Friday, 18 December 2009

Free Wine

For me the whole thing was pretty simple.

Free booze and food, that’s what I was after.

As were the others, apart from Nang he was actually meant to be there.
We weren’t.

Still no one seemed to mind when he showed up to DJ with an entourage of 4 sponging freeloaders. Freeloaders who all looked like they hadn’t really made the effort considering it was the ambassador’s wife’s 60th birthday and joint 41 year anniversary bash.

We were quite obviously together.
With the DJ, obviously.

Peter, Tim, Lance and I stood flanking Nang at the decks.
Only an arms distance from the outside table that was acting as a free bar for the evening.

Now the thing with Cambodia is that as far as the Khmer service staff were concerned, our western faces were just as entitled to the free wine as any of the other Barang kicking about by the pool or the dance floor.
So that was good.

After standing awkwardly through some genuinely moving speeches and watching a slightly self-indulgent but well meaning American woman try and steal the limelight from the birthday girl, we waded into the wine.
In a matter of moments we were 3 bottles deep.

The party’s cast was primarily made up of NGO and embassy workers. With a lot of the western faces present having traveled here from all across the globe for the occasion.
The birthday girl referenced it in her speech. Saying how wonderful it was to see so many familiar faces from the last 6 decades.
Her gaze staggered slightly as she passed her first look of mild concern across our mob.

As the cake appeared the American woman once again rose to her feet and began conducting the party guests through a verse of happy birthday.
When the singing reached it’s almost inaudible climax Peter launched into the frame with a bellowing HIP HIP.




Hip heeep


As he slurred out the third hip hip Peter turned his smiling face towards the rest of our group and nodded with an obvious confidence, “Nailed it” he said.

Right, we need more wine.

Now Tim and I work for the same magazine and had arrived slightly later than the others due to a close cut deadline.
I had been a little surprised when we had arrived to find our boss Laura dressed in an evening gown already tucking into the free wine.

Laura had taken an obvious shine to Lance and stood by his side chatting away in what I’d always assumed to be an American accent. The two of them seemed to be really hitting it off.
Laura is a voluptuous, overtly sexual, independent woman and Lance likes to have sex more than he likes not having sex. So things were moving along nicely.

As I lent in for an attempted eaves drop I caught Laura saying something about back home in Denmark, “You’re from Denmark?” I interrupted.
“I always thought you were American.”
Laura’s face shifted to that of obvious offence signifying the exception she felt for that remark. “American?” she asked; spitting out each syllable as if it was actual shit in her mouth.
Lance looked at me through a lowered brow and gently shook his head.
“I think I’m gunna stand over there,” I said gesturing across at where Tim and Peter were stood by a table full of empty glasses and discarded wine bottles.

Now I’ve had my fair share of free wine in the past.
See I spend most of my summers sleeping in fields at festivals and drinking complimentary wine by the bag load. Bottled wine usually doesn’t flow so freely.
Although as we cracked open the seal on our 6th bottle and charged our glasses, Peter offered what had now become the usual response to anything slightly out of the ordinary.
“Come on lads, its fucking Cambodia.”

As these new glasses once again fell empty, the ambassador, husband to the birthday girl gave the signal and Nang faded out the track that was playing and brought in “their song.”
Lois Armstrong, its a wonderful world.

Soon enough Lois was croaking and crooning his way through the last lines and we again raised full glasses to the sky and toasted the couple’s 41-year relationship.
Glass empty, Tim made a subtle exit to find the toilet located somewhere towards the back of the building.
Lance side-stepped just out of range and casually lent against a wall to continue smooth-talking Laura.

“Oi Peter,” I stage whispered, “I think Lance might actually be trying to bone Laura,”
Peter sprayed a surprised mouthful of wine back into his oversized glass and glanced across his shoulder. “You might be right yu know.”
Our observations were cut short by the reintroduction of Tim.
“Hey this place is well classy, there’s free condoms in the toilet.”
As he finished his sentence Peter was already walking off to the toilet.

I offered Tim the same suggestion I’d previously voiced to Peter.
He glanced across at the intricate negotiation of body language unfolding just out of earshot and turned back to me in shock. “Fucking hell man he’s a machine.”
I was agreeing with him as Peter walked back in.

“Oi those are the smallest condoms in the fucking world mate.”
The look of anger on Peter’s face showed his clear disappointment with their size.
“They’d turn yu fucking cock blue, they’re like condoms for children.”

As we laughed Lance reappeared at the edge of our huddle.
“Eh Lance there’s free condoms in the toilet.” I joked. Lance breathed a dirty open-mouthed laugh. “Also, are you gunna bang Laura?” I asked.
“Yeah we’re leaving in a minute,” He replied. “Where’s the toilet then?”

