I’m exhausted, I say to Juanita the Lifestyle Editor. Too much sex. Too many drugs. I think I need a hobby.
Juanita glances at me over the partition between our computers.
Well, she says. How about rock and roll?
Two rounds of tequila shooters at a quarter to five in the morning in a rowdy strip club is a sure sign that I might just be up all night. The taxi to Kampong Chhnang is booked for 5am, and Miss Wanderlust and I are supposed to be in it. I’ve promised her she will be back at her village in time to take her English class at 7. But after a couple of tequilas, my American friend is back on the bar, pole dancing with the girls. She’s leaving next week. She’s going home. She doesn’t want to go.
I sit at a booth with Finch and Syd, who are drinking, and laughing at my attempts to procure a glass of water from the bar girls. No, I’m not buying you a drink, i say. No, I’m not interested in your services. No, i don't want a beer. I’m here to look after my friend. I’d like a glass of water please.
I’m parched. It’s been a long night, and what we haven’t smoked simply isn’t worth smoking.
The taxi will be outside my apartment in five minutes, I shout to Wanderlust on the bar. She nods, continuing to dance, doing the bump with one of the bar girls. Let’s go, I yell.
No, she shouts back over the appalling dance music. I’m staying here. She keeps dancing.
If there’s one word that describes Wanderlust, it is wilful. I met her at Equinox, where she was drinking water, and she appeared completely sane. But it has been one long wilful escapade since she turned up poolside at Blue Lime thirteen hours ago, without a swimsuit, but with some nice off the hook sake. After languid swim, a few swigs from the ceramic Japanese bottle, many many a cocktail, a bite of street food, some 50% rum from the Martinique Islands with coconut and chocolate at Dodo Rhum, followed by a party at Katarina’s apartment, a beer or two at Meta House, where we met the creator of Eastenders, then more cocktails at Fly, then more partying at Katarina's, then more cocktails and machetes at Café Ya,
followed by more partying at Katarina's, we found ourselves at Candy Bar. But from what I understand, it is crucial that my young friend makes it back to her village to see her students before she gets her flight home in a couple of days. She gyrates her hips with one of the girls. I don’t think she is prioritizing at the moment.
I again attempt to coax Wanderlust down off the bar. Finch and Syd, again, laugh. You’ve got no chance mate, says Syd. My phone rings. It’s Veary. Mr Mark, your taxi is here. He waiting. Where you?
We’ll be there in five, I shout into the cell phone. I return to the pole and take Wanderlust by the arm, and she leans down as i shout into her ear. I’m leaving. See you later.
I head for the door. Mark, wait, she says, climbing down from the bar top. Let’s go. Come see my village.
We ask the taxi driver to stop awhile riverside, as we lie on the low granite wall and wait for the sun to rise over the Tonle Sap. Long wooden boats motor by slowly in the still orange light. The American standard hangs limply overhead, just one of a string of flags that line Sisowath Quay. The sun is taking too long, we decide. Wanderlust flicks her cigarette. We leave in the taxi, eating rambutan, drinking beer. I pop a Valium. I figure I can get a quick nap in the car, and another while Wanderlust takes her class.
You’re my cousin, she tells me on our way up Highway 5. From America. I’ll have to explain you to my adopted Khmer family, she says. An American cousin? Oh god, this is just wholly inappropriate on a whole range of levels. I take another swig of beer. We talk, we eat. We don't sleep.
The taxi arrives gets us in just before seven. I am introduced briefly to the Cambodian family, as Mark, her American cousin, then led up the wooden stairs to Miss Wanderlust’s room. Wide wooden floorboards. Clothes, backpacks, posters, running shoes, food, bottles. A guitar. Make yourself at home, she says. I’ll be back. She changes and leaves in a brief whirlwind. I take another little yellow pill. I imagine it will be a fairly sedate day, pottering about the village. I fall asleep on the bed.
She shakes me awake. Let’s go, she says.
It seems like I’ve only been asleep ten minutes. How long have I been asleep? I ask. Ten minutes, she says.
I sit up and look around. My mind has a fuzzbox connected somewhere between my eyelids and my brain stem. A phaser is inline with my ears.
My class didn’t turn up, she says. But that’s Cambodia. No means yes, and yes means no. She bounces on the bed. Let’s go.
Uh - where are we going?
Well, she says. Can you ride a dirt bike?