There are pivotal moments in one’s life that arrive that you just know are going to change everything.
A few weeks into my residence in Phnom Penh, I received a message from my long time best friend from elementary through middle school, Allison Kuester. She excitedly informed me that she was taking a teaching job in Vietnam and would be arriving at the beginning of December and that since we’d both be in Southeast Asia, we undoubtedly must reunite. I was ecstatic at the news, it would be amazing to not only see a familiar face across the globe but also to reconnect with someone so important to me throughout my childhood.
The thought settled in the back of my mind that we would eventually meet up in Ho Chi Minh or Bangkok and do a bit of traveling when we had some free time and money to blow (as if we even knew when that would be available) and I continued on with my daily routine. As I went along throughout the week and as December quickly moved forward, severe heartache set in thinking of my friends back home, a Christmas alone, and an overall lack of girl friends in Cambodia. Although I do have some amazing friends here that are excellent ladies who mean so much to me already, there’s nothing like having the strength and bond of time to support you through trials and tribulations in a foreign land. Even the company of Sheila, the coolest parent a girl could ask for, can’t cover all of the needs of a twenty something year old metaphorically learning to walk. Two days after my initial breakdown, I got another message from Allison that things were falling apart a bit at the moment with her school in Phan Thiet, as in it wouldn’t be opening until March. It was either head back to the States or come “crash with me for a few days” to figure things out. Of course we chose the latter and within 24 hours she made her way onto a bus to Phnom Penh. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on whether you were on the receiving end of my BB gun and drunkenness) I had a full Friday night planned of a wicked good Tarantino themed party at Le Bouchon followed by the monthly WUPP! party at The Eighty8 and had hoped she could make it out with me. After a grueling 12 hour bus ride with no sleep and a lot of Asian soap opera and a dead iPod she decided to call it a night and we decided to meet up the next morning; easy considering she was staying at my house. It was probably a good thing she didn’t witness my Friday night considering I was in rare form and would have probably scared her onto the first plane back to Portland, but the next morning as she found me sprawled out on the couch fully clothed in Reservoir Dogs attire, tie and all and being scolded for drinking juice in my mom’s bed, it was as if the past twelve years of not seeing each other hadn’t existed.
After a morning of recuperating with the help of Royal D, many an ESSE and a few extra hours of sleep, we recounted stories of our youths together, basically concluding that our parents should have known what was coming to them when our adolescences hit. At nine years old we were sneaking entire boxes of sugar cubes and eating tea leaves out of Altoids tins, I would say that could be considered substance abuse at that tender age. We laughed smugly at the times we “ran away” from home together, making it no further than a block away before breaking out our rations of string cheese or being caught by my wonderful mother, getting into fights on the playground because her gymnastic skills made my clumsy self look even more ogre like and my skills of effectively using curse words before I hit double digits. We recounted the time we bullied some poor innocent girl (she was probably a total meanie) at our friend’s brother’s baseball game and karma hit me hard by hanging me by the finger, ring cutting me to the bone while attempting to climb a chain link fence. It didn’t take long for us to realize she’s right where she needs to be and that I need her here just as much. Having similar experiences through high school and beyond, being almost the same size even to this day which makes sharing shoes and clothes a breeze, an affinity for attempting to write and a general outlook on life that mirrors one anothers we just figured this was fate’s way of giving us a gigantic Christmas gift. Not only would we be spending the holiday abroad together, but doing the exact same things we had wanted to separately, together. The Hobbit, a roast chicken and each other’s company are going to make the 25th infinitely better than expected.
We made her first day in Cambodia count by eating cheeseburgers at USA Donut and getting her a bonafide Nokia burner, complete with three important numbers: mine, my moms, and Narak (tuk tuk driver and swimmer extraordinaire). After a week living in the outskirts of Vietnam with no fan or air conditioner, nothing but pho to eat which sounds great until that’s literally the only thing you’re sustaining yourself on for a week, and questioning the overall decision to pick up and leave home to come to a situation that completely fell apart, I could feel the wave of relief wash over both of us.
That evening we had the privilege to attend our first Khmer wedding together of one of my coworkers, Sua. As we arrived to a pink and yellow gauze covered event hall, replete with sequined dresses, pageant hair, and six inch heels we felt as if we were attending the proms we never went to; and felt just as out of place as we would have back in Senior year. It was an experience to remember, being surrounded by wonderful hosts and friends, experiencing food that tested our bravery and taste buds at times (the fish was delicious), and trying to keep up with the Apsara dance moves as a live Khmer band rocked the casbah.
Following the wedding we made our way to Equinox for the much anticipated Durian show, a completely different yet equally enthralling experience. The music was beyond fantastic, I think I fell in love with the lead singer; her voice was like Adele’s only silkier and less self pitying and the Rage Against the Machine “Killing in the Name” cover from another band member nearly knocked me off my feet. Her first drink since arriving in Asia, Pastis, went down smoothly and I could barely believe that I was kicking my boots next to this tiny blonde girl who knows my history in a way only a few other individuals do.
I was thrilled that she and another great friend, Nico, were able to meet and we shared Croque Madames, Long Island iced Teas, and reminisced at Liquid while our Frenchman dried the gallons of sweat that had soaked him during the show. A quick ride on the Daelim back to the abode, several more cigarettes, and after a whole lot more talking (remember Jonathan Taylor Thomas?! Devon Sawa?!) we fell into bed as we had done so many times during sleepovers and Goosebumps marathons and fell into a deep sleep.
It’s all still a bit surreal, to be typing this entry as she sits across from me writing in her notebook. Looking for an apartment together with a few other friends is going to be an adventure and it’s going to be much more interesting looking for jobs with her by my side and vice versa. I can only imagine the stories we’ll accumulate during this time together, the ones that in 15 years when we’re married with kids (I’m assuming this is the route we’ll take, also assuming anyone will want to marry us and allow us to carry their spawn) and that we can laugh over our escapades and successes and failures and think of what idiots we were at 23 and how much fun we had and how many fights we’ll get into and what trouble each of us will get in and out of.
As my dear friend Jesse Morrow perfectly lyricized, “you can stand to be alone, just never to be lonely”.
I appreciate solitude, more than that I cherish it, it’s just the feeling of loneliness that would once in a while overcome my evenings may be relieved in some ways because of this amazing person.
I can only hope that my presence can be somewhat of the same to her.