Captain Hindsight – yesterday’s hero, tomorrow
Location: Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Date: December 2011
“Otres beach, that’s all you need to say” he said, “you won’t want to leave!”
With a smile, the dread-locked Spaniard rejoined his friends. You nodded towards the group of backpackers and turned to leave the hostel. The brother waited at the entrance.
“Are we getting a taxi?” he asked
You nodded and walked ahead, “Yes, Otres Beach here we come…”
Later that day…
In a daze, you paddled out to the boat, cutting through the warm and shallow waters until you reached it.
It creaked under the drift of the tide, anchored to the seabed with a white rope.
Weathered but strong, its threads felt rough to the palm as you grabbed hold and settled your breath. Otres Beach was painted along the port side of the wooden vessel. The faded blue letters vanished and reappeared with every bob of the sea.
You stretched your toes to the floor below, taking comfort in knowing the water was shallow, despite being a long way from the shore. Turning back, you estimated it to be some fifty meters to beach.
Otres beach; what a little slice of paradise it was. The rumors were true.
You, the brother & your new travel friends had walked a short few yards from the dusty road to find a secluded corner of paradise.
Wooden shack bars with homemade beer pumps were the only addition to the natural beach front.
Barely a dozen others lounged around the thin strip of sand, dozing in hammocks, chilling to the music that drifted from the bar to the water. The smell of great food wafted from the makeshift kitchen near the bar. You had already had your fill and yet were tempted for more.
Money was no worry and the local women who scoured the length of the beach all won a sale from you, from fresh fruit to custom wristbands to foot massages, you did it all. Even that random Aussie woman earned a sale.
The waves lapped around your chest as you lay back, floating away from the boat.
The glorious heat of the blinding sun washed over you. You were completely at ease, alone, in the silent calm of the sea.
An age passed with only the gentle hush of the tide in your company. Closing your eyes on the sun, you drifted, lost in the present, caring not for time or anything but the moment.
Finally, you washed ashore, feeling the soft sand caress your head and shoulders. You lay prone, allowing the waves to lick at your feet for a few minutes.
Music crept in from behind and voices pierced your blissful bubble.
Resigning, you picked yourself up and traipsed past the sunbeds and hammocks to the shack bar.
A few souls relaxed in languor as mellow beats whispered dulcet tones behind their conversation.
Navigating to the front of the bar, you found the shack bathroom empty and with a less-than-welcoming toilet seat. Taking a moment, you masked the seat in toilet paper before anything else.
Drifting off, your mind mulled over what would best quench your thirst.
A few minutes later, business was concluded and with your mind still upon the bar, you wrapped up and left the shack, strolling back to paradise.
The barman eyed you peculiarly as he labored through the motions of making your drinks.
Uncomfortable with the stares, you stood rigid, arms crossed, mouth closed, eyes wandering to the ocean once more. You could see your party under the straw umbrellas, awaiting your return with the refreshments.
An age passed and your mind wandered with the music. A voice called from nearby, pulling your mind back from afar.
Engaging the voice, you found the source, meeting eyes with the guy on the stool at the bar. His girlfriend stood twixt his outstretched legs. Her smile was accented with bulging eyes of disbelief.
Confused, you silently prompted the guy to repeat. Perplexed, he spoke again.
“You’ve got a little decoration there!”
Following his stare and pointed finger, you turned your head to your backside.
To your horror, you saw it.
A long trail of white toilet paper snaking from inside your swimming shorts, no doubt stuck to your backside from sitting on the toilet seat.
Without little more than an awkward mutter, you pulled the paper out and proceeded to roll it up in a ball in your hands.
Standing at the bar, you felt the eyes on you as you silently rolled that ball of bog roll in your hands. That bog roll you pulled from your backside.
Wait. They don’t think that….no, surely they aren’t looking at me thinking this toilet paper was actually…Oh no! They do don’t they?!
The wait for those drinks suddenly felt longer. You stood more rigid. Your face burned. Was the barman even making the drinks now? Had you actually ordered them?!
Finally, the glasses appeared on the bar. Behind them stood a somewhat bewildered barman.
“I’ll pay for these later”, you mumbled, grabbing the drinks and rushing back to the beach.
Leaving the awkward moment behind, you felt the sand beneath your feet and the sun upon your face again. You could return to the mesmerizing tranquility of Otres beach.
Then you saw their faces. The brother, the girls, your entire party had witnessed the moment and they were loving it. In stitches on the sand. You tried to explain. You failed.
Looking out at the boat again you saw the boat. You should have stayed out there. Life was simpler then.
You watch the sun fall slow as time passed quick. Eventually it was time to go, but you weren’t ready. Not even when everyone else had left. Sitting on the edge of the sunbed now, you looked around to see everyone had abandoned you.
Suddenly, Paddy reappeared.
“Come on, we’re waiting out here for you!”
Staggering to your feet, you traipsed after the brother until you found your way to the dusty road.
As the tuk-tuk departed, you looked back to Otres Beach and realized how right that Spanish guy was – you didn’t want to leave.
It was a like a dream. A gem, off the beaten path, away from the tourist traps. Paradise.
“That Aussie woman wasn’t lying” said the brother.
Turning to Paddy, you looked at his face.
“What’s that?” you droned.
He smiled dazedly, laughing at your misfortune.
“Those space cakes are pretty strong aren’t they?”, he said.
You nodded and laughed, “Damn right they are!”