When you wake up on a concrete floor with only a bamboo mat between you and the cold you might just wonder what the hell you were thinking the night before. This was my situation a few years back while I traveled the world for a year or so. Some days it felt longer and this was one of them. I lay there body sore, taught as a fisherman’s net soaked with salt, dried in the hot afternoon sun. Rubbing my eyes, I dared to take a day light look at my new home. God, I hoped my temporary home. The memories started rushing in from the night before. Shit! I have made a mess of things now, I thought. My only hope is that my travel mate would be there for me. Yes, he would come and find me. Thank god, Jeremiah was spending this month hanging out with me.
I started to stir and let the blood flow through my sore body. Damn it, if I only hadn’t wrecked that piece of shit, miserable, old scooter yesterday I would be in Luang Prabang off on another adventure. That night sitting on the step of my hut, battered and bruised, I had drunk myself into a good stupor. Three of us decided we needed a bite to eat, leaving drunken Jeremiah behind we headed off. This would have been simple enough but after dinner; persuaded by another travel mate, Scott, we went to a bar along the river. We lay in hammocks listening to music and watching people on this cool afternoon night. Filled with a warm, fuzzy, whiskey buzz I didn’t think much when Scottie handed me the joint and I took a hit. Okay, one more I thought. What the hell just trying to numb the pain from that damn moped accident and this shitty town with friends episodes in every bar as you pass by. All I wanted was out, just tonight then we will be gone in the morning, right?
Well, hell no, suddenly all around me appeared these little egotistical assholes they call cops, disguised with their jean jackets and looking for a bribe that would feed their roosters and their pockets for the cock fights the next night . Oh yeah, don’t forget the local liquor they would need to numb their pitiful existence. I was surrounded and not much I could do. I tried to walk away since it wasn’t my pot but the dollar signs were floating in the air all around these guys. They grabbed me and dragged me across the bridge onto the dirty dusty road. There a truck with windows dark as a night with no stars was waiting for me. They told me to get in and I would be taking to the station. I abruptly refused; these assholes could be anybody. So, determined, I started screaming like a teenage girl at a rock concert and they gave up and walked me back to the station.
When we arrived they separated me and Scott and tried to get me to confess. Hell no, I am not confessing to drugs. I knew my ticket out of this mess was possibly to having my countries back. So I needed to stick to my guns. Writing the confession I could see the little shit of a guard get madder and madder. A puff on a cigarette, I declared.
Back to reality I looked around the cold grey cell and there were my angels from the night before. Of course, that night as they brought me down the short dark hall I envisioned the worse. One light dimly glowing just to make the shadows scarier; I was ready to defend my life. I demanded to the guards, these little cocky assholes with an attitude the size of an emperor ruling over millions, I would not dare go in to that dark hole with these handcuffs on. Funny thing is I think they were scared of me and my confidence that came from being a strong western woman. Then again, they did deal with me for three hours before and knew I wasn’t about to back down, wasn’t about to admit anything. I might be dumb some of the times but I’m not stupid. Well, some people might say I am since I put myself into this mess in the first place.
Well, back to the little women and their genuine concern for this stranger with white skin and different colored eyes. That night they came to my rescue moving around, these little shadows produced a mat, mosquito net, candle, matches and a bottle of water. My fists came down and my heart opened to these shadowy figures that I could not see but could feel their compassion. Damn, at least I am not fighting some big tough bitch that wants to make me her squeeze for however long this nightmare continued.
They stared at me this morning with great concern and compassion. The one older woman seemed to be the boss with her motherly instincts taking over. Yet, standing there caressing the breasts of her fellow housemates made me breathe a bit shallower. I need to get out of here before I am fondled in the middle of the night, I thought
The girls took care of me as they gave me their only milk brought from relatives and was nice enough to offer a toothbrush that looked like something I would clean the mold around my bathroom floor with. But as my momma always told me; respect your elders and damn when you’re in another country just don’t piss off the locals. Faking my morning brush and taking a shit with a little wall between me and my new friends; things became a bit close for comfort. I sat on my mat and tried to communicate with these women between hand signals and translation from a young man in the next cell, as the hours went by.
