Mea sitting atop temple ruin, Ta'Prom, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 1995.

Rain Like Bullets

Mea, a happy and handsMedic with child and water buffalo. Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 1995ome boy in T shirt, gray slacks and flip flops sells souvenirs to tourists. “Sir, for you only two dollars,” he says in impeccable English. Meeting him each day at Ta’Prom, one of many temple ruins at Angkor Wat, we become friends. He lives nearby in a sturdy raised bamboo house with his mother and sister. In the crawl space beneath the house two pigs sprawl submerged. A water buffalo basks in the sun.

One afternoon I asked a Japanese girl, I don’t recall her name, to share a motorcycle ride to Mea’s village. We bring food and music; we dance with Mea, his mother and sister. That evening, the girl and I visit a temple overlooking the jungle. I put my arm around her, she slips it away. A frightened guard points to the darkening sky. “Must go! Must go!” he warns.

As we hurry down a hundred stone steps our driver, sheltering under a lean-to,wheels out his motorbike, kick starts the engine. The girl sits behind him; I hop on behind her, hugging her waist tight. When the driver speeds off the rain hits us like bullets. Somehow he clears the washed out streets and brings us back to Siem Reap.

In our sopping clothes, the girl, whose fiancé had left her, heart ache the cause for her travels, gives me a long hug.

“Thank you for wonderful time,” she whispers. “This my best.”

Later, I wrote to her, and she replied, then I never heard from her again.