“Move On” by Narak Yim
“He can go live with you. I can’t afford to raise him by myself right now” I overheard this conversation and remembered vividly at the age of 6. I’m 16 now and this incident happened to me a while back. I had’ve got to live with my aunt because my parents were trying to get back on their feet. I don’t remember much about my mom since I’ve only seen her a few times. My dad came from the province, moving into Phnom Penh for a better life here. He was in a bad financial state since he’s moving into the city for the first time. He was working left and right, shifts after shifts, days after nights. I couldn’t get to see both of my parents for most of my childhood. My dad was busy and my mom was far, far away. My parents divorced. I remembered the tears coming down from my mom’s brown, shaky eyes as she gave me her goodbye hug. My emotions were confused. I was feeling my heartbeat raised and I felt like I was about to cry. She rose back up slowly and let go of my hand and left. This broke me and changed me.
When I was 8, I was a violent, rude, and bad kid.
It’s March 3rd, 2011. I woke up to the sound of the alarm ringing on the table. It was 6:00 AM. I went into the bathroom to wash. I woke up my aunt to ask for money and went to school. I took the keys and opened the brittle steel door we had. I unlocked the chains on my bike and rode to school. The road was crowded. Motos were steering left to right, always trying to cross one another to be faster. What a bunch of selfish people. I despised everyone around me. I stopped my bike in front of a store near my school. “One Sting(an unhealthy energy drink)” I skipped breakfast every day. Sting just tastes better and it makes me feel good for the morning, except it is full of sugar and additives. “What’s up bro” my friend shouted. “You have the answers?” I asked. He handed me a wrinkled piece of paper, covered in coke stains and stinks of dirt. I handed him the money and left for class. It’s 7:oo AM. Gosh! Another boring day… “Settle down, class. Today, we’re learning about the history of the buffalo war. In the 1900s, Cambodian families had many buffaloes on their farms. The buffalo helps the crops blah blah blah” So annoying! Ugh… I tossed a piece of paper to my friend. “Pay attention, dude!. It’s gonna be on the next exam” my friend snapped. I nodded in agreement. Whatever, smarty. “Narak! What’s happening back there?” the teacher called out. “Nothing, ma’am,” I replied lazily. “Stand outside the class, young man” I went outside and stood there while she pulled the pdar(wooden stick) to punish me. She swung below my knees. Another on my ankles. Another on my palms. “Go back inside and pay attention to my class, young man.” This crazy woman. I want to hit her back.
Lunchtime. I skipped it as usual. I went outside the school gates and went to the table in the store where my friends were. “What’s up, man. Here, have some Sting” My teeth were hurting but I insisted. Sting was so good. I reached out my hand, covered in pen inks to take his offer. I chugged down the whole can in seconds. “Woo! Chill man.” My friend was surprised. “Give me another one,” I commanded. I chugged down the second one.
Evening came, I was exhausted from school. Why do I have to go to school… I rode my bike home and unlocked the door. Disgusting house. I went upstairs and locked myself in my room. I threw my bags and pulled out my phone to play. “Dinner Time!” Shouted my aunt. “Later!” I replied. “It’s gonna get cold. Come down now” my aunt continued. “I said Later!” I shouted back. “Geez! You are so rude, Narak” I ignored her and continued playing my game. The sky was pouring rain. God, why! The internets gonna be so slow. I tossed my phone away and went downstairs to grab dinner. Can’t you make something better? I ate half of the salted pork strips and went back to my home. I didn’t bother to get my hands dirty to help with the dishes. Homework is so boring. The rain stopped. I grabbed my phone and watched videos for the rest of the night.
I’m going to break this alarm soon. I stood up and snapped at the alarm. I washed up and went to my aunt’s room. I knocked on the door but there was no answer. I knocked a couple more times and she finally answered. Finally! “What do you want, Narak?” my aunt asked confusingly. Money for school! How can you forget? “Money for school,” I demanded. “Oh. I don’t have any for today. You can grab the leftovers last night to eat for lunch” my aunt suggested. “Really? You’re not going to give me money?” I asked disappointedly. “Well, you see I don’t have–” “Save it. You’re unbelievable” I cut her off mid-sentence and went to school. Can’t even afford to give me money for school.
“I’m going to hand out report cards today, class. I need a signature from your parents to confirm that they have seen your report cards. Bring them back tomorrow” ugh! Report cards. I bet I got all Fs. I received the report card and would you know it, all Fs. I don’t care anyway. It’s just some dumb card. When the last period ended, I rode my bike to my dad’s place to get him to sign the report card. My dad’s going to be so mad at me.
My dad and I don’t have the best of relationships. I lived with my aunt so I don’t get to see him often. Ever so often, I visit him when the report cards are due and when it’s a national holiday so employees get their holiday off-work days. He’s in his 40s now and he is a violent but hardworking person. The last time I visited him was 3 months ago. It was when I got last term’s report card. I gave my report card to him, then he took a quick look, and started to yell at me. I hate this. I don’t want to see my dad at all, especially after the divorce. But now, I have to get him to sign my report card again. I’m dead.
I arrived at the front park in front of the house. My dad’s house is very ugly. The path to enter is so narrow that you can’t even fit a moto in it. The walls were made of unpainted blocks of cement with cracks in between the columns. The floor reeks of bird poop. Disgusting! I climbed up the stairs which were also blocks of cement and filled with half-drunk cans of beer and sodas. I knocked on my dad’s door. A piece of concrete fell from the ceiling. Ouch! This place was not constructed properly. My dad opened the door and I went in to show him my report card.
