Writing from a perspective of an endangered species
I wasn’t born a writer. I wasn’t born talented. I wasn’t born a thinker. These are the words I kept telling myself. I certainly wasn’t born to write Black. I remember thinking over and over again when I finished the last sentence of my book entitled Black, how I wanted to find the soul that was lost, trapped in the wall. How I knew that the road ahead would be full of innervations and anguish and that one day I would need to tear down that wall, scratching at it with my own fingers. How I would find old self the same way that I would be found by a far less saintly soul inside that wall. It was the story I told myself to keep breathing, hoping that by the end of that tale we would unite. Then, I would find another reason to stay alive.
I was born as an endangered species. I was born to hide, and to only be told long after survival was no longer my primal instinct. I hugged the manuscript to my chest and all I could do was crying as if the species had ceased to exist. I am an endangered species that can only be repopulated through words, the nostalgia of what I once was, like the sunset and sunrise resting upon the edges of one another. I was told to acknowledge my reality, to stand firm and accept the truth, to look back, and to have the courage to live. My courage to die was far greater than the one to live, but neither death nor a will to live can bring me to my past. Writing is the only mechanism for me to take on that road. My memory is fragmented, piece by piece floating on the line of the ballpoint pen.
6-year-old, I remember a luminous sky painted orange the same color as the dying grass on the football field as I walked my way back from school. I remember a summer day, hot and dry, while grandpa would stick the red paper poem along the corridor of our old wooden house. Chinese New Year, a time of transition, a moment I remember so little of, especially the happiness lay before it. My parents came back from another town for the first time since I remember how to remember. For the first time in my life, I was told I was dirty, disgusting, and a disgrace. For the first time, in my uncertain life, I was whipped by my own mother because I didn’t clean my property while taking bath. I didn’t know how to write yet at that time, but I remember so clear each moment when I cried squishing myself quietly so that I will not make a sound. I didn’t know how to write yet, but if I could, I knew I would write the hell out of it so that I could escape from that moment.
I started writing when I was 9 into a book that someone had thrown away in the classroom with a few of the blank pages left. I remembered that day I stole my parent's money to join the potluck at our primary school, 500 riels to be exact. I was not punished but disowned. That night under the light of the kerosene lamp my dad told me to kneel my way to seek an apology from my mother. Despite all my emotions, I remember my angry eyes that were looking at light and I decided the next day I would stand for myself. I skipped class and joined the potluck at a waterfall near the school. It was the first time I almost drowned, the first time I was rescued. When I came back home that day, I was punished again. I was told to sit in a circle half-naked. I exuded anger, rage, but deep down I was exhausted. That night the first diary entry I wrote started and ended with the word “tired”.
When I turned 13, I learned what it was to be humiliated and traumatized. I learned how cruel society was to a boy that didn’t receive sex education, a boy who hit puppetry through his curiosity and was punished for it. I was never told what I did was wrong, knowing it was wrong only from the public smacks of rattan stick which caused me to jump around like an amusing clown in the middle of the stage. Small stones were crushed under the skin of my knees that were bleeding as my soul left my body, concealing itself in a wall, hoping to never have to face this situation ever again. That day I didn’t write as there were no words. I went to sleep that day knowing that humiliation would be with me forever, embedded inside those public eyes.
When I was 16, before I left home, I was told about the meaning behind my name, Black. I remember there was a storm that day like the weather was mad at someone. Mom looked at me in the eyes transferred that pain to me through the name she called me. Black was named as a curse those who hurt her, those who traumatized her. Black was dull and irredeemable. I sat there to look at her through the electric lamp and all I see was Black, and dark. For the first time, my diary started with a question, why? What have I done wrong? Why do that to me? Since then, every time someone mentioned my name, I couldn’t help but die a little inside.
When I was 19, the word was Depression. Depressed because of failure, of the past that I couldn’t escape, the trauma that couldn’t even be dulled by alcohol or pills, so little of me was left inside to face the fact that I was a failure. I had failed to be financially independent. I had failed to reset my life by having friends and a social circle. I had failed my own expectation that after I left home, I would be free and happy. I left my therapist's office that day taking only the pills and chugged them down my throat while walking to end my life. Despite the temptation, dying was probably the only failure I didn't accomplish. I remember writing every day during those 2 years, and so little of it surfaced through the darkness of the mind. the only word that founds itself in my diary those years was Failure.
I sat by the window seat with a one-way ticket leaving Cambodia with my laptop turned on and a glass of vodka on the tray two months before I turned 22. I looked out the window and kept telling myself that, I am leaving now, I am leaving now. I could finally press the reset button of my life or be someone else, somewhere that I didn’t know before. in a foreign land a foreign soul, I felt the rebirth of the life I wanted to live all these years. I made friends, I went on dates, I talked to strangers, I studied again. For 2 years I lived and came back home bringing so much hope and light only to have them killed at my grandmother's funeral. I was accused of coming back only because of the wealth that was to be inherited. For the first time, I decided to stand up for myself. Despite all efforts to bring justice to a boy that was punished and harmed, only the reality that he wasn’t there anymore emerged. I left home that day and decided to write my story. I had reached my harbor of truth, the truth that no longer scared me because I had nothing to lose or to be ashamed of anymore. The boy that once was happy as he walked and danced from school back home was no longer alive, but I stood in his place.
That brings me here, writing through fragmented memories trying to sew every piece together. Black was born from the nostalgia of a boy that once was there. I believe that despite what I have been through, my truth will heal more than me. I might never be able to bring that boy back to life or see his own future, but I hope that Black, will walk with others through their hardships to the other side of the rainbow.