It happened a week or so ago, but I still find myself thinking of it at odd hours of the day, like now, in front of the computer, or yesterday, walking across the street, wondering if I would bump into the kid and knowing that that wouldn't happen, because he was elsewhere. Wherever that is.
Not that it was a major incident, or even a minor one; there was nothing special about it, because there was nothing special about the kid himself. I was in the company van, headed to work, and he walked across the street, dazed but purposeful. His eyes were blank, his clothes ratty, his hair a mess. (Okay, that could describe me, too, but.) He stepped out in front of the van, stopped, and reached out his hand, as if he were Obi-Wan Kenobi and had decided to use his masterful mastery of the Force to stop traffic in Phnom Penh.
The driver of the van wasn't fazed. (In Cambodia, you expect, and usually are rewarded, with various forms of traffic hurtling into your path at any and all times.) He simply honked the horn, and the kid stared at the driver for a moment or too longer. He then lowered his hand and continued on his way across the street, ready for more cars, more honks, more resigned indifference to his powers and his fate.
A lot of street kids here get off on sniffing glue from plastic bags. They sniff and they sniff and they huff and they puff, and they don't blow any houses down, no, but the slowly, methodically snuff themselves out.
I don't know if the kid I saw wandering into the morning rush was high on glue or yaba (the other drug of choice here) or his own unique illusions of life, the ones that told him that cars are anxious, if not eager for him to block and stop oncoming traffic. I do know that there are a lot of lost boys (and girls) in this town that remain hidden much of the time, not lurking, no, because their intent is not necessarily sinister, but stuck in the shadows nevertheless.
Every so often they come out of those same shadows, into the bright light of day. They make their presence felt, they are acknowledged, and then they go on their meandering way. Somewhere.
I'm not sure if I will see that same kid again, or if I'd even recognize him, but there are others to take his place. Other misplaced, displaced youths with deadened stares and outstretched hands. I don't know if those hands are reaching out to smack someone or caress someone.
But I do know that they're reaching.