Karissa Knox Sorrell describes herself as a “third culture kid”, having grown up partially in Bangkok but who now lives in Tennessee. -Mo
I wonder how the world feels to be freshly washed.
We sit in the living room of our Bangkok house, staring through the window bars at the terrifying sheets of rain. It is our first true monsoon. My father shuts the sliding glass doors, which are usually only closed at night – the screen doors are fine for daytime, but now the water has come in through them and pooled on the tile floor. The electricity flickered off an hour ago, and the room’s moisture and heat is starting to suffocate. Our maid carries two buckets to the second floor where the ceiling is leaking both in the hallway and in my parents’ bedroom.When the storm finally stops, we all go outside to discover what a monsooned world looks like. Several gray roof tiles are scattered across the driveway. The street is flooded to about ankle level, and drenched leaves dot the brownish water. My brother and I walk around the side of the house, mud squishing past our flip-flops and onto our toes, and find that the two big water barrels are overflowing. I wonder how the world feels to be freshly washed. The next day school is canceled because of the floods.
Days later, I walk on a sidewalk above the canal. No rails or bars to keep me from falling in. My brother follows behind my maid, and I follow him, each step an intention. We pass a shack rigged up from pieces of aluminum siding; a woman sits beside it, hauling up a bucket of black canal water. She waves to my maid, who ignores her. We finally come out at a street and I place my feet on solid ground. I lift my hand to my forehead to push off the day’s harsh sun rays. At the end of the street, I can see the blue of our destination: the pool.
My mother won’t let us forget that we are Southern. She strains the ants out of the cornmeal mix that came in a package from the States and fries up some cornbread. There are pinto beans, too. Their smell has simmered in the house all afternoon. We sit down together, the heat from both the food and the muggy day snuggling in around us. Dad gets up to turn the fan on. We can hear the pau laew bird singing through the window screen. Mom and I smother our cornbread patties with butter; my brother smears his with jelly,and Dad says the meal is too bland. I think all we need is a fudge pie, but we have the traditional Thai dessert: fruit. I eat two pieces of pineapple, thinking how sweet it tastes here.
My mother won’t let us forget that we are Southern.
I stretch my arms out on either side of me, taking in the wind, the possibility of this new place.
My best friend from college takes me to Chicago for the weekend. It’s May, and we’ve only brought clothes that fit with our Nashville’s warm weather, but Chicago’s temps are in the 50s and of course, exacerbated by the wind. We layer on all the clothes we have and brave the chill, navigating our way around Grant Park. We stop at the fountain, and on a whim, I stretch my arms out on either side of me, taking in the wind, the possibility of this new place. My friend snaps a picture, which I develop and keep as a reminder of that moment – the carefree girl with her bleached blonde hair whipping around her face,her grin unmatched, her arms outstretched to welcome yet another city’s promises.
* * *
“You captivate me,” he says after our first date. I can’t sleep or think straight, I’m so crazy for him. I take him across the world, to my favorite beach. I stand waist-deep in the ocean, staring out at the horizon. The sky and sea seem to merge into one, and I am swept up into the vast joy of it all. His hand grabs mine beneath the water. We marry at my Stateside church, on a damp Saturday in July.
I might sink deep into this snow, blend into the biting, breathtaking landscape.
Schools are closed for snow this time, but the children won’t let us sleep in. There are two of them now, a girl and a boy, and it’s time to explore the cold whiteness. We pull an old empty plastic fish pond from the shed and turn it into a sled, pushing the children down a snow-covered hill. We lie down to make snow angels and suddenly the little ones are on top of me, dumping snow in my face and laughing. The icy wetness pricks my skin, awakening me to the sharp beauty of our breaths. I might sink deep into this snow, blend into the biting, breathtaking landscape.
* * *
Maybe, like the birds, I have some innate urgency to migrate.
I know the sweet work scent of my husband after he’s mowed the yard; I know the curves of his body against mine.