Stories often take a turn where the narrative flow abruptly changes, particularly in epic tales. The hero may be swimming at the beach in the first chapter, then in the next chapter he’s climbing a mountain. The reason for this jump may not be fully explained. As readers we accept this change with glad expectation: Wonder what will happen next?
Where I live now is across the highway from where I used to be. On my walk this morning I did not see a single water buffalo. But I did see two squashed snakes and a black spider in a tatty web as still as death. The red dirt road is paved and eucalyptus trees shade the way. Early morning light illuminated sheets of plastic rigged upright on bamboo poles, sitting in shallow plastic pools. Some of these constructions were connected to florescent tubes, which lined a dirt road along a rice field. Maybe they are solar activated lights. They are cricket catchers.
My new room is lit by a single florescent tube. Another florescent light glows outside my window through the thin yellow curtain. The sound of the traffic is ongoing. The house seems to lift a bit when a big truck rumbles by. I have the door to my room open because it is so small and close. My scalp is dripping. It is the cool season now. What I will I do in the hot season? I will sweat.
The mosquitoes outside my net throw themselves at it and fall to the floor like they’ve been electrocuted. Thank you Pemethrin. Still got bitten, maybe from the bathhouse trip. That wasn’t so bad—back to the bucket shower. And back to the latrine for other business.
Even though I’m just across the way from where I used to live, the landscape here is no longer rural. I miss the children from my previous house already. There are no curious 10 and 12 year-olds to play with here. There is a tiny sleeping four-day old baby and her exhausted mother who walks carefully with her tender wound.
The sweet Mai with sad eyes dusted my room and put plastic flowers around the door. At dinnertime she held a plate of food around the door, like I was an animal she was training to follow her. I followed her. She sat me at a table outside. Just me. Maybe because I told her I was a vegetarian she did not want me to sit with the meat eaters. The rest of the family ate a little later on the floor inside the house. I could see the sunset through the electric wires and corrugated roofs. Cars buzzed along NH6.
Back in the USA, I belong to a tribe who ritually choose a word for the New Year. The word is something one wishes to ponder over the coming year. I started out the year with the word Intrepid, which to me implied adventure with a wink. It may be a bit early for the upcoming New Year’s word, but I have mine already: Adapt.