31. March 2013 · Comments Off on Collateral Damage · Categories: H. 9 to 10 years

We are on the boat to Hong Kong.   My sister gives me Irene to carry.  I guess she thinks she is too old to carry around a Shirley Temple doll.

A British officer gives each of us a paper to fill out.  The officer comes back.  He is laughing.  In the space where it asks for my condition, I had written Very good.   My sister explains that I should have written Single because I am not Married.

Nobody calls me stupid.   Instead, people are spreading the story around and looking over at me, smiling.  I feel what they are thinking.  I am aware that I am holding Irene and I am feeling cute too.

Suddenly, I am not anxious about going to our father.  I am going to have a wonderful new life.  By the time we reach the pier I am singing California here I come.  Even my sister is smiling.

I see immediately that my father is not the daddy I knew.  He is the man who sent us back in the rickshaw.  He can’t call the sailors and say take them back.  He acknowledges us by placing his arms briefly around our shoulders.  Then he directs a porter to put our things in the back of a pick-up truck.   There are a few boxes, but Titi put most of our things into a dresser with a rope tying the drawers back.

He gets in the front with the driver, and we ride in the back.  We go through crowded streets, hot air and dust blowing in our faces.   We go up a slope with apartment houses and stores on both sides.  The truck has to crawl very slowly, honking and nudging people out of the way.  At the top, we turn.

We are on a quiet little street.  On one side there are many small wooden houses, all bunched together.  The truck turns towards the houses and stops in front of a house in the middle of the row.

The door is open.  It is so small inside that I can see the whole house.   It is a square room with a partition in the middle that is like an upside down T that divides it into two bedrooms in the back.

The partition does not go all the way up to the ceiling or all the way down to the floor – otherwise there would be very little air or light in the two small rooms.  There are no windows back there.  The flimsy partition is on legs that are bolted to the concrete floor.

I can see little slivers of light coming through the thin slats of wood that form the outer walls.  The only windows are two small ones on either side of the front door.

There is a three quarters bed in one room.  The other room has only one small cot in it.

In the front room a few boards are stacked against the side wall.  Benches and stools are in front of the boards.

My father tells the driver and another man to put the dresser in the room with the larger bed.  Then he says he has to get back to work, and he leaves with the driver.

Ferry old copy

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