Overridden by Thoughts[Personal Narrative Essay]

 

‘Wah’ the voice echoed through the tunnel of his mind. 

In the mesmerizing moonlight, through the window, as the cloudless sky of early April spotlighted the lunar, there was a dimly lit hall-way of the traditional wooden Khmer house that was unusually silent with no creaking nor is the wind whispering through the narrow gap of the wooden flooring; the hallway stood completely in stark contrast to the whirlwind of emotions that had awakened in him. Bandeth was smearing his eyes to gain momentary clarity from the abundance of debris and dust gathered during the daytime, as well as binding all his chaotic thoughts together after awakening from the illusions his brain had conjured. In the quiet night, reality seems unimaginably surreal due to the nature of things when isolated. He was well aware of human nature and its norms, yet his psyches’ understanding was in contrast to his logical thoughts. As the minutes passed by, the stillness of reality remained unchanging and so did his thoughts, perpetually spinning itself confused, until a particular signal was brought to light, and had him reminiscing moments of the past. In the light of those thoughts, he was wondering how he had fared in this so-called reality of the world, for he had never felt so unfamiliar with the reality that we all humans had agreed upon. 

His bloodstream flooded with questions as the timeless night had been halted with insurmountable confusions as his brain had been pressurized and his heart had been tightened questioning images of the past calling upon the crisis of existential level. The main question that had him thinking was: What am I? The simple-sounding question had him bewildered; its confounding essence is inapplicable for any word to describe it. The moment of confusion at 2 AM was forsaken of his logical thoughts, most importantly his inner monologue was shut off. Yet that question that surmounted all five senses had been hanging imminently. 

In one of the images his mind had conjured, it has vaguely shown the shortness of breath of a half-naked boy, along with his aunt trotting early in the morning. “Exercising will do you good, my lovely son” expressed his aunt. Unfortunately, he did not take it to heart, or rather he was not able to, as his mind was too free to wander the sophistication of good and advantageous. He looked his aunt in the eyes and smiled, I could do it was all he was thinking about with his gleaming eyes. What he was, at the time, was not the matter that had come into his mind, with little to no inkling toward what reality was, doing all that was expected of him was what occupied his little brain. 

His mind was not much to talk about at that moment, as it was too naive and too short-lived to condense into a message to be remembered. Although he was stimulated with ambitions, he was able to cope with everything other than being reprimanded for his study. His name was ‘Bandeth’, which had gone through numerous iterations and his aunt felt satisfied with the last one, so ‘Bandeth’ it was since then. Bandeth is particularly a Cambodian name, yet it was a presumptuous one as it implies the child was meant to accomplish the ten de-facto rights, or modernized term for when a person achieved a doctorate degree in his profession, hence the name was rarely heard of. And his instinctive reaction that represented fear at the time was the saltiness of the feelings of incompetence, accordingly, it was within his ability to fulfill all that was expected. Yet it has never occurred to him that there will be a time when situations do not allow for such tenderness to pass its grip. Trepidation was not in place, or rather, it was ignored for the moment. 

 

A plate was raised with a chubby hand into the air, ‘May I have another plate of rice, please’ followed the now 10 years old boy, asking his aunt for another plate of rice he had just finished. With her worn-out fingers, she accepted the plate that was passed to her slender hand, and shifted her body to the nearby rice pot, and shifted back to put more meat without the assurance from the boy, and she did so happily. And seemingly obtuse to the daggering eyes, he ignored the vinegar smell in the air of the dinner circle. Bandeth had been living with his aunt in Phnom Penh for more than 2 years, and at that moment he was well aware that even an ordinary rock painted gold was a target of envy. 

Abruptly, his third cousin swallowed the white rice he was about to side with the meats, finishing the last bits on the plate, raised his head up, and proceeded to leave the dinner circle. ‘Oh ah Rey, you are filled?’ his aunt inquired. ‘Yes, I am full and I will have to finish my assignments’, replied Rey in his usual indifferent tone, as well as not forgetting to look at Bandeth in the eyes to only find his ever-smiling face. Yet it was not returned, the smile still hung on his face turned into a grin. ‘Aunt, I think the garage downstairs have gathered quite the dust since everyone are busy at work, and no one was to take care of the house during the daytime, it is not so pleasing to the eyes, some work would definitely help!’ said Bandeth, hinting at the people responsible for the task, and sure enough, he was satisfied with the ringing red ears of his cousin. 

Finishing the meals took quite a while, and the mind games continue to never cease. On the surface, Bandeth’s situation was looking completely normal, however seemingly sound, his head was entirely occupied with calculated steps and strategies to come out on top at home. Additionally, his life in school was quite a complicated hustle. Although he was not doing badly academically, he was facing an entire class of silver spoons whose money could literally suppress his voice. They have seen his encouraging and positive attitude to be provocative and challenging their status, and his effort in reconciliation was in vain, only adding fuel to the fire. 

