outwait outrun outwit


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12.26.04, sunday evening

last night, thoughts of family unreeled under the sheets, in my head. parties. quiet gatherings. visitations where i, a child, sat on the couch, mildly befuddled for i, not understanding khmer, never understood.

by the time i left for berkeley, my parents were loners. parties were rare. people did not visit. they were not inclined to send xmas cards; after the cards from friends were read, they'd get lost somewhere in the house. or thrown away.

maybe mom and dad didn't know what to write, for years can banish the words; what could describe desolate, curiously evacuated space? maybe they were insecure of their english . . . the fact that i knew english very well frequently surfaced in discordant conversation, as if my facility was a personal diss, as if i had a perverse desire to disavow their native language and affect affinity with strangers; they could not understand that i was, in part, driven by an instinctive, middle-class need to survive in ruthless academia . . . but maybe mom and dad just didn't care, except in a very remote, casual manner, the manner of people who are quite satisfied with their lives, thank you very much, and therefore incurious.

well, for them, immediate social relations were enough. they had church, you know, and my aunt and her family. and that was enough. maybe they didn't want any potentially treacherous relationships; there was enough of that kind in their lives. in childhood, my parents had been orphaned by neglect, left to fend for themselves in temples or indifferent households. by the time they grew up, the khmer rouge seized sovereignty. homeland became a nostalgic memory, to return to when you needed to affirm how things should be, rather than how things like history and memory and daughters become. unruly. impossible to control. impermanent.

jimmy drove us through berkeley this afternoon; looking around at the changed landscape--the new housing developments, shops, fashions, faces, etc.--i realized i probably wouldn't have been so internally explosive if i had known the perpetual impermanence of relationships.

last night, my mother-in-law embraced me in her kitchen, awkwardly, but with the best intentions, and told me she was gonna send a card to my mother. part of me is weary, part of me weeps, part of me is glad. i suppose that if my parents want to, they could continue to disregard correspondence in that unnervingly remote and casual manner . . . or actually take the time to seriously consider what is inside that card.

later i listened to this song qui*o*tic covers, and i wanted to play it to my parents' answering machine:

Tell It Like It Is
If you want something to play with
Go and find yourself a toy 
Baby my time is too expensive 
And I'm not a little girl 
If you are serious

Don't play with my heart 
It makes me furious 
But if you want me to love you 
Then baby I will, you know that I will

Tell it like it is
Don't be ashamed to let your conscience be your guide
But I know deep down inside
I believe you love me, forget your foolish pride 

Life is too short to have sorrow 
You may be here today and gone tomorrow
You might as well get what you want 
So go on and live, baby go on and live 

Tell it like it is 
I'm nothing to play with 
Go and find yourself a toy 
Tell it like it is 


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