Friday, November 7, 2008

truth be told (part 8)

i woke up exhausted. and hungover. we'd stayed out late drinking in old town siem reap. and then handing out boxes of food to kids who, common sense would dictate, were up way past their bedtimes. of course, much like the surrounding jungles, night predation is the most successful. who better to hand out money and food than drunken tourists. i smiled at their guile.

we had an early start to a long day, neither of which i was feeling under the haze of two pitchers of margaritas and countless singhas. i even pretended to sleep through the alarm, hoping monique and robert would follow suit. i assumed success when the alarm was silenced and no one arose. but ten minutes later robert got up to pee and monique gave me a look. i ceded.

we took a tuk-tuk on what was called an impossible untertaking for such a journey. it was about twenty miles of mostly dirt road, deep into the jungle, far away from the creature comforts culled in the corridors and concrete of the city. we passed through three or four villages that i can only assume are typical of the country; no plumbing, no pavement, no electricity. these were different, though. they were nothing like the ghettoes of poipet. they were soft places full of smiling faces. they were communities, through and through, like nothing we've ever experienced in america. kids ran along the road with their dogs, waving wildly as we passed. teenage boys and their dads worked the fields. mothers tended to their kids and streetside stalls. it seemed neither daunting nor depressing, merely primitive. primitive, but inviting. there were moments i caught the other two staring off somewhat enviously. it looked so simple, so warm, so devoid of the stupid plight we pillage through each day. and all the children waved wildly, smiling big. we smiled big and waved wildly. simply and sincerely.

we arrived to a tiny enclave of stalls bordering a dirt parking lot. per usual, we were bombarded by children and women forcing merchandise upon us. declining never got any easier or less heart-breaking. especially with the kids. it never gets easier. even when you find yourself growing accustomed to it; that's when you catch yourself writing it off as something that merely happens. that's when you catch yourself turning a blind eye to the poverty. it's amazing the things, that over time, you'll convince yourself are okay.

we found the trail that would lead us through the thick, thick jungle and up the mountain to remnants of a remote temple now buried under overgrowth, erosion, and river. all along the 2-mile trail were signs warning us to stay on the marked path, as the countryside is now littered with landmines. and while i took this seriously, i questioned how many landmines could possibly be scattered throughout such a large country.

truth be told, approximately one thousand five hundred eighty cambodians are killed every year from these mines. and many more are left as dismembered reminders of our own heartlessness. and while i would never consider myself a great historian, i was confident we'd never fought a war in or with cambodia. so how could we be responsible for all these disasters? evidently, after vietnam, pilots and soldiers were encouraged to get ridof any leftover landmines, as they flew home over cambodia and laos. that's right. over 60,000 deaths in one of the poorest nations in the world, for the sake of lightening our loads. we did this. we did this. for no reason at all. 60,000 men, women and children who have hard enough lives already. i'm sure for the sake of saving fuel, saving time. 60,000 unnecessary, unprovoked deaths. and those are only the mines that have gone off since.

it was a somber and almost silent climb. i thought about the life laid out before me. the life laying in my wake. the lives i'd never known. was i ungrateful? was i too mired in my own past to succeed in my future? in less than two weeks i would be returning home to a fiance. to someone i wasn't convinced i ought to be with at all, let alone marrying. and all the while, i was still stuck in a relationship that had been extinct for over two years. a relationship i didn't know how to let go. how do you let go of love? at a certain point it's no longer healthy to hold onto it. and i had been holding on for so long. holding on hope. holding my breath.

without exxagerration, i can say there wasn't a day since we'd broken up that i hadn't hoped he'd come sauntering through the door. sauntering back to me. not a single day. no matter who i was seeing or how in love i thought i was. no matter where i went, how far away he seemed, no matter whatever i was going through. not a single day. i'd gotten engaged to someone i hardly knew, not out of love, but as a means to extinguish him. as a way to extinguish the hope that we would come walking back in. and yet, there i was thousand of miles from anything, hoping he'd be waiting atop that mountain for me. it was just like any other day. no matter the new circumstances i'd created or fallen into.

i climbed that hillside, in silence, a million miles from anything. lost somewhere between the heartaches of poverty and loneliness. a paradox that made me feel like a fraud; a selfish liar. and no one knew. no one knew what i had done. and i had no idea how to redeem myself.

i woke up exhausted.

No comments: