Shantih Journal 3.1 - Page 59

lift both arms, palms up, in question. My brother just shakes his head and shoos me forward. I cross my arms in front of my chest and lift an eyebrow, letting my brother know I am not walking away. The two officers come back and ask more questions. They hand my brother his passport and finally let him through. “What happened,” I ask him. He tells me they were worried he had an affiliation with the Middle East. “Like, that you’re a terrorist,” I ask. I really look at my brother then. He has a long reddish beard that covers the bottom of his face, his light eyes and slender nose getting lost in the amount of hair he insists on growing out for his job. He is an electrical engineer who specializes in aircraft radar. When the United States sell planes to other countries, my brother travels to ensure the systems of those planes are working correctly. His job sends him to our allies in the Middle East for at least half of every year, his passport riddled with country stamps from Oman, Turkey, and Jordan. “What did you tell them to let you through,” I ask. “I told them I work for the U.S. government,” he says as he fits me under his arm and forces me to walk away from the booth. The unique melanocytes of my outer most layer of skin are handicapped by an imperial disposition, but those of my hair and eyes demand to be seen in the darkness of my ancestors. The third time I almost end up in a holding cell is in Angkor Thom, Cambodia. My husband and I arrive on a tuk-tuk late in the day. We are the only tourists entering Angkor Thom. The sun is starting to set as the chimes and smoke of Buddhist rituals are beginning. There are stairs leading into Angkor Thom. My husband asks if I want to go down and see what’s below, but I am enamored with the large stone faces of the surface. I lift my Canon and tell him I am going to stay topside. He nods and heads into the ancient site. I snap a shot, turn a corner, move forward a few paces, and repeat the snaps. I have the camera on rapid fire as I try to beat the sunset. A group of Cambodian men in their early-twenties approach from the entrance. I settle my face in the lens and get low to the ground, shoot up toward the sky. I stand. The men are surrounding me. “Are you American,” they ask me. “No,” I answer. They are unconvinced of my answer. They tell me I look and sound American, that I will bring a good price for them. “People pay more for white women,” one says. “I’m not alone,” I say loudly in response. I look around for my husband, but I don’t see him. I lift my camera and apologize to it. I plan to use it to smash my way out of this group of men. I tell myself, after everything you’ve 59