Some nights I slow down enough to feel the strange ache that swirls in the space around my heart. I am not sure if it’s the affection I feel for this new city or the aversion to it.
The battle between these two keeps my heart downcast most of the time—it prevents me from looking up. But tonight hovering there alone, the full moon stares at me. She jars me out of my routine. She lights up the lush green and pink bougainvilleas that dot the concrete skyline. Because of her light, I can see the lines of laundry draped on the verandas and the tin roofed slums tucked into the recesses next to towering western chain hotels. I hear the Call to Prayer as it battles for dominance over the honking and the plea of beggars on the street.
I can’t remember the last time I saw her hanging there between the concrete towers that block most of the sky from my view. Most nights I am occupied with a fight between two children or the squeal of boiling water on the stove. But tonight she is suspended there, alone, silently watching over the city, watching over me.
I look down and see streams of people shuffle by under the light she casts. A girl in a blue dress and white scarf—a school uniform—rushes past the guard sitting on a stump outside the plant nursery below us. He pulls at his white beard, nods at her. But she keeps her head down. From this distance, looking down on the streets feels like watching a film of an exotic land.
After a year of watching the same interactions I still don’t understand how children, chickens, shiny new Land Rovers, barely functioning old motorcycles, and bell-dinging rickshaws manage to tangle and untangle themselves every day. They keep the rhythm, never missing a step.
I am snapped out of all these swirling thoughts as my husband wraps his arm around my waist and kisses the back of my head. He is wordless. He knows enough words already war in my mind as I battle between loving our new South Asian home and longing for our American one. I want to reach out to him, to extend some tenderness back—I know he is just as lonely as I am—but I can’t cross the space. It feels too far. He walks away as quietly as he had entered.
I press my hands against the bars on the windows and almost laugh out loud at the irony. I dreamt of coming to work here for years—the fear and excitement creating a conflict not unlike the one vying for my heart today. Today it feels like my emotions have been thrown in a blender. I long for the deep-rooted feeling of home. Loneliness wraps itself around me like the fog yet I crave solitude. I cry for lack of friendship in this new place. But isolate myself in my never silent tower.
Like sister moon, God is there even when I don’t see him. But I often turn away when he puts his arm on my waist.
It’s for only a few moments that the moon draws me into her strange gravity. I turn back to dinner on the stove, disturbing the bundle of fur tangled around my legs.
For a few more hours she will hold her vigil over us while we love and ache, live and die, come close and push away. His vigil will continue long after hers ends. Above us, within us.
For a few more hours I’ll stay high above it all. I’ll remain in this cocoon for now. Tomorrow I will emerge anew onto the streets below with a heart that is breaking and healing all at the same time.
Cover photo by Nathan Dumlao.