If You Like Drugs, Go To Cambodia (Part 4: Escape to Ignominy)

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part of a four part story. Please follow these links to view the previous parts: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3

After a drugs binge of astonishing ferocity, Alex Hamilton saw one of his fellow junkies fall into a coma. Doctors wanted to transfer him to Thailand for life-saving treatment. However, in a moment of strange prescience before the collapse, he had revealed he was on the run from a Thai prison and any return would be a fate worse than death…

“You bastard”

Even in that warped, empty mind state we couldn’t let him die. We were in it together (or out of it, as was the case). No, we weren’t going down without a bribe.

Nick got on the phone to one of his hookers, who spoke reasonable English. She soon arrived at the hospital. Without going into too much detail, we explained that Alex didn’t like Thailand. A nasty incident with a lady boy had put him off, and he was not to be sent there.

The girl explained this to the doctor, who looked at us with a level of disgust that’s almost impossible to perceive.

Despite his obvious contempt, he took what money we’d gathered and said he’d do his best.

Right at that moment, my lift to the airport arrived — it was time for me to leave the country. “You bastard,” said Nick.

“I told you that we needed to leave” I said. My decision had been made before Alex collapsed. We shook hands. I walked out the door. Behind me I left Nick and my comatose friend in the festering intensive care unit.

With Alex safely in a coma I had one less problem to worry about. The tuk-tuk weaved through the traffic with the grace of a dragonfly through grass. I ignored what was surely a beautiful sunset and thought about meth. I also thought about suicide.

The game was up, I used my hands to light cigarettes instead of holding on to the cart. I’d long since tired of swiping the Malaria-ridden mosquitoes from my ankles.

I arrived at the terminal. I imagined pulling up at a British airport in a cart, ragged and rattling from drug withdrawal and expecting to get on a plane. A bead of my narcotic-loaded sweat could have got me a life sentence at this point.

I don’t remember checking in. In my memory, it seems as though I stood on one of those moving walkways, and drifted passively through. I can’t believe I made it through security.

My next memory is sitting between two huge Australian guys. I reflected that if I weren’t emaciated the seating arrangement would have been cramped. My T-shirt hung from my shoulder blades like a kitchen towel that had been draped over a stick, and played with as a source of fascination for a child, tired out from a water fight that followed a barbecue on a hazy summer night….

My heart was pounding and I felt sick

The withdrawal was really starting to kick in. As the plane roared down the runway I prayed for a quick death, at one point daring God to make it explode. Still no luck. I looked at the passengers around me. “Fucking pricks,” I thought. A few seconds later I felt the familiar tilt as the plane took off safely. Another kick in the teeth.

My heart was pounding and I felt sick. I turned to the guy next to me and casually asked him if he had any morphine. I was so used to it being a perfectly normal request that I didn’t think twice. He didn’t. Nor any valium.

Over the next ten minutes I told him the whole story. God knows what possessed me. By the end, I felt ashamed. Lacking anything to hide under, I put my bandana on and pretended to sleep. It wasn’t possible. I spent the following hours in what would have been an awkward silence, if not for the nattering voices in my head.

My next memory is waiting for my backpack to come off the baggage carousel. I remember thinking: “Thank God I haven’t got any drugs on me”. I may as well broadcast a frequency, audible to the customs guys that said “drugs drugs drugs.” Fortunately, they weren’t tuned to my wavelength.

With my backpack balanced on my shoulder blades I staggered through the airport and made my way to Bangkok train station. I barely had any money and needed to catch the night train to Suratthani down south. There I could take the ferry to Koh Samui and collapse on home soil.

I sat picking scabs off my face

I’d been waiting for just a few seconds. I felt like I’d pass out at any minute. I remembered having flu as a child. My body felt in the same state. I made it to the counter, and spelled out my needs.

The assistant ruffled through some papers before politely informing me that there were no seats left on the train that night. She may as well have astral projected into my body, taken control of it and ran up to a mirror, then stood there for the next ten minutes using my hands to point at myself while laughing like a demented psychopath…

The news wasn’t good, nothing was. I sat against a vending machine picking scabs off my face. I heard the last call for Suratthani. “Fuck this” I said aloud. “I can do this. Ticket or no ticket. I’m getting on board.”

I analysed the potential success rate of my plan. Logic told me it was flawless. A few seconds later I’m scuttling through the station towards the train.

The journey from Bangkok to Suratthani takes about 16 hours, give or take a dead body. At night they convert the seats into beds and hand out blankets and pillows. These are stored in a special cabin. This was integral to my plan. My body led me there by instinct. Just as the train began to move I arrived at my fortress.

For the first time in days I felt mildly relaxed, nestled under the blankets like a baby chick. However, my contentment was short lived. As the train progressed along its journey, the load above me grew steadily lighter and lighter. I knew what was happening, my security blankets were being removed, one by one.

We’d been travelling for hours, night had arrived, and with it out came the blankets. Eventually the stowaway was exposed. The attendant nearly had a heart attack when she saw me, writhing on the floor like Gollum.

I sprang to my feet like a jack-in-the-box and nearly fell into her arms. With my few scraps of Thai I managed to paint a pretty decent picture of my predicament. She took pity on me and allowed me to sit on a small ledge between carriages for the rest of the journey. This felt like a major victory.

Fast forward a day. I’d made it to the safety of Koh Samui, I was a different man from when I was last there. I was verging on broken.

I still felt pretty blasé about the whole thing, to be honest. Even as I felt the bones protruding out of my arse, even as I watched the locals recoil in horror at the sight of me.

I sat on my bed and smoked. As the sun began to set I emptied my backpack to find my inhaler. I rummaged through my scant possessions and heard a rustling. A plastic bag. Inside a sock. I pulled it out.

I was so sure I’d flushed all the drugs down the toilet after Alex’s overdose…