‘The Girl Who Was Raped Through Her Earholes’
(translated by Wichayapat Piromsan)
The van leaves Victory Monument and starts heading to Rangsit. The young woman scratches her wrist through the long-sleeved shirt buttoned all the way up to her neck which leaves her sweltering. It’s stuffy inside the van. She scratches her thigh through her jeans, her feet in canvas sneakers fidgeting. Vans are not the most pleasant ride – airless, cramped, and foul-smelling.
She puts both her hands up to cover her face. She feels uncomfortable. Her clothes are an imprisonment. She hugs herself anxiously. Even her own skin is like a confinement. Her body feels like a cage, trapping her inside. She has been enduring the pain of this prison all her life – and yet for now the pain of being trapped inside this stupid van seems worse. It’s unbearable.
A small plastic bucket is being passed from one passenger to the next. When it reaches her, she drops her thirty baht fare inside, thinking how absurd it is to pay more than what she would pay for an airconditioned bus, just to feel like there is no air in here at all. The man sitting next to her left doesn’t move – so she passes the bucket to the person behind her, believing that the man next to her must only have a big note and is waiting for enough change in the bucket. The bucket returns from the back seat. But he still doesn’t budge – so she passes the bucket to the front. The passenger next to the driver announces that they are thirty baht short and asks for whoever hasn’t paid to pay up. But the man to her left still doesn’t stir. Even worse, he feigns sleeping right before her eyes.
What a cheat, she thinks. But she dares not say anything or point him out. It is likely that no one else witnessed it – or if they did they are too afraid to say anything. The driver gets frustrated, but continues driving nonetheless. The tension hanging in the air doesn’t seem to bother two students seated behind the driver. They both go on with their hearty conversation – so hearty that all the passengers can hear them clearly.
Although the conversation is quite annoying, no one really seems to care. They are talking about mundane things and how happy they are that the class got suspended because of the political demonstration.
‘I just read a novel,’ the female student tells her male friend. ‘It’s so violent. It’s about a girl whose father rapes her. It’s just her father who rapes her at first. But after raping her for some time, he starts inviting other people to join in the rape.’
The young woman bends her head down. She hates the way this person talks. She repeats words over and over, rambles on and on as if she thinks her friend can’t get enough of it. The worst part is that horrible word, which is being repeated over and over. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape.
People who talk like this can magically transform a story with so little substance into a lengthy one, making it even more off-putting, even less appealing.
And yet her male friend is listening. What a patient person.
‘You know, what the father does is brutal. How he rapes her. He does everything. Like, literally everything. And it describes the rape down to every detail. I almost puked,’ the voice continues.
The young woman nods. Just listening to her makes her want to puke, too. She doesn’t understand why anyone would want to recount this story in a public place. Or if the story really did almost make her puke, why would she recount it to begin with?
‘So, the father’s friends start to join in the rape. Right? They come every day and rape her, like, literally every day. So there are a lot of people involved, right? So, she’s, like, starting to get STDs.’
The young woman can’t stand it anymore. She can’t bear her saying rape over and over, as if she’s trying to carve it into her consciousness. She plugs her ears, but the stranger’s voice manages to creep in anyway. Although she can’t hear everything now, some words are still intelligible, especially that word. Rape. Rape. Rape. Enough. It penetrates her ears. Her earholes are being raped.
A middle-aged woman seated next to her throws a glance her way, looking at how the young woman is plugging her ears. The cheater peeps her way too. But she doesn’t care. She forces her fingers further into her ears until the tips of her nails sink into her flesh. But it’s in vain. Entirely in vain. She bends down and starts to pant softly. Too little air to breathe. It’s too hot in here. It’s too hot underneath her clothes. And her ears are being incessantly raped. She wants to cry.
The cheater and the middle-aged woman who are flanking her are still looking at her. The woman eventually looks away. She averts her gaze as if she has no desire to see that small, contorted body heaving for air. The fare-dodger looks towards the people in the front row. It’s hard to know what is on his mind. But she prays and begs inside. Please. Tell that woman to stop talking.
