Rustle

My Scholarship entry - Giving back on the road

WORLDWIDE | Sunday, 22 April 2012 | Views [2128] | Scholarship Entry

There it is again. A rustle in the dark.

My eyes spring open onto blackness. It isn’t the sound of rats - the scurrying of little feet on the aged floorboards - nor the careful steps of the gecko moving along the roof beams. This is a heavy sound, something sliding slowly and purposefully across the room. It is the small hours of the morning and I hold my breath, straining to hear, hoping I’ve imagined it. It is so dark I’m blinded. I can feel, rather than see, the mosquito net that envelops us, the warm sleeping weight of my coworker next to me. She’s sharing my bed because her mattress is riddled with mice; she snores gently. My bladder is painfully full but I don’t want to risk the trip to the side room with its makeshift plastic bucket of piss, not now, not in the dark, not with this… this thing making its way across the room.

I turn to my side and breathe deeply. The bare bamboo slats of the bed dig painfully into my ribs. I can feel the bruises on my bottom from bumpy rides on dirt track roads, the ache in my shoulders from the heavy equipment I carry every morning and every night. I close my eyes and try to sleep.

Tomorrow I will pad out to the deck before anyone wakes, to watch the sun rise quietly over the ashen river. I’ll see the green of the paddy fields and the thin, slow moving cows being led out to pasture. At the orphanage children will rush up to say
hello, hurried "chum reap sour", hands pressed hastily in front of
beaming grins. We will work in the shadow of a house on stilts, little faces bent seriously over texts and drawings, telling their stories of loss and pain and hope. There will be the sound of music and laughter rising from the dormitories, thick fragrant curries over wood fires, cold bucket showers beneath banana trees, the monsoon falling thick and fast and children running for joy in the rain.

Tomorrow.

But now, right here, on this hard wooden bed in this strange, sweaty, crowded room - there it is again. A rustle in the dark.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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