My entire body is sticky from sweat and sweet fruit. The vendor had smiled so nicely to me, I felt that a refusal to his insistent sale might be taken as offensive. The pineapple had been tasty and quenched my thirst, but my fingers sticking together and the tightness around my mouth, I could’ve done without.
I clean the sides of my eyes and I’m not surprised to pull a dirty lump from the corners, the 30 minute tuk tuk ride to the airport this morning had me dodging sand being kicked up by larger vehicles. Many of my friends back home would see sitting on the hard floor of an airport, sketching, fresh-faced and being covered in a fine line of Cambodian mist as hell on earth. But this is my happy place, I feel more connected with myself surrounded by people who have never spoken my language. The uncertainty within me is because I am returning home where I am the outsider and considered the stranger of my home-town.
An airport cleaner sidles over to where I was sitting, he face is lined and tanned and at first I am shocked by his beady eyes and intense gaze. He peers at my sketch and his face lights up, reducing his eyes to thin slits. I hear ape-like noises erupting from his chest and his arms start waving in large comical gestures as he acts out the baby monkey I have sketched. My initial shock is forgotten and I jump to my feet to become a human-monkey with him, ignoring the strange looks from fellow tourists.
After our moment of hysteria, he pants slightly but remains smiling. He places his hand on my shoulder, looks straight into my eyes and says; “beautiful”. I reply; “No sir, you are.”