Her sanity flashes dangerously in and out of existence. Her skin burns underneath her clothes. Every wound on her body flares up and burns her once more. She recalls her childhood. Her mother remarried. Her step-grandmother despised her mum. When her mum wasn’t around, she would throw hot coals at her. Seeing the burns on her daughter, her mum would fight with her step-grandmother. But eventually she gave up. Her mother decided to just shut up and dress her wounds as best she could. After all, she couldn’t risk getting dumped by her new husband.
The young woman finds it hard to see the good in the husband her mum fell for. The only thing she knows for sure is that her step-father would rape her when her mum wasn’t around. Yes. Just like how that female student recounted earlier.
Relentless raping, month after month. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Her mother and her step-father broke up in the end. She remembers the day her mother took her away. The glimmer of something in his eyes made her feet tremble, leaving her almost unable to walk.
Please stop. I don’t want to hear about it anymore. She whimpers silently. This scar from her childhood has never faded from her heart. Feeling filthy, contaminated by sin and semen, she showers sixteen times a day. Time and again she claws and scratches herself all over during her ablutions, leaving marks on her skin. Countless times she has slit her wrists, wishing to die. She covers her body to conceal the scars she got as a child from the hot coals, along with the other scars she got later in her life.
After she told her mum of the rape, the way her mum looked at her changed for good. It became like the way someone would look at a roach. She has never been able to see why she should deserve such injustice. If the value of a woman is dependent on how well she manages to steer clear of the libido of men, how does she deserve this? She, who has slept with only one man – without consent. Why should she meet with her mother’s disapproving look. Her mother, who has had several husbands and spreads her legs to welcome any man.
Her sanity flickers like flashes of lightning. After a moment tears rain down her face. She wipes them away. Once her fingers are away from her earholes, the voice creeps in again. Her tears keep pouring as the story of the rapist father goes on, crawling into her auditory orifice. She hesitates over whether to beg them to stop, but can’t muster up enough courage to do so. Her panting gets worse. But despite her condition not a single passenger seems to care enough to ask if she’s OK. Everybody is seated as if they have melted and been cast into the same mould as their seats.
The van pulls over to the side of the road. The driver demands the passengers get to the bottom of this missing fare. Everyone stops talking. She unplugs her fingers from her ears. The driver keeps pressuring. ‘Who hasn’t paid? Please pay it now. My boss is gonna accuse me of stealing. My life is hard, too. Alright. We are not going anywhere until we figure this out.’
All faces turn and look at one another, left and right. The young woman hears the voices inside the other passengers’ heads. The van can’t stop here. Everyone has somewhere to go. The culprit should just confess. No one wants to pay twice just to be done with this shit? But I’m not going to be that person. Quick. I’m in a hurry. Adversarial feelings hang in the air. Finally, there’s silence. No one says a word.
The van is sweltering, her clothes suffocating, her past insufferable. On top of everything, the story she just heard was too horrendous for her ears. The air in the van is tense and filled with animosity.
She can’t stand it any longer. She gets up, opens the door and steps out of the van onto the sidewalk.
‘Oh. Getting out here, are you? No money to pay the fare?’ the driver cries out furiously. She hears his words. She knows full well the woman who was sitting next to her saw her put her money into the bucket – and there’s surely someone else who knows the culprit. But no one utters a word. Nobody cares enough to want to know what is making her act this way, plugging her ears, crying, heaving for air. And now nobody cares that she is leaving the van.
The reflection on a shop window reveals the fare-dodger reaching over to close the door. The van pulls away. She staggers into the 7-11 in front of her with tears streaming down her face. The cashier greets her: ‘Seven-Eleven, welcome!’
This world is heinous. She stumbles, falls down and weeps. People just turn blind eyes on whoever commits a crime, or cries, or is about to die, or whatever. But how can we judge these people? After all, the law doesn’t mandate that people be kind to each other.
The cashier who greeted her earlier walks over to ask if she’s doing alright. She looks up with her teary eyes, wanting so bad an act of kindness. But her heart shatters when she sees what his eyes say:
What’s wrong with this little bitch? Get out. Don’t cry in front of the ice-cream freezers.