Amidst the bustle of activity, something seemed to change, so quickly yet subtly. In place, there was an air of careful caution.
Dusk had fallen.
As you led the way trailing some others ahead, we laid our steps carefully enough to not wake the bodies sleeping on the ground. My eyes fell upon your back – you were broader and stronger than I remembered you to be. Falling around your shoulders, locks of hair glistened where it caught the light.
Deviating from them disappearing straight ahead, you turned right and I followed. We were met by a steep flight of wooden stairs leading down to an open doorway. A sharp draft gusted as we went down – it was a cold morning. Nearing the bottom of the staircase, I caught sight of a German shepherd, standing guard at the exit. Instinctively, I stretched out my hand and petted it, then you did too and it became friendly and did not bark. We got past it and were on our way.
“You’re not worried at all, are you?”
All I remembered was I was not afraid because it was a place I knew. You took my hand – it was an unsafe situation – then we went up a narrow flight of stairs, much like those one could see flanking a traditional Chinese performing stage.
Seeking shelter, we found ourselves at the entrance to a motel.
A man sat nonchalantly at the doorway which opened up to a troupe of Vietnamese ladies; they were rehearsing for their performance, dancing with strips of silk cloth. It was dinghy but clean.
You walked in to enquire of a lady perched at the counter if there were rooms; she replied in the negative. Turning around, you made your way pass the dancing ladies towards me. Arriving back by my side, you faced me looking weary, then gave me a gentle smile of apology. As we were about to leave, one of the ladies asked us where we were going, and where you were from.
As though in reply, you drew me into your arms and held me quietly. As I lay with my right cheek against your chest, an overwhelming comforting sense of safety flowed from my centre throughout my whole being, and I knew there was nowhere else I wanted to be.
One of the ladies commented that you were a foreigner and another told her she had to remember your face if you were going to be working with them. Turning to us, she asked what you were teaching, in a language I understood but which you did not. I turned to you and translated what she said, but all you did was to gaze at me without a word, still that gentle smile on your face.
And in that long wait for your reply, time seemed to have stood still, before it all faded…