In fact, I was not prepared for the truth surrounding the girl – even the others felt discouraged. I had wanted to discuss matters with uncle K and her mother, so we met up in the parlor... She is turning 12 this year, the circumstances at home were very difficult, so she was brought to an SOS home. But there she was subjected to abuse, and though her family reported the case to the people in charge, it was cast aside and ignored. So the mother brought her to the uncle to stay at his place. Here was once again abused, this time by her own uncle. Her sufferings have caused K's mental state to be disordered and deranged, making the simple task of attending and learning at school difficult. Randomly forgetting and remembering things became natural; everything has been repressed.
Her mother feared that we would refuse to take care of her, so she poured her heart out to us and even hid some "secrets" about the girl, which we were yet to find out.
She did not know how to take care of herself, was always absent-minded and distracted. She often spoke nonsense and shouted such profanities that would cast a chill over everyone in the house. Slowly we were somewhat change her behavior and decided to send her to school, though unofficial and simply as a listener.
She was very happy to go to school, but she was called "crazy" by other students on the first day. The teacher could also only shake her head in sigh!
Everybody in the home keep on telling her, "Only laugh when the time is appropiate, okay? Or else people will call you crazy." – After responses like "Yes", "Yeah", and "Okay", things just ended up back at square one.
I often long to see her sad or cry, because I think only then are you a person with emotions. Every day when she was naughty or disrespectful, I would yell at her, and even brought myself to give her a painful spanking once – during all of which I hoped she would be aroused to express her feelings. On the contrary, she kept her bearing stubbornly; no tears, no signs of sadness whatsoever, only childish and naïve laughs seconds later.
Seeing her laugh, everyone is dragged into laughing as well, even I had some moments of laughter. But behind it there is a sharp pain in my heart, an unyielding ache to my soul. The girl does not know that the deep scars from the past are tightly enclosing her perceptions of the present, and therefore fogging up her future. I silently pray for her, hoping that the love and comfort of the environment here will help her regain her trusting laughter with true happiness.
OBV, March 2013
Nguoi Thua Sai
Translated by Marie N. Original version in Vietnamese entitled "Nhìn Con Cười Mà Lòng Quặn Đau"