To the Night in Siem Reap

As I sat alone in a local restaurant, down some dark alley off the main drag of Siem Reap, I decided to start writing on my phone while I waited awhile for dinner. I think I had a mango shake, though this reads like a few glasses of wine later.

To the night:

There is beauty in traveling alone. You follow your own breadcrumbs, which inevitably means you will eat some and end up lost. Your crumbs will blow away and you’ll need to ask for directions.

People look at you strangely when you travel alone. I feel eyes on me, wondering why I sit here alone. What is her story? Some call me brave and others foolish. But I see the corner with the dim lights and banyan leaves and wonder what I will discover if I turn the corner. That is life – a series of turning corners and seeing what’s down there.

I watch the geckos against the russet orange paint and wonder how the world looks when one is hanging by suction cup feet from the ceiling. Are you plotting to drop into my curry or are you pondering the choice of black and white tiles floors? Maybe you’re just waiting for a mosquito dinner.

Children play soccer in the alley, and one girl who is sweeping looks up at me and smiles. I wonder if she gets to go to school or if her life is going to be sweeping alleys.

Butterflies are pinned to the wall under a bit of glass. Their journey has been cut short by a net. Someone whisked the still hot air and snapped their freedom as easily as a twig breaks in a hard wind. Though I’m under glass a great deal, I still have freedom that I choose.

That I choose.

My mango shake has arrived. SE Asia and it’s abundance of fruit never ceases to amaze me. I hated mangos until I had them fresh from a roadside stand in the Phillipines. I remember devouring them whole, juice sliding down my cheeks and chin. I had to hide the peels from the hostel owner bc she disapproved of food in the room. My shorts were stained forever with mango juice.

Every now and then I smell hay and barn animals. Skinny russet cows are regularly herded across the road and leave evidence behind. Now I smell the night – cool tropic air, and river dancing with neon, and the cologne of someone looking for someone in the shuttered room above.

It has started to rain – a loud tick, tick on the tin roof above. Children are kicking their shoes toward the door so they don’t get wet. The breeze is cooler now, more insistent, and the rain splatters my ankles. The dust will settle now. It’ll be slick muck instead of yellow swirls of mist on the air.

The night will settle, as it always does, around me like a warm blanket, and I’ll be comforted by its closeness.

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