Karma Payment Plan

by Colin Tom

I couldn’t see farther than the short stretch of light in front of my tuk-tuk driver.
As we rushed through the darkness, I could only make out the indistinct silhouettes of the surrounding buildings.  There wasn’t a single person or light to penetrate the overwhelming stillness of the night.  The tuk-tuk puttered to a stop just outside of an apartment building.  A group of male figures moved toward the carriage.

I stepped out, pressed against the tuk-tuk, standing silently in front of the men.  One of them approached me.

“Your cell phone?” he said.

He handed me a cell phone.  I inspected it.  My name tag and number that the B&B had labeled my temporary phone with were still stuck to the back.  Nothing appeared to have been tampered with.  I had been without a phone for nearly three days.

I thanked him.  I continued to stand in front of the tuk-tuk sensing an unfinished interaction.  My driver leaned into my ear.

“I told him you would give him a little bit of money,” he said.

“Or right, right, right,” I fumbled.

I reached into my pocket and handed him a crumpled five dollar bill.  He gently bowed his head many times, thanking me while I simultaneously thanked him.  Then the group disbanded just as quickly as it had assembled, and I was back on the dark stretch of road with my driver.

I thanked my driver.  Upon receiving a call from my own phone on my companion’s cell at a bar, I had struggled to negotiate a rendezvous.  I handed the phone to one of the many tuk-tuk drivers’ lined along Pub Street to work out the arrangement.  We had played shuttlecock in the streets a few times and I felt like I could trust him.

“You very lucky,” he yelled from over his shoulder “Not everyone gets they’re phone back. Sometimes they try to sell.”

“I’m very lucky.  I lost my wallet earlier last week and got it back too,” I screamed from the back seat.

“Good karma,” he said.

“Sure,” I laughed “I just wish my karma was as good in the states as it is here.

We pulled back into Pub Street.  I thanked him endlessly, in disbelief of my own luck.  Amidst my gratitude he abruptly broke my praise to rush to a nearby man leaving Temple Bar.  He stumbled out of the crowd with his arm slung over a prostitute.  Tuk-tuk drivers clamored to drive them back to his place.  After choosing one of the drivers they puttered away and the unwanted drivers returned to laze in their tuk-tuks.  My driver, who was not chosen, slapped his knee, cackling to himself.

“Lady boy, he doesn’t know,” he laughed.

I shook my head.  Poor guy.  Karma isn’t foolproof,  I suppose.

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