Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hand Holding in Rangoon

He’s holding my hand in Anawratha Rd
his long plaid longyi giving him that
thin waisted, big footed look of Burmese men.

I didn’t know quite what to do
I didn’t pull my hand away
but left it there
to warm against his skin.

We’d discussed handholding the night before
at a regular get together of local artists and the expat crowd
The evening was revving up with beer and chilli chips:
the 5 o’clock early starters, quiet and intimate
the 7 o’clock shift, starting to get into it
the 10 o’clock crew, about to descend.

Asking my advice on open relationships
(was it so obvious how I’d lived my life?)
he said he had more than one or two on the go
but it only amounted to handholding.

‘How lovely’ I crowed
‘such a simple pleasure
 haven’t done it in such a long time.’

Now I’m holding his hand in Sule Pagoda Rd
and it feels quite strange
to hold a strange hand
feels like
I need to get to know it better
need time to
explore its cracks and crevasses
before I expose my fleshy mounds and naked valleys
before I crook his fingers into mine
feels like I’m having
an early morning
broad daylight
one night (one morning)

Still, I’m holding his hand in Alan Pya Phaya Rd
and already 
we are getting some strange looks
Is it the age difference?
race difference? 
(he could so easily pass for a local)

I want to reassure the passers by
don’t worry, it’s not what you think
we haven’t been tangling and wrangling in hotel sheets all night
we’re just having a completely innocent, full broad daylight, handholding moment

I could be his mother
I could be his friend
I could be his nurse leading him gently back to the asylum.

But no, now he’s holding my hand in a taxi on Chit Maung St
(turns out we were walking the wrong way)
He’s taking me out to breakfast
at Morning Star Cafe
he’s stroking my fingers and tickling my palm
and I feel like a shy schoolgirl
wishing my hand was more hungry for handholding
than my tummy is 
for tasting sticky rice Shan noodles
for the very first time.

(c) Jan Cornall Yangon, Burma, Feb 2013.


  1. I've been longing to go to Yangon, and now I want to, more than ever. And hold hands on its streets.

    1. Oh yes, and when you do Damyanti .. you must try Shan noodles .. yum!