Perspective Of An Innocent

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Fiction, Personal
Tags: , ,

The first time she sees a man’s penis, she is eleven.

Of course she’s seen male private parts before—showering with her cousin; and the way her parents are so open in front of her. Weird looking things they are, shrivelled and cowering into the creases of their own flesh. Nothing sexual in the way she’s seen them, of course. They’re just parts of a male body that are different from hers. Like how Daddy has a beard and Mummy doesn’t.

No, this time it is one that juts out, erect and proud.

It is one of those unadulterated days by the beach. The sun beams its’ warm four o’clock rays like a benevolent father would upon his young’uns. Baby waves reach out timidly at the shore, reminiscent of a toddler taking tentative sips from a cup. The beach is lined with the ghost of past waves as they’d wiped the sand clean and left offerings in the form of seashells, plastic bottles, mouldy pieces of wood and other miscellaneous treasures. Two islands break the ocean’s level horizon, a dark and resplendent sight. The leaves of the numerous casuarina and palm trees rustle softly, occasionally going still when the breeze pauses for breath—and when the breeze pauses, it’s one of those eerily still moments. That quiet instant where she knows something is going to happen, that always gives her the urge to pee in excitement. There is no one in sight, and nothing besides their farm except acres and acres of sparse jungle and beach land, separated by an inadequate, rutted road.

A lady in power, with an overview of all that transpires in her domain, she is nestled comfortably in her tree. All of the casuarina trees have little hiding holes or ladder like branches leading to a sacred thinking spot.

That’s what she calls them. Her thinking spots.

At eleven, she spends many hours contemplating life—there is nothing else to do, you see. After all, there are many hours in a day; many days in a year; and many years to come before anything in her life will change. Of that, she is certain.

There are also many casuarina trees. But this one is her special one. Erosion has taken away much of the land, and many trees have already been sacrificed. This one is still standing. Roots are already beginning to announce themselves; partly through the sand; partly through the grass it is still situated upon. It’s still strong though, and it stands at well over seven metres, right outside one corner of the fence outlining their land.

She’s spent a fair amount of time surveying the world and contemplating life in this tree. It is easy for her slight, agile frame to find its’ way up to where the three main branches fork out, creating a comfortable niche for her to be cradled in.

It is inviting, calming.

She listens to the tree as it whispers secrets of the universe. Secrets she doesn’t understand, but is happy to be privy to. Plenty of the bark has already been peeled off from many hours of consultation, and these patches are soft and smooth. Unlike the roughness of the rest of it, pressing against her skin insistently. The breeze is invigorating. Fresh, yet almost heavy. The heady scent perforates her nose; salty, mixed with the sharp perfume of casuarina.

This is where she lies—skinny legs dangling from her nest, leaning back against the thickest branch—when she catches a glimpse of the man on a motorbike.

She loves people watching. It exhilarates her, observing people without being seen, and she doesn’t get to meet very many people. Her parents are—what is the word used to describe them? ‘Alternative’. That’s it.

She was nine years old when they decided city life was not for them and packed their dusty white Nissan Vanette with only necessities and a few items of nostalgic value. They braved severe weather conditions with a broken windshield. Mum had kicked it out in one of her fits of rage. After two days of nearly non-stop driving, they finally arrived.

To Daddy, it is a plot of land by the beach, which he’d purchased years ago. To her, it is The Middle Of Nowhere. Now, the only people she sees besides her parents are during school hours, and she doesn’t like these people very much. They think she’s odd, and they call her ‘anak matsalleh’. Daughter Of A White Man. The nearest village is a twenty-minute drive away and not many find reason to come out far enough to see that there is life beyond their community. So she is delighted when he drives his motorbike right off the road and towards the beach, right under the very tree she sits in.

The young man is lean and spotty, perhaps in his early to mid twenties, and dressed in jeans and a dark blue collared t-shirt. The size of his clothes emphasizes his lanky frame. He wears no helmet on his head of greasy dark hair and steers the motorbike to a halt before it gets to the sand, with one hand. The other hand clutches something she is unable to see clearly, something between his legs. She peers at him from above and then freezes as two things happen at once.

The first thing is: she realizes what his other hand is clutching. She is eleven. A tender age, yes, but not an uninformed age.

The second thing that happens is: he looks up, and sees her.

The foliage provides little cover and he sees her as clearly as she sees him.

Some part of her expects him to be mortified, to yell at her in anger, or rush away without saying a word. Instead, he does something that throws her completely off guard.

He smiles.

One might expect a smile coming from a man caught in the act of pleasuring himself to be a lascivious grin; somewhat sordid and perhaps even a little threatening. Or a chagrined smile, one that exudes shame.

It’s neither. His smile is warm and friendly, almost reassuring.

“Adik nama apa?” He asks, in Malay, as he clambers off his motorbike. It leans somewhat precariously into the soft ground, and then settles down without falling over.

The absurdity of it almost makes her giggle. Here he is; catching a little girl spying on him doing something naughty, and he asks her what her name is. As if it is just another normal conversation between two people who have just met. Hi, how are you? Fancy meeting you in a tree while I’m playing with myself. Yes, fancy that.

She doesn’t giggle, however. She looks away.

“Adik tengok la. Pandang abang.” He instructs her, his tone coaxing.

If I refuse to look, will he force me to? She wonders. A terrifying thought occurs to her. What if I’m not high enough? Can he reach me? Will he make me come down? Will he make me do things? What will he do?

She looks back at him. A million and one thoughts are running through her head.

If she jumps from the tree and runs to the house, will she make it? If she screams loud enough, will Daddy hear her and come to her rescue? If she does nothing, will he just go away?

He is standing beside the tree now, gazing at her as he fondles himself. He explains his actions as if merely discussing the remarkably fine weather today. She wants to look away. Staring at his manhood feels like a bad thing to do, but it’s almost comical. It is right there. A man’s erect penis, swollen and angry looking.

Angry. Daddy is gonna be so angry at this man, she thinks.

She decides to go with screaming. She opens her mouth. The scream rides on a puff of air; getting stuck half way through, leaving her gaping like an asthmatic scrabbling around for an inhaler.  It fights and struggles through her throat until finally, it breaks free from the constraints of her physicality, and shatters the tranquil afternoon atmosphere.

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