I wasn’t planning on meeting him.
We were only out to run errands, eat a little riverside food and head back to the emptied hotel for some much needed time of rest with the accompaniment of odd junk food and a movie.
But he was waiting for us when we walked outside, sitting sheepishly in his faded red angry birds t-shirt as if he had no idea that he had already stolen my heart, his deep brown eyes darting quickly away from ours so as not to stare too much.
He hugged the corner of his dad’s tuktuk as we started on our way, playing shy and hard to get as we drove down the busy moped run streets of Phnom Penh.
Good thing I always love a challenge.
So we attempted to talk and asked questions, gave high-fives and fist bumps and took way too many pictures until the smile was permanent and we weren’t strangers anymore.
I didn’t have to meet him, I didn’t have to fall in love or even truly see him.
But it’s an honor.
It’s a privilege to hold him and hug him; to tickle him relentlessly simply so I can catch the sound of innocent laughter trying to quietly escape his lips. It’s a deep set mission to kiss him a hundred times in between the wiggles and squirms of a half-hearted attempt at an escape.
And it’s the heart-melting reward of the one time he kisses you back and the stubborn refusal to sit anywhere else but your lap as his arms wrap around yours and his eyes soak in the scenes flying by.
He’s not mine and he never will be.
But for one taxi ride I got to love him. I got to shower him with kisses and chocolate ice-cream and the simple power of a smile that is intentionally directed at him; a five-year old boy who was just along for the ride on the unplanned bring your kid to work day.
Because in each moment of our lives, in every day and every conversation and every step out of bed; a choice stands before us.
To truly see people or fake unawareness of their existence.
To love boldly or live pretending we aren’t actually created the same at all.
With the same inherent desire to be seen and known and loved ridiculously. Even if it’s by two (absolutely charming) white women just catching a ride in a tuk-tuk that happens to belong to your dad.