This is your house.
At least for now, at the moment.
The place you take me to, the space you call “home.”
You know in a month or three or six, when something better or closer to work or school comes along, you will move, but for now, this is it.
Sometimes when I visit, you do not want to bring me to your room. You don’t want me to see where you are, I with my American sensibilities and the way I am used to multiple rooms of my own, or at least a space of my own with my own bathroom, with a bed and a couch and a TV.
When I land this time, you take me to a guesthouse for the first weekend. You vanish to cook dinner, reappear only with a steaming Styrofoam container of okra and kale fried rice with a fried egg on top, typical Southeast Asian style, something I will bring home and apply to all my rice and noodle dishes too. I see nothing but the city, the fingerprint-stained walls of the guesthouse, until my first weekend back from Siem Reap.
You are working, so you pick me up at the bus station, drop me off at your room with a steaming Styofoam platter of mashed potatoes, far more potatoes that my stomach could ever handle, and one of the durian and condensed milk fruit shakes you know I love. You point down the five rickety steps to the shared bathroom if I need it, nod toward the light switch on the wall, and you are gone. I eat what I can, drink the shake, hoping the somewhat freshness can counteract the nerves and the heavy, creamy potatoes in my stomach, and slip my pajamas on, hoping for sleep. I will not fall asleep until you return after 1am, hearing the creaking of doors, the running of water from the kitchen just below you, the coughing and hawking and muffled conversation of the families living on that floor, one of them the homeowner.
I know you are doing your best.
You apologize as you come in, kissing my forehead. You curl up on the floor, your sleep-breathing audible within minutes, finally lulling me into sleep too.
This is your house. The chickens on the outside. More people washing dishes, taking bucket showers in the morning, strangers whose splashed bathwater I’ll step through to hover over the toilet seat and pee once I get up.
Are you awake? you whisper. You crawl beside me onto the twin mattress you’ve moved from one room to the other, your pillowcase leaving Mickey Mouse imprints on my cheek. You wrap your arms around me and kiss me deeply. I taste the morning in your mouth. You kiss my neck, my shoulders, as I wrap my tired and somewhat sore limbs around you, both wanting to hold onto every taste and smell and bump and softness in your body, to remember them, to take them home so when I wake lonely in my own bed, I can come back to this, and I just want to go back to sleep a little longer, though I know the clatter won’t let me.
Maybe your arms will.