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Scene 2: Nurse

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A story about two women who were young, so very young when their lives were ruined: and now are two adult women in their 40’s.

Vutha

This is a story about two women who were young, so young when their lives were ruined.

(whispering)

I am in a ricefield.

I see a woman.

Her name is Sina.

She is 43 years old.

She always misses her father.

Listen to the story of Sina.

Sina

It is the year 1976.

I am 10 years old.

My father has been taken to the hospital. My handsome father, with his curly hair. My strong father with his brown skin.

My father has oedema. That is the illness people get when there is no food.

Known as ‘the hunger illness’. His body keeps swelling up and down like a balloon.

He cries out for help: “help, help! My belly aches so much!”

A young nurse comes in and shouts at him:

Nurse

What a terrible noise! I can’t get any sleep!

Sina

Mom puts her hands together and begs “Please help my husband. He is having a severe abdominal pain.”

The nurse reaches her hand into her pocket, takes out a handful of dark pills and leaves.

Mom gives the pills to dad but it doesn’t stop the pain. My father groans and moans.

There comes the nurse again. She shouts at dad.

Nurse

Why are you making so much noise? You wanna die or what?

Sina

Dad screams. His eyes bulge.

Mom begs “Please help my husband. His pain is getting worse…”

The nurse approaches dad with a large syringe. She gives him an injection.

Dad is quiet, silent.

Mom hugs dad, she cradles dad. The nurse flashes a torch at mom.

Nurse

He, what are you doing? Can’t you see your husband is dead. You are holding a corpse.

Sina

Ma doesn’t cry.

Ma doesn’t talk.

I am ten years old and all empty inside. Ever since that day.

Song

The Keening of wives

by Ou Sam Oeur

O, darling, my darling!

Now you are dead,

You’re dead...Budho,

You’ve left me alone,

in the middle of this island.

From today onward,

I shall have no hope.

We used to be together,

Darling - you were faithful to me, loved me deeply.

Now you stare up at me in silence with blood still gushing from you,sticking to my flesh.

O, my heart is broken!

May you accept my apologies,

for all the wrongs I’ve done you.

Please do forgive me,

that I have to bury you here.

Goodbye, my darling-

may your consciousness,

rise to heaven!

Vutha (whispering)

I see another woman.

She crouches behind the ricesacks.

Mrs Somphor is 48 years old.

She carries the burden of shame.

(Loud)

Why are you hiding behind these ricesacks, Mrs. Somphor ?

Mrs. Somphor

I am hiding myself because I am ashamed.

Vutha

Have you listened to the story of Sina?

Mrs. Somphor

Yes.

Vutha

Mrs. Somphor, what would you do if you met the little girl who sat with her dying father and her silent mother?

Mrs. Somphor

I would walk into my house and softly shut the door.

Vutha

Sina, what would you do if you met the nurse who screamed at your mother?

Mrs. Somphor

I would run away.

I would be silent like my mother.

Vutha

Sina, look, here she is, the nurse.

Do you remember her?

I think she wants to tell us her story.

Mrs. Somphor

It is the year 1976.

I am 15 years old.

There was an appeal for young girls to join the revolution, to come and work as a nurse at the Medical Centre. I was so happy, this was my dream come true. Me, taking care of sick people. Me, only 15 years old becoming a real nurse.

I worked very hard. I was so proud. They even allowed me to give injections.

But soon I realized that I could do nothing. That hospital simply did not function as it should have. We were only there to let people die. We had nothing to offer them. There was no medicine. Pills looked like rabbit droppings. They did not help at all.

It was all wrong. I was confused and angry, so angry. I wanted to hit the beds, I wanted to hit anything.

I hated the Khmer Rouge. I hated the patients who just kept dying one by one by one.

I wanted to escape but that was impossible, I was trapped in this terrible situation.

One day I dropped a syringe unintentionally. This was a big mistake.

The head nurse accused me of being a traitor and if this happened once more I would be reeducated.

From that day on I did as I was told. I became a robot with rabbit pills and a syringe.

Finally we were liberated. I went back to my hometown.

Soon after, I married. I did not become a nurse as I had dreamed when I was so small.

I have a quiet man and good children. We live a quiet life.

Vutha

Mrs. Somphor, can you say to Sina that you are sorry for not helping her father?

Mrs. Somphor

What could I do? We had nothing to offer hem. One cup of rice for 20 people. So they died. Even with medicine they could not be saved. What could I do? I was like a bird in a cage.

Vutha

Please, tell Sina that you are sorry.

Mrs. Somphor

I am very sorry but we had no medicines, I could do nothing.

Vutha

Sina, do you accept these excuses?

Sina

I know I should forgive. But you killed my father and you yelled at my mother. It is so difficult I don’t know how to deal with this situation. I don’t know what I can say.

Mrs. Somphor

Something went wrong with my heart. My heart was locked.

I have been ashamed all my life. I never stop being ashamed.

This is the first time I told my story.

Thank you.

You have broken my silence.

I have hope, little hope that I shall be forgiven.

Sina

I try to forgive. I long to forgive.

But we should never forget.

When we forget it is as if we lost parents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles for nothing.

Song (rep. last verse)

May you accept my apologies,

for all the wrongs I’ve done you.

Please do forgive me,

that I have to bury you here.

Goodbye, my darling-

may your consciousness,

rise to heaven!

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