The husband was a boy of about eighteen, from a nearby village. He had been hiding in Thlok Chhrov from the government soldiers who had recently been coming around to conscript all the boys. After the wedding, I returned to Chup. My husband returned, then shortly thereafter he left to fight again, this time much farther away.
The fighting was becoming intense along the Cambodian border with Thailand. The Khmer Rouge forces were growing. They were now an organized army, based in Thailand. At the end of every year, the Vietnamese forces that occupied Cambodia would go on the offensive and destroy the guerrilla bases there, but after the dry season, as the rains resumed, the Khmer Rouge would move back into the country. Now the government was building a huge wall of land mines and mantraps along the border, to stop the Khmer Rouge from coming across.
My husband left with his contingent for the border. A month or so after he left, Grandfather turned up once more. The first time I gave him money, and he went away. The second time I had no money to give him, and he beat me. In those days Phnom Penh was nothing like the prosperous and wild city it is today. There was hardly any electricity.
Illusions As one discovery builds on the next, Einstein's Big Idea shows how Einstein's saga began with the personal lives of these pioneers and their years of persistence, ingenuity, sacrifice, and heroic struggle against the odds. Perhaps he was convinced that I would be better off living in the lowlands, with an adult to look after me. Most watched News videos Brawl erupts in chicken shop after customer launches item at staff Amal Clooney says leaders with liberal values need to step up Racist man tells woman to speak English at McDonald's in Georgia Woman allegedly grabbed by the neck and thrown onto the pavement Former Malaysia King's ex-wife tells how marriage collapsed Australian comedian creates Greta Thunberg hotline for adults Saudi Arabian slaps baby daughter because she struggles walk Body art enthusiasts gather for International Tattoo Convention Ex-Tesco employee explodes in anger as she rants about her job Ex-Tesco employee records herself doing a range of antics at work Canadian murderers filmed vile videos before murderous rampage Michael Winner's former lover leaves his home after robbing property. I made a floor out of dried rice stalks from the fields and I slept there.
There were fewer vagrants in the streets. The buildings were wrecked and crumbling, the windows had no glass in them, and the roads were a jumble of stones, mud, and garbage. A decade after the Khmer Rouge had emptied the cities and sent all their inhabitants to work camps, the roads and basic utilities were still not repaired.
But I was bewildered by all the noise—by all the streets and the buildings. I had never been anywhere so wealthy and so crowded. The country was still Communist, but there were already nightclubs with local music, bars, and huge crowds of people. There were crowds of motorcycles too—more motorcycles than I had ever imagined could exist—and black Russian bicycles, shiny and new. Even girls rode bicycles here. Some people looked like they were living in heaven.
I knew nothing good could come from that man. We arrived that first evening around dusk. Aunty Nop lived in a small, dirty apartment in the narrow old streets around the Central Market. We walked upstairs in the dark to the second floor, because there was no electricity in the building. She eyed me sharply through the half-opened door.
Aunty Nop was about thirty-five, I suppose. She was a Muslim Cham, like Grandfather, but she wore Western clothes and had her hair styled in waves. She had a fat face and wore too much makeup, with smears of paint and eyebrows that she penciled high up on her forehead. I thought she looked hideous, like a demon or some kind of evil spirit.
Her face was expressionless—I never saw her smile. While she and Grandfather talked, I was told to wash. I went into a pitch-dark bathroom.
In the daylight that place was filthy, and at night it was so small you felt it had become your coffin. I had to wash myself there often, in that little room.
That first night, Grandfather and Aunty Nop looked at me and talked some more. They sent me to the bedroom, where there was another girl a little older than I was—perhaps seventeen or eighteen. She had almond eyes, like a Chinese, but dark skin. I saw Aunty Nop give Grandfather money. Her name was Mom. After Grandfather left, the women told me to sit still while Mom put makeup on me. Then they gave me a dress and shoes and said we were all going out.
When we left the apartment, it was already dark, and I stumbled over the debris in the street. They took me to a long, filthy, pitch-black corridor between two street-front shops. It led back into a dark courtyard and a warren of other alleyways.
We went into a doorway and up a derelict flight of stairs. There were no railings left on the stairway—I suppose somebody had stolen them. On the first floor, there was a kind of apartment.
There were many beds—rotting pallets made of woven grass. The place was filthy. The woman in charge of this place was Aunty Peuve.
She was a small woman, rather plump—plump for those days, anyway—with a mole on her lower lip and her hair in a bun. I am writing about this place now because I never want to have to talk about it again. I never want to have to remember this again. It makes me vomit. A man arrived, and I watched as he talked to Aunty Peuve. The man went in there. Aunty Peuve came to get me and when I said no, she hit me on the head. I went into the room, feeling frightened, as if I had been locked in a place with a hungry wild animal. The man was tall, he wore a shirt, he was in his thirties—maybe he was a policeman, or perhaps he worked in an office.
We bathed wearing clothes and changed clothes under a sarong. I fought him, and he raped me. So he did it again, to teach me another lesson. I felt a black, dark anger at Grandfather and at what he had done to me. In the evening it was time to put on makeup and leave again.
He was fat and strong, and when I refused him, he hit me with his belt buckle. As a soldier, his foot had been blown off, so he walked with a crutch, and he had a beard. He smashed the crutch on me and raped me that night, and afterward so did his two guards. There was a Khmer guard with a puffy face like an alcoholic, and a hard-faced Chinese whose body was horrible, thin and coiled with muscles. Cambodians are violent—they can beat you to death. Afterward they took me down to the cellar.
They kept animals there, snakes and scorpions. It was a small room, totally dark, and it stank of sewage. They tied me up and before they left, they dumped the snakes on me.
That was the punishment room. I was often taken there, because I was difficult. The clients used to say I was ugly, or that I looked angrily at them—they often complained about me. The other girls said people had died there and they were terrified just to be taken down the stairs, because of the spirits. I cried, but it was because I had no parents, because I was helpless, because I had been raped and beaten, and because I was hungry and exhausted. I cried from emotion, not from pain. Grandfather, the guards—even my parents, who had left me to this.
I missed having my real mother to love me and hated her for not being there.