CAMBODIA

 

RACING POSITIONS

it is hours after dark just above the equator - phnom penh, cambodia. the ramshackle city reveals little of its prerevolutionary colonial comfort through the scars and scavenging that pock its surface. even these sad marks are obscured by the unlit sky, settled under another day's dirt, under motorized filth, creeping forces and under the weight of a laconic humidity that holds 100 degrees of fahrenheit force even at this hour, which is well past our "midnight". most of the city attempts sleep. (an enterprise, it should be mentioned, which here, perhaps more than anywhere, contains the threat of the past). the threat of the present is also near. the streets are quiet for blocks. perhaps an indiscernible oxcart lumbers suddenly into view, creaking unmindfully the wrong way through a roundabout. curs slink. jesus of nazareth could not be further away.

there are, scattered like pale beetles in fur, a few yellowish pools of light not yet dormant. they contain the figures of men; women not at home can be seen only in dimmer, redder light - they do not take part in our story tonight.

our attention is on two men who have just exited a low establishment. perhaps it even has a name, but that has not been recorded. they have the appearance of thin, white apes as they move amongst the chocolate tones and smooth features of those born into this land. their goal, just in the darkness of a tree, is one of the city's ubiquitous honda supercub motorbikes. these are mad contraptions of tooled metal, internal combustion speed; some even with headlamps.

the smaller ape pauses and virtually fondles a small brown girl who has cavorted into his path. it is clear that his affection for her is strong and correct, and that this brief contact will be their only one. his demeanor of easy compassion and purposeful inebriation belie a mission so dark that we will only hint at it with this small detail: through it all, the musculature of his brow is just slightly taut, as fixed on the way ahead as the rest of his aspect is on the present before him. the larger ape, impassive and mantis-like, lumbers onto the back seat of the 90cc metal beast which is now revving madly under the hand of his friend. as if engaged by the machine's gear, the mouths and eyes of both open with primal screams and careen suddenly into empty darkness.

now they are alone, pitted against the solid objects that move ahead, the treacherous exigencies of the ground below, and they are steadily gaining speed. each second of acceleration again reduces the possibility of judging the incoming trajectory of jagged sinkholes, dark men, hulking oxcarts, other hi-revving cubs. in this city, no laws pertain, written or rational, to regulate action or mitigate against decrepitude of the infrastructure, (such as it is). there is no thin blue line. in fact, ape number 1 decides to turn off the headlight of his motorcycle because the policemen themselves are too fucking dangerous. "RACING POSITIONS!"

his blind eyes seeing all, ape1 leans violently into the front wheel, nose below handlebar level. i grab his waist, press myself against his tensed back, and thrust my head alongside his so that the last wind resistance is sliced away. we catapult ahead at the very maximum speed that physics and combustion will allow. to a black inscrutable path where there is no safety at all. to the path that can only be attained in RACING POSITIONS.

my faith in ape1 is absolute so that my fear will not be. any mishap will result in our instantaneous dismemberment - in a country with no hospital services as we know them. we will probably be robbed, incanted upon, and even eaten by curs before anyone gives a thought to healing. perhaps this is why, each time a canine shade fires by in the dirty starlight, we ejaculate the epithet "cur!" upon them. young lads envy us. "get a hotel!" they are admonished. nothing on these streets ever moves as fast as we are now moving. perhaps a lone, fox-sized bat flaps above along the center of the boulevard, as they are known to do. it is too dark to tell. barring a precise knowledge of every pothole, ditch and bog, and the movement of every thing living or dead in the city, we will be killed.

we survive. we embrace the full stoppage of time by assuming RACING POSITIONS and arrive anew to entice the nubile, enticing brown girls with our midnight white ape stylings.

- Sleena MRKN