Culture, Friendship, Crime, Sex, Love, Cambodia Day 3 of 7
I cracked one eye open and saw the naked Cambodian chick wrapped up like a 90 pound burrito in the covers laying next to me. Like so many Thai girls I had known and been with she hadn’t the courtesy to consider sharing the covers she just slowly
wrapped around herself throughout the night until I was left with the corner piece of the worn sheet. I considered a morning bonk, but as a long timer in Bangkok I had become finicky about who I would put it in.
I laid there contemplating how to get this girl away from me. Normally Thai girls would excuse themselves if you made their stay boring enough so I went with the sleep tactic. I just kept sleeping, hoping she would eventually get bored and want to leave. At about 2pm she started rocking me to get up and started telling me she wanted to go home to shower. I thought to myself, “Sweet, when she is gone I can bolt and it is freedom!”
So I told her, “Ok,” and she got dressed and excused herself from my hotel room.
About five minutes after she left I jumped from my bed giddy with the thought of freedom from this girl I was definitely not interested in. I took a shower then started to get dressed, and….oh shit….she left her purse. She’s a pro. Well there was not much I could do now so I just sat back and watched television. About 20 minutes later she returned in a new outfit all smiles and ready for an outing. <Aha and Bart, an article on being assertive with bargirls is required, please – Stick>
I decided we should go get something to eat, but I didn’t want to hit a tourist spot so I told her I wanted something, “cheap.” Eventually we wound up at a 7 story mall’s food court which resembled a much smaller and crappier MBK. Everything was in Khmer so I had to do some laps before I finally found a lady who spoke enough English to recommend something for me. Khmer fried rice tastes a lot like Thai fried rice…what a bore.
After lunch we headed to the Central Market which is a trip for sure. The market is under what looks like an old deserted building and it sprawls all through and around it. The building is fairly large, but I found nothing in there that wasn’t available in Chatujak save the “Cambodia” t-shirts. She got her nails done, I bought some T-shirts ($2 a pop) and then I decided to do some culture.
We headed to Wat Phnom which has some mythology for Khmers surrounding it. Apparently some ancient queen found some images of Buddha discarded inside of an empty log. Upon the site she found those images was built Wat Phnom. Whatever. The place is a dump and pales in comparison to most other “famous” temples I have seen. Not to waste the admission fee we decided to take the stroll around the temple. I should have been smarter…I really should have seen it. Hindsight is 20/20, but I did acknowledge the shady characters looming in the shadows around the wat I just disregarded them because trolling around the seedier parts of Thailand for so long had lulled me into a false sense of security. I wanted to capture the wat on on digital film so snap snap, walk walk, and SNAP! In a flash my camera was gone and I spun 180 to see a man in all black running. My fight or flight pinged to the fight side and I took off after him screaming, “POLICE!” He was running towards the main road which would expose him to an awful lot of people and my hope was that a farang chasing a masked Khmer would draw enough attention to get him stopped, but before I could find out he chucked my camera onto the sidewalk damaging it mildly. I picked up the camera and cursed the bastard while checking the functions. Part of the back LCD was gone and there were a few cracks, but taking pictures still seemed to function 100% so I figured it was a story to tell.
My girl went apeshit. She started cussing that guy and demanded we return to the entrance immediately. I agreed and when we arrived she found the first policeman and began rattling off Khmer a mile a minute. He got on the radio and by this time I was a little annoyed. I thought the guy is long gone and besides I didn’t even see his face so how could I identify him? Two officers took off towards the scene of the crime with my girlfriend marching me back. I felt like the kid on the playground who got sand thrown in his eye and was bringing back the teacher to point out who did it. I wasn’t too worried though because we would never find the guy…then what the f… there he was. As soon as I saw him I knew, same complexion, same build, same clothes, and the eyes…you never forget the eyes. A shot of anger rose up through my spine and I smirked pointing him out thinking, “Got you now a-hole.” Then reality hit. I didn’t see the guy’s face so how could my identification hold up, but before I could give it a second thought the cops began beating him with anything they could find…fists, walkie-talkies, shoes…anything. I was stunned at the display as the last time I had seen this kind of violence was on the streets of Baghdad. A crowd gathered and was dispersed, gathered and was dispersed until finally we all mounted motorcycles to head off to the precinct.
I rode with the cops and my girl rode with the tuk-tuk driver who drove us there. Upon arriving at the most basic of police stations (completely open air, looked more like some dude’s converted house) the three perpetrators were split up and the questioning began. By questioning I mean barbaric beating. They cuffed this guy then kicked the shit out of him. They kicked and hammered and punched and cursed this guy until he was blubbering like a baby. When the shock wore off I stood up suddenly and said, “Stop!” I couldn’t take it anymore. Cambodia or not, this man didn’t deserve this for a camera. To my dismay they misinterpreted my concern for eagerness and gladly held him in position so I could take my turn. I put my hands in front of me and backed away. I could see their confusion as if to say, “Why don’t you want to hit him too?”
