My watch said it was a little after 11:00. In my rational mind, I knew the owner would be back in the morning to let us out. Another seven or eight hours, no big deal. My less than rational mind, however, couldn’t stop looking at that locked iron gate.
We’ve all got our phobias and bogeymen. For me it’s confinement–small spaces, feeling trapped. Garden variety, completely irrational claustrophobia. The ‘What ifs?‘ circled like vultures in my mind: ‘What if there’s a fire?‘ ‘What if the building collapses in an earthquake?’ ‘What if a flash flood comes raging down?’
Sleep wasn’t so easy now. I got back in my bag and stared at the ceiling. At some point my anxious mind finally shut down and I dozed off until around 5 am when my bladder sounded revelry. I rose from my bag and stood there, my eyes trying to adjust.
The outline of Kevin’s botanical urinal was just visible in the darkness. On the floor next to it I could see the outline of Kevin in his sleeping bag. A little too close for my potentially wayward stream, or worse, the a puddle draining from the bottom of the pot and running along the floor for Kevin to roll over in it. Better I find a different plant to pee in.
A quick scan around the darkened shop wasn’t much help. I fumbled for my headlamp but the urge was fast becoming urgent. It felt like my bladder had a case of cement pushing down on it. The hell with the headlamp, I thought, and went toward the only thing that made sense—the locked gate.
I pressed my face to it and peered out through the horizontal slats. A lone bulb on a wire cast a weak dingy light on the bare sandy ground in front of the shop. Fine, I thought. Better than the floor of the man’s shop.
I made the necessary strategic arrangements and let loose. Leaning against the gate, I listened as my stream splatted on the sandy ground. What an image this would have presented to anyone approaching from the side! I imagined Vietnamese walking past shaking their heads in dismay, muttering, ‘...classy Americans…‘ I saw my mother rolling over in her grave.
Barely awake, I rested my forehead against the bars and shut my eyes. Then, just as I started nodding off, a man’s voice screeched–‘HEY!!‘ Or the Vietnamese equivalent of ‘HEY!!‘ From out of nowhere, a man had appeared outside the gate, throwing his arms up in astonishment and babbling at me in Vietnamese. Without thinking, I stepped back from the gate and turned, shooting a drizzle of piss over the shop floor and furthering my embarrassment. I pointed inside the shop and said ‘No bathroom!!’ in English several times. Just then another man appeared out of the darkness and engaged the first man in a loud, animated debate.
I bumbled my way back to my bag and crawled in as the men continued ranting. I buried my head and imagined the discussion: ‘Why are you yelling and waking everyone up?’ ‘Because I heard this crazy foreigner pissing all over the front of Le Duc’s store!’ ‘You’re kidding!? Why would he do such a thing?’ No manners, these people–watch where you step!’