Beauty, Cambodia, Expat, Family, lifestyle, Personal, Phnom Penh, relationships, Travel, United States

Stranger.

Throughout the thirteen hour plane ride to Taipei, I could not stop watching the woman in front of me. Between bouts of sleep and finding myself staring at the ceiling, I would notice faintly but strongly her presence in a plane full of people. Forty years old or sixty, it was difficult to gauge. Her high, gaunt cheekbones battled against full, tanned cheeks and her hair flecked with dove grey stranded elegantly through inky black. I never quite got a strong, clear look at her eyes or mouth, only glimpses through the space between the seat and the window as I sat behind.

I knew looking at her throughout the flight would be frequent the moment she took her structured, bony hand- what in twenty years mine may resemble- and lifted one delicate, perfectly manicured finger and lightly smeared away a drop of condensation that had formed on the inside of the window. This common gesture is one that my hands can’t help but doing on occasion, to streak away the evidence of breath from two people or two hundred people. I began to wonder about her life. Who were the two boys sitting alongside? Her sons? Her grandsons? One had so tenderly helped her recline her seat, his eyes turning up at the corners as she found comfort, swathing herself in a grey airplane blanket.

I slept lucidly for several hours, tumbling in and out of dreams and familiar arms and crook of a neck and jolting awake the only feeling left in my legs pinpricks at my swollen ankles. As we descended through fleecy, snowy clouds into the lights of the city I once again observed this unknown woman wearing the same camel tone of my sweater, this future me and considered the thoughts that had rested in her mind through the flight. The dreams she had seen under closed lids, maybe with the aid of a Xanax or sleeping pill prescribed by her trusted physician. She hadn’t spoken the entire trip, and neither had I, other than choosing the Western or Chinese meal option or asking for cups of V8 juice. Now we are somewhere else far away from each other. Maybe she is at home eating omelet with her family or gone to her office to edit or walking brusquely through a dewy, foreign park or also writing in a far corner of the airport.

I’m preparing my mind for the weeks to come, to process the weeks I’ve just had. To doze in them and inhale them. I will listen to Arrival of the Birds for the hundredth time today and I will breathe deeply and feel the sting of vinegar in a cut on my left index finger. I can barely believe I’m here, astonished and curious and exhausted and live as a wire.

How can I be so lucky, to feel so confident in my place? To feel in every cell that I may not actually belong, but as I am here– I belong. This here is no where physical anymore, just a haven in my thoughts where all is powder blue.

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