The wait for the night bus to Phnom Penh is an interesting one, both of us too scared too attempt using the 10 dollar for now. So we wait, eyes set on Phnom Penh, but this isn’t any wait, it’s an 11 hour wait…
The time comes to board the bus, excited about a bed on a bus, but nervous about what the morning could bring, we both cram into our sleeping area, embraced by darkness we drift off.
The journey is short and at 5am we arrive, an hour earlier than expected, we fight through the small crowd of Tuk Tuk drivers to find our bags, and the walk commences, I have the route to the hostel roughly memorised so off we go. It’s busy out for 5 in the morning a little too busy… as we walk I can feel people’s eyes upon me, their gaze piercing into my soul, could they possibly sense the note? Has word spread this far across the land already? Both uneasy thoughts that darkened my mood.
As we continued walking we noticed monkeys overhead perched on the electricity cables, taunting us, I wonder if they can sense it too, thoughts of paranoia cross my mind, could this be part of the curse? But it’s hard to focus on whether I’m paranoid or not when hundreds of eyes are all focussed on us.
We arrive at the hostel, 5:30 am, we ring the bell and after a few moments the huge gate slides open, a sleepy faced Cambodian man lets us in, and shows us where we can rest until check in, the place is quiet so we proceed to lie down on the raised area of the courtyard. We now have another 8 hours to wait before check in, we’re both tired and we drift in and out of sleep.
I open my eyes and look down, I find myself drowning in a pool full of ripped ten-dollar notes, flailing my arms around, gasping for air, I notice at the side of the pool a deck chair with a handsome looking 10 dollar note sitting in it, he has shades on and he’s drinking a Mojito. His head aligns with mine, he lowers his shades and his eyes stare at me, he shakes his head in disappointment, and I begin to sink below the surface.
I gasp and I awake, just a dream I think to myself, but will this ever end? Eventually the time passes and it’s time to check in, Jocelyn heads over to pay the deposit, it’s an unusually large deposit of 40$ for towels and the room keys. Jocelyn feels an overwhelming surge of adrenalin, this is it, this is her time, she could slip the note in between some others and hope he doesn’t notice. Her heart is racing, she can feel it almost beating out of her chest, her palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy luckily her vomit covered sweater is at home, Cambodia is no place for sweaters.
She folds the bill into the other notes, and hands the receptionist the money, their eyes meet, Jocelyn wipes her brow, he looks down at the money, looks back up to Jocelyn, she takes a deep breath, he looks back at the note, then back at her, and finally he smiles…And thanks her, and then stows the money in the till…
It’s over, the bill has finally left our hands, Jocelyn practically sprints around the corner and gives me a huge hug, tears streaming from her eyes, not tears of sadness, tears of joy! We both start to cry it’s an emotional moment, one we will certainly never forget, but at least this turmoil is finally over.
Or so we thought…
The next day, I cross the road to change some Great British Pounds into American Dollars, I hand the lady £70, she grabs one of the £20 notes, looks at me and laughs and then points out a tiny rip. She gives me back the £20 and exchanges the rest for dollars, I ask her if she’s serious and she looks me dead in the eye, she doesn’t even need to talk, I leave the place, I fold the £20 note and store it safely in my wallet, hopefully I will forget about it, but I find it hard to shake this feeling of dread, will this nightmare ever end?