There is something distinctly unsettling, albeit fascinating, about reliving the day of my accident through another person’s eyes. Michael’s eyes, I knew, had experienced the episode from a different perspective. He might shed some more light. After searching fruitlessly for the card on which he’d jotted down his email, and suddenly finding it among piles of paper last week, we connected via Skype this afternoon.
Michael and I met on a bus. An Israeli youth trip organizer and schoolteacher, he was traveling solo through western Cambodia and Thailand. We compared notes during the long and dusty ride from Siem Reap to Battambang.
Upon arriving in Cambodia’s second-largest city, we lugged our backpacks around for over an hour before finally settling on a guesthouse not far from the market. We headed out to explore parts of the city, after a bite of local fare.
We took a leisurely stroll by the river, stopping to watch and play with a group of street kids. There was widespread commotion, people setting up kiosks for the fair marking the start of the Chinese New Year.
The next morning, I rose early and headed out to rent a bike. A few hours later, I landed in hospital and a few hours after that, Michael appeared at my bedside. I remembered very little from his visit, my memory tainted by pain and shock.
And so we spoke, I asked many questions and he shared…
Hearing a knock on his door, Michael opened it and someone handed him a message. It was delivered by Mauro (the Emergency Hospital logistician) and briefly stated that I was hospitalized due to an accident. With directions in hand, Michael rented a scooter and came out to see me. Where was the hospital in relation to our guesthouse, I wanted to know. About 10 minutes away, once you crossed the river.
Michael said that what he remembered the most, when he first saw me, was how much pain I was in.
What about the bicycle, I asked. “I showed you pictures of the bike, don’t you remember?” he asked. No, do you still have them? “They got erased…” I wanted to know what it looked like when he found it. The police had picked it up and by the time Michael and Mauro arrived to cart it away, it was mangled up beyond use, the whole front rim and tire utterly crushed. Michael went to Moto Gecko, paid for the bike, picked up my passport and then, together with Mauro, found a second-hand bike shop where he unloaded it for half the price he paid for it. It’s true I suppose, there’s always some use for damaged goods.
The following day, Mauro lent Michael a truck, which he used to transport my bags from the guesthouse to the hospital. Michael said he was surprised and impressed at the care and attention that the other patients and I received at this hospital. He said he’d heard about the Khmer woman who lived near the bridge, that she had been summoned and ensured that I was transported to Emergency Hospital, where she worked. Yes, I knew about and remember Keo Vich. One of my guardian angels.
And that was that. A few more pieces of the puzzle, but not yet the whole story. Perhaps this is as much as I will ever know. Or just maybe, not.