Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | Notes of April (103)

My ears were full of chicken pox, a gregarious pale skin nine-year-old boy, a head full of curls lined up in my stead. The nurse couldn’t tell us apart, the little lies that made up my life. The last health inspection before boarding Thai Airways for Sydney.

Panatnikom refugee camp was a huge metropolis of bare concrete walls, my younger siblings babied, I would roam its shadows alone. My mother, her cheeks I could imagine pink, that cough she had the five years father was taken in re-education camps, in the years I was caught stealing fifty “xu” on the dinner table(or was it five). I had buried her in the recess of my memories, the lanky nine-year-old with sad round eyes.

Her name was long and tedious, names from an ode about a tree, a bird in an abandoned forest, an endearing name her father had entitled her.

The weird eyes, those boys gave her, made her hide behind walls, in public baths, clogged up toilets.

My memories of April. I could barely note a few paragraphs before the hot tears would swell at the back of my eye sockets. I thought of my ambitious dream of noting those formative years for my children. The yearly trip back to the five star holiday trips, a testament to the betrayal of my country, my abandonment. The irony, my laughable tears. The guilt of having survived the starvation, the drowning, escaping the rape – what a pretty girl, they whispered, as they stared at my under developed breasts in the red and white T-Shirt from St. Vincent De Paul or was it the Salvation Army.

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

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