Location: A H’mong village outside SaPa, Vietnam
I leave the village soon. I’m still hungover from yesterday’s wedding festivities, and I’m not sure how long it will take to make it down the mountain. I just know that we’re only walking halfway, then riding motorbikes into SaPa. It’s a different route than the one we took on the way up (there’s no way a motorbike could have made it up the last one), so I don’t want to miss my chance to capture anything on my almost-dead camera.
I didn’t notice the two-plug outlet until a couple hours ago, when Mama Chi saw my phone was dead and offered to charge it. She pushed the prongs into the dirty, gray plastic square that dangles off the wall by an extension cord.
I pull out my phone charger and try to push in the steel prongs of my camera charger. They don’t quite fit, though, and I hold the outlet box against the wall and try to force it with my thumb. They go a little further, but it’s not quite all the way in. So I wrap my left hand around the box and roughly shove my right palm against the charger.
My vision goes black as a strange, sharp, jolt rips through my body, starting at my left index finger and traveling up my arm, through my chest and my face and scalp and down my right hand and then into my spine and stomach, my thighs, my calves and finally my heels and toes. It’s almost like pain, but more hot and alive. It all happens so fast I don’t have enough time to process what’s happening. All I know is that my body is frozen, completely unattached from my mind. And then my eyesight returns and I realize I’m flying backwards through the air. I land halfway across the room, my back hitting one of the wooden poles that holds up the roof. My legs turn to jelly and I fall into a squatting position, staring at the ground. My heart is beating hard and all the hairs on my body are standing on end, goosebumps prickling my skin.
On my left index fingertip is a blister the size and shape of the rounded end of a sewing needle. It’s only when I see the blister that I know I’ve been electrocuted. I shake my head, which won’t stop buzzing, and stare at the outlet box slowly swinging back and forth at the end of its cord.