I was at the table of a tea shop on the junction of Ewe Hai street and Carpenter. One of Chopin’s ballads began to play. I knew it was Chopin because of the free fall from soft to loud. Only Chopin carries the ear from the quiet top to the rumbling bottom of a mountain in mere measures.
Above every building hung the low dark clouds. Every picture I took in Kuching was framed by them, the tips of which seemed to drop on the city like a theater curtain. The sky is the color of murky water. It has an uncertain, desperate appeal. The dark clouds followed me all day, hanging above me like a lantern. I knew now that the hot sun preceded a strong wind that would come in the evening, and that the wind would bring the rain. The day I arrived I left the house at sundown. The mournful call to prayer echoed in the trees as the strong wind blew the rain sideways on me face.
Around me the hollow carcasses of colonial buildings, washed over with time, were beautiful even in death. Two women mount a motorcycle and put helmet on over their hijabs. Their curious eyes scan my body for geographically traceable features, trying to see how much of my purpose could be read on my form and in my movement. How much of my history do I carry on my back? How much of my past can be read on my body? And how does that past look to these women? And when they speed away, their veils flying behind them in the wind, I wonder if I too have missed some important detail.
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