First Date

by Katie Wirsing

A leap into the unknown Cambodia


After a month of traveling around Cambodia, I'd gotten bed bugs at three different guesthouses, a gnarly case of food poisoning from a streetcart springroll I'd known was questionable when I bought it and I'd managed to not make a single friend in nearly a week. Sometimes travel stories make life on the road look like an endless montage of wild adventures and intense, meaningful connections with people you meet along the way. And when it's going well it is absolutely those things and more. But it is also itchy, dirty and sometimes so lonely you consider asking a tuk tuk driver to dinner, just for the company. So steeped in my pity party, I barely registered the short haired Cambodian girl sitting next to me on the bus, until she poked me in the ribs and asked if I was a lesbian. "Not exactly?" I answered. "Too bad" she said "I need a date for my cousin's wedding." Three hours later, I'm sitting in her family's kitchen trying to answer her father's broken English questioning as to why all lesbians are vegetarians. I'm drinking a beer with ice cubes and holding a naked baby who has peed on everyone but me. Bopha, my apparent new girlfriend keeps playing with my hair in a way I can tell her mom is none too pleased with. So when a sister finds out that my grungy backpack doesn't hold anything for me to wear to the wedding, I'm happy to be whisked away to a room piled with clothes that are so far from anything I would wear in my real life, I can't help but feel like Liberace at a swap meet of late 90's Miami club wear. We settle on a blue sparkly number and the girls get to arranging my hair in artistic piles on top of my head. They're slightly defeated when I assure them that I am incapable of wearing the five inch heels they've chosen, but begrudgingly agree that my gold flip flops will perhaps suffice. We ride motorbikes to the venue - a dirt lot on the edge of town - and everyone is sweaty and disheveled before it's even begun, though soon we've taken too many shots of ice cube beer for anyone to care. The pots of food are incredible and absolutely not for the vegetarian (lesbian) or faint of heart. The smell of flowers and incense are as overpowering as the thumping bass of Khmer club music. I dance so hard my flip flopped feet could fall right off. That night I sleep on an ancient mattress under a holey mosquito net with Bopha, her sister, her mom and the naked baby. The perfect end to the most bizarre and incredible date I've ever accidentally been on.