No Arrival or Waiting for Moto


“There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.”

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

I was sprawled out, wrinkled, rumpled, unbuckled, slouched out all over the carriage of a tuk-tuk. Informal pose, semi-formal wear. If a person can still qualify for “semi” just by wearing a tie, even as he’s sweating like Chris Farley when he was looking sick and like to die, mid-sketch, full sketchy, right there under the Klieg lights. I was prone and pathetic in a gesture of obeisance to the heat, a lazy surrender, a dog rolling over and showing its belly to some unseen Alpha male.

I had become accustomed to the objectionable. An unreasonably endless drive into town, to get from the room I was renting at a house on the outskirts of the city, out past the airport, reasons various for my presence there, none of them compelling. If I wanted to engage with Phnom Penh proper it meant an unhappy superheated commute to and then through the busy streets that serve as the trash-strewn centers of the city for barang of all stripes and types and inclinations. When traffic was heavy my eyelids got heavier.

I passed most of the late morning insensible, laid out length-wise, like the corpse of a Roman Senator at the end of all his feasts. His body still bloated from feeding, just moments ago he felt nauseous from wine; but now he feels nothing, no pain, no desire, and that nothing is something divine.

Which is to say: I was out of it. Half-dozing, near-drooling, nodding off, dope dreaming in the innards of my own mobile opium den, blissfully asleep and mostly unaware of bodily encumbrances and physical realities. Hot? Cold? Unconscious. Pain? Pleasure? There is no weather. I’d taken nothing pharmaceutical nor chemical, medical or recreational, but the heat had me beat. Beat down and tired out and my clothes needed to be wrung out, and maybe I was hung over, but then who wasn’t these days? I’d survived thousands of those and I’d kept it upright and could hold on steady come the rain, sleet, or snow. Please? Please come? Rain? Come on, Sleet? Mr. Snow?

My blissful somnolence was often encroached upon and cruelly broken by ruinous roads that kept my world shuddering and shaking and I’d be jolted into sudden waking, lurching upright in little fits with excited starts of small dismay when I see that it is day, the Sun still hung high in our sky. I closed my eyes and hid from the angry light, and before too long I’d find that I’d lost myself, curled up comfortably in the corner of my mind, slipping to sleeping again and no more nearer to any new destination as not. Adrift, abroad, and at the mercy of the city.

The driver must have been in a deep trance of his own pathology, because he never bothered me with any doubts if he had them, never stopped to ask any questions of his fellow drivers, never just creeped to a halt, never coughed politely as he proceeded to wait for me to waken. He just kept going.

Eventually, of course, some little pangs of my anxiety began to perk up. My notably weak instinct for self-preservation is never of much use, so then probably it was just my weary curiosity. My misgivings began doing a slow burn on my theretofore bountiful patience, and as I lost faith in the wisdom of the whole endeavor, I began plotting to return to my remote headquarters and start investigating opportunities for teaching further north, much further north, maybe even as far north as I could go without finding myself heading south again.

I had no idea that the tuk-tuk wasn’t going anywhere in particular. I had no idea that the tuk-tuk had no idea that I had no idea where I was going either. It shouldn’t have been remotely possible for him to assume that some pale faced fatso from beyond the limits of the ocean’s horizon somehow knew how to get around town better than he did. Since this was WHAT he did. For a fucking living! And yet, within a few months he’d be right as rain in the monsoon months; I would know where to go, how to get there, no problem, and yet – still, he would not.

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