As a service to our readers, Khmer Times is pleased to publish the full version of Ek Tha’s latest book Long Love, Short Life. The book is published in sections every Friday. Below is the eleventh portion of the series. Last week, Dara’s trainer was amused to find he has a girlfriend. This week, Dara’s girlfriend breaks the Mr 7th January code name as the liberation day when Vietnamese troops supported the Khmer Rouge defectors to oust Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from power.
Check out the ninth portion here: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50801863/mr-7th-january-this-is-my-code-name/
Duongchan was in the bathroom and heard Dara’s voice. She replied from the smelly bathroom made of teakwood, “Yes, I am in the bathroom.”
“Ok. I am coming to you.” he replied.
“What is up, Dara? She asked curiously.
“I need some money. I need to buy palm juice for the military trainer, Mr. 7th January. Can you lend me some money? The more the better.”
Duongchan pulled out all the money she had from inside her bra.
“I keep my money inside my bra like a purse. This is the safe haven where I hide valuable items. I keep the first picture you gave me there too. I don’t have a purse at all. This is the only way I can hide precious items. No one dare touch me there,” she said. “This is the money you gave me which I saved. Please take it all, there is about 2500 riel.” (2500 riel then would be the equivalent of about $3 now. A bottle of palm juice then cost about 500 riel).
Dara giggled and turned his face away as Duongchan took the money from her bra. “It is too much for you to keep money inside your bra. I will buy you a purse soon.”
“Here is the money,” Duongchan said as she handed it to Dara.
“That is all I need. I would like to invite you to drink palm juice with me and Mr. 7th January.”
“Who is Mr. 7th January? she asked.
“He is my military trainer and that is his code name. I do not know his real name.”
“You don’t know what that means? It is referring to the liberation day when Vietnamese troops supported the Khmer Rouge defectors to oust Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from power,” she said.
“Oh, thanks for refreshing my memory,” he said, then added, “Would you like to join us?”
“No. thanks. I have to do some homework reading in class now. But enjoy your drink with Mr. 7th January. I am sure the palm juice will be sweet and delicious.”
“Nothing in this world is sweeter than your love for me.” Dara replied with his hands on her shoulders. “You are so sweet to me in so many ways. I will pay you back before lunch today.”
Dara walked straight back to the football field.
“Why you are late? I am hungry and thirsty,” said the trainer.
“Please be patient, sir. I am not a jet plane that can fly fast. I will go to get the palm juice now.”
Dara later learned that the poor trainer had not had any breakfast and the trainer drank almost two litres of palm juice and ate some fried crickets with garlic. The trainer licked his fingers as he tried to swallow the leg of a cricket which was stuck in his throat.
Dara sat chatting for about an hour or so with the trainer before they said good bye as lunchtime approached. Dara was a bit drunk. He forgot to pay the money back to Duongchan before lunch.
Duongchan waited for Dara at school and did not see him return. She was left with no money to buy food. She walked back to her hut with an empty stomach and drank water to try and fill herself up before lying down on her rattan bed until sunset. It was dark, and the crickets and toads were noisy in the nearby rice fields. Dara was doing his homework at his home till around midnight.
He was about to write another love letter to Duongchan when he remembered that he had forgotten to pay back Duongchan before lunch. He was so worried that he rushed to the kitchen and collected whatever food was left over in the pots and on plates and packed them up for his girlfriend. He opened the door and tried to start his scooter but it wouldn’t start as it had run out of gasoline. Living in the countryside, what could he do as Cambodia lacked many things in those days. He went and got his old bicycle which was leaning against the wall near the kitchen. He cycled as fast as he could. It took him about half an hour on the 5km long muddy path to get to his girlfriend’s hut near the school.
Duongchan had been crying and was lying on her bed like a broken hearted girl left behind by a boyfriend with a cold heart. When Dara arrived and knocked her door, she got up and opened it slowly.
“I’m sorry I made you cry. Please forgive me. I will make sure it won’t happen again,” he said.
“It is ok. Let bygones be bygones. I know you did not mean to do it. But why did you not to return to see?” she asked.
“I will tell you the truth; after drinking the palm juice with Mr. 7th January I was a little bit drunk and fell asleep for the whole afternoon and then did my homework afterward. I am sorry, please eat the food now.”
“Thanks for the food. It is delicious,” she said as hungrily ate half an egg followed by bacon and fish soup.
“I am also sorry that these are just what was left over from my dinner with my parents,” he said.
“I am poor and can eat anything. The food your mom cooks is far more delicious than what my mom and I cook,” she replied.
“You cannot compare the two as my mom has some money and my parents have a small business shipping motorcycles from Thailand which they then export to Vietnam. And my sister buys used scooters in Phnom Penh and sells to Vietnam. We sometimes buy cigarettes, such as Jet or Hero in Phnom Penh and export them to Vietnam. We live near Tonle market and can buy many things. We eat fried pork, curried beef, soup made from chicken, fresh vegetables, and clean white milled rice,” Dara said.
“You are lucky. You were born in the right family. My mom and I eat wild food, such as snake, cricket, rats, grasshoppers, and crabs we catch from the rice fields behind our village in Prasat village,” Duongchan said.
The views and expressions in the said novel Long Love, Short Life are entirely a work of fiction, and it is the personal work of the author.