My Off White RomanceNovember 4, 2008
I met her on my third trip to Phnom Pehn. Previous to that, I was staying in a rented condo by the beach south of Bangkok on an extended four month vacation. It was then that I was first asked to go to Cambodia by an Israeli that I knew. I had mentioned to him that I needed a visa run and he invited me to travel by land to the Cambodian capital. After having allayed my fears on the trip, we made the long fourteen hour journey to the capital overland. It was a trip that materially affected my life in that I can now never rid myself of that feeling of pure raw freedom that comes with being in Phnom Pehn.
Following a second solo trip to the capital, I returned home to the States under the deluded impression that I could be happy living in the Fatherland. Thoughts of Phnom Penh pervaded my thoughts and all I wanted out of life was to return to my $6 a night guest house and drink Beer Lao as the sun distorted the sky at sunset. After a failed attempt at (yet another) career, I hopped a plane to Phnom Penh for an open-ended vacation.
Exhausted, arriving late, and having done nothing but eat dinner on the riverside, I slept. It was the second day that I met her. Wandering around and exploring what a truly beautiful city Phnom Penh is, I happened to find myself inside her store. She was 23 years old, owned her own business, and was tall and beautiful. She smiled the entire time we spoke and I found myself quite taken with everything that she was.
I found myself at her shop everyday. While it was true that I was interested in what she was selling and I had made several purchases, it was clear to both of us that I was not there only for the merchandise. We talked about many things and I felt such strong feelings for her and continuously thought that this was the perfect woman. The fondness we felt for each other was palpable and I could not help but ask her for a date. She readily accepted and we made a dinner date at a riverside café.
It was the typical proper Khmer date. There was no drinking, no touching, and the conversation touched upon no inappropriate topics. It was a pleasant date, but I was cognizant of the fact that I would receive nothing but a handshake goodnight. We repeated the pattern several times a week for several weeks. Several things became very clear: we were in love with each other, I was a tourist, and nothing physical was going to happen in the capital; she simply was not that kind of woman.
While it was pleasant to be with her, the attraction we had for each other was a painful thorn in the relationship. My days were filled with longing to be with her and our evenings together only served to wedge that thorn deeper into my skin. There must be a way to bring the relationship to a higher level. I was truly in love with her and knew that she was indeed the perfect Khmer woman: beautiful, a good business woman, spoke English well, and was from a good family. I despaired that the relationship may be doomed and decided to leave the capital.
I went to her store and told her that I was in pain regarding the relationship and desperately wanted only to kiss her, hold her, and tell her that I loved her. I professed my love for her in honorable fashion and told her that I was taking the afternoon bus to Sihanoukville and would wait there for her. I leaned across the counter and gently pressed my lips to hers. Her face held a look that she had not shown before. I incorrectly perceived it as her resignation that the relationship was ending. Had I been of a clearer mind, I would have perceived the look for what it really was: her acknowledgement that what we had was real love and that she was, as I was, unable to control our passion for each other. We looked at each other in silence, and then I walked out into the heat, neither one of us speaking a word. I was certain that she would not go to Sihanookville the next day to be with me. I was mistaken.
to be continued