There’s a tap at the door – ‘Zeb, it’s Dewey – are you in there?’ Dewey’s slouched forwards, leaning on the dorm door with his neck hung sideways like a sleepy giraffe. His sticky glazed eyes can hardly focus as he coughs up a lone bobble of white saliva and spits it on the brown tiled floor. He tries holding his thumping head up, but the dizziness overwhelms him and a sharp pain squeezes his skull like a vice. I’ll just sleep here, mounted to the door like a bug he thinks to himself.
The rolling sound of wheels brings Dewey to his senses, as the maid strides past with her mop and bucket. ‘Morning sir’ she announces with her beatific expression; Dewey tries to answer, but his dry lips stay cemented together and he only manages an ‘mmm’. A sudden flashback of punching Zeb on the leg rushes his thoughts; increasing the pace of his anxious heart – making him feel paranoid. Dewey has the hangover from hell.
After another tentative tap, Dewey tries turning the door handle – it opens, and he cautiously steps inside. The room is dark and cramped, with three, stacked bunk beds – like a prison cell. The beds are messy and empty; the curtains are drawn, and what appears to be a silhouette of Buddha is sat cross-legged on the floor. It’s Zeb, in a deep state of meditation; wearing nothing but bright orange shorts. His dome-shaped head stays motionless, and his breasts and stomach merge like squished putty. ‘Zeb, I want to say sorry for punching you’ Dewey announces in a repentant tone.
Zeb looks expressionless as his wide eyes stare through Dewey’s long, swaying body. Zeb’s fully immersed in a trance, his peaceful thoughts gently musing a state of pure clarity. A couple of minutes go by until Zeb restarts and comes back to life; he stands up, takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. ‘Dewey, yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery’ he exclaims before repeating his cycle of breathing, bringing his palms together, and bowing his head at Dewey.
The pair step outside of the room and go for breakfast. The hostel restaurant has a chilled vibe which suits them both after their night out. A few backpackers compare travel stories whilst the resident dog hoovers up the remains of a half-eaten plate of chicken noodles. ‘Full breakfast’ announces Dewey, ‘tofu salad’ announces Zeb as he lights a cigarette. The breakfasts go down a treat, and Dewey feels like himself again, happy, energized, and adventurous.
‘What’s the plan today then?’ Dewey asks – with sprightly enthusiasm; ‘Temple baby!’ Zeb retorts. Dewey’s expression changes; his smile reverses and his shoulders droop like an angry teenager. ‘But, but, I thought we’d go on a bar crawl with Lorenzo and Nik’ Dewey shrieks; Zeb re-joins – ‘how on earth do you expect to “find yourself” on a ruddy bar crawl!’ Dewey pretends to agree as he runs to his room and downs a few cold beers; it’s the only way to make it through the day he thinks to himself. A few beers down, and a few more stuffed in his Metallica shoulder bag – Dewey’s now ready for an adventure. Bum-bag-attached, Bob Marley bandana fastened – Zeb is also ready.
The pair leave their friends in town (still sleeping) as they hail a tuk-tuk; deciding to have a day out (just the two of them). A battered, old, red and black tuk-tuk screeches to a halt, and the wrinkly old Cambodian driver grins. He looks like an elderly baby, with his toothless expression and glossy, bald head. ‘Temple please’ Zeb exclaims. The driver sticks his thumb up and points at Zeb’s bandana; he then pulls out a gigantic bag of sweet-smelling weed and rolls up a joint. They make their way to the temple; comparing smoke rings, as the driver penetrates their eardrums with some of the finest reggae-tunes they’ve ever been blessed with.
The pair pull up at the temple, both in hysterics as the driver splashes a puddle over a selfie-taking German; causing him to raise his middle finger, as he drains the dirty water from his selfie stick. ‘Twenty dollars please’ the driver announces; Dewey thinks – what a rip-off, but he pays up as the ride was fun and the weed was included. The temple is alive with tourists and has the hustle and bustle of an underground station.
Dewey and Zeb manage to barge through the crowds and make their way to a rather high, mound of grass – overlooking the ancient, sacred building. They casually stroll to the top, roll a joint, crack open a beer and admire the view. ‘This is more like it’, Zeb announces as he crosses his legs and begins to chant, very softly. Dewey sits back, swigs a beer and lets out an earth shuddering belch.
Dewey and Zeb spend the entire afternoon soaking up the atmosphere and reminiscing over old times. The steep, rocky temple shines in the twilight and a hundred brightly flamed candles flutter in the warm, evening breeze. Looking beyond the tourists – an imposing scattering of sugar palm trees lines the horizon, swallowing the sun as it slowly sets before their eyes.
After a thoroughly unforgettable day – the pair decide to head back to town for a few beers. Joyfully staggering down the steep grass mound, the pair see a tall, plump man with slicked back, black hair and sun-glasses – it’s the German. ‘You laugh at me assholes’ he announces in a snide tone; ‘one love man’ retorts Zeb as he shows him a peace sign. Dewey wants to say something as the German scowls at him, but he’s feeling too placid. Maybe it’s the temple, or Zeb’s vibes wearing off; whatever it is – Zeb is thrilled as he bows to Dewey and pats him on the back.
The pair make it to the exit where their tuk-tuk driver is waiting; Dewey high fives him when he finds out the twenty dollars was for a round trip. The German man is now stood next to the tuk-tuk, taking a selfie of his pudgy, greasy face as the driver fires the engine up. Zeb looks at Dewey, smiles and exclaims – ‘I’m proud of you brother’. ‘Thanks’ retorts Dewey as he leans out of the tuk-tuk, grabs the German’s selfie stick and snaps it. ‘Nein!!’ – The German shouts as he rushes after the accelerating vehicle. Dewey and the driver laugh the entire ride back to town, while Zeb sings John Lennon’s “give peace a chance” at top volume, chanting away like a pink Buddha.
A.T Hawthorn – 13.8.19