I sat near the outside area and stared at the ground. My girl arrived and was overjoyed at the turn of events. She took her duty as protector and translator for me quite seriously and dutifully pumped money from me for drinks and snacks for me and all those present who were not in cuffs. She nudged me and demanded $10. “For what?” I asked.
“I need, ok?” She replied. I figured it was for some food or to pay the tuk-tuk and it didn’t even dawn on me in my bewildered state that it was the bribe. She came back even happier than before exclaiming, “Now they take care bad man real good! You no worry ok? He go jail 2 years or maybe 10 years they get him good!”
10 Years??? For a stupid camera? Dear lord, this was my first run in with cops from a third world country so this bizarre scenario was hitting harder and harder into my conscience. Throughout this ordeal I had seen one older gruff looking man walking
here and there. First he was in street clothes, then in a towel, and now in a fancy uniform. I was ushered against a wall and handed my camera. The officer and several others posed with me showing they had courageously returned the stolen
camera in a brilliant display of detective work. Insanity. Finally we were free to go with the caveat that we would need to return the following day to retrieve the camera and I took one last pitied look at the now broken man who had tried
to steal my camera. I wondered if he would ever see a day of freedom again in his life. I closed my eyes and thought, “God, if you exist, please let me have pointed out the right man.”
At the behest of my girl we then went for pool and beers. We hit up a hotel spot she claimed was a hangout of her for some drinks. I was still numb from the ordeal, but she was as happy as a pig in shit. That would begin to take a turn as small talk turned to personal talk. She started talking about how much she hated bad men like that and how her ex-husband had been a bad man. Once she uncorked the bottle it didn’t stop. She prefaced it with, “Please don’t be mad ok?”
And I replied, “Ok.”
After a deafening silence she took a deep breath and began to detail her fall into freelancer life and the way her heart had been torn into pieces by foreigners on holiday. She pulled out emails she had printed out and put into protective plastic from men promising to return dated years ago who she was still waiting for with no word. She pulled out business cards from men who she promised to wait for and with tears in her eyes asked me with the most innocence I had heard from this girl, “Do you think any of them will come back to me?”
For a moment I recalled this girl who threw herself at me less than 24 hours ago. How could she say she was waiting for anyone? I told her not thinking she was silly for even bringing this up and the tears flowed. She said all she wanted in the world
was a foreign boyfriend because they treat girls so well and how she would be a devoted girlfriend if I would just give her a chance. I suggested it was time to checkbin and head back for a nap in the hotel.
We got back to the hotel and laid on the bed in silence. Finally she started to try to get some sex going and I stopped her. I figured it was time to set her free. I turned to her and told her that after today I just wanted to be alone. She smiled then frowned and then stood up. In the smallest voice I have heard from a girl in her line of work she whispered, “Please don’t hate me, I love you.”
I told her I was sorry I but needed to be alone and that that day was too difficult for me. I told her I didn’t hate her. I just needed some time to think about everything.
She became very pensive then looked like she had made up her mind and said, “I sorry. Bad man he not go jail long enough. I fix him for you ok? I fix him good!”
I started to say no, but she was decisive and she looked at me with earnest and said, “I come back tomorrow 7:30 AM and you see I make him hurt.” Then with tears in her eyes and a final I love you she left. I flopped onto my bed and with
my head swimming tried to put the day together in some logical order then I just turned on the television and tried to fade into vegetation.
About 4 hours into my wallowing spell something in me said I should get up and go out. There was no sense wallowing sober when I could be wallowing drunk so I made up my mind to embark on another night of drinking. Leaving the hotel, the same taxi driver who had been involved in the incident spotted me and enthusiastically waved me into his tuk-tuk. In his broken English he communicated that he wanted to go drinking with me that night and would take me to some good spots so I figured why not and we headed to the Love Orange Club.
It was a little early so after one beer we headed out and he assured me the next place would be much better. We hit a beer bar with more girls in it then I had seen so far in Cambodia, in the back a makeshift go-go bar. Sweet. We got sloppy and watched
the boobies bounce up and down. I should have been hitting a state of drunken zen, but my mind kept wandering back to that guy who I sent down the river. He was probably wallowing in a cell right now hating life while I was out having
the time of my life. I poured the beers on to blur the thought. I drank my driver under the table literally and still wanted more. I had to walk him out to his tuk-tuk and put him to sleep eventually because he was too shitty to stay in
the bar. I went back and continued to tie one on.
By closing time I couldn’t see straight so I took the first tuk-tuk and headed back to the hotel. I don’t remember getting in but trust me I did. I will never forget this day, and I want to tell you, the reader, that penning this submission has been extremely difficult for me as I still feel deep regret when I think about that beating.
Talk about a dilemma. I know it can't have been easy to see him get beaten like that but then he is Cambodian and he knew what could happen if caught. What if he had gotten away with it? He might have escalated his level of crime and become more physical robbing tourists, perhaps hurting them as the cops hurt him – or worse?
It's not easy but ultimately, it was him who set the events in motion… He gambled…and he lost.