I have yet to decide whether the world is as large as our own imaginations or small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of a child’s hand. Somewhere in between, I would think, but frequently, daily, events occur that threaten to swing the pendulum one way or the other for good.
Today I was walking along the street, reading a book, feeling terribly sorry about the fact that a Khmer kid on his bike had almost been bumped by me into a tree only moments before. When I felt his bike hit my shoulder, I looked up from the book and turned back around to chart the progress of his descent, expecting him to fall, dreading his fall – but no, he was still streaming along at quite a good little clip; my accidental nudge had sent him careening towards a tree. He applied his brakes just in time, but for a moment or two the outcome was in doubt. I pictured him slamming head-on into the tree, his neck broken, his eyes alert but empty. Would I be to blame? How could anyone know? You would think that I wouldn’t read as I walk, given that I got the shit whacked out of me by a crazy Japanese homeless man a few years back while strolling along with a book in tow, but I tend not to learn from my mistakes. In any event, I saw that the kid was alright – death was not coming for him today, at least not by my invitation. I went on my way. And yes, I kept on reading. (And now I'm feeling really, really guilty about the fact that I did...)
I suppose I’ve gotten completely sidetracked off of my original point, but only peripherally, because I had meant to say, before I so rudely interrupted myself, how frequently we think of things for no reason whatsoever. Right after the kid-almost-hitting-the-tree-due-to
my-accidental-nudge incident, I suddenly remembered that the fellow who picked me up from the airport on my first night in Japan was a teacher who was leaving the land of the rising sun in another week to take over a position at a school in Singapore; five years later, my boss at the University of Cambodia turned out to be another fellow who had left that same job in Singapore, his position to be filled by the teacher who picked me up at the airport. Got that?
How many countries are there in
While waiting in line for my return visa at the Cambodia-Vietnamese border, I chat up the Cambodian man next to me. Turns out he owns the busline I’m taking. Turns out that he works part of the year in
There is nothing necessarily remarkable about such occurrences, which makes it all the more remarkable, in my book. I’m quite certain that the kid who I almost banged into a tree earlier today has crossed paths with other Cambodians I’ve met in town, or other foreigners who I’ve worked with in the city. And who knows? Perhaps he will encounter a relative of mine two, three years down the line, who knows where. Not I. The world shrinks. Then expands.
I’ve met people in
Me: “Where are you from?”
“Me too. Where in
“Fuck off! I’m from St.Catharines!”
“Really? Where’d you go to elementary school?”
“No way! I went to Michael J.Brennan.” (The Catholic school that was physically connected to my public school.:
“Did you live near there?”
“I lived on _________ street.”
“ _________ street. Do you know Rick Denham?”
And so it goes. Within a minute of meeting a stranger in a bar in downtown
If I were to step out of my apartment in
But ask me tomorrow what I think. Who knows? By that time, the world may prove itself once again to be borne anew: as small as a perfect blue pearl, with a mystery and rhythm that once again confounds me.