Fear of HIV Distracted me from my Omelet
Shortly after dusk, we arrived at the coastal community of Kep where we found a clean, spacious room with a bathroom for $4 a night at the Seaside Guest House. The following morning, we found an omelet on the menu for 2000 riel (50 cents). As you can see from the picture below, I look cool wearing my sunglasses to breakfast, but my mind wasn’t focused on the omelet. Underneath my shades, I was harboring an embarrassing secret.
Between falling asleep after the long motorcycle ride and waking up, my eye had fallen ill. Not even visions of fresh basil, garlic, mushrooms, feta, Gouda and avocado; freshly grated hash browns; and thick slices of toasted sourdough bread smeared with huckleberry jam could distract me from my eye problem.
Fretting about finding proper eye care, I had become a mental wreck. I was afraid that I would become feverish and pass out, then wake up in a Cambodian hospital shack, infected with HIV from a dirty needle used to administer antibiotics. I was afraid that a doctor would amputate my eyeball and I would have to wear a glass eye that is too small for my big eye socket, because maybe in Cambodia they only make small glass eyes for small eye sockets for small people. To make the small glass eye fit in my socket, I would have to use chewing gum. If you have ever tried to buy clothes at a local market, you will understand this fear.
I went to a pharmacist who thought I had a black eye and needed pain relief. She tried to sell me some pills loaded with codeine.
I went to another pharmacist who recommended eye drops. I bought the drops, and I was back to enjoying omelets within a couple of days.