As I watched Jen hungrily biting into the dodgy-looking burger, we joked about how it was probably made of whatever had been caught out back that day.
We weren’t to know then that we would be talking about little else for a long, long time.
It was only as we climbed the steps on to the gruelling 12 hour overnight bus to Hoi An, in Vietnam, that Jen first turned to me, holding her stomach, and winced. I couldn’t help but let out an evil cackle as I saw the fear in her eyes.
We both knew it immediately – the dog burger was about to give Jen the worst night of her life.
The first few hours passed fairly quickly, well for me at least. Every now and then I would catch a glimpse of Jen grabbing her stomach and fighting the cramps.But it was just a matter of time and we both knew it was unlikely we’d reach our destination before the burger struck.
Make the bus stop
I felt her iron grip suddenly tight around my wrist. Through gritted teeth I heard her snarl: “Make the bus stop.” The driver obliged, and off hobbled Jen. Her relief soon turned to horror. There was no cover except for one tiny bush. So, with the amused eyes of a few dozen travellers paying close attention, off she went to squat behind a shrub that almost covered her.
A minute later she was back, looking happier than she had for hours as she tried to stroll back down the bus as ladylike as is possible in front of a load of people who‘ve just watched
you shit behind a bush.
With Jen settled in her seat, the remains of a dog burger by the road and the bus on its way again, everything seemed to be okay. It was… For an hour.
I was woken once more by the vice-like grip around my arm. So, to more sighs from our fellow passengers, the bus drew to a halt and off popped Jen. This pattern was repeated at increasingly frequent intervals over the next seven hours. In fact, Jen even stopped sitting by me. Her sudden attacks became so regular she took up a new position on the steps at the front of the bus.
Except for one time when she had something to ask me. Weakened and humiliated she asked for something to wrap around her waist. “Of course,”
I replied, reaching for my jumper, “how come?” “Well,” she said nervously, “I’ve had to er go quite a few times now, and I’ve not had any toilet roll.”
“Hmmm,” I replied, not needing any more explanation. I clutched my jumper for dear life, instead passing over an old sarong for her to hide her own increasingly soiled outfit. And with that she was back down the bus, asking the driver to pull over.
Worst day of her life
Our journey had almost reached its end, judging by the number of my limbs I could no longer feel, when suddenly I awoke again.
Aware that we’d stopped but unsure if we’d arrived at Hoi An, I stuck my head out the window.It was then that I saw just how desperate Jen had become, that she had endured so much embarrassment in one day that she really did no longer care.
There she was, squatting as she shat right by the door of the bus. Things had got so bad that she couldn’t even face going a few steps away, compared to the hundred metres earlier in the day.
When finally we did pull into the station at Hoi An, I’m not sure if anyone has ever been happier.
I don’t blame her.
But while the worst day of her life was over, the main problem of travelling in Vietnam was going to come back and haunt her – everyone travels an identical route, either up or down the coast, so you keep seeing the same people. For the next few months, whether we were drinking in a bar or walking into a hostel, there always seemed to be one person who had spent a day watching Jen shit herself.
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