The young, blind masseur works his way up my thigh with both hands as I lie, face down on a shiatsu massage table, staring at the floor through a face sized hole. As he kneads around my backside like a baker with a lump of dough, I suddenly become aware of something prodding my upper thigh. That's odd, I think, aren't both his hands on my arse? Then I realise what's happening. That's not a hand.
The massage is supposed to be a way to wind down after a long day exploring the Cambodian temple complex of Angkor Wat, an incredible relic where huge fig vines strangle ancient crumbling buildings like giant monstrous tentacles, round, stone faces of long dead emperors peer down from the ages, and huge orchid shaped towers jut towards the heavens. Street kids hassled me at every stop on the tour, peddling anything from postcards to flutes while Buddhist monks begged for alms. Cambodia is a country that cries out to the philanthropist inside. Wherever you turn you see opportunities to spend your tourist dollars responsibly. This is why I've decided to spend my money at a place set up to train blind people in the art of massage.
Now I've never had another man's erection prodding me anywhere before, uninvited or otherwise, so in my sudden shock, time seems to slow down as I calculate my reaction. What should I do? Shout? Scream? Make a scene? Am I being assaulted? Do I need to defend myself? But wait, this poor kid is blind, in a very poor country and quite possibly dealing with some repressed sexuality issues. I've been a frustrated teenager, I remember what it's like to have a member of my body that sometimes has a life of its own.
The silence is almost as uncomfortable as the penis. I burst out laughing. What else can I do? He takes the opportunity to wedge the uninvited guest under the table, a manoeuvre that cannot be comfortable. Then in one, agonizing and very awkward minute of silence, he finishes the massage as quick as he can and runs from the room in embarrassment. I have a terrible feeling of pity and an overwhelming urge to leave at once.
Catching a glimpse of the young masseur cowering in shame in the next room, I make an exit back into the humid air of the Cambodian night, shake my head, and wonder just how the hell I'm going to recount this one when I get back home.