JP, who is French Canadian and thus has all kinds of quirky words for things, calls them “grasping moments”. It’s when you don’t have a camera, but you really freaking wish you did, because something amazing is happening. So you just decide that you have to remember it, and you concentrate with all your might.
–Sitting in the hair salon with Rachel and Nimol, staring in the mirror at hair sudsed high on top of my head, with glittering jewel-toned Khmer wedding dresses on a rack in the background.
–Riding on a motorbike with Panha on the back and Rina on the front, arms looped around each other, Panha saying she is so lucky because she gets to hold us both.
–Huddled in a wool blanket in a shelter on a mountaintop, eating rice and drinking wine. The next morning, posing for a fashion shoot for KeoK’Jay, on the spur of the moment and standing barefoot on a dirt path in a pretty dress.
–Listening to new music at the cafe, with rain pouring down outside during a power outage.
–Sharing mango salsa on our balcony with a half-circle of compatriots, comparing English accents.
–Sitting on the lazy wooden platform of a river with Panha’s entire family, eating fried chicken and jackfruit and tiny snails. Her sweet grandmother tied a red bracelet around my wrist.
–Stomping like crazy to the tunes of a bluegrass band in an old French colonial house being converted to a music school.
–Eating ice cream with the girls straight from the container and watching The Tourist dubbed in Khmer and subtitled in English.
–Walking home with Colin and two orders of fried noodles from a street vendor. Both, apparently, for me.
–Being told the followng two best-ever compliments. First, from a student. “You correct my dream.” What? Looks in dictionary. Is sure she’s right about the phrase and repeats it. “I correct your dream?” Yes, she says. She used to want to be a food stylist but now she wants to be a teacher like me. Second, from my American friend Becky, as we’re eating ice cream sundaes at the Blue Pumpkin, and I’m rocking shabby chic in a head scarf because mostly I’m just shabby. “You really have a Paris-between-the-wars look going on.”
–Falling asleep and being woken by Marady climbing into bed with me so that I can help with her English homework.
There are more, lots more. With you and you and you. I wrote them somewhere, if not here.
Rina once drove me to the candy-colored amusement park at sunset, parked her moto in the gravel next to a carnival game and won me a crystal mug with the balloon toss. I didn’t have my camera, so she just started shouting, TAKE A PICTURE! And she clicked an imaginary shutter.
I’ll just have to remember it.