In a village on one of these mountain crests I scout around looking for someplace to have a pho.
From the middle distance comes the sound of laughter; the distorted kind of laughter heavy with the desperate amnesia of drunkenness.
Stings of people pouring in and out of a hut call me, "kin lao!" - come and drink rice wine! I tell them I am hungry. "kin khao me!" - we have food!
Stop bike. Dismount. Enter hut by going down one step. One step into the memory of a nightmare. A trace memory of perverted passions moving in subterranean slowness toward unhealthy destinations. Swimming, treading in mire.
To put it more prosaically, the hut was chock a block with filthy drunken peasants and I was the new guest of honour. Food was presented, questionable pieces of meat and vegetables with sticky rice. One man spoon fed me – how to refuse? Another man kept plying me with new rice wine, unquestionably delicious.
There was no question of getting drunk, however, and staying the night. Against the protestations of all and standing on quivering stems I got up, mounted Charlene, and swayed on my way.