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Thursday, March 14, 2019

NaNa


written & illustrated by Chakriya PHOU


Love is crazy thing. When love comes, you cannot escape even you know it is wrong to law of nature.

I was not pretty daughter. I was fat.
I lived with my mother.
I was not close to any man even my relatives. At school, most of my friends were girls. My mother did not like me to be around with man.
I lived on second floor of the building. The whole building used the same stair. At the ground floor, there were flats and mostly, there was a group of old men sitting and chatting next to the stair.

When I was fourteen years old, one day, my mother came home with angry face. She scolded me a lot. I did not know what I had done wrong. Then she told me to wear big size shirt.
At that moment, I was so angry with mother. I thought she was crazy to scold someone with no reason. But I found why later.
There was a man of group of old men said, when they saw me :
‘If I were a young man, I would suck her boobs.’
Then all of them laughed.
My mother heard it so she told me to wear big size shirt. I knew she wanted me to be good but I felt it was unfair; she was angry with that old man but she turned to blame me. Even though, I had to obey her.

When I graduated and got a job in NGO, I usually came home late.
One day, my motor was broken so I left it at office and one of my colleagues drove me home. That night, because of the traffic jam, we arrived at my house about 9PM. I entered home normally. In the morning, my mother scolded me. She asked me what happened last night, why I came home late. I was quiet, I did not understand the situation. Last night, I had explained her already via phone. Then I knew the reason. The neighbors saw me getting off my colleague car so they talked behind that I might do something with him.
I told my mother that he was my colleague. I spoke nicely to calm down her feeling. Yes, she understood then she told me to stay away from man- colleague. I obeyed her.

Next, I went to work out of city. My colleague, girl, came to take me and drove me back home. It was late again and the neighbors started to talk again. They said I might be a lesbian. And my mother told me not to close with woman-colleague. I asked her:
‘Then what should I close with? Man or woman?’
‘Make it balance,’ said my mother.
Well, I obeyed her.

But it did not stop. The neighbors saw me going out with group of men and women, they said I was straight and lesbian.
My mother talked about rule for woman. She shouted at me. She instructed me.
I knew she loved me; I knew she cared about me; I knew she was worried about me; but I thought it was too much.
‘What you want me to do? Tell me.’ said I.
‘You are big. You should know,’ said mother.
‘I don’t know. I really don’t know,’ I stated and looked straight to her eyes. ‘You told me to stay away from man, I followed. You told me to stay away from woman, I followed. Now, what do you want? I want you to tell me who should I stay close, man or woman. Or you want me to stay away from human and close with animal?’
My mother was angry. She shouted at me:
‘You are bad daughter. You talk back to your mother. You are not my daughter.’
‘I don’t know that I am your daughter or not,’ said I. ‘You heard they talked bad about me but you did not blame them, you turned to put all blame on me. You concern what they say but you never concern about my feeling. Am I your daughter?’
She slapped me. My cheek was red but it was not hurt, it hurt inside my heart. I did not say anything. I left the house. I went down and saw those neighbors, the bad-smelling-mouth housewives, they caused me trouble, they made my mother beat me. I wanted to scold them but I calmed down. I took my motor and drove.

I did not know where to go. I drove and drove. I drove on the road.
Then I found a club. I turned my motor in.

Inside the club, the music was a loud. I sat alone and ordered cock-tail.
A girl came in. She was trying to find a place to sit. She looked at me. I understood through her eyes. I smiled and gave signal that she could sit with me.
The girl smiled and came to sit next to me.
‘I am Rana,’ she introduced herself.
‘I am Dina,’ I told her my name.
‘Oh, we have the same Na,’ she smiled.
She ordered cock-tail and we had a chat.
She was younger than me one year. She worked in a hotel as receptionist.
We became close even we just met. She told me her problem and I told her mine.
She had argued with her father. She told me that her father hated her so much. Her father always scolded her. What she said or did, he did not like. She said her father wanted her as a son but she was a girl so he was unhappy with her.
‘Do you have sibling?’ I asked.
‘Yes, I have sister,’ she said.
‘Does your father hate her?’ I asked.
‘No, he loves her,’ she replied.
‘It does not make sense that he hates you because he wants a son,’ I said.
‘I don’t know,’ she claimed and drank the cock-tail.
It was almost 11PM. We left the club. She asked for my number but did not tell her number.

I came back home. My mother did not sleep yet. She was sitting on sofa waiting for me. As I came in, she asked:
‘Have dinner yet?’
I had had anger with what she had done to me but now seeing her like this, I pitied her.
‘Not yet,’ I replied.
‘I heat the food for you,’ mother said.
I nodded. I helped her. Then we had dinner together quietly.

From that night, my mother seemed nice to me. She did not tell me to do this or do that. She seemed open for me to have friend.
But I heard that the groups of house wives and old men living ground floor did not stop talking about me. My mother heard it. She was not happy but she tried to act happy before me. I was irate. I hated men. I thought they looked down on woman. I hated house-wives. I told my friend and she said:
‘It is normal that man looks down on woman. For the housewife, because she get married to man and she is transferred jealous and insane virus from husband, that’s why she becomes one of them, always look down on woman.’
I felt better after hearing what my friend said. Then I thought about my mother. She never told me about father. I ever asked once when I was young but she did not answer and gave me a straight face so I did not dare to ask her anymore.
I wanted to know about my father and why he was not with us.

