story of addiction and drug smuggling through south east asia. based on true events
“Whether you sniff it, smoke it, eat it or shove it up your ass, the result is the same: addiction.” – William S. Burroughs
The wheels spin as the bed’s pushed down the corridor. Quite an insignifcant surrounding really. Just a boring hallway with bright lights and the unobtrusive smell of a dead man’s breath. Mum’s holding my right hand. Dad’s holding my left. They’re both looking at me, shedding a tear or two. I’m calm, I don’t understand what they would be so upset about; me, myself and I are going on an adventure. The wheels stop, and we all say goodbye, a hug and kiss from each parent. “I’ll see you on the other side…” - nice little quip there. A casual, non-committal farewell should do it. This is quite exciting, not many people get to do this you know. How lucky I am. A lady in white drives the canula into my hand. The bastards had sent their warmest smile with her. I mused, “the coward does it with a kiss, the brave man with a sword…”I take the injection gladly and a gentle grin seeps from where the drug enters, flowing warmly up my veins, and finally spreading itself across my face.
Take addiction to both drugs and bulimia coupled with lapses in sanity and you have one very underweight, corrupt and depressed shadow of a young man. A shadow who’s eyes feature second to the black circles beneath them. A shadow enveloping the former identity because it has been devoured by the self-loathing that creeps over the brain like sticky tar, that self-loathing that is only intimate with addicts. Hello, my name is Michael.
My psychiatrist, who thought I was travelling for business rather than seeking to resolve my lust for Dr. Feelgood, had given me a prescription of twenty-five Temazepam pills for this over-night flight to Phnom Penh via Kuala Lumpur. I was familiar with the drug as I had taken it previously, but this was the first time that I had attained it legally. I knew I was going to get off to sleep and I knew that the other passengers probably wouldn’t; because there’s that baby in row thirty six, and the chairs are too hard, and those arm rests aren’t quite in a comfortable position and the blanket is slightly too short and even though it’s a climate controlled cabin, its climate is controlled to be fucking freezing.
Prior to departure in Sydney I bombed five of those little orange Temazepam pills. I figured five in one go was ideal after previous experiences. I must have passed out as soon as I found my seat because halfway through the flight I woke up - so I took another three tablets. That was eight Temazepam in six hours. I could almost guarantee that would send a less seasoned user into a coma – or kill a small child.
Getting off the plane in Phnom Penh it was hot. My travel clothes were suffocating and passing through security, customs, and immigration was a process I would have taken at a sprint if not for the several Khmer officers bearing AK-47’s – these bastards were not shy of the trigger. It was like the Wild-West out here in the Kingdom of Wonder. Cowboys and corruption. Fast and loose. Most had nothing or less - a small number had everything or more. And for a population still reeling from one of the worst genocide attempts in history, it was no biggie for them to shake death’s hand. After I’d paid the $25US for my tourist visa and collected my small, black Delsi suitcase from the only carousel in the tiny arrival terminal, I walked outside.
“Where you go?”
“How much you pay?”
“$14 okay, okay for you sir?”
Each of these Tuk-Tuk drivers had his own noise. Without Temazepam I would have been far from laughing at the clamor and their disregard for personal space. It was a standard that a Tuk-Tuk ride cost $7US or 28,000R from the airport to anywhere in the city, so I bypassed all ‘rip-offs’ and found myself a driver in the car park, laid across the back seat of his Tuk-Tuk – sleeping. I kicked his legs.
“Kraok laeng…”though my pronunciation was off, he understood my telling him to wake up and rushed to heave my bag onto the carriage’s wooden floor. My driver took his red helmet and sat it precariously atop his head, unstrapped – helmets were not for safety; they were for avoiding ‘penalties’ from the police.
“Where you go, sir?”
“The River Palace Hotel” I replied while fiddling through my hand luggage looking for the hotel booking receipt, “Street 256.”
“Okay, I know, I know. Very nice hotel, sir. How long you stay? You need driver?” Temazepam and I smiled and ignored the cheeky bastard trying to squeeze me for as much as he could. Poverty had a way of making people not want to be in poverty.
