Is what happens and what you think happened the same?
The old woman who took away.
She sat as a cat does, splayed out with her legs and feet in seemingly impossible directions. Her frail body was part of the stone below as if she were a tree rooted through the cracks of the temple.
It was still very early in the morning and there weren’t many others who had ventured so deep into the ruins of the temple outside of Angkor Wat.Her face crinkled and swirled with wrinkles that looked the topographical map of the bottom of the ocean. I couldn’t see any teeth, but that didn’t seem to hinder her speech as she babbled and spoke in a language I’m not sure anyone but she could understand. She also didn’t bother with hair on her head or fat on her bones. She was a wisp of a woman wrapped in an orange robe of thin fabric.
She waved me over to her and I sat down as best I could in front of her. I offered her some Riel and she took it from my fingers and tucked the bills under her small basket with the elegance of a ballerina.
I extended my arm as she instructed me to do and she pulled a tiny bracelet made of four colored strings around my wrist. As she brought the ends of the string up she tied it in a simple double knot as she continued her chant.
She rubbed my wrist as if to embed the bracelet into my skin. With the voice of a person a century or so younger, she made a whoosh sound and with a flick her wrist, she whisked something away from me.
She only did it once, but whatever she sent away didn’t have to be asked twice and what she rid from my body left without question or delay.
I jolted back, but only by a fraction of a hair’s width. I wondered ever so briefly about she might have banished from me, but then just let the thought go as quickly as it came and decided to let her decide what she removed.
Her eyes looked into mine but then she raised her gaze to my forehead and her hand moved to my forehead and she pushed her fingers onto my brow as if to push me away.
She gave a little open mouthed giggle and I immediately couldn’t help but respond with a smile I wasn’t expecting. Her wrinkles swarmed around her face and they formed a joyful face that you couldn’t help but smile back towards.
I thanked her in my best Khmer and she thanked me back with the few words I know.
As I rose away from her, she followed my stare but then turned back down to her basket and bracelets and I was out of her world, but she wasn’t out of mine.
I know what I saw but I’ll never know what she saw. I don’t need to know, but I can’t say I’m not curious.
See you later old woman on the stones of an early morning Cambodian temple. Thank you for your bracelet, your smile and your time.