Last night at my old school. Me, visiting friends. Friends, rehearsing. Watching the last of the students clean up their gear as they finished practicing for the first annual (?) University of Cambodia Business Marketing Students Fashion and Entertainment Show. (Or something like that.) A makeshift stage, 'L' shaped, occupying the centre portion of the upstairs conference centre. The lights, dim. The floor, cluttered. Empty Coke bottles. Paper wrappers. The remnants of Cambodian clean-up habits. Strange. Drink, eat, drop. A custom I've never gotten used to.
Elegaic. That's the word. A good word, too, I think, one of those words that makes me think that the English language does, in fact, have certain pieces of vocabulary that rival the depth of meaning and insinuation found in Japanese. Shining through the windows that lined the far wall I could see the random, shifting flow of traffic's residue; the glow from golden headlights cast their roving arcs across the contours of the room on an intermittent basis. Shadows, mixed with illumination.
Some students changed into streetclothes behind closed doors, behind my back. Behind: muffled, excited voices. In front: only silence. Emptiness. I felt both solitary and content. (Is one, in fact, dependent on the other? I'm not sure.)
For a few moments, less than a minute, I was alone in the conference hall. Dozens of folding chairs lined in rows. An empty lectern, looking forlorn, almost hurt. (No speaker would be coming tonight.) On Sunday, there would be students and parents and teachers and curious spectators, all eager to see the fashion, the skits, the singing, the dancing, but for now the room was empty. Almost expectant.
This is somewhat new in Cambodia, this random assemblage of young, untrained talent. So is the discipline that's required -- the practices, the repetitions, the sense of focus and intentness that I see in my old students' eyes when they go over their dance moves, one by one, again, one more time. They've never worked for anything before; they've never been pushed before. And they are responding. Elated.
I left the room. Soon the room would be completely dark. It felt like the last episode of some sitcom that has extended its expiry date for far too long, that final episode where the main characters leave their house/apartment/school behind, taking one last, lingering look at the place they called home.
I've always loved those episodes.