It was hard to believe that the second “date” with the Peace Corps New Yorker was shaping up to be less auspicious than the first. Strange, considering that the previous night had ended with her choking me.
I’d already been waiting for her for nearly an hour when she did a crooked march into the room and demanded 2,000 riel from no one in particular. It was only about 11pm. Someone else gave her a couple of notes and she stumbled out onto the street.
She didn’t come back, and I spent some time wondering if this was beneath my dignity. After 10 minutes’ contemplation, I wandered out to leave, only to find her bent over the kerb and chundering her guts out.
We went back inside, and I brought her a plastic cup of water. Once she’d drunk it, she spat into it periodically, trying to get the taste out of her mouth. She didn’t want to interrupt the conversation, so was holding the cup uncomfortably close to me.
She would occasionally spit out a bit of phlegm mid-sentence before resuming her slurred diatribe.
She was clearly annoyed about the fact that I was annoyed, and baited me relentlessly. Everything she said was barbed. “How can you say you love Cambodia? You don’t fucking understand Cambodia!” Eventually, having weathered this verbal assault, I said something that I knew would upset her.
“You’re a pretty fundamentally unhappy person, aren’t you?”
Sure enough, she started crying. Then she insisted on coming back to my apartment. She got really cross when I said OK and then refused to have sex with her.
That night, she’d been wearing what would’ve been an elegant, revealing red dress. Before she met me she was out at a wedding in the provinces; by the time I caught up with her, the outfit made her look like a plastered teenager, falling out the front door of one of those bleak suburban nightclubs back home.
The next afternoon, she left in my clothes.
The motodops on my corner gave me shit about it for the next month. When I went to see her again that evening — perhaps I’m either a total idiot or entirely too craven when it comes to the possibility of sex — she told me the story of how she was supposed to be the maid of honour at her friend’s wedding later in the year, but they’d just had a bust-up and she’d been kicked out of the bridal party.
Going to a Cambodian wedding with that on her mind had not been a particularly uplifting experience for her.
Our friends back home were getting married and buying houses. Meanwhile, here she was with me, sitting on her balcony, yet another couple of wankers pushing 30 and living our second youth on the dancefloor of Pontoon and under the bedsheets of strangers.
I didn’t know anything about her except that she was volatile, depressed, could drink more than me and was headed back to New York in two months.
Thus began another ill-fated Phnom Penh romance.