A dream

Till today I feel a sense of failure, guilt and grief that I had lost a friendship and that I was insensitive enough to ask my friend about her dream. (Picture of Thai pirate's boats - after being radioed by the others - attacked a Vietnamese refugee boat)

Till today I feel a sense of failure, guilt and grief that I had lost a friendship and that I was insensitive enough to ask my friend about her dream. (Picture of Thai pirate’s boats – after being radioed by the others – attacked a Vietnamese refugee boat)

<<Facts, pictures and video clips related to the story – the tragedies that struck the Vietnamese refugees.>>

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 words – Failure.

Arriving from Terengganu, I spent three months on Pulau Bidong Island before moving to Sungei Besi Transit Camp, Kuala Lumpur.

On the island, survivors of traumatic sea journeys were pointed out to me on two occasions.

While gathering at the jetty for our weekly food ration one afternoon, a girl told me to look at a handsome young man in the crowd:

“He’s from the eating-the-dead boat. His boat was adrift at sea for a month. He’s a Catholic Brother. Look at his mouth, it’s frothing at the corners! Everyone on that boat are like that!”

I had goose bumps when I did see some saliva stayed at his mouth corner. My boat was adrift for half a day but the mechanical problem was fixed later, else it could have ended up like his.

At the open-air movies one night, I met a guy from my boat, and his friend, Dr Magpie. Magpie introduced himself as an obstetrician working at the island hospital and pointed at a girl standing nearby:

“That girl I examined her and had her sent to Terrenganu for a hysterectomy. She was badly injured from all the rapes!”

I could see the 16-year-old Chinese girl had an exotic beauty. I felt sorry for her not being able to bear children in the future. Heading to Malaysia from near Saigon, my boat also took a long turn to avoid pirate boats and had a big machine gun bought from corrupted Communists to protect ourselves.

I lost several high school friends on their escapes. On one boat, as some men came to the defence of the women against the Thai pirates, all the men were killed, including my friend’s brother.

One night I was awoken by a rat nibbling at my toe and heard Frangipani, my 16-year-old housemate, talking in her sleep indistinctly. The next morning, while waiting in the queue for our household fresh water allowance, I asked Frangipani:

“Last night you were talking in your sleep. What did you dream?”

Frangipani didn’t answer me but kept studying my face for my intention in the question. Since then she never conversed with me again.

The girls in our house never talked about their escapes and I was cautious not to ask. I only learnt later from a friend:

“Frangipani’s boat was attacked multiple times by Thai pirates. One boat came and radioed the others to follow.”

Till today I feel a sense of failure, guilt and grief that I had lost a friendship and that I was insensitive enough to ask such a question about Frangipani’s dream! Frangipani must have suffered from constant nightmares about her trip then.

My friends were lost at sea,
While in their lively years,
On their fateful journey.

Freedom – they hope to see,
Confidence banished fears,
My friends were lost at sea.

Death – they couldn’t foresee,
Their blood mixed with their tears,
On their fateful journey.

“Rest in peace, in the sea,
Miss you, I will, my dears!”
My friends were lost at sea,
On their fateful journey.
(Villanelle-style poem)

Image credit
by antefixus U.E.

<<Facts, pictures and video clips related to the story – the tragedies that struck the Vietnamese refugees.>>

Till today I feel a sense of failure, guilt and grief that I had lost a friendship and that I was insensitive enough to ask my friend about her dream.

Till today I feel a sense of failure, guilt and grief that I had lost a friendship and that I was insensitive enough to ask my friend about her dream. (Picture of Thai pirate’s boats – after being radioed by the others – attacked a Vietnamese refugee boat)

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