He had kick started the piece of shit Honda engine, pulled out of the airport car-park and with the stench of cheap petrol fumes and chaotic Phnom Penh traffic swallowing the Tuk-Tuk, I felt the nostalgia spread over me like emotional butter. I was back. Back in My Kingdom. Where I was the Lord of Pharmaceuticals, the Emperor of Debauchery and the King of Sin.
On the way to the hotel I made my driver pull over at one of the hundreds of small pharmacies in the city. First things first, it was essential that a bevy of pharmaceuticals be purchased. I needed to get melted. $5 later I re-boarded the tuk tuk with a small plastic bag, the contents of which were a box each of heavy French Pain Killers; white rectangular tablets with rounded corners, oxycodone; white circle tablets with a line across them, morphine sulfate; clear capsules with blue powder inside, diazepam; smaller circle tablets, blue with a line across them, alprazolam; tiny pink pills with an ‘x’ on them (hence the branding, Xanax) and tramadol; capsules, half green, half yellow.
My room on the fifth floor of The River Palace Hotel held a King size bed, white sheets, green carpet, tacky gold armchairs, and a painting above the small television; a vulgar cross between Guernica and Starry Night – philistines. I wasn’t too fussed though; I was paying peanuts for the room and its position on the Tonle Sap River was ideal for my purposes. I collapsed on the bed after throwing my bag of drugs on one of the armchairs and shut my eyes, Temazepam still encouraging my brain to explore the universe inside my eyelids.
It was 6PM local time when I’d gone to sleep, but when I woke it was already 10AM the next morning. I’d wasted an entire night sleeping. Fuck you Temazepam. I jumped up from the bed, had a quick shower and got myself dressed. I took twenty of these French painkillers I’d bought and plonked them in a glass of water to put in the fridge, grabbed a can of Laos beer from the mini-bar and, almost on the fly to the elevator, skulled it along with two Oxy’s and one Morphine Sulfate capsule. I brought a strip of five pills each with me so I could float around for the day.
On crossing the threshold between the air-conditioned lobby and the dry heat of November sun outside, I paced to a pharmacy across the street and bought a bottle of French cough syrup. The real shit. Promethazine and Codeine in a berry-esque treacle. I sourced a can of cola from the vendor sitting roadside out the front of the pharmacy and downed half of the can, re-filling it with cough syrup, taking a few swigs of the cocktail. And then psychosis ensued.
I looked up. As much cloud cover as I had a clue what the fuck was going on. Late November meant the dry season, so no rain until some way through next year, but I was feeling little itty-bitty electric drops of water all over…
“Let’s get lucid…” I said it aloud, to myself. And started giggling at the temporary insanity my acute little drug binge had induced. Here we go, rock’n’roll, hoist the main sail, lock and load, this is the Wild-Wild-West…
I went to Cambodia and I shot ten men. I saw Pol Pot and I drew my sawed off shotgun and blew that cowardly fuck’s face to the moon. I took a lot of drugs. I was high all the time. All I did was walk around and think and shoot ten men. I bought lots of food. Chocolates, cakes, biscuits, sweets, cereal. I took it all to my hotel room. I sat on the bed and arranged it all around me. I stuffed myself until I couldn’t eat anymore. I lumbered to the bathroom, hunched over, wincing with pain. I got in the shower slowly and commenced shoving a toothbrush down my throat. The bristled end; the blunt end and my fingers didn’t work anymore. It took me a whole hour to get all of it out. My chest hurt, my throat was bleeding, my stomach felt torn, but I was empty.
I went and sat on the bed. I took some pills. I put cough syrup in a coke. I sipped it slow and watched a shit movie. The sun set on Tonle Sap River. I drank more cough syrup. I walked down to the night markets. I looked at some girls. I looked at a lot of things. I couldn’t see. I just looked. I was high. So fucking high. I was as high as a really tall building or a tree or one of those other things that’s really tall. I was as high as a bird is when it flies into a cloud. My god I’m afraid of heights. Standing there, I shit myself looking at the ground. “Holy fuck that’s a long way down.”
I was swaying. People were walking around me. People were watching me. People were scared. Amused. Worried. Confused. Locals, tourists, backpackers, old people, young people, veterans, squares, circles, triangles, red, blue, green. Fucking aliens. Get out of my Kingdom you villainous fucking rascals!