Yet, I still knew down deep Jeremiah was out there looking for me, but damn if one of my cellmates had been there six weeks now, for guess what, yep, marijuana. The little bit of hope I had dropped to none. But, I know I am an American and money talks, sad as that is I took comfort in this attitude I usually despise.
I watched the chickens walking on the other side of the bars taunting me with their own freedom, if they only knew they would be dinner very soon. The girls dotted over me while the clock ticked by, make up really?? They actually had makeup and decided it would be good to dress me up a bit. Memories of breast grabbing came back and I agreed reluctantly, as they splattered shades of blue on my eyes and pink rouge on my cheeks just like my grandmother wore on hers. After they mended my pants torn the night before we just stared at each other and talked through those damn bars to the guys in the cell next door.
Waiting, I did as the guards came and left. Learning to always keep your feet facing down and no eye contact. I thought it was best to listen to this advice sent to me quickly as the big boss approached. We waited and waited and finally got a break to go outside. Wow, that was depressing. I just don’t see the highlight of ten minutes with semi automatic weapons pointed at you and dirty water to wash in. I would rather stay inside.
Will they come for me today? My mind wandering back to the last thing that put me in jail and that was my safety lied in Jeremiah. They tried to get me to go to my hut that night and retrieve my passport but I refused. I knew that they would go through my things and find the nickel bag I had laying there, then for sure Jeremiah and I would both be in shit. No, this girl was going to jail and that was it.
That night as we left the station and headed to the jail, I felt I was dreaming. We drove down dark dusty roads late at night as the streets were quiet, everyone asleep even the roosters. Dark buildings appeared and I knew this would be our home for the night. Rusty barbed wire enveloped the compound; the dilapidated building in the back was waiting for us reminiscent of a scene from some horror flick but, damn I am not asleep, it’s not a bad dream, not a horror movie. Nope, it’s Laos and all I can hope for is Jeremiah to come to my rescue like one of those movies with a great ending.
Yeah, a bunch of cocks rustling their feathers and doing their all mighty dance of power, I thought as we pulled through the gate to hell. Well, damn them I am not going to back down. I know what happens in prisons deep in the depths when you don’t have any rights. I have seen enough movies, been on the street my whole life and I will come out of this one to, I thought, I hoped, I prayed. Funny, how some of us decide to pray when times get rough. Why don’t you just tell me how much you want and we can take care of this now and we all go home, I stated firmly keeping my cool. I had heard of this town and the police here loved to bust people for pot and get hefty fines. Yep, I knew and still took those two puffs. Well shit, maybe I am a bit stupid but not all the time, I thought. God damn two puffs!
Where the hell is Jeremiah, I repeated to myself or to anyone else that would listen to my rambling in another language.
Jeremiah was out looking for me but those damn cocks had their feelings hurt and were determined to make life hard on me and that asshole Scott. Our friends went from one station to another until their determination paid off and were told to return with my passport and they would bring us to the station.
Finally, they came and took me away. Shit, my heart hurt as I left these women that were my brief friends and confidants for 12 hours or so. We drove back to the station and there was my savior, Jeremiah towering over the cops with a concerned but sweet, sweet smile. Almost over I thought!
In the office they had my passport and I knew the ultimatum was to pay the bloody outrageous fine of $800.00. Enough booze and cock fighting for 6 months, I thought. Shit they probably will throw in some hookers as well. Happy to be free, I reluctantly walked to the atm and pulled the money, the bribe, the payoff, out of this evil machine as I thought how much does the government or the bank get as there kickback. Thought the daily limit was $300, I sighed and looked at Jeremiah. I paid the fine and signed a confession that said I was free with payment and the promise to never return. Like I wanted to ever touch foot again in that shitty Podunk town with short cocky cops, shitty broke down mopeds, and friend’s reruns playing in every tourist bar in town. As I got on the bus that night I thought, damn them, the pot wasn’t even that good in the first place.