Whoever said, "never go to bed angry" obviously didn't go backpacking across Southeast Asia on their honeymoon. I don't care how much you love each other, when two people are continuously put in uncomfortable situations and are with each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 5 weeks straight, there is bound to be some…tension (unless of course you're Mother Teresa and you married the Dalai Lama. In which case, you are too busy saving the world to care about reading this silly story anyway. Aaaaand I'm pretty sure you broke some rules).
We arrived at our guesthouse way past dark after what was supposed to be just a short walk to see some caves. We ended up getting lost in the jungle (yes, again), and I was at my wits end. Sure, we didn't have to spend the night out there this time, but I was so tired of feeling lost and not knowing when we would find our way home. That and I had started the evening off with a "number 2" emergency and had to use some kids old math homework for toilet paper. It wasn't pretty.
You see, I'm all about planned and calculated adventures with just a hint of uncertainty where Max thrives on the risk. I can't say I didn't know this before we left on our honeymoon, but it certainly became much more evident as the days passed and we found ourselves time and time again in sticky situations. The problem is, I'm also very stubborn, and hate nothing more than being the party pooper. So, day after day I would consent to adventures that I never would have conjured up on my own. And honestly, most days were great! We saw things and did things I never would have been able to without Max because when you just go with the flow, opportunities often present themselves in just the right moment. And that's where the really good stories are made.
So, after finally finding our way out of the jungle that night, I did what I wasn't supposed to do, and went to bed angry. I woke in much the same way, feeling as if I was totally useless on this trip and dreading the 3 hour motorcycle ride back into town. Max knew I wasn't excited about being back on the bike, and we barely spoke to each other before taking off.
After about 30 minutes on the road, my attitude changed, ever so slightly. The sun was shining and the views were beautiful, and I hated myself for being in a bad mood. I still didn't like being on the bike as I didn't feel safe with the huge pack on my back, but I promised myself I wasn't going to say one word to Max about slowing down, or not passing people, or any of the many other things that made my heart race. For just a second I felt content and I knew I could make it through this trip.
Oh how quickly things can change.
"Hold on," Max said, surprisingly calm. I was immediately jerked from my thoughts back into reality and tried to wrap my head around what was happening. I noticed we were on the wrong side of the road, in the middle of a right-hand turn, teetering along the gravely shoulder. He was trying to slow down and steer us ever so gently back onto the road but it was no use. We were going too fast. I don't remember the details of what happened next, but I remember the second I realized we weren't going to make the turn. I leaned into Max and braced myself as we hit the gravel and the bike slid out from under us, sending us skidding down the rocky embankment. But not without leaving its mark.
I didn't feel any pain at first. All I felt was a flood of anger and resentment for motorbikes and for this whole trip. I noticed Max was okay, as he climbed his way up to assess me, and that's when I looked down at my leg. It was gaping open, fat and tissues protruding, and I could see right down into my bone.
I lost it. But not in a grossed out, shocked, going to pass out kind of way. After all, I'd seen way worse wounds than that in the ER. But as I looked down at my leg and started to feel the pain of the impact, I felt strangely…relieved. I felt relieved that I was finally justified for hating motorbikes. I felt relieved that I would never have to get on another bike in my life if I didn't want to. I felt relieved that for a second I wouldn't feel bad about forcing us to slow down and reassess how the trip was going. I ripped off my helmet and the pack and started to bawl.
Max quickly came to me and upon seeing the wound, started to lose it himself. He shot out a stream of disconnected apologies as I sat, holding my leg together, telling him I wanted to go home in-between sobs. Only seconds passed before he was able to flag someone down, a local man in a truck, and before I knew it, I was placed into the cab and we sped away, leaving poor Max to fend for himself with a bike he wasn't sure would start. There were no words exchanged as we didn't speak the same language, but it was obvious I needed medical attention and he appeared to know where he was going. I was still sobbing and holding on to my now very painful leg, not knowing how long I would have to do so, seeing as we were in the middle of nowhere in rural Laos. The driver was obviously aware of my distress and sped as fast as he could and in less than 5 minutes we were at a little field clinic.
We pulled right up to the door of the very poor looking building, and a group of men rushed out to help carry me inside. I was still bawling as they laid me on the gurney and a team of healthcare workers began to get to work. Max arrived just as they started to irrigate the wound and I was so relieved to see him. I quickly realized that my anger was never really meant for him, and remembered how much I loved him and needed him close. He held me and sobbed countless apologies as they worked away on my wound. The pain was almost unbearable as they would lift up the flap and scrub and squirt away at my open, cavernous leg. I kept telling Max to insist that they stop touching it because I thought it could be broken. I also didn't notice anyone opening any sterile packages and quickly the nurse in me kicked in and I started to freak out about infection and admittedly had thoughts of going home with one leg.
It seemed hours before they finally finished sewing me up and as soon as they were done, everyone disappeared, including Max who went to go see if he could fix the bike. I was left lying on the bed for about an hour, trying not to move my leg, as the pain would worsen, and resting my puffy eyes. I felt like the biggest baby as I lay there, curled up on the plastic covered gurney.
Then I realized I had to pee.
I waited and waited, hopeful that Max would return soon and be able to take me to the bathroom as there was no way I could make it on my own. I contemplated yelling for the nurses who were probably off in some room in the back of the clinic, chatting about how wimpy white girls are. Just as I was about to pee my pants, Max showed up with a fixed bike and a ride to get us to the next town to catch a bus. He knew I wouldn't be getting back on that bike even if I could.
He wheeled me to the bathroom and held me up as I peed into the squat potty on the ground. I tried my best not to pee on his feet and couldn't help but think about how romantic this was. Not many couples get to experience this kind of vulnerability on their honeymoon and I was strangely grateful for it.
We spent the next 36 hours on an excruciating trip to the international hospital in Phuket. I won't go into details, but it would involve a lot of cars, buses, planes, taxis, wheelchairs, and a whole lot of good samaritans that made the journey much more bearable. We would spend the next week in the hospital, receiving IV antibiotics to combat the budding infection, caring for the wound, and spending way too much time catching up on our wifi. I wasn't able to put any pressure on my leg for about 2 weeks and would experience crushing pain every time it dipped below the level of my heart. I relied on Max for everything and he really came through.
I came home with 2 legs.