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Around The Sun: Skinny And Tall

Steve Harrison tells of the effect that Phnom Penh had on a couple of university students.

Some people are quickly affected by Cambodia. In other cases it takes years to slowly decay their minds.

These two guys I can only describe as overnighters. They were both skinny, one of them exceptionally tall with a mop of hair that that reminded you of a chimney sweep, or rather that brush that the sweep used to clean the chimney.

They checked into our backpackers' dorm room, the cheapest in town at US$2 a night. When they came into the bar they were fairly outgoing and coherent. They told me they were university students on a two-month vacation in Asia. I offered them a couple of cold beers but they said they never drank alcohol or took drugs. One of them drank a Pepsi, the other an orange juice. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, listening to the music and observing the scene,

For the first couple of days they behaved normally, whatever that means. They got up early, ate breakfast and stuck to Pepsi and orange juice. They would then go off around town, sightseeing I guess. They stood out from the crowd, especially the pipe cleaner guy with the mop of hair.

I guess Phnom Penh had an accelerated effect on these two impressionable guys. There was a day when they did not show up for breakfast. I thought they had maybe checked out. But that night they were in the bar, wandering around feeling the walls. They walked into some of those walls. I guess they were trying to walk through imaginary doors.

They tried to sit up at the bar, but could only slump. They then resigned themselves to one of our comfortable sofas.

I asked them if they were OK. It took them at least ten minutes to reply. There words were slow and slurred, and they broke up into huge giggles.

For the next week they continued their downward spiral. When I went around inspecting the hotel I would discover them either sleeping in the dorm or spreadeagled on sofas. They slept day-long. At night they looked like zombies. They wandered around the hotel, trying to walk through doors which didn't exist. They didn't communicate with anyone, not even with one another. They just walked about bumping into things, collapsing into hysterical laughter, then wandering on again.

It became quite a joke in the bar, telling what they had been seen falling over, or off of. We used to say around town that those who came to Phnom Penh for one day usually stayed a week, those who came for a week stayed a month and those who came for a month, often stayed forever. Well these guys must have been around at least a month. They always paid their bills and were never any trouble. However they only came out at night and never ever seemed to be able to get the hang of where any of the walls ended and the real doors began.

I guess they even lost sight of what was reality and was imagined. Anyway, about a month or six weeks later they were gone. Gone to goodness knows where. More than likely, even they didn’t know.

Guys where ever you are I hope you enjoyed your introduction to the drugs of Cambodia, Stay alive and stay well.

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