The following is a bit different then my normal stories. This isn’t about travel, but life in Cambodia. There are sex drugs and violence below. This is just one of many stories I want to write to help show the multi-sided life of modern Cambodia. Read on if you wish, but beware the graphic content may not be suitable for all eyes.
Hugh stumbled, his body didn’t seize or collapse the way it should after a heavy hammer blow. He backed up, his eyes searching for a solution; he found none and tried the same strategy as before. He rushed to the open door, his lungs pleading “help, thief!”.
Yuri lifted his hammer high, droplets of sweat and blood mingling on the handle. His eyes narrowed as they targeted the back of Hugh’s head. His grey hair swirled and messed. Yuri stopped himself, he didn’t want to kill Hugh. He only wanted his money back. He shifted his aim back to the shoulder he had just pounded. His muscles tensed and a thousand rubber bands shot off. The hammer whipped through the air, a dull cracking sound, the kind that makes you cringe with horror that makes you tense up your muscles all the way down to your toes, echoed through the hot night.
His toothpick frame shook. He leapt, plowing through John, a man half his age, who has used his body to bar the door. In the night air his glowing eyes shown with the power of an intense methamphetamine rush. He tried to call out for help again, only a bloody gasp came from his beaten body. Around him the local drug dealers, pimps, whores, shop owners and street urchins gathered, watching the commotion.
Yuri and John stepped outside. They were locals, as local as a Russian and an Irish man can be in Cambodia. The Cambodians would understand, they knew Hugh, they joked about him and spoke about how the meth had long ago twisted his mind, “before he was good, but now he is bad, he beat his pregnant wife until she ran away”. The Cambodians knew their trouble between Yuri and Hugh, but none would have expected this, not from Yuri, the only straight edged, anti-drug, foreigner living amongst the wasted masses.
Menglong, a big Cambodian man with bones reinforced from a history of violence marched forward, “fuck this, you are not fighting on my turf.” He pressed himself, chest to chest with Yuri, Menglong stood a head shorter.
Yuri’s thick fingers choked his hammer. The world would be better without Menglong. He stopped, he had already made a cultural mistake. Cambodians never show anger, it isn’t the way of the Buddha and isn’t the way of the locals. He couldn’t lose the respect of the locals, they were his people now. They respected him and they would support him over Hugh, but only if he stopped, only if he showed no more anger. He had to get out. “John, let’s go.”
Yuri and John left, their motorcycles roaring down the road to Phnom Penh’s infamous street 51. There they relaxed with sweet mixed spirits and smiles of caring prostitutes, both beautiful, fancy, and bitter.
“I rented a motorcycle, deposited my passport for it and then that asshole stole the bike! I can’t get my passport back until someone pays $450!”, Yuri told the pretty girl sitting on his left. She nodded, she didn’t speak English but she could sense his anger, she would nod until he was ready to fuck. She nodded again.
“The fucker didn’t steal your bike, he borrowed it and some other fucker stole it from him,” John added, laughing at the situation.
That meth-head did steal it! I gave him four months to pay me back for it. He said he would and I took him at his word. For four months I didn’t bother him and he never paid. Then when I brought it up he tried to tell me that it wasn’t his responsibility. Well now he knows it is.”
The girl nodded again, she pulled out her phone, and played a game. She hopped he would take her to a hotel soon, that way she could get paid and then have enough time to come back and find another man for the night.
“That’s why you’re glad you have me,” John added.
Yuri is a violence loving man with a heart as sweet as honey. If he wanted to, he could just get a new passport and screw the motorbike owner, but Yuri wanted justice more than that, he wanted his debt paid. John on the other hand had fled Ireland after the trouble he had started in Dublin tried to catch up with him. “You tried your way, now we gonna try mine.” John said.
Yuri had come up with a plan. He had bought five locks and used the first one to lock Hugh’s door from the outside. Hugh spent several hours locked inside but he didn’t change his mind on paying $450. Yuri understood now, that is why he asked John for help.
They had planned to steal Hugh’s bike and sell it, that plan fell through as neither knew how to hotwire a motorcycle. But then, like the sudden downpour of the Cambodian monsoon, the perfect idea had flooded into their brain. They would force Hugh to deposit his motorcycle as a replacement for the stolen one.
Yuri stood up and smiled at the girl. He would give her $20, the same that he paid every girl, more than she had had ever been paid before, more than she felt she was worth. Later that night her eyes would glow with the passion and power of methamphetamine.
The next morning, hammer in hand, Yuri waited outside of Hugh’s home. The hours passed, Hugh stayed inside, watching Yuri through his window. Hugh called everyone he knew, everyone he dealt to and everyone who dealt with him. No one would come, no one cared, he screwed them too much, “you’re getting what you deserve” a girl Hugh traded drugs for sex with, told him.
John arrived at 11 sharp and led the charge. He kicked open the door and strode in. A tire iron in both hands, squeezing it tight as if trying to bend its thick steel, Yuri followed with a hammer and a chain.
“Look you little fucker”, John shouted “he gave his bike in for the passport, he let you borrow the bike and you lost the fucker. He has to buy his passport back. Pay him $450 now.”
Hugh’s voice high with fear, and his word broken by shallow breaths, said. “I don’t have no money, somebody stole my stash, $4000 worth of ice.”
If you had that much fucking meth, then you had enough to pay Yuri. You have had four months and you didn’t fuckin pay it back. If you don’t pay we gonna fuckin beat you and then we gonna come back time and time again.” John slammed the tire iron down on his palm.
Hugh grabbed his injured shoulder, his shirt still stained with last night’s blood. He gulped. “But I don’t have no money.”
“Hugh just bring your bike to the shop and trade it in. You can get your bike back when you have $450 to pay the shop for their lost bike. Yuri broke in.
Hugh’s lips trembled, he glanced back and forth between Yuri, John and their weapons.
John let out a deep sigh, “look fucker we are gonna to do all it takes, if we have to, we gonna steal that fucking bike out there. If we have to do more, we gonna do more. John snapped his tire iron over the table, smashing through glass cups. Shards freckled the air. “ You must pay your debt.”
Frightened and outnumbered, Hugh drove his bike to the rental shop. Yuri and John flanked him on both sides. Yuri and John went back to street 51 to celebrate, Yuri was buying all the booze and whores they could handle. Hugh went back to his slum. His landlord, tired and haggard from having a terrible tenant, had brought Menglong along, to help Hugh’s eviction go smoother.
***The story above is true, I have changed some names and other revealing data to protect those involved.