Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dried Tears from the Steep Hills

"Please don't cry because it is not only you who are at lost. Did you know that you do not have a citizenship card? Did you know that you do not have a country? You are a human just like me. Smile for me precious one. I will be the person who will wipe your tears. I love you my dear. But if crying makes you feel better then you should let it all out. Sometimes you may be the person who has to find out about the sad news as this." I tried my very best to twist my tongue in order to attempt to speak Thai in a serious manner while tears fell from my eyes into the bank of the Salween River. As the tears rolled down my face while holding her hands tightly, a big dark shadow the size of a mountain came down and swooped her away into the heavens. She cried in out in Thai, "please help me! Please help me!" I ran along the bank of the Salween River yelling at the top of my lungs "please don't take her way, please!"
I did not know how far I ran. I cried for her and kept running forward while my eyes were fixed on her. I did not know how far I had run and it was only when I tripped on a tree stump that I stopped. I tried to get up so I could continue running after her, but I could not do it. In just a short moment, a villager came running to me. I tried to push myself up with my left hand, but a large hand was pushing down on my shoulder. I heard someone say in their own distinct accent in Thai:
"Don't get up, you are hurt."
I was able to gather myself and sat up. I used my right hand to examine myself to see where I might have been hurt. At the end I discovered that my elbows and my knees were cut and blood was streaming out from them. I turned to the man standing to my side and asked:
"What are we going to do?"
"I just don't know what to do"
I was still sitting on the bank of the river and mumbled to myself: "Nothanutu! What should I do to bring you back? I am sorry that I let you fall into danger all by yourself."
"Mister, we cannot do any more to help her. They have already taken her." I tried to search for the voice that spoke these words. He was the man who told me not to get up to continue with my search. He was a dark man who was physically fit and had a sad look on his face. He helped me up to walk back.
"Did you know that we have settled here for 27 years? The banks of the Salween are our birthplace. You may not understand this since you are not a Karen."
"How did the villagers settle here?" I asked with interest. He stopped walking and stalled for a moment to contemplate and then turned around to ask me.
"Didn't Kathanutu tell you about this?"
"Yes she did, but I wanted to know more in detail from you."
He held on to my arms tightly, which I thought was a little too tight. Then he led me to sit on a log lying next to the road that led to the riverbank. His eyes glanced over the Salween River to the Burmese side, which was full of green forest and rolling hills that bended down as if they were staring directly at the riverbank. He took a deep breath and spoke softly in Thai, "Back then I was just a little boy, two years old. My parents moved here to this side of the Salween because we could not stay over the other side. Everyday, we Karen were haunted like wild animals. Everyday people suffered. The cries of sadness were everywhere. Every so often we would hear a gunshot, bang bang! That was a sign that another one or two Karen had left this beautiful earth. What followed were continuous cries. The trees were stained with blood." He stopped talking about the horrible and depressing story. The monumental shadow had moved to the northern side. I looked at it in wonder. It had large teeth the size of the Salween River. Its eyes were dark red. Saliva flowed from both sides of its mouth and a voice resonated from it "ha, ha, ha I will eat all the land." In just a moment, the terrible face disappeared, but the shadow was still dense and dark as usual. I tried to move into a hidden place to take a closer look. The shadow spread across both banks of the Salween River.
"There, there look it's eating the Mae Du Village and the other villages close by."
"Don't speak, it will hear us. We will for sure be dead." At the same time, Thanu pulled my arm close to the tree with thick bushes. Loud noise was heard all over. In just a moment, we heard a voice of a woman coming from the dark shadow. "Help me, please help me, I'm going to die, help me, help me." I recognized that voice and it could not be any other than Thanutu's. I jumped out of the hiding place and yelled back.
"Thanutu! I am here, get out of there. I will help you. Get out!"
"Why are you doing this? It's not just your life and my life here, you know? It affects all the Karen on both banks of the river who will all eventually be dead. Come in!" Thanu pulled my arm into our hiding place. The noise kept getting louder. It got so dark that we were not able to see anything around us. The laugh kept getting louder and the hills moved to and fro. The sound of the moaning was not different from that of a giant demon's. "I will eat all of the people, ha, ha, ha!" Thanu and I were lying so close to the ground that it felt difficult to breathe at times. I kept thinking how much longer it would be like this.
"How long will it be like this Thanu?" I whispered into Thanu's ear as I could not stand it like this anymore.
"As long as there are Karen people in this area this type of situation will continue to exist," Thanu whispered back.
When the noise diminished I looked out from the tree. Oh my Lord! I saw red everywhere as if the blood stained the leaves and grass. I looked up to the sky and saw the color that resembled the rust from metals. A voice came from a dark cloud in the sky in an unclear Thai accent.
"My love, please help me, help me. I am suffering so much in this place. If I stay here any longer I will die for sure (sniff, sniff) help me."
"I am here. I still love you as always Thanutu."
Suddenly I was awakened to a sitting position, feeling a short of breath. I walked over to a table, grabbed a hold of a water bottle, poured the water into a glass and took a big gulp. Using my right hand, I wiped off the dried tears from my eyes and mumbled to myself "Good luck everyone. We are humans just the same."
By Sengphouxay Inthavikham

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