Fried Rice

I suspect that half of this story is made up because I don’t remember everything. And why would I want to remember growing up. It’s best not to go there, pretend it never happened, like tearing up a bad photo of yourself.

Someone wakes me up each morning, or I wake up by myself. Thank God, I didn’t wet my bed last night! I don’t know how I’m supposed to prevent something that seems to happen naturally and frequently. I walk into the stall, pull down my pants, squat, and begin to pee. Instantly I feel the warm urine and wake up. I don’t remember being reprimanded as I just clean myself up and change. I have to wipe down the straw mat that I sleep on. I  wonder if this particular pee stain will already be visible from downstairs. Other kids play spot-the-clouds-formation: I see an elephant, a castle, a dog’s face. I play [by myself] spot-the-pee-stains-formation on our ceiling: I see a hammer, a unicorn, a boat.

We always have fried rice for breakfast. It’s what you do with the leftover rice from last night’s dinner. I should be grateful that there’s food to eat, but with every bite of the fried rice, I swallow down our poorness. I remember lying more than once to my friends that I had xoi for breakfast. There are many stalls at the market that sell all sorts of the sweet sticky rice. My favorite is probably xoi gac. But I never have any money.

We line up with our class in the school yard. It’s our neighborhood Catholic school. The principal, a priest,  announces at the podium that there will be a random check of our school uniform this morning. Our school name and logo are not embroidered onto the uniform. Instead, they’re printed on a small rectangular piece of corded fabric that we’re supposed to have sewn onto the left breast of our shirt. Mine is held in place with a safety-pin, and that’s a no-no. The nun who checks my uniform gives me two whips on the palm of my hand with a bamboo cane. I normally give them my left hand so I can still write with my right hand. 

I’m a good student, but far from being the best student in the class. My teachers who have already taught my two older sisters take measured pity on me. I know this from their heavy sigh and head shaking when my written work or oral response is sub par. They are especially disheartened when they learn who my father is. I already know I will never be good enough. I figure it’s a good enough day for me if I can wake up without wetting myself and leave school without getting hit by the stick. 

Dad hit me just this one time. I’m sitting with my younger sister at the table, and our Dad is standing nearby. At the center of the table is a beautiful calligraphy pen that our father treasures, and we know we are not allowed to even touch it. I whisper to my sister, “Grab the pen.” She doesn’t move. I lean in and whisper again but slower this time, “Grab the pen. Just take it. Now.” My eyes dart between her eyeballs and the pen. The instant that her little hand makes contact with the prized pen, I yell out, “Dad!! She took your pen!!” Dad nonchalantly responds, “Because you told her to.” I don’t remember anything else he may have said. He gives me one solid strike on my palm with a ruler. The only pain I feel is the shame that I have disappointed my favorite person in the entire world.

I have never ordered fried rice for myself at a restaurant. Don’t think I ever will.

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