I broke the news yet again that i'm leaving for Vietnam soon and that all this can't go on forever, especially since these goings-on are very VERY recent. I had an entire monologue planned out and intended to deliver it in full without allowing interruptions or questions. About my tendency to abandon everything and run for the nearest border or airport AND my tendency not to say goodbye before doing so AND how i don't really know what i'm chasing... that chasing is an end in itself AND that we need to stop acting like we have an actual relationship AND how he would be better off with someone a tad more dedicated than i am AND how at this point i could really REALLY go for another martini.
The monologue delivered, i hailed the waiter for another martini, a double and dirtier than the last and in the meantime waited for everything i said to sink in. Subliminal message: IT'S OVER. He thought about it for a bit. Looked at the cieling, at the vase of flowers on the table, the cutlery and then stood up from his chair. I thought, 'Ok, i guess he got the point... but maybe that was too pointy. Was i too pointy? Because i needed to be pointy but not too pointy...' It was like an episode of seinfeld raging in my head.
He got up and asked if i wanted to dance. I said something that roughly translates to "Huh?" So we danced and he explained very softly that he doesn't intend to stick around Cambo much longer either, that leaving is something he understands as something essential, and that he's not insulted i'm going without him. At least i'm trying to say goodbye in my own way. I asked where we was going to go... he's talked about Bangkok and Hong Kong and Oran, Algeria where he's from... but nothing definite. "Paris, only Paris." I laughed... what if you get stuck in St-Brieuc?
We talked in hushed tones as we strolled down the riverfront promenade in front of the palace after dinner. About France and the people we know there, about being elite here and nobodies there. In Cambo we're elite, wealthy beyond belief by local standards, university-educated, foreigners but the right kind of foreigners. Is it worth it to give all that up to move to Paris? He asked about the West and i was floored... he's never been and knows it only from the random westerners he meets in Phnom Penh. How could he not know? What DOESN'T he know? What the fuck is going on? 'It's full of strange things and even stranger people,' I said. That's all you need to know.
The river was a wide black slick that caught the moonlight in its ripples and current; it was like a moving nothingness full of invisible living things we'd never know about. The promenade is a swank riverside walkway of brick and tile, lined with ornate lamps, flowerbeds and rows of every flag in the world... there were flags we could not identify and like the fish under the black water, the people of such places remain invisible and unknowable. It made us giggle to think of things like this. We picked flowers from the manicured beds and gave them to each other as gifts 'from the People of Transdniestr' or 'from the People of Kurdistan'. Invisible people with no flag in Phnom Penh for the king of Cambodia to look at from his balcony across the street.
He walked me home and at the gate gave me a crushed yellow flower he'd been hiding in his pocket. It was from the People of Algeria. I gave him a peck on the cheek (such the prude) as a gift from the People of America and went up to my room to bawl and wail the rest of the night.
Today is my last day in Cambodia and I'm a total mess because of it. There's an incredible sweetness in the people here that, let's face it, is surprising given what the country has been through (and still going through). I look back on my time spent here and every day seems like a gift from the People of Cambodia... the days of frustration leading to days of total zen leading to days of horror leading to days of bliss and forgetfulness and remembrance and sorrow and joy. I feel all of them today. Tomorrow there's a bus bound for Saigon and I'm buying flowers for the event.
There's a reason, but that will be revealed soon enough.