Being in a Strange Place

This is the beginning of a creative writing assignment I did earlier this year. Enjoy.


“We’re waiting for the other cars to go down the mountain, one hour break,” the bus driver said.

I turned on the pink, portable fan that was 2 inches in diameter and held it close to my neck. That morning, my wife took the fan out of my suitcase and made me place it in my pants pocket.

I stepped outside. My cellphone vibrated; it was a text message.

Miss you dad.

Another vibration. It was from my boss.

The hotel is reserved under Kelly. Don’t sleep there tonight, too dangerous.

There were four restaurants on the block: all of them were one story tall, with wood chairs outside and plastic covers that served as roof top over the wood tables. A few flies circled around every table that had leftover dishes. There was no visibility of any paper menu. Meal descriptions were written in chalk on the blackboards outside every restaurant. I picked the one closest to me and used a Kleenex tissue to wipe off rice on the wood chair. There was a pile of chili oil, about 1 inch in diameter, on the table and some scallions that made their way off of plates instead of on them. I took off my black suit jacket and felt a sweat spot on my back.

“Cigarette?” a passenger from my bus asked me. He looked between the ages of 30 to 35, 5 feet 7 inches and probably 160 pounds. He had two piercings on the left ear.

He lit the cigarette for me as I took an inhale.

“Ice water,” I told the waitress whose hands looked like they’ve been washing dirty dishes, serving food, cooking food and cleaning up tables.

She let out a laugh.

“What makes you think we have ice?”

“Soda then,” I said.

I pulled out my wallet and placed 3000 Cambodian Riel on the table.    

She went inside the restaurant where the kitchen was, the only area where the rooftop was made of brick. She came out with a glass Coca-Cola bottle and handed it to me. It was hot.

I saw bathroom signs, pointing me towards the bottom of a hill. I took my black suit jacket with me and descended on pebbled pavement. Ants accompanied me along the way, just a few of them, not a group. The closer I got to the room that had the “Men,” sign, the stronger the smell of feces.

I opened the door to a hut; the roof was made of mud and grass. There were two stalls; a 3 feet tall cement wall separated each. One stall was empty; the other stall had three pigs. I had a few options of where to place my jacket: over the cement wall which looked like it had splashes of urine and solid waste, on the pigs themselves, or back on my sweaty back. I chose the third option, stepped inside the stall and unzipped my pants.

I got a cigarette from another passenger and lit it up. I used the smoke to override the scent of feces off of myself. The Coca Cola glass bottle was still on the table. The 3000 Cambodian Riel was gone.  

Incoming vibration.

Kelly has been shot. Come back.

One more vibration.

Honey, missing you, call us when you get to the hotel.

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