A bird does not sing because it has an answer…it sings because it has a song.
“Can you be a dirty girl?” I look up. His pale, American skin shines like a light bulb in the dimly lit room. Starring into his eyes I beg him to stop, but cannot say a word. All I see are two cloudy holes peaking out of an icy mask. My face begins to flush, lips tingle. Crinkling my brow I can feel the tears start to well up. He won’t stop, not this one. Not any of them. They never do. Grabbing my arms he forces me closer. I inhale, rancid. The smell of curdled milk and cigarettes lets out of his mouth as he opens it and swallows my soul.
Long and curving around our vacationing villas, that weren’t, but south of the clouds. The sun was beginning to set on the waters, and muddied over from rains; as it fell sinking deeper into the Earth below—washing blood into, flooding through our home. Every night the same, tainting our life-line in ancient times; no longer, as tourists dressed for dinner.
Barefoot I walked, one foot in front of the other balanced in perfect persuasion, pleasing ancestors long forgotten by governments in cities far from this. Free, passing homes of rotted wood, drafty and wet. “Charming.” She smiled down at me with a face painted orange and red. Nature’s beauty. No wonder their men did not want them. Traditional dress royal and rich. Gold-lined linen. A beauty of our culture, in American flesh. “Dear give her some money.” I did not understand.
“Long Yang, come eat your dinner.” Nai Nai was calling.
I pocketed the moneyI was given, along with a little elephant carved out of wood “for good luck” and ran home. This happened sometimes because I was poor and Americans were stupid.
“Stupid Americans, ha! We are the ones who exploit ourselves.”
“I saw the tourists riding the elephants today.”
“Those elephants are not for riding.”
“I think it’d be fun.”
“Do you want someone to ride you? No. It is dangerous. They are wild animals.”
Forcefully he kisses me. Lips pressing against teeth, I clench my jaw. Then, throwing me against the cold dirt wall he said, “You filthy slut!” Smack! His firm hand rocks my cheek as his breath quickens, keeping pace with the beats of my heart, broken and beaten down. Holding my breath I try not to cry out. Again he hits me, this time slamming his fist into my collar bone.
“Eat your rice.” Nai Nai spoke slow taking long, deep breaths between her words. I didn’t want rice. I never wanted rice.
“When is Ma Ma coming back?”
“Soon.” Always soon. I never saw my parents. Ma Ma worked at a garment factory in the city and Ba Ba worked on a tobacco plantation somewhere far away. They worked for money they never saw. They worked to send all their money back to us. We never saw it either.
I handed Nai Nai the money the Americans had given me. A pat on the head followed by a coughing stint that was less brief than usual. She was getting sicker and I could not take care of her.