Driven to Despair

My friends are leaving.

Like “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” from Les Miserable, I feel like being at that crossroads where I’m about to lose my closest of friends but also having to start all over again, to meet new people, make new friends. So here I am, hearing the song again only to make that reality even more heartfelt within and it just plain sucks.

It’ll be empty chairs and tables for me soon, when all my friends will be gone.

I went over to one of those friend’s house some two weekends ago and bought her bike off from her before she decided to sell it online. Interestingly enough, it has a name. I like that very much because I, too, tend to name my gadgets and gizmos. The bike’s name is Sally Cycle. Very feminine, I know. So I aired her up and rode her home –– a breakthrough because I was biking again for the first time in five years!! The last time I rode a bike through town was in Laos in summer of 2009. But this is Phnom Penh! And. It. Was. Freakin’. Suicidal!

I almost died.

I drove real slow and stopped at every intersection, knowing that Cambodian drivers are crazy when it comes to getting ahead first. I had no wish to be one of their road rage victims. My heart pounded like the heavy beating of battle drums, and I was literally perspiring in the cool morning day, hands clammy and slippery on the bike handles, and  praying earnestly to God not to die. The left brakes were too tight that at one point, failing to respond to my clutching, I ended up  ramming myself onto passing motorbike’s wheels. I. Was. Shaken!!!!


A parting gift for one of my two friends, who has a penchant for wearing headbands.

Meanwhile, all throughout the drive, a song kept playing in my head. The words go, “Follow me/ I’ll be your river, river/ I’ll do the running for you/… .” The words are from Emeli Sande’s beautiful song called, “River.” According to her, she really didn’t know why she wrote it, but the words just flowed right through her one day. I think God inspired her to write it and it felt like God speaking through the lyrics. Likewise, I don’t know why it was immediately the song that entered my head as soon as I took Sally away with me, but all the manic drive long, the words echoed in my head.

1.9km later, I got home safe and unharmed and I was just grateful to the Lord for letting me pass through such ordeal protected and in one bruise–and–scratch–free piece (because this just reminded me that I actually had a biking accident in Laos on that very first drive out of the main town, mainly owing to my stupidity). Still shaken, I decided to let my nerves completely calm down and allow myself time to adjust and relax to the idea of riding a bike through town before taking Sally out for a drive again.

And speaking of Sally, I decided rename her: Sally River.

On a side note, I was surprised to discover that there exists two Sali Rivers in the world. The one in Nepal is of interest to me because this particular Sali River is believed to be sacred, fulfills wishes, and has healing powers; purifying one’s soul from sin when you take a dip in it.

Well, truthfully, I’m quite proud of myself for finally facing up to my age-long fears, which is riding a bike in Phnom–me–first–before–you–anything–goes–traffic–hazard–tactics–Penh. That’s one of the recent changes in my life (apart from my friends leaving).  I may still be very, VERY afraid, but I standing up to it (or riding up to it).

I rode my bike again to school and home twice this week, which was just a 4 to 5–minute drive.  Yet, each time brought pleading prayers onto my lips. For a short drive, it was damn scary!

Last night was my friend’s farewell party. Before going there, I spent a good deal of quiet time at Joma Cafe reading and studying more theology. In an interview with Chris Kettler on “You’re Included” he said, “We are not alone in that despair. We are not alone in our aloneness. We may still be lonely, but we’re not lonely alone. Jesus is lonely with us,” remarking on the cryptic quotation of Jesus on the cross of Psalm 22. It really pulled at my heartstrings and I thought that it was very relevant to me. I am very much alone here in Cambodia – all my family are far away, all those friends who have come and gone or are going – yet in all my years here alone, I  did not necessarily alone because I have Christ and He is always with me. I am in Christ. Christ lives in me.

Solitude never bothered me. I embraced it. I reveled in it. But at the same time, I will not deny that there is a part of me which hungered for human interaction. I am, after all, one myself. I was created to commune and my heart yearned for a bit of community.  So I went and just met people in various but healthy settings, frightening a prospect though it may be.  I met many an interesting people, but made very few but great friendships, one of which made my 2013–2014 an immensely eventful year.

But as with everything in life, nothing is permanent. Especially the expat life –– people come and people go –– so life must move one. The time has come for my friends to leave while I remain. Here. Alone. When I got home last night, I broke down in tears. All those people I’ve met at the party will probably be very the last time I’ll be ever seeing of them because my links to them are both leaving in a few days .

Keren Ann’s hauntingly beautiful but despairing song, “I’m Not Going Anywhere” spoke once again to me:

“Tides will rise and fall along the bay/ But I’m not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere/ People come and go and walk away/ But I’m not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere”  

As depressing as it may sound, the fact remains: I have no one again. Or don’t I?

Share your thoughts?

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