Popping Over One Hundred Painkillers All at Once


(Translated from the Tibetan by Lowell Cook)



Wangchen was my childhood friend. Except for a slightly bent nose, he was a handsome young man. After he disrobed, it seemed like he grew all the more manly.


To my mind, his one unique quality was that he always carried around five or six low-quality mobile phones. It took him forever to piss and we called him by the nickname, or rather the insult, “Yearlong Pisshead.”


He bragged to us that it took him over two hours to get off just once during sex. It was then that his friends, myself included, started admiring him slightly, while at the same time not knowing whether to believe him or not. Soon, we had no problem calling him a

‘pretty awesome guy.’


According to Wangchen, a guy named Lhagyal Bhum from Churul village was an even more awesome guy. He told us that there was a local spirit living in Grandpa Kunzang mountain and that it was for real. He said that Lhagyal Bhum had gone to the top of the mountain one spring day and that the spirit had started singing some sort of song when he stomped his feet about a few times. 


When Wangchen was still a monk, he was called Tsultrim, meaning “discipline.” Yet discipline was exactly what he lacked. It’s likely that this had something to do with our calling him a ‘pretty awesome guy.’


Terribly depressed, Wangchen took his life one bitterly cold winter. The real situation was like this. He went to the cremation grounds in the middle of the night and popped over one hundred painkillers all at once. He got completely wasted and, in the end, passed out and froze over. 


Later on, an official from the Public Security Bureau found a card on Wangchen’s body with this message written on it: “When I went for my gastrointestinal check-up at the Huaxi hospital in Chengdu, the doctor dosed me with pain meds. After I sobered up, no matter how much my wife or daughter reached out to me, I had this feeling that I didn’t want to wake up, that I just wanted to sleep. At the time, I couldn’t feel even the slightest pain during the check-up and, from then on, I was convinced that I could die just as if I were falling asleep.”


According to Wangchen’s girlfriend, Adrol, the real reason Wangchen took his life was because he had AIDS. A friend of mine named Dechen Gyurmé claimed that he didn’t know whether Wangchen had AIDS, but that Adrol definitely did. I had no idea how Dechen Gyurmé knew about Adrol’s AIDS. And all the hairs on my body suddenly stood on end.  


(Originally published as “Bzi sman ril bu brgya lhag dus gcig tu zos” in Nga dang nga’i snying sdug ‘jigs med nor bu. Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2018, pp. 48-51.)


Sangdor is a poet from eastern Tibet. At a young age, he was recognized as being the reincarnation of a Buddhist master, but later renounced this title and his robes to devote himself entirely to writing. His poetry is known for breathing new life into classical forms by playfully mixing colloquialism with recently coined words and various dialects with traditional proverbs. He is a prolific author with some twenty titles to his name. 

Lowell Cook is a reader, researcher, and translator of the entire breadth of Tibetan literature, from the ancient Dunhuang manuscripts to contemporary poetry. His aspiration is to be able to share some of the richness of Tibetan literature with the world. He completed his MA in Translation, Philology, and Textual Interpretation at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Nepal.