Flying back into Phnom Penh, the coppery countryside dotted with dilapidated buildings and glimmering new high-rises massacring the landscape weren’t visible as they usually are. With the attendant’s seat blocking my line of vision, I could only sense from the rattling of the aircraft and pops in my ears that we were about to touch down in my once-home, The Kingdom of Wonder. Heaving my suitcase out into the balmy heat, I was quickly flagged and scooped up into a wondrous hug by Christina: a closest friend. In that second, we could both sense that neither of us could place exactly how we felt: like it had been a dozen years since we last laughed together and then moments later, only a few days ago.
Over the next week, I reconnected with beautiful people. There were bright, piquant highlights of my days: propelling across the floor as Hunter skittered behind me, eager to play and pant and lick and lovingly accost with all of his ten pounds of canine attention. Sweltering in the Audi showroom celebrating Lee and Taylor‘s debut collection at Phnom Penh Designers Week, slurping bowls of deliciously alkaline ramen, trimmed with bamboo shoots and pork slurped down with velvety eggs, trotting around the neighborhood streets, bags full of Diet Cokes and 100 Plus, nodding and smiling at the Tuk Tuk drivers leaning outside of their shanty rides.
I slurred my words after Slurricanes at Elbow Room, laughed heartily and salted my martini with tears at Cicada and Le Boutier with Chad, Grace, and Patrick- kindred and constant. Reminiscing and reliving past moments in the lane and riding the ups and downs of life in that city. I visited the bustling, colourful tonlé workshop a bit further outside the heart of the city where the warm team crafts so delicately and deftly intricate, bold pieces anew from once considered rubbish: unusable and undesirable. Now, the years of efforts and teamwork being acknowledged, growing and reaching- particular after a recent HuffPost feature.
We doused Brooklyn Pizza and piping hot Jalapeño poppers in Hidden Valley, lounging friends old and new before laughing ourselves into half-comas. Sitting on the tiled floor in a circle playing Cards Against Humanity: vulgarity and humour crossing all barriers of language, age, and location. I danced with Ryan and picked up almost immediately his affective mannerisms, all static and hot magenta. I spent a few refreshing moments in TROVE to survey the array of delights and share thoughts and ideas and congratulate, a few more sweltering hours at the markets- flexing my haggling muscle, remember Khmer words I thought I’d forgotten and playing the game that only those who love to barter can appreciate.
I spent close to every morning and some afternoons at a table at the far back right table of The Tiger’s Eye, sipping frothy lattes and feasting on the fluffiest of eggs and rich, market fresh bacon and sipping creamy, coconut flesh filled water. I had languorous, delicious conversation and quick, business oriented (both pleasing, both intriguing) meetings within these walls. One day I was surprised with a dazzling, lush bouquet of Lilies and Chrysanthemum- delivery arranged from the states (real life, not Nicholas Sparks) and overwhelmingly thoughtful, still blooming as I’m away.
These were highlights of my time and among these elated highs were devastating lows. When Jujubee passed, her tiny, rotund body cold on the table on the geometrically patterned patio of my old homes now a boutique pet store (so strange, once housed such memories of personal things: new love, fresh loss, confusion). To see my friends grieve so intently, so deeply- touched nerves, and my heart bled a little for them. I listened to stories of friends and acquaintances and this past year or these past years and heard the soreness in their voices, the once tenderness that has become hard or weary. I felt angst that I haven’t in a very long time after feeling a tinge of personal disappointment at one point (which I released). And my heart bled a little for them.
Then came election morning, my friends and I so naively confident in the outcome- not smug, but not worried, not anxious, unafraid. Sleeping in, sipping mimosas, cheeky comments and bold statements and slowly becoming more solemn, more afraid as the numbers began to creep towards the crimson. I went out for a quick bowl of pho to calm my stomach, came back to the new POTUS. Max shared the news. Jonathan watched; I wept on the street as passerby watched, as my cohorts stood ashen. I watched videos of those affected (who won’t be? who will?) and Instant Messaged friends around the world- and my heart bled a little for them.
Now I’m right back where I started, and everything feels so excessively different. Some puzzle pieces have snapped into place with a click!, so satisfying- and then I realize I’ve misplaced others, maybe under the table or in a sweater pocket somewhere. The things that I loved before leaving I love even more, deeply, and entirely. The activities and pockets of good that I would tuck away for later have only ripened into something sweeter, to savour. The things I questioned, I now question more thoroughly. The thoughts that began to tug in regards to my future, my path, my decisions only grasp at my hem with more fervour. The tasks I dread and the moments that bore me feel even weightier, vitality sucking. There is much to be done, and little that can be. There is much to be experienced, and I must be patient.
When I spent my first night back in Washington with some of the most astonishing, incredible humans I know, I felt deeply that this is a good season. I was picked up out of a whirlwind and placed into a quiet little cave, if only just for a few days before the regularity of life hits. This evening, followed by nights returned in the grey, coastal world that my body feels right in and even through a jet lagged, furry stupor feel waves of happiness that are sometimes suspiciously too happy.
These sharp pinpricks of clarity are mementos that this time is important. That everything which unfolds in these Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. (read: A Little Life) is important, and that no matter what happens, who happens, and where it happens I am blessed. I have been blessed and I will be blessed. I will move and fight and act and float and accept and dream- and that all of the unfulfilled questions will be resolved magnificently, with time.