Friday, July 30, 2010

Renting Humans

Category: Issue 19

She looks at me with those beautiful eyes,  her eyebrows are just a bit furrowed.  She is very self-possessed.  Here in the bar she never smiles, but Mark tells me she smiles and laughs all the time when they are alone. 

I try to say a couple of things in Khmer, and it works:  she responds enthusiastically in Khmer.  Alas, I am a jerk, and I don’t understand her.  “Som Toe, ot youl,” I say.  Sorry, I don’t understand.  She’s nice about it.  She is more or less beautiful, they all are… about 20 years old, maybe. 

I ask Mark (in his 40s) where he Got Her.  He’s one of the Good Ones, in my book.  He says he was in one of the girly bars and someone pointed her out as a cousin of hers.  She was new there and cowering in the corner.  Mark had been working in Cambodia for an NGO, for a few years before that.  Mark is not a bad person.  At all.  Seriously.  He’s funny and nice. 

Guess he took her out for supper or something.  They’ve been together ever since.  A year?  Off and on. 

She is very self-possessed.  She isn’t giggly and she isn’t trying to please anybody.  She has never had to do that, because Mark took her out for dinner that night.  He just bought her a new dress and a camera and some jewelry.  They have gone on lots of trips together. 

But she knows .

I ask Mark about his plans.  He doesn’t have a job here in Cambodia anymore, just the way it goes, and is just hanging around before going back to his home country.  He says that he has explained to her about how he is leaving soon, and that she understands.  It is not possible for her to come with him.  She understands that.  She will be better off than she would have been if he had not met her in the first place, cowering in the corner. 

He will leave her with some money.  A few hundred bucks.  A lot for a Cambodian 20-year-old girl.

They are going back to their guesthouse after this beer.  She isn’t drinking…customarily, she is sitting there, mostly silently, waiting for him to finish drinking and talking in English, and then they will go back to their guesthouse room.  I guess then she will probably smile and laugh.  Mark is funny and they do seem to have a genuine connection. 

As they get up and go she casts me another look.  I catch it, but I don’t know what to do with it.  He’s leaving, and once he’s gone, he’ll be gone.  What will she do then? 

I don’t know.  It’s not my problem.

I have seen horses walk by, being ridden, sometimes, and glance at me, sidelong.  The look she gives me is the same look as the horse, kind of. 

Posted by julianyway on 07/30 at 08:59 PM | Permalink
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