If You Like Drugs, Go To Cambodia (Part 3: The Reckoning)

Editor’s note: This is part three of a continuing four part series. Follow the links for the other parts in the series: Part 1; Part 2; Part 4

It was time to face reality

Week three. We had medicated ourselves to the brink of extinction. My room resembled the opening scene of Apocalypse Now. I was convinced the fan was plotting against me. I had visions of it flying off the ceiling and slashing my throat, splattering my blood across the walls. I imagined my obituary and the turnout at my funeral. But this wasn’t the time for such self-indulgent pondering — one must remain professional. I reached for the tin foil and loaded it with ice, banged a few morphine pills and put the thought out of my head. Fast forward two days. I still couldn’t sleep. Supplies were getting critically low. Imagine watching a digital display of a battery dying on a life-support machine. That’s how I felt. I crawled to the bathroom to vomit. A knock at the door. I staggered over and opened it. It was Alex and Nick, back from the club where I’d nearly had a brain haemorrhage the night before. (By the way, for all you risk-takers out there: Go to ‘The Heart of Darkness’ in Phnom Penh, and ask the owner’s wife how much she costs.) Alex and Nick were in tatters. They stumbled into the room and began the begging. I am not in the habit of being greedy, so I got the ice out and we got started. After a lengthy discussion we decided it was time to face reality. We did an inventory check.

Inspiration strikes

It wasn’t good. A few hundred thousand milligrams of morphine and diazepam. Some ketamine, a few yabba pills and some ice. There was an ounce of weed (which was odd, as none of us touched the stuff) but no LSD (my failure to have procured any was a massive blow for morale). Now, I wouldn’t say the drugs were failing to take effect. It was just that by this point it was getting boring taking them as individual compounds. We huddled around the table and decided the next course of action, each of us withdrawn and calculating like men playing poker. We racked our brains for a solution. After a few seconds inspiration struck. The only logical step was to crush the pills and mix them with vodka. The idea cheered us all up. We drank severely for hours. I remember turning to Nick at one point and saying: “Do you want ice with that, sir?” It was the first laugh I’d had in weeks. I don’t remember much after that. Days later — I don’t know how many for sure — I’m alone on the floor in the corner of my room. This was getting stupid. I would have more chance of sleeping strapped to the fuselage of a hypersonic jet. I can’t describe how psychotic I was at this point. I faced the facts. There was no way I was going to get off this shit in Cambodia. I had to return to Thailand.

I looked ridiculous

I dragged myself to Alex’s room. He and Nick were surrounded by tin foil. They were arranging pills into piles of varying combinations. They were doing it with the kind of urgency you’d expect from astronauts trying to fix the oxygen systems on their spaceship. I told them I’d been doing some thinking, and we should leave before things started to get out of control. They looked at me like I was insane. After a lengthy discussion it became clear that they’d made up their minds. They were going to see this thing through to the end. The struggle to the travel agent was a nightmare. My legs could barely hold my weight. I panted like a dog as I made my way through the crowd. I could walk no more than ten paces at a time. I kept having to hold on to lamp posts, get my breath back, then psyche myself up to make it to the next one. At one point I lost my balance and ended up swinging around like a pole dancer. I looked ridiculous. I finally arrived at the travel agents. It didn’t matter that the woman couldn’t speak English, I barely could by this point. I somehow conveyed to her that I wanted to fly to Thailand as soon as possible. She arranged a flight for the following evening.

Envy was my first reaction

I’d made it back to my room at the hotel. I heard a girl’s voice outside the door. She knocked. It was Alex’s latest prostitute. She looked scared. “Your friend, he not wake up,” she said. “Yeah, and I can’t fucking sleep so we’re even,” I thought, angry that she’d disturbed me over something so trivial. However, I had nothing better to do so I followed her to his room. Nick was standing over the bed, looking confused. Alex was on his back wearing nothing but soiled underpants. His body was clammy and motionless, his mouth looked like a Jacuzzi. Envy was my first reaction. I’d been trying to sleep for weeks. She reiterated just how hard she’d been trying to wake him up. I explained to her that anyone who’d taken that amount of drugs was bound to end up like that, and that she shouldn’t worry. This is a testament to exactly how out of my mind I was. I told her that if he didn’t wake up by the following day she should come and get me. I returned to my room.

It’s like a horror film

About ten hours later I’m finally semi conscious. I hear voices arguing. Nothing new there, but these are real. They get louder and more aggressive. Suddenly my door handle starts to turn… it’s like a horror film. The next thing I know, the door flies off the hinges and a guy storms in and drags me off the bed. Out in the corridor there were people everywhere, and some joker aiming a gun at my head. I wasn’t fazed in the slightest. All the diazepam had left me with an uncanny ability to remain calm. Nick and a couple of guys were dragging Alex’s body along the corridor. The guy with the gun gestured for me to help. The Cambodians were dragging him by his ankles, his head bounced off every step of the tiled staircase. We got him outside, dumped him in the back of a cart. One of the guys said he would take him to hospital. I checked my watch, it was just over an hour to my flight. “This nutter certainly picks his moments” I thought.

The doctor was horrified

I stumbled up to my room and stuffed everything in my backpack. I began tipping the drugs down the toilet — an unbelievable waste, and one which took a stupid amount of time. I poured them through my hands like sand, ramming as many as possible down my throat so as to get my money’s worth. I stuffed the packets under the wardrobe and headed downstairs to the cart. We’re at the hospital. The doctor came out and said if we didn’t let them know what he’d taken, they couldn’t save him. I listed everything. It took a while. He looked confused. “No, but which one of them?” He asked. Eventually he got the picture. He was horrified. When we told him that we’d also taken the same he told us both to get into a bed, as we were certain to follow suit. I told him I had a plane to catch. The staff then began to discuss sending Alex to Thailand where there are better hospitals.

I’m not one for breaking promises

At this point It might be worth mentioning something. When we first met Alex and embarked on this escapade, he told us a story. He’d previously served six months of a 30-year jail sentence in Pattaya, Thailand for drug dealing. However, he’d managed to escape and after six months on the run, he made it out of the country. He had previously warned us that if anything like this were to happen, we should not, under any circumstances, let anyone send him to Thailand. He would be immediately placed under arrest and returned to prison — or possibly executed. He said he’d kill himself rather than sent back there. It looked like this was going to happen either way. He was relatively sober when he made us solemnly pledge that we would allow him to die with dignity, rather than fester away in some shit-ridden cell. We promised there and then that we would honour his request, and I am not one for breaking promises.

To continue the story, click here for Part 4.

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