexpected compassion in his voice. “That really brought a lump to my throat”, he said. After a long silence, the inevitable humorous barb came hard. “Her life must be a world of shit if she is crying over you”. An indignant Rakit patted his crotch and his wallet. “Both well-packed”, he braved, bowing his head slightly so McCock didn’t see his eyes welling up.
Of course, by the time they got to the airport, check-in was closed. McCock, an avid world traveller, then told tales about how often planes were held up for him, how often he missed them and his favourite line when met by an angry check-in officer. “Well, KLM keep me waiting far more often than I keep them waiting, so what’s your problem?” Rakit chalked up yet another win for his instinctive gut feeling, but couldn’t help grinning, despite kicking himself for not waking McCock up half an hour earlier. Not that it would have made the slightest difference to the outcome.
The next plane was at 15.40, so a trip to Kien Svay, Phnom Penh’s Riviera, some 20 minutes in a taxi from the city, was in order. Various ex-pats had warned of the dangers of getting ripped off here with extortionately padded billing, so they briefed the taxi-driver in advance that he had to negotiate prices for everything and in return he could eat and drink as much as he liked. The first entrance into Kien Svay was blocked by roadworks, so the driver took the second. Approaching the river, cries of “Barang, barang” were heard from the houses lining the side of the road. As soon as they hit the river, the ugliest, dirtiest and most revolting human being Rakit had ever seen glued himself to the side of the car, eyes fixed on the driver and insistently tapping the side window, pointing towards his grotty riverside establishment. His yellow, distorted buck teeth, exposed by a short upper lip, unkempt facial hair and beady eyes immediately earned him the nickname “The Rat”. He persisted for 100m along the road before issuing a series of curses and banging hard on the window. “If he’s the PR man, fuck knows what the grub’s like” thought Rakit, noting that he should always have his camera at the ready to record significant incidents like this. The taxi driver looked unnerved and suggested leaving but one of the houses along the bank had a quiet Chinese-looking lady outside, who smiled as they passed and Rakit asked the driver to pull in and check the prices.
At a dollar a beer, the boys were happy and headed down to the stilt houses in the river, sat in the shade and chewed the fat about Cambodia, the women and the characters. Horrorshow, the Rash, the Sniff and the Head all seemed to have made significant progress in the world over the last 3 months and it occurred to Rakit that perhaps his expectation of normality had been lowered as a result of Penh exposure and that the apparent improvement in these guys’ health and fortune was simply a relativity illusion. Neither he nor McCock could decide either way.
Taxi man organised a few girls to come down to provide massage, but they weren’t anything special and the option of $15 dollars for either massage or boom-boom didn’t appeal. The girls quickly disappeared without bargaining. Taxi man’s only insight was the comment “Viet yumyum, same-same ice-cream” and he smiled as he downed his first, second, then his third Heineken, content then to sit back, drink and relax whilst the boys laughed about their experiences and talked of future visits to this adrenalin-charged, if not exactly tourist-friendly country. Women in boats approached with huge river prawns for sale, the initial price tumbling by 75% when refused, at which point they also started to offer a variety of insect and bug delicacies, which in the light of previous experimentation with these in Thailand, would have had Rakit running for the bog if the thought of a Kien Svay toilet hadn’t been more repulsive than the bugs. Young boys in boats offered curtained enclosures in their canoes, within which a Barang could take a river trip with a selected female companion, but the lads were happy just to chill and take in the scenery, the ambience and the beer. A few more beers in a Khmer place en route to the airport and it was time to go. As taxi man dropped them off, he hugged the boys drunkenly. “I have best day”, he said, “thank you” and he waved until they were out of sight. “Straight to Sophie’s now I bet” chuckled McCock.