I asked my relatives. Everyone kept quiet. Then there was a distant-relative telling me the story. She told me that my father was trader. He went to provinces to do business. He came home once in 3 months. When my mother was pregnant of me, my father said my mother had affair and the baby was not his. My father wanted to divorce but my mother did not agree. She loved him. She begged him to trust her. After, mother found out that father had step wife while he was doing trading in province. She did not say anything and agreed to divorce immediately. She raised me alone.

After I heard the story, I felt sorry for my mother and I hate father. I said to myself that I had only mother.
I began to feel not good about man. At workplace, I liked to work with women-colleagues. I talked with men-colleagues only in case. I did not hate men but I felt unsecure when they were around.

Talking about Rana, she gave me a call 2 weeks later from that night. We became close friend. We always called to each other. We went out together. We chat via social media almost every night.
We told each other everything even about love.
Rana said she fell in love with her manager. She loved him so much but she was afraid to confess. She said there were a lot of girls in the hotel liked him and perhaps she had no chance. I encouraged her. I said that she had rights to compete for love. She was glad when she heard my speech.

One day, about 7PM, I got a call from Rana. She did not say, just cried only. I was worried. I asked where she was, she told me she was at the hotel. I was in meeting but I could not continue. In my head there was only about her. I asked my boss to leave first and I drove my motor fast head to the hotel. When I arrived at the hotel, I called her. She told me she was in the park. I ran to the park. I saw her sitting and crying. I was so worried. I ran towards her and called her name. She heard my calling. She ran to me. As we closed, we hugged. She cried strongly on my shoulder. I patted her head gently. We stood for 5 minutes. When she stopped her tear, I brought her to sit on chair in the park. I asked what happened. She told me that the manager wanted to rape her. He lured her to his office that he had something special and urgent to talk with her. When she was in his office, he tried to touch her. She escaped so he used strength on her. She shouted for help but the officers already went home and other were at the lobby.
I was so angry. I wanted to go to that man, but Rana stopped me.
‘Do you let him go like this?’ I asked.
‘It’s useless,’ Rana said. ‘I was told that he ever did to a woman and the woman reported him but at last, he was freed because he had money.’
‘Even thought, we have to find justice. We are not born to be bullied,’ I said.
‘I don’t want to make it bigger. I escaped. I was survived. I am fine,’ she said.
‘How could you escape from him?’ I asked.
‘He dragged me to lay on desk. I was so scared. I did not know how to fight back. I thought my life was over. But then I saw you in my head. You gave me strength. I saw a pencil. I took it and stabbed his shoulder. He let me go then I kicked his brother. He was hurt and crying on the floor so I opened the door and ran here,’ she said.
‘You kicked his brother strongly or gently?’ I asked.
‘Very strong,’ she said.
I gave a thumb to her. The situation changed. We laughed. I imagined the picture of that manager laid on the floor and covered his brother and cried for his mother.
‘I was so scared,’ Rana went on. ‘My purse is in lobby. I did not dare to go in. I found my phone inside pocket. I did not know who I should call so I called you.’
I pulled her head to my chest and said:
‘Everything passes.’
She embraced me and asked:
‘What should I do now?’
‘Tomorrow, give them resigned letter. Where is your car?’ I said.
‘Today, I came by taxi because my sister used my car,’ she said.
‘OK, I take you home. Stay here. I go to take your purse,’ I said then I went into the lobby. I asked for Rana’s purse. Her colleague gave me and asked, I just told she was not well.
I drove Rana home. She hugged my waist. The wind was cool. The street was brightening with yellow street light. I felt peace when she put her head on my left shoulder.
We arrived at Rana’s house. She told me not to tell the truth because she did not want her mother to be worried.

Rana’s house was on ground floor. It was a flat.
I rang the bell. The door was opened. It was lady same aged with my mother. I thought it was her mother. I saluted her. She smiled back to me. When Rana came into the house, her father showed up and he yelled at her:
‘Where are you from? What’s time now? Do you have eyes to see the time? You go to sleep with man? You are a daughter and you come home late. You are worse than the dog. I agree to raise a dog better than raising daughter like you because the dog guards the house for me and you do nothing, just bring shame to me only.’
I did not leave yet. I stood at the door listening to the old man yelling. I wanted to punch him. What the fuck of father he is! I thought. He had no idea that his daughter just met a hard time and she was trying to maintain family honor for him. He should express worry but he turned to compare daughter to a dog.
Rana said no word. She covered her face with tears. I could not bear to see her like this. I went into the house and dragged her hand and brought her to my motor. 
Her father shouted :
‘Where do you go, bitch?’

I did not care. I drove Rana out from that house. Along the way, she cried. I took her to my house. I just told my mother that she was my friend and she would stay at our house for one night. My mother nodded and called her in.
We had dinner. I gave her my sleeping cloth and towel. She had a bath. Then we went to bed.
My mother slept in living room. She did not like air conditioner. I slept in bed room with Rana.
She was silent whole night. As she fell asleep, I looked at her. There was a feeling coming to my heart. I looked at her face and I touched her hair gently. I just knew that I wanted to protect her.

