28. March 2013 · Comments Off on The Neighborhood · Categories: H. 9 to 10 years

I am in bed but I am not dreaming.  I am still on the street.  Several children are peering at me.  I sit up and they start talking all at once.  A man tells them to get lost.  He wants my bed.

The children follow me into the house.  Linda asks them to wait outside.  After I am dressed, she hands me a warm sweet bun.  It’s just like the buns my mom took with us when we walked up to the Guia lighthouse.  There’s tea but no milk.

Everyone has gone out, including my sister.  Linda says come back at lunch time.

The girls want to be my new friends.   They will take me around the neighborhood.   I am the new fish in the bowl.

On the other end of our street is a hub of small stores selling more things than you can think of, their overflowing bins spread out beyond their open doors.  Vendors squeezed into corners sell red bean popsicles and pieces of sugar cane. Others have games that give you little prizes if you win.   This place is just like Ah Seem’s neighborhood.

Who is she?  Who is this devil-man girl?  I wish Ah Seem were here.   Now I have to answer the questions myself.  As soon as I do, they turn to my new friends, as though I am not even standing there.

Ayah!  She speaks just like you and me.   You say she is devil-man’s daughter?   She has big eyes and pak chek (white clean) moon face.   But devil-man’s daughter does not speak like you and me.  Who is she?  I tell them Ah Seem was a chatterbox and taught me everything.  She was my amah, I said.

Ahh.   Mother.  They nod.  Finally, they are satisfied.  Maybe they think I said Ah Seem was my mother.  Their word for mother is mah.  It doesn’t matter.  

I hang out with my new friends.   We go where anything looks fun.   We watch boys shoot marbles.   We follow the shouts of two women arguing about whose vegetables are taking up an unfair amount of space.  We listen to an old man who negotiates between them until the women quiet down and the crowd breaks up.

We gather around a woman on her doorstep.  She is folding gold paper into bricks of ghost money for her family’s hungry ghosts. We ask to fold ghost money too.  She hands us a stack of gold papers.

We’ve covered only a little bit of the neighborhood before we split for lunch, but there is always time later.  Nobody has other plans.neighborhood1

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