My day began, as planned, with a long-awaited (and compulsory!) half-hour swim in the outdoor pool. Shortly before I completed my laps, two women and a young girl appeared and took a short dip in the pool. I learned soon after that Kate was here working for an NGO; her daughter Pearl had a yen for mimicking animals; and Kate’s friend Jana had just arrived from Australia for a 3-month stay. I also quickly discovered that Kate and I had at least one thing in common, because she was in a motorcycle accident last week and emerged largely – and luckily – unscathed.
With Kate’s mobile number and a standing invitation to her home in hand (they had a membership to the pool but lived in an apartment), I hurried up to dress and leave for a meeting in town. Not quite a meeting, more like breakfast with Greg – an American missionary and NGO staff living in Battambang the past few years, fluently conversant in Khmer, married to a local woman and expecting their first child.
From my descriptions of the bridge, Greg was first stumped but then tried to help me track it down. We headed further south than I’d remembered ever riding, because he thought this might have been the culprit:
An uncanny resemblance to be sure. But this is NOT a bridge I would have dared ride onto! Like the impression of a face you’ve seen only once but is permanently and unmistakably etched into your mind, I’d recognize the guilty bridge in an instant. And this was definitely not it.
When Greg left, I walked up and down both sides of the river; crossed two bridges; looked left and right, up the river and down. And, in a jaw-dropping surrealist moment, it suddenly dawned on me that the bridge was gone.
Another surreal moment of the day: I told Greg that I thought the bridge was probably in the vicinity of the wooden structure / toilet that stretches from the boardwalk out over the river… with the vine hanging down below it… He looked back at me with genuine confusion and said: I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Sure enough, I couldn’t find a trace of this bizarrely-placed loo. But here’s proof of its existence – the last photo I took before the fall:
Like a lost puppy looking for its home, I asked others I met over the course of the day – including Melina and Alex at the café on Road 1-1/2 – if they knew what became of the old iron bridge, and the hanging loo. All my queries were met with stares, scratched heads and confused looks.
By the time I met up with Sopheap at her office in the late afternoon, I was starting to wonder if I was even looking in the right places. But she assured me that the bridge had been completely taken apart (I can’t imagine there was much left to dismantle) and rebuilt.
So there it was. In one fell swoop, a wave of relief and disappointment washed over me. I would find that re-gentrified bridge tomorrow on my way to the hospital, and finally, hopefully, lay that gnawing part of my memory to rest.