Next morning, I asked for one day off. I helped her with resignation. I really wanted to see the face of that bastard but he did not show up. Everything was good and Rana left the hotel with peace.

I helped her to work with me in the organization. She thanked me a lot.
I told her mother. She was shock. She felt pity the daughter. I did not know that she told her husband or not but Rana went back home.. she told me she would be fine.
I called her at night to make sure she was fine and she told me everything was good... her father did not say anything.. her family was like usual.
I was happy to hear that. I was happy and confident when she worked with me.
Rana was nice and kind so she was closed to colleagues in short time. But I was not happy when I saw her smiling to those men-colleagues. I did not understand my feeling, but I just knew that I was liked a volcano when I saw men coming around her.
Rana seemed know. She laughed and said to me, ‘Jealous?’
I did not answer. She held my hand and said, ‘I ever experienced once. I remember whole life. I don’t believe in man anymore. In this world, I know only you that love and care me truly.’
She spoke with loyal. I could see via her eyes. She did not lie. I smiled and put my hand on hers.
We became closer and closer. Sometimes, she came to sleep at my house for two or three nights. My mother liked her. Also, her mother liked me.

I found real reason Rana father hated her. It was by accident. I went to pagoda with my mother. At the pagoda, there was a monk, he was famous with his fortune-telling-skill. My mother was his believer.
As I arrived, I saw Rana’s father left the monk room to his car. He did not see me. I went in the room with my mother. There were few people sitting in front of the Buddha statue and next to the statue was the monk. He was telling the people about his powerful fortune. He said the man just left the room was his believer. Long time ago, he came to him. He wanted to apply job as public official. He told the man that if he had first son, then he would pass. If his first child was daughter, he would not be able to become official.
Hearing it, I understood why Rana’s father hated her. I looked at the monk. I saw him as a demon, an ugly demon. The fire was inside my chest. I tried to calm down and told my mother I would waiting outside.
When I came back, I went to see Rana. I met with her mother and asked what the monk said was true or not. Rana’s mother said it was true. Her husband applied for official but never passed until today. He believed the monk that Rana brought bad luck to him that’s why he hated Rana.
Rana cried when she heard the story. I took her to riverside. She cried a lot. I pitied her. I hated the monk. I hated her father. Man was devil and stupid.

One day, I had a meeting with my university-classmates. I brought her with me. I thought she would be happy if she met new friends.
Among the ladies, there were me and Rana were single and another friend was engaged, other already married and few had kid.
First, we talked about general topics but then we jumped into couple life. The married ladies shared their stories.
‘Before we got married, he took me to office and took me back home. After married, I asked him to bring me to office, he was angry with me.’
‘Before and after married, he is completely different.’
‘He promised with me that he would not force me to have kid, but he said he wanted kid after we got married one month. And I had no choice.’
‘He said he loved kid, but he goes out every night to drink with his friends. I ask him to help to take kid to school, he said to me that he was busy making money.’
‘If I could turn back time, I would not marry.’
No good word about man.

After the meeting, I heard that my friend, who was engaged, broke up with her fiancé. I did not know the reason.
That thing made Rana scared too. She reminded about the handsome manager. She made herself away from men-colleagues. I became happy when she did that. And she knew and she was happy too.

In November, we had mission to Kompongcham province. We stayed in hotel. In the morning, we left to rural area and came back in the evening.
We made workshop talking about domestic violence. We interviewed with the ladies in the villages. Most of them met domestic violence. The husbands usually drank and came back home and beat their wives. The wives could not do anything, just endured, because they were told domestic violence was normal for husband and wife.

After we came back to hotel, we could not sleep. We laid on bed next to each other and looked at the ceiling.
Then Rana said:
‘Can I display music?’
I nodded.
Rana displayed Romantic Love Instrument. She put the light in room lower. The room was full of sweet mood. And I did not know when my body started to be on her body. I looked at her eyes and she looked at mine. She put her arms around my neck and closed her eyes.

Everyone would think we had it, but that night was innocent. We just kissed. We did not know how to start and how to end.
We accepted that we loved each other. We wanted to experience it but we did not have clue. Rana suggested to go to the consultant.. but we were not brave to show anyone about our relation. Rana told to consult out of country but we did not have enough money. So, internet was the best way to help us.
We spent several months to search and read them.

We chose to honeymoon at sea province. Yes, we had good time.
We sat on the sand and counted the stars.
Rana put her head on my shoulder. She said to me, ‘I wish we can stay like this forever. I don’t want anything, just you. But I am afraid that the heaven will not fulfill my wish.’
I understood her worry. Actually, we had the same concern. It was about our mothers.. what happened if they found out? Would they able to accept us?
But I remembered words, ‘future should not be expected, present is what we should care about.’
I said to her, ‘Now, leave the world behind.’
Rana said, ‘Yes.’
I kissed her head and we continued looking at the stars. They were blinking in the sky. Beautiful and nice.

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