I met a bloke in the night markets under a noodle tent – a veteran of Vietnam – he’d come back and forth between Melbourne and Cambodge to smuggle Viagra. His name was Charlie. Charlie offered me some Viagra and told me he’d take me to the Pickled Parrot on Street 345 for a ‘ride of a local filly.’ I was in no state to be vocalizing anything, so I took these blue pills he gave me, stuffed them in my pocket and off we went to the Pickled Parrot on Street 345.
Just before we got there, this veteran, Charlie, told me they were suppository pills - because they were usually for horses. I didn’t ask why being a suppository made them equestrian friendly, but I said no problems because like him, I was a veteran, albeit a veteran of putting pills in my anus. I found a nice spot behind a tree with different coloured paper lanterns hanging from it. I undid my belt and shoved the horse viagra up my arse, sitting it on the ‘shelf’ within. It felt awkward for about four minutes and forty-two seconds. Then it was as though the pill was never there, disappearing into my stream of sticky icky thick drug polluted blood.
In about seven minutes and eighty-four seconds, as I was walking down the street to the Pickled Parrot with my veteran friend, this drug hit me – stiff. It was a triple threat. I was now high, horny and fucking hard.
For the next three hours and four hundred and sixty-seven seconds I was a zombie with a hard-on. Until I realized I was on the moon – ‘I need to get back to my hotel room. This butter is all going to dry up soon and I’ll be left stranded. I’ll be feeling like a toy who’s battery has run out.’ I was lying on this rock hard mattress with my rock hard dick inside this yellow, fanged blob with an eye and an arm missing and a six-inch tongue. I was panicking because I didn’t mean to be fucking this monster and therefore it had to be raping me – in reverse cow-girl. This creature had stabbed my mind's eye, the fucking wretch. I couldn’t find my sawn-off shotgun so I threw the slightly chubby and deformed Khmer girl off me, she screaming with anger that I still needed to pay her. I couldn’t work out what a monster like this would need my money for when it was raping a King inside her castle on the moon. It was now the quadruple threat – hallucinating.
After escaping the castle on the moon, with the giant neon parrot out the front, I paid a blue seahorse $20US to fly me home. The grateful Tuk-Tuk driver took me back to the hotel where I sat in my room, dead still, for an hour or two, staring at my groin. My dick was maintaining the most strenuous erection I had ever experienced – the thing could have cut diamonds it was so hard. I sat in a cold water bath with a bottle of lemonade and cough syrup – observing the tiles in the bathroom change color and pattern with each blink.
I brought out the glass of water with the pills in it that I’d left earlier. This was basic cold water extraction. Twenty pain killers. 200mg Codeine, 100mg Paracetamol per tablet. Too much Paracetamol and your liver is one unhappy motherfucker. So. Put the pills in a glass of water and leave it in the fridge. The Codeine dissolves in the H20, and the Paracetamol does not. The Paracetamol is left at the bottom of the glass – white poisonous powder sitting like soft silky silt.
I sat in the bath, smoked a clove cigarette and sipped some codeine water. After maybe one hour and two seconds I tried to swim some laps of the bath but my boner was completely screwing up my hydrodynamics. So I had a last sip of codeine and went to bed to dream of dead Khmer Rouge and chubby monsters on the moon and fairy floss. Blue and pink and green fairy floss. Vietnam veterans and yellow monster rapists in castles. Khmer Rouge with no heads and no names.
The next morning my dick was still standing at full attention – fucking Charlie and his horse viagra. I quickly got over the embarrassment of a public horse boner and after some entrée of Oxycodone and Morphine I took a quick elevator jaunt up to the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, my pocket packed with tablets and capsules that could make you levitate. I was still fucked up from last night. Still fucked up from entree. I looked at my reflection drooling at me in the brass elevator doors. I laughed. I looked fucking ridiculous. “I’m fucking famished as a fat fucking fat guy – who hasn’t eaten in five hours and forty-five seconds. This is some great elevator music. I’ll ask the ‘help’ what the name of the band is.”