On the way through customs, Rakit worried about getting his “bronze” Buddha out of the country, not that he was in any way convinced of its antiquity. No problem. But at passport control, things got weird. The officer looked him up and down, stood up for a better look, sat down, tapped keys on his computer and looked again at Rakit several times, comparing him to what he saw on his screen. Rakit’s blood turned cold. Is this a pull? And if so, why? Had he stepped on a connected Khmer’s toe with one of the girls? Was he being set up for something? After about three minutes of tapping, the Customs Officer eventually held out the passport and Rakit’s heart noticeably slowed. As he tried to take it, the guy tightened his grip, looked him directly in the eye and said “You very handsome man” before smiling flirtatiously as he released the passport into Rakit’s grateful hand.
McCock guffawed on hearing the story and the immediate cruel spike “he was probably the first cunt to say that to you all week and mean it” added fuel to the raucous humour that lasted all the way to Bangkok and on to Pattaya.
And that was Cambodia.
A few days later Rakit woke at 1.30pm, the memories of the previous day’s debauchery, culminating in an all-night drink-fuelled party outside the Blues Factory off Walking Street in Pattaya, filtering through his threatening hangover. It had been a real drunken one. Rakit remembered cruising the GoGos then the discos without finding what he wanted, then stumbling over the late-night oasis and playing pool and winning against one Thai after the other, including some grotesque ladyboys who he normally avoided like the plague. But the banter of the mixed crowd was friendly and the mood benign, even after a farang and a Thai had a boxing match in the little Soi between the bars. His mouth was dry, yet he could still taste the delicious flavours of the slender and supple Thai girl who obligingly accompanied him home, let him shave her 6am-shadowed cunt then gave him what he needed to take him into the oblivion of sleep.
His mobile beeped with an incoming text. Expecting McCock, Rakit smiled, imagining him now home, disembarked and at the mercy of the rain, the wind, the tediousness of work and the energy-sapping complexities of western female minds. The previous night, drunk, reluctant to go and swaggering into an unusual 4-2 pool lead, he’d characteristically left Pattaya too late in a taxi headed for the airport. Gridlocked in heavy traffic and only in possession of a non-changeable budget ticket, McCock realised his only chance of making the flight was to get out and run the last 2 miles to the terminal, carrying his 15kg suitcase with him. Twenty minutes later, dishevelled and totally out of breath, he had to swallow seven species of sewerage from the officious Thai KLM check-in girl to get her to hold the flight. Eventually she haughtily agreed and made the call, only to be immediately faced with McCock’s wind-up that as a gold-elite KLM customer who usually travelled business-class, he was unhappy with how she’d spoken to him and he wanted her name for a formal written complaint. Name obtained, the sweat-soaked wildman McCock proudly strutted onto on the plane, chortling at the pleas of “for Christ sake, not beside me!!” written on the face of every impatient passenger he’d kept waiting.
But the message wasn’t from McCock, it was Rakit’s Phnom Penh rooftop girl.
Rakit took a sharp intake of breath. With those few kind words the pains of Cambodia descended like sledgehammers and shattered his defences as if they had never existed. Tears streamed down his face, blinding him with salt and helpless, futile rage. He struggled a long, wretched groan from the depths of his stomach and curled into the foetal position, sobs robbing his dignity and exposing his Achilles’ heels. The voices of Phnom Penh capitalised. They tortured his weaknesses as he lay naked and undignified in his once-cosseted hotel room, the squalor, the deformity, the poverty, the anguish and the agonies beating his head in a relentless, shrieking cacophony.
A short time passed. Rakit emerged with the inner peace of a pre-sunrise dawn, his love affair with the Penh refreshed, his conscience clear and his heart strong. The force of the cleansing emotion that had just passed through him had robbed the strength from his legs, feasted on his testosterone and left him calm and adrenaline-free for the first time in a week. Stunned by what had just occurred he looked in the mirror, hardly recognising the man who stood before him. “Fuck me”, he mused, “ I could do with another hit of that!!”
You gotta feel sorry for those Vietnamese in Cambodia….