It was my second night with my new host family, the night of the September Blood Moon and lunar eclipse. They called for me to come see it from the balcony. The upstairs balcony faces the east, where the moon was rising just over the horizon, big as a blood orange, with drifts of purple and silver clouds. Must have been spectacular over Angkor Wat.
The doors to the balcony open like a gate. They are big, carved and lacquered slabs of wood, but I noticed a gap of about an inch between them. A triple dead bolt held the door in place. The sliding vertical lock didn’t even come close to connecting. The gap between the bottom of the doors and the floor was big enough for a large beetle to saunter through. Figured it was just the Cambodian way of keeping things breezy.
I went to bed around 8 p.m.—still on PST farmer time. (I’m accustomed to getting up at 5 a.m. now.) The neighbors across the rice field were blasting Cambodian pop/chant/techno music. It was a Sunday night, but obviously they aren’t early risers.
My room is on the second floor. The older daughter was in Siem Reap; just me up there with the wide view. Turned out the lights around 9 p.m. and listened to the thunderstorm rumbling in the direction of Angkor Wat. Lightening flashed and illuminated my room. It reminded me of a motel on Route 66, a corner room that caught the light of passing cars and wrapped the room in a momentary flash. I’m under the white mosquito net watching the curtains dance in the breeze, thunder drumming steadily with the techno pop next door clawing through the speakers, lightening snapping on and off.
Then rain. No preliminary pitter-pat. No drum roll announcement. The rain simply spilled out of the sky like a waterfall. The curtains suddenly went into spin cycle. I fastened the windows, although the air was bright with ozone and wonderfully fresh.
A sudden crash and suck of air. The great wooden doors to the balcony banged open and let in a flood of brown water. The room was at high tide in a matter of moments. With all my might, I pushed against the doors, tried to latch them, but the wind pushed me back. Mai and the two children ran up to see, then Mai ran downstairs again and came back with an axe. I wondered: is this the right tool for the job? She bashed the vertical lock into the wood. The children brought up slender soft grass brooms and we swept the water (and many drowned bugs) under the door, and then toweled the tiles dry. Our Bok must have been staying late at the clinic that night. He missed the whole adventure.
The rain subsided sweetly, like a demon mother spent of her rage, now softly murmuring a lullaby. A moment of silence, then a night bird whistled, “all clear” and another took it up until the trees rustled with songs of relief.
The next morning, we reenacted the scene for our Bok. The girl mimed me pushing against the door, and l mimicked them sweeping the tide out the door. The tale grew more absurd with each retelling. We laughed and laughed.