Ten minutes later they were gone, into the night. Laura didn’t say goodbye, but then as she’d remarked earlier in the evening we did run a tight “boys-club” mentality and probably would have taken the opportunity to tease and harass her.
Still we knew what they were up to and both of them definitely knew what they were doing.

As Lance left he shot us a look of hidden meaning across the now emptying room tapping his slightly bulging left pocket with a nonchalant confidence.

We three laughed at the potentially comical bedroom antics that were most likely to unfold when the moment arrived.

Tim was next to go slipping away almost silently leaving myself Peter and Nang to soundtrack the final moment of the now slowing party.

The remaining guests, mostly family members and close friends moved into the pool adjacent to the side of the stage area. We moved our speakers so as to create an ambient backdrop for swimming. I returned to Nang’s side at the turntables.
More wine, must be over ten or eleven bottles down by now. Nang expressed concern that someone else was paying for all this and I once again explained to him my policy on free wine.

“Where’s Peter?” said Nang. “I’ve not seen him since you moved the speaker.”
True enough Peter had been absent for a little while now. The family had started to re-emerge dry and dressed. As they did I leant around the corner to see if I could locate the missing Peter. Nothing, where is he? Maybe he’s gone I thought. Peter does have a tendency to just leave without telling anyone that he’s going. That’d leave just Nang and me to get all the equipment home.

As I came back to the decks Peter’d already reviled himself. Proudly stood with hands on hips and head held high. Dressed only in his shorts and soaking wet. “I’ve been in the pool,” he exclaimed loudly, “fucking nailed it.”

Nang and I laughed as Peter strutted down the stairs towards the now group-hugging family on the dance floor.

Unabashed and half naked, a soggy Peter pushed himself into the core of the group hug.

His damp arms hanging across both the birthday girl and her bewildered husband’s shoulders.
The circle began to rotate and one of the ambassador’s sons took it upon himself to make a game of Peter’s antics.

“Dry him off, we’re a human tumble dryer!”

Peter giggled as they turned up the spin cycle and I took it upon my self to become part of the machine.

Ten minutes later the family had left and Peter, Nang and I swam, splashed and fell about in the pool as the ever-patient Khmer venue staff and our own tuk-tuk driver watched in a state of sheer confusion. All of them waiting for us to have our fun, all of them more than ready to go home.

Eventually we pulled ourselves from the pool. Laid dry clothes over wet bodies and loaded the equipment into the tuk-tuk. Nang and I rode atop a pile of electronics and Peter matched our pace on his motorbike.

I’ve lost track of how much wine we’d drank by now but I do know that I must have been pretty fucking smashed for what happened next.
See Peter and me had talked about it a few times. But in all our hypothetical scenarios we’d been going the other way.

From motorbike to tuk-tuk.

I mean if you’re going to try and jump from one vehicle to another when travelling at something close to 40 miles an hour then it’d probably be a good idea to be jumping on/into the bigger vehicle.

But at the time, when I was hanging one-handed out the side of a tuk-tuk going full bore down Monivong Boulevard for some reason I completely believed I could jump onto the back of Peter’s motorbike.

I realise now that the reason was a combination of wine based confidence and a malign subconscious desire to cause myself harm. Still losing face is a big deal in South East Asia and going back on what you said you’d do is bad news really.

So suspended by my left-handed grip on the tuk-tuk’s roof I straightened my right leg and lifted it out horizontally to my side. Peter swayed into position beneath my spread-eagled pendulum of a body, shouting, “do it, do it.”

And so I let go.

Momentarily airborne,

A gliding child of Newton’s laws,

Floating, flying and falling all at once,

Eyes open but blind drunk,

“Fucking nailed it.”
Peter’s smile spread back through his peripherals as I gripped his waistline.

“Thank fuck I’m not dead.” I sighed.
“Yeah good one.” Replied Peter.

Right, now to get back in the tuk-tuk let’s try the theory.
This one we’d talked about.

Basically the plan is as he pulls alongside the tuk-tuk I reach out and grab the handle near the roof with my left hand. Then after placing my left foot on the wheel arch I transfer my weight to that side and Peter pulls the motorbike away from below me.

This worked pretty much as planned with the slight exception of a panic stricken scramble into the side of the tuk-tuk.

Not to be out done Nang took his turn at jumping on to Peter’s bike and as we arrived back home with the exception of my own stubbed toe we were all unharmed.

The following day I had to help Peter fill in the blanks about a lot of what had happened on the previous evening.

He didn’t remember the late night wine-fueled ammeter stunt session. He didn’t remember the Irish girl who’d forcibly licked the backs of both our heads as we sat in a bar after.

He did however remember spending US$10 on a singing taxi girl in a bar on his way home. He said her songs were so beautiful it almost made him cry.

“She fucking nailed it!”

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