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  • and so it was the way she told the story, the laconic brevity, the lack of emotions, it was as if she was sharing a recipe of how to make banh cuon, or perhaps a summer idyll in dalat, the story was that they were in the ocean, and there are so many seafaring stories, the ocean, not as a vision of sublime beauty, not the ocean that is small and squeezed safely for tourists, the ocean of let's visit the Galapagos or Easter Island, no, this ocean, this ocean, is an ocean of sublime terror, an ocean of churning waves, ten feet high, in a little fishing boat, that still is rancid with the smell of fish and human sweat, and old rice, and children puking, this is the ocean that can swallow you in a gasp, and overturn, your hopes, into a whirlpool, but that day she said, it was not the water that was the terror, the terror were other people, the terror was the ship that was looming towards them, a ship of Thai pirates, and so to protect her daughter from rape she doused her with gasoline, her entire body, this is what saved her she said, as she served us more oolong tea, and a sweet dessert, sticky sweet rice wrapped in banana leaves.

    It made me think of that other woman who also shared with me the story of how after the Thai pirates had raped, robbed, murdered the people on the boat, they doused it with gasoline and burned it, the survivors jumped into the ocean, wading in the water, and the woman and her son held onto a plank that kept them afloat, but there was not enough room, so her husband, he said, you hold on, I will be fine, I am just going to float on my back, he told her, I will be fine, you two hold on, but the ocean, the water it pulled them apart, she never saw him again...

    what is odd is the mundane context in which these stories are told, in suburbs where the lawns are celery green, and neat little ranch houses, in the back, there is a garden, with aloe vera and lemongrass and thai chili pepper, the stories, i want to write them down, before they are forgotten, lost from memory, drowned by time.
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