WHEN I LEAVE
by SIRIN JITKLONGSUB (Thailand)
Issue 1.3 December 2019
I breathe in the scent of chili peppers and garlic. The spicy smell is enough to bring tears to my eyes, though I'm not exactly sure why. Mixed in with this hot, mouth-watering aroma is the smell of my mother's perfume, my father's cologne, my sister's shampoo. I drink it all in deeply, filling my lungs until I can't anymore. These are the scents I will take with me when I leave this house.
The sound of cars rushing by is deafening. Any other day, I would inwardly curse the roaring of the motorcycles, the ones that treat Bangkok's streets like their own personal race track. Today, though, I welcome the noise. I smile at the sound of "aunties" and "uncles" shouting out to tourists in clunky English: "Pie-apple forty baht!" "Chicken very de-li-chias one stick ten baht!" I murmur their words to myself, committing their voices and their accents to memory. These are the sounds I will take with me when I leave this city.
The sun is hot and I am surrounded by black and white. Black hair, white shirts. Black eyes, white shoes. I bow slightly to show respect when I walk past an adult. I wait in line for twenty minutes for a Krispy Kreme donut that costs half my allowance, then take a picture and brag about it on Instagram. At six p.m. I stand up straight and watch as everyone around me freezes for the national anthem, and this time I feel patriotic instead of amused. I go to the beach and feel the waves crashing in around my feet, watch the fishing boats bob merrily up and down, listen to the laughter of happy families, smell the salt of the ocean. At school, I sit on the floor before my teachers, put my hands together at my chest, and bow at their feet. I feel their hands on my head, and their blessings will resonate in my ears for years to come. I place a picture of my king in my shirt pocket. These are the sights, the sounds, the scents, the memories I will take with me.
When I leave this country.
Sirin Jitklongsub, 17, is from Bangkok, Thailand. She loves writing about real-world events and reading short stories, especially ones with a twist ending. She has a twin sister who still asks for bedtime stories from her “favorite writer."