My dad looked at the report card. He’s about to yell at me, isn’t he? “Why did you get all Fs, huh?” my dad shouted. I looked back at his face that’s full of anger and disappointment. “What do you haveget to explain this, huh!?” he shouted louder. I stayed quiet. “Tell me! Why are you so quiet!?” my dad demanded. He reached out for a stick near the table and swung across my face. “Talk!” I stayed quiet but eventually spoke. “I didn’t focus in school” I squeaked. “What? You’re still a kid! The only thing you should be doing is studying. And you couldn’t even do that!” my dad roared. I went quiet again. “I knew that you were skipping meals” my dad states. My heart skipped a beat. “You’re spending it on friends and Sting, aren’t you?” My mouth still zipped. How did he know? “Tell me” my dad persisted. “Why are you like this?” my dad continued. “You know I worked so hard, every day, every night, just to pay for tuition!? Do you know how much pain I have to suffer to get you into a decent school? Do you think money grows on trees?” my dad ranted. He grabbed my collar and came closer to my face. “Do you understand?” he warned. I shakily nodded in agreement. He let go of my shirt and I fell back on the chair.
The atmosphere was moody for a while. We both went quiet. We could hear tThe sounds of rats running through the ceilings. Raindrops were falling outside the window. The room went quiet. Then, something happened.
My dad burst into tears. My dad has never cried before. From the moment he was born, he never cried. But right now, his tears are dropping in sync with the rain outside. My heart was shocked. Why is he crying? What? I was confused. For whatever reason, seeing him cry shattered me into a million pieces, so much so that. I started crying with him. My eyes were watering and my ears were ringing. My head was about to burst. Just then, My dad grabbed my arm. I flinched. But he didn’t grab my arm to hit me. Instead, He pulled me towards him into a tight embrace. Once the first tears ran, the others followed down the stream onto the damp floor mat. The rain’s noisy splash overpowered the weeping sobs of me and my dad. I can’t stop crying! Why can’t I stop crying?
The rain slowed down. As the sun started to shine, my dad whispered to me. “Do you miss mom?” I used my left hand to wipe the remaining tears off my face. What? Why would you ask me that? There are many things I talked to him about. But about mom, I don’t want to talk to him about it. Deep down, I felt angry at him for some reason. It’s his fault for breaking up with mom. It’s his fault. It’s all his fault. But I couldn’t understand why I was crying. Just then, my dad took a pen from the table nearby and signed the report card. I picked up my bags and went back to my aunt’s place without saying a word to him.
I laid my bag on the floor and lay down on the bed. Do I miss mom? I said to myself and my voice echoed on the wall. The instant I laid down on the bed, I realized something.
I haven’t moved on. My thoughts were filled with the memory of my mom. I was so broken by the divorce that every day, I was lashing out at everyone around me. The reason why I drank Sting every day was because I was so heartbroken. I drank it to numb the pain I carry. I drank it so, at the moment of drinking, the only feeling I can feel is the energy the drink is giving me. I drank it so just for a moment, I can forget that the divorce happened and that my mom left me. Why! Why did you leave? I couldn’t focus in school because I was thinking about my mom and what it would be like now if the divorce didn’t happen. What would it be like if my mom is here? Will I be able to make the top list in class? I was angry at my aunt because she reminded me of my dad even though she didn’t do anything wrong. I hated my dad for breaking up with my mom. I hated everyone around me.
But then, I realized after witnessing my dad’s tears yesterday and releasingreleased the tension and grudge I had with him throughout these years, It’s time for me to move on. His tears made me think to myself, “It’s not only me who is suffering from this. My dad is heartbroken too.” After all this time, I’ve been selfish and thought only about myself. I didn’t consider dad’s feelings at all and blamed him for the divorce. He was so heartbroken that his sadness turned into violence. I’ve also become violent. I’ve become a person who does things selfishly and damages myself. If I keep doing the things I do every day, I would end up with severe health problems. I needed to stop drinking Sting because my teeth are hurting. I needed to eat lunch because I’m getting skinnier. I felt like I needed to change. It’s time to move on, Narak. You’ve got a lot of great things ahead of you. I couldan almost hear my mom, whispering closely to my ears as I looked into the mirror, seeing her staring back, telling me to be better. This is not the boy that my mom would want me to be. She would not want her child to be sick and to have bad grades. I don’t want to be like this anymore. I want to change.
The alarm went off. It’s early in the morning. I washed and went to my aunt’s door. I stared at the door. Instead of knocking to ask for money, I went downstairs, grabbed the food for my lunch, and went to school instead. I didn’t buy Sting that day and I ate the lunch I packed. Instead of tossing papers in class, I wrote down notes and paid attention to the teacher. School ended and I rode back home. I decided to help my aunt make dinner that evening. “What’s gotten into you today? You never helped me make dinner” asked my aunt in confusion. “Well, I just wanted to help,” I replied as I chopped away at the vegetables and prepared the table. I washed the dishes and went to bed. I laid down on the mattress, feeling proud of myself that I changed for the better. Slowly I began to feel that things were changing, I was changing. I’ve become healthy and energized because I packed lunches to school. I’ve learned to let go and move on from the sorrow that I felt towards my mom. I am now a changed boy. I hope you’re happy, mom. I miss you…