Tonight, waiting for my peppery noodle salad, I was congratulated on my Lao by the older woman on the plastic stool next to mine. She was 60 years old, the noodle shop keeper said, working her mortar and pestle. I'm from Vietnam, the woman said, nodding. Your Lao is good-- where do you come from?
I'm from America, but I have lived in Asia a long time. I listed some countries. She nodded again.
The pestle pounded like a muted bell. She asked if I was married and laughed when I said I hadn't met a husband yet. The trees in the temple all stayed upright.
I paid for my bag of noodles and we all wished each other good luck. All the earth stayed in the ground; all our organs stayed in our bodies. All that was normal for me and surely by now for them, too. For the grace of peoples my country has treated so foully I am grateful every day.