... my brother lamented once I told him about the new story idea, and I wrung my hands and said, "No, no, no, you've got it all wrong! It's just the opposite!"
Just what the hell am I talking about? Well, this...
A young man, in his mid-twenties, makes his way through the rice paddy fields of poverty-stricken Cambodia during the Pol Pot Regime to his hometown in order to find his beloved the jade bracelet (a gift from his mother) he had promised her as a wedding gift that had been buried under a tree in his yard.
...is what I'm talking about.
I realize that by writing this story, I will most definitely be opening a whole new can of worms. (Read: Problems.) There's no denying that tears will be shed during the long, grueling process of bringing my father's nightmares into reality, but what's more important is making this authentic, and how can I make it authentic when the people I know decline to tell me anything personal? I know my mother well, and know enough to realize that her clamped jaw will remain just as it is: a clamped jaw. So we won't go there.
It was about three or four years ago, in a cramped van rumbling down a collapsing neighborhood in what was central Long Beach's largely Cambodian community, that M. Anticicco put the thought in my head about writing a story like that.
" You could get into journalism," he had said, " and write about your father. It's a really interesting story."
I didn't know what to make of it. First and obvious reasons being that the fact that my hardly being able to speak the language played a huge role in all the frustrations my father had with me.
Second being that it is difficult to write about something my father (and just about anybody who has survived the regime) refuses to speak about in more detail. Sure you get some of the gruesome details, but once you start going into personal feelings, they just shut me out completely, and that's not what I want. I remembered talking to my father once, several years ago, when he had decided out of the blue to open up. He told me that he had been a soldier once, and that he had killed some boys and men crawling over a wall. They were coming to kill him, he had tried to explain. He was talking a blue streak, and I was completely overwhelmed.
" Dad," I had said then, " the chronology's all mixed up. When did this happen? Who were the other people? I don't understand."
And he'd get so frustrated with me, he'd just clam up. Along with those days, there would be those long stretches of time where he would hardly speak a word to me.
So I told M. Anticicco then, and I tell him this everytime I see him again: "I can't do it about him, but I'll try to write what I do know from him."
And so I will.
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