King’s Birthday is a national holiday in Cambodia. It takes place in May and lasts for three days, so I decided to go to Sihanoukville, nearly one year after my first encounter with Kenneth (Jed). It was May 2017.
I rode all the way to the coast, arrived late afternoon , went to meet a Khmer friend who came to Sihanoukville at my request. My thought was to snoop around, as well as to have some lazy time by the beach. But this holiday turned out to be anything but lazy.
Everything that could have happened – happened. My bike broke down at twelve midnight next to The Square (a girlie bar complex); it got lost in the night while being transported; I met and then parted ways with someone who was once part of Jed’s forum; I got bed bugs in the guesthouse for the first time in forty years; got a raging cold.
And I ran into Jed McKenna and his friend Chris. Twice.
It was my third day in Sihanoukville, just after six in the evening when it was beginning to get dark. I crossed the road and went to the Golden Lions monument, sat for a minute thinking where I would have dinner, then got up and started crossing the road from the roundabout. That’s when I saw Jed. He was a couple of hundred metres away across the road, sitting in a small cafe called ‘Mike’s Burgers’, the photo of which you see above. I could only see his back and to this day I have no idea how I recognised him from that, especially considering the distance. There was another man with him.
I have to admit here that everything that happened from that moment on – was not under my control. My feet simply turned and went in that direction, the mind was absent, and any conscious thinking left me. In my defence.. Jed’s actions were along the same lines. Similarity of nature… can’t beat that.
I walked into the cafe, turned around, looked at him and said ‘I knew I would meet you tonight. Tonight is the night’. It was true. I didn’t want to come out into town, but had this niggling sensation that I absolutely should, and so there I was….
Jed winked. I could see he was hoping I would move on, but no hope in hell was I going to do that. I said ‘I wanted to send you an email, but decided against it’ (which was true again, I had a draft of it on my laptop). There was a pause, then I said ‘We need to talk’. He said ‘There is nothing to talk about’. His friend was sitting opposite him, listening and saying nothing.
I then said something on the lines of ‘Are you about to have dinner here?’, and he said ‘Yes, we are’. I then repeated ‘We need to talk, is that too difficult for you?’, and turned to look at his friend. He was very serious, so I said this to him, looking straight into his eyes, ‘You look so very serious, are you always like that?’ He got visibly embarrassed, removed his glasses and said ‘No, not always serious’, and Jed echoed ‘He is not always that serious, just sometimes’.
I said ‘Would you mind if I joined you?’, and that was followed by something really strange from Jed. He moved a bit and said with a smirk ‘No thank you, we are gay’. I thought in a flash ‘What the fuck does it have do with joining a dinner?’, but said nothing. There was a pause, during which Jed and myself were looking into each other’s faces, and all I remember from that is a couple of small brown age marks on the right side of his forehead, his half unbuttoned shirt with visible bare chest, tired eyes. Again, he looked vulnerable, small, with a drawn face, but deviant at the same time; this was his private moment, unexpected. I could see that, like myself, he was totally unprepared for this meeting.
I then walked out, went a few metres away, sat down on the steps, got my phone out and found a photo of him in one of the bars. Again, I was completely blank, doing everything on autopilot. I walked back into the cafe, came up to the table, showed him the photos and said ‘I haven’t told you everything, and there is much more. We need to talk.’ This is when he kinda lost it. He made a sound such as ‘Ermm…’, his face expressed disbelief and annoyance, he got up very swiftly, I stepped aside giving him space. He started giving instructions to his friend, I couldn’t quite hear what, but it was clear that the friend was very obedient, that they were very close to one another and knew exactly what to say to each other. Then Kenneth (Jed) grabbed an object hanging from his chair, walked really fast to a small motorbike, put on his helmet, jumped on it and drove off at speed. His friend stayed behind waiting for the burger order to arrive.
His friend had the same object on his chair, so I asked what it was. He said ‘Pool cues’. I said ‘Can I ask your name?’ and he replied ‘My name is Chris’. I moved my hand to shake his, he accepted it. I then said ‘You don’t know who he is’, and he said something which made me think about it many times after if it was true (it turned out to be true).. He said ‘I know who he is’. I turned my face away and said ‘Five fucking years…’ He repeated that and looked at me a bit bewidered. Then he said ‘You certainly upset my friend’. At that moment the order arrived, he collected it, went to his motorbike and was gone.
They were planning the usual night out in one of the girlie bars, but it never happened. That night Kenneth went straight home and stayed home all day the following day. And that made me think… you already know me, I know what you look like, I know who you are… why hide? The run seemed so immature, so child-like that I began to wonder further, to ask what it was all about.
People only hide when there is something to hide, which proved to be correct later on. This above also made me realise ‘Jed McKenna’ is not American by origin.