The elevator doors opened. My head’s bowed, arms hanging in front of me, hair looking… - God, who the fuck cares. One minute drooling. Two minutes drooling. Three minutes drooling. The elevator doors began to shut so I lunged forward and was momentarily squashed between them before stumbling gracefully out onto the restaurant floor.
“I DEMAND TO BE FED AT ONCE.” I forgot that it was a buffet breakfast. “YOU WILL FEED ME.”
A tour group of Japanese retirees eating their breakfast turned to look. Seven of them took photos. “Fuck off you ignorant bastards. You transvestite hippy scallywags.”
Another pill from my pocket down the hatch. Not sure what type. They’re not in their boxes anymore. Just floating about in my pocket, disorganizing themselves. Reckless little trollops.
I nose-dived into a chair and demanded a platter of the finest offerings available at the buffet and the waiter did his best to oblige.
“Is this salad organic?” The waiter didn’t have a clue what I was asking him.
“Are you stupid?” The waiter, again, didn’t have a clue what I was asking him.
“I will kill you and eat your family…” the waiter still didn’t have a clue what I was saying, but heard the tone and saw the drooling, blood shot eyed white man imagining this humble waiter’s violent death on the rooftop restaurant floor. Piss ran down his leg.
I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror back in my room and spat blood on the face of the black eyed, shadowy and rusted excuse for a man in the reflection. The excuse would have spat back last night. Several deep breaths.
A few hours later I was sitting in the cool innards of the hotel lobby. Having just returned from shooting 1/20 of a gram of Khmer black tar heroin, Dr. Feelgood, I had become one with the enormous cream sofa next to the reception desk. Insanity had come to pay me another visit, and in that time I’d brushed my teeth with shampoo and packed my bags; including several boxes and bottles of the finest pharmaceuticals this wondrous land had to offer. I’d also disguised in my suitcase an ounce of the Khmer black tar brownstone – it was almost a sure thing that I’d get through Kuala Lumpur customs, they only ever checked carry-on luggage and I’d made certain no trace of Dr. Feelgood was going to be on board with me.
I got to Kuala Lumpur and those shifty Malay customs and security officers pulled me over and asked my name. I told them. They’d grabbed me at an x-ray machine, paused the conveyor belt, and reversed my bag back under the camera. Two of them were looking at the bag quite closely, squinting, trying to make out whatever it was they thought they were seeing. I discovered a couple of minutes later that what they were seeing was a loose hand-full of the blue horse viagra pills which I’d forgotten I took from that wily veteran Charlie. They took my passport. They checked my photo. They put handcuffs on me and lead me off to a room with grey walls and a big mirror. In the room I sat at a steel table on a steel chair. They didn’t understand any explanation I gave for what the Viagra pills were for, but rather considered my hand gestures for an extended erection to be a sign of insult. But I was cool as a motherfucking cucumber on ice, did not break at all - omerta. I was there for hours, so airport staff had extracted my luggage from the plane I was supposed to be boarding as a matter of convenience. To my inconvenience though they were obliged to security check it. My little, black Delsi suitcase with Dr. Feelgood and his associates inside. It took them an hour to unlock the bag and cover the table in front of me with boxes and bottles of the finest pharmaceuticals Cambodia had to offer – and, of course, my comrade, Dr. Feelgood, who was wrapped snug in plastic. I would deny ‘til death.
I don’t know if it was what I’d done to my mind in abuse or the stress of my predicament. But my life became a staccato of sober insanity from that point.
First court case. I lost. I was to be executed.
One month Later. New court case – how was I to be executed?
Lethal injection over firing squad – a win. Thank my lucky stars.
Two months later. New court case – can my parents be with me when I die?
I won and lost. They could come and be with me just prior but I was to be taken into a different room away from them. To die alone with just me and my two friends, who were myself and I. They were my best two friends anyway you cowards. You fucking squares. Me with my two best friends and you’re going to inject drugs that would send me to another world, another universe, another time, another existence, an incomprehendable place full of whatever it is that it’s full of. It’s surely full of what is not here. You’re going to send all three of us? Together. On this trip. To this place. All I can say is thank you and let the show go on.