After my embarrassing release of shame, I was plopped on the cot. I sat legs open in total bewilderment. I only witnessed a beating once in my short life. A mother found out about her daughter’s sexual behavior with a boy of the village. She was stripped and beaten with a bamboo stick. Later, mother told me the girl’s father went to the boy’s parents. After the boy suffered through the same fate, at the hands of his father, a betrothal was arranged.
I was immature in many ways, and way below my years in knowledge of many things. I slept with my mother, or would spend most of the night sobbing if this was not available. But the actions between a man and woman were instructed at an early age. Sexual encounters were beautiful and fulfilled a need. Pleasure from the event was a worthy wait, and procreation was essential for my people. However, you must not glance over the word wait.
Both genders need linger unfulfilled till marriage. There is no double standard concerning this matter.
Now, I prepared for a beating to match the impatient lovers. My fear tripled as I saw the back of her urine soaked jacket.
The giant’s eyes exploded with the discovery.
She came at me in a huff. Grabbing my trembling hands, the chocolate from the candy bar colored the little digits, I called fingers. A grim expression arose as she showed coca colored fingerprints decorating the back of the uniform top.
Pushing a large thumb along the side of my lips, it to became covered with the creamy residue.
My hand dwarfed by her monstrous paw. I knew it would be pulled from my wrist.
She spoke to me in a fast and hostile manner. Her face spit out the words with the anger of the dark clouds that sometimes circle our village. Though I understood not a single sound, it was obvious she demanded a reply. I so accommodated.
The horrific howl even stunned her.
“Mommy…Mommy…I want mommy!” My legs flapped on the coarse cover that scratched my already scraped bottom. With lids closed I continued my useless bellow. Mother was well on her way to some other place, and I would be buried here in unfamiliar ground and never found again.
The fingers tightened on my bare waist, and I could feel the vice of death strangulating my little mid-section. Mammoth palms pressed as if to meet at my navel.
Pain traveled from my eyes to my cheeks, as I squeezed the lids in hopes of invisibility.
Floating in air, my helpless body landed with a jolt upon her shoulder. I prepared to be slung to the ground, or tossed in the river or hung upside down. My nose now emitted gobs of mucus on her green t-shirt. My time on earth would not be much longer. Then I heard the words.
“Poor baby…my little poor baby.”
The accent was brutal and rough as callous skin, the type scratching my bottom. But, it was from her. Those words were from her.
Again she whispered in my ear. “My little…poor…little…baby.” Her description of me was correct.
“Mommy…little baby poor…my little mommy…baby wants.” It didn’t matter that the grammar was jumbled and sometimes the words slurred indistinguishable, I understood. Her knowledge of our language was limited, but the tone spoke in a way I could comprehend.
The bear hug that was meant to crush me to death became a warm embrace. The hands of a vicious ogre turned to gentle pillows of compassion. Was this the same woman? Or, as the spirits of our Highlands do, did she change her form to fool the innocent naked mountain girl?
I did not care. My eyes closed and soft whiffs of air tickled her ear. The last thing, I remember was the girlish giggle snorted from her massive, but tender lips. My snuggle continued, as strong arms placed me on the cot, and covered me with a crisp sheet.
Temporary Medical Clinic
Somewhere West of Huế
My mother’s situation was being handled a little different.
“Moi!” Heard more than once, the slang version of the Vietnamese word for savage ricocheted through the temporary clinic and surgery. Vietnamese men and women in white yelled and physically directed the bewildered Bru women through the maze of medical stations.
There were no dividers for privacy in the listed cubicles. Each woman stripped from her paperweight dressing gown to stand nude for a different specialized inspection. The women were hustled down the corridor of the quickly assembled room, and told of the importance of their cooperation. A disease was spreading throughout the Central Highlands, and the procedure would secure health for them and their families.
Standing in dressing gowns, the Montagnard women felt more embarrassment than when they stood naked under watchful eyes of the medical team. There was something devious and demeaning in the tone of their benefactors. Belief in the original proposal for preventive care began to ebb. And my mother was the first to notice.
“Why are we here? This should not take so long?” Spoken to an interpreter with little knowledge of our dialect, my mother refrained from bringing up the magical methods of the Green Hats. There was suspicion mounting, and a fear for the daughter she left behind.
MY poor child, she is never from my side. I know she is almost twelve, but a more appropriate age would be seven or eight.
Thoughts of the sadness and possible hysteria I was going through kept my mother alert. She wished only to submit and be done with this. She thought of my suffering without her.
I feel guilty now, recounting the tale. When my mother suffered and worried only of me, at that time I was frolicking and offering entertainment to my new friend.
She brought me to the spring, an offshoot of the Xe Pon. Removing her shoes and rolling up the green pants, she laughed as those giant hands washed me up and down. I held my long hair up, as the woman treated me as a babe being so cleansed by a new mother. It was a good feeling and as my mother chose in her plight. I decided to submit.