By Dipika Kohli
Northwest Asian Weekly
The rainy season in Cambodia is definitely moody, but to the point. It’s punctual, at times, but always loud. Irreverent. It doesn’t give two smacks about how busy you are, and it always puts its own priorities ahead of yours. You would think it was a narcissist. But it’s lovable. So you kind of can’t help it. Besides, you can tolerate the rainy season because one of these days ( you already know, you can bet your life savings on this) it will go away. Then, tourist season. Then, hot season.
I’m getting into this life, this Cambodian occasion. How long has it been now, staying put in Phnom Penh? Fifteen months. Who knew? Today I’m on the new red bicycle. Going to dinner. On my way.
But then! Here it comes.
That curling pattern in the wind—that start of it. The big rain. A quickening, all around. Not just me.
Everyone, even the cats. It’s like we are all on the same tempo, a pulse of exquisite adrenaline swimming in our collective, animalistic vein. You can tell it’s going to be a little mad today, the rain, but not for too terribly long.
Ack. It’s here. I’ve missed my window.
Pow. Now! Slam! On the pavement. Ricochet! Off the crumbly potholes, their ridges, their amorphous, arbitrary outlines that remind us to keep an eye on the road, at all times, and never go so fast you will go flying.
Whoo! Watery. Smack! Right there, close. Too close. Better put my visor on. Moto helmet, mine. Little cycle, let’s move. Let’s not get caught if it floods. Flashbacks to when that happened—-wet socks, wet shoes. Flip flops or sandals are your best bet. Cycling, in the depth. Thinking about stormwater runoff, road mix design, puzzles of how to solve the equations that are so complex to even articulate, so caught up in how people connect with one another, so opaque to the newly-arrived curious traveler type, so mesmerizing and yet, so impossibly ill-defined.
This. This? This is not in the textbooks. In fact, so little of real life ever was. Maybe it was fate or something, winding up in a place they call the Kingdom of Wonder. Strange to think about, now. Fifteen months in Cambodia. Phnom Penh. (Who knew?) But it’s fitting. More rain in my story for you, this one and the ones past, and the new ones to come, in keeping with the pattern. Cork. Seattle. Phnom Penh. A flow. An ongoing journey. Funny how all sorts of stray thoughts come into your brain when cycling in a downpour.
It’s hot. Humidity. Monsoon. Now the sun’s gone in. But it’s still hot. Gaw, now the rain is roaring. You can hardly hear anything. And with this sort of very loud hum, you can say just about anything you want in the universe. It’s kind of liberating. You can sing. You can yell. Reminds me of this movie I saw a movie a long time ago—-a Japanese filmmaker’s piece. The main character had a terrible secret, and he’d gone to Angkor Wat, and spoke that secret into a column, and left it there. All that pain, all that magic. Or maybe it was a short story. Somehow, these things blur, with time, and her attendant watery flows.
Almost there, where I’m supposed to be. Cycling down 123, turning onto 456. I like this turn. Such nice numerical sense. Maybe there’s a neat answer to some big question, at the end of this trip. Maybe there isn’t. I guess either way, it’s the same thing.
And here it comes. And here it is. Pow. Now! Cambodia. Rainy season. It’s so pretty, the sound. What volume! Pam! La! Fffff—- Wait a second. Today is Tuesday. I’m almost—- There, but. It’s going to be closed. That restaurant. The one with the tiramisu. And here I am, soaked through my jeans and the t-shirt and the socks and the shoes. Close to my skin, this heated rain, in a way that never happened in Cork or Seattle. All at once, rambled and jumbled like… what? Like it’s tomorrow, just happened. A simmery, summery rain. (end)
Dipika Kohli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.