Oogii’s calling me. I’m standing on the far end of Sukhbaatar Square and she’s telling me where they’re sitting. Directions in Mongolian have never been my strength. It doesn’t matter, because I’m certain they’re sitting in the shade and the only shade to be had is on the opposite end, past Axehero’s statue, underneath a few bushes popping over a short stone wall. Getting close, I see them all sitting in a row. They put their elbows over mine and kiss my cheek. We sit there together, hiding from the sun, talking about our health, the weather, America. Oogii’s wearing a sun hat, holding Zaluuhaa. Turuu’s facial hair is wild, even after he jokingly told me he would never let it go because he thought it would make him look like an “aa-raab.” Baagii and Mendee look sober, or recently sobered, and hot. Their middle school daughter dressed in white wanders around us.
We walk to a fast food joint. I hold Zaluuhaa while they drink their tea, eat their rice dishes and burgers. Zaluuhaa’s got a sippy cup full of soda and couldn’t be more surprised that it doesn’t taste a thing like his mother’s milk. Oogii shoves a bottle of black Chenggis vodka and a sack of aaruul in my purse.
“Is there anything else you need for America?”
I’m sure I could’ve said two more bottles of booze or a felt self-portrait and they would’ve hunted and called and shopped and wrapped it in newspaper until what I asked for was in my hand.
“No, thank you.”
We went back to the square to take pictures, then Oogii, Turuu, and Zaluuhaa came with me to the bus stop. I walked up and down the stop looking for the right bus. It wasn’t coming, so I decided to take a cab. We said goodbye in the slight shade of the stop’s orange awning. I’d been holding my hand out for a cab for several minutes when I saw the bus I needed and dashed for it. The driver opened the door for me. I grabbed a seat and for just a second, watched Oogii and Turuu with their hands and laps full of baby and bag getting ready to go catch their train to China.
Leaving, there’s a pang,
your last dime rounding the final turn of a funnel.
It sputters and falls into the center.