Repeatedly, he had remained standing atop the mountains of challenges of the two worlds he was living in. In fact, he was aloof in his actions, facing the moments of hardship, and remained numb in each of those moments. Judging on face values, he looks fine. Good job of him keeping it in the dark, at least the surface does not seem unsightly! 

Ding dong!!! Fast-forwarding two years later, another image appeared in the present-time sleepless boy, who had wrapped himself with the blanket that had once been on a corpse, seemingly scared but by no means was he scared of his lovely grandma who had unfortunately passed away. 

Another image of an even chubbier hand pressing against the dark fence of an unfamiliar balcony, dressed in the student’s usual white top coupled with the wide-waist black pants, Bandeth had just encountered another adventure, not long after the disarray of educations in both Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham, the capital of Cambodia and his hometown respectively. Falling short after his return from Phnom Penh, he was fortunate enough to become a student at Liger, it was then, Liger Learning Center. Specifically, ‘center’ had been the element of surprise at the time, but I am gonna come out on top was all he was thinking about, neglecting another aspect of a boarding school. 

After taking the tour guided by the two senior members of the first cohort, he was told to unpack his packages of clothes and necessities for the boarding school, and students’ parents were ready to leave their promising children at a place they will be calling home for the next 7 years.  ‘Ah Oun! Mak is leaving Okay? Be sure to call us after you have your dinner!’ uttered his mom, as she was waving her hand in front of his face, had Bandeth awaken from the momentary daze. 

Wait, what?!!! You are leaving? He was thinking with widened eyes, seeming completely clueless and unprepared. Yes! He was not prepared in this new world that is completely out of character with what he had been dealing with. And to simply put, it was a rough journey to get accustomed to getting used to Liger. Situations he had been dealing with were filled with familiar variables and advantageous grounds he could exploit, but that does not seem to be the case at Liger, the characters have equal powers, additionally, each is unfamiliar, leaving many unknown variables. Faced with such a situation, Bandeth was left crying his way to sleep every night during his first few months at Liger. I do not want to be here! These people are weird. The first day I came, everyone was dancing and singing as monkeys had just been released from their restricting cage. Awful! What are these children doing? He thought as if he was not a child himself, instead was stressed by how he could not figure out everyone’s weaknesses, and therefore was greatly uneased. 

One early morning, he had his observant eyes on the lookout for his peers’ mistakes in housekeeping, and hopefully, he was thinking of unraveling the mistakes during the weekly house meeting with the house mom. Somewhat accidental for him, his house mom was eyeing his action from the side. At the first moment, she was unsure of what he was thinking but she answered when the house was in the meeting. ‘I think the floor was quite sticky this morning…’ leaving the latter part, ‘I think I should not say anything,’ in the mumble behind his breath, seemingly uncomfortable in insinuating that someone did not do their work. And it does miracles, as she made sure to tell someone twice to broom the whole floor. But it was not left untouched;  the moment he grinned in bliss, the mom’s head shifted sharply to his direction, she reprimanded ‘You, on the other hand, shouldn’t be so scheming,’ she paused and smiled, ‘you got much more problems than he does. Look at your housework, how has Bandeth’s work been, can anyone tell me? ‘ Frozen speechless, his grin turned into a grimace. As if the whole room had raised their hands to answer the mom’s question, countless thoughts ran through his mind. And these thoughts continue to torment him relentlessly in their effort. Slowly, powerlessness seeps into him, wrecking his confidence bit by bit as each incident at the eccentric school unraveled his views of the world, and ultimately, had stolen his egotistic sense of control. 

Since then, the sleepless nights are common occurrences like an ancient sage preaching over his failures, and teaching him success. Lessons learned, new problems arise. When old wounds had soothed, new wounds would gnaw at his very bones; it had become a perpetual cycle that started with countless problematic thoughts and always ended the round with countless lessons that never ceased to implicate another cycle. 

P.S. The first few sentences of this narrative essay are not meant to be understood by the senses of words and literacy, but to be felt by unique interpretations of each individual’s psyche. In the turmoil of humanly indulging of possessions, whether they be physical or mental, they will continue to shroud you in a reality unbeknown to yourself but a reality accepted by all. I, myself, am still a slave to humane possessions but my life goes on, so does understanding of the world continues to deconstruct itself, unsure of what it will become. But the experiences that were written carefully in the first few sentences were meant to construct an image beyond the senses of reality by using the five senses. It does not concern the so-called rules that we had made up, instead only read what is felt beyond the understandings of words. Live, come back and read again. If you get nothing, you might have not lived enough. And whether you feel happy, or sad, or even thinking the author had fallen into insanity, after reading this narrative; you shall proceed to do so as you desire, and I will continue to smile vacantly. 

 

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