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« Questions ask questions - Ice Girl | Main | I Lost One Day »

Ice Girl in Banlung, Cambodia

Chapter 1.

It’s fucking hysterical.

Now and then mean the same in Ratanakiri, Cambodian animist jungle languages.

Leo is incognito and invisible perusing the Wild West. It is replete with wandering literary outlaws, animists, shamans and 25,000 natives. Rambunctious young Banlung cowboys and cowgirls dance 125cc machines through spiraling red dust.

How long have you been here, said Rita a 12-year old girl cutting and selling ice along a red road.

All day. I started in China. I walked to Vietnam. Then Laos. I’ll stay here awhile. We can talk.

Ok, she said cutting crystals. Is a day long enough to process a sensation and form an impression? Is it long enough to gather critical mass data about the diversity and evolution of humans in this total phenomena? My name is Rita.

Good to meet you. I’m Leo the Lionhearted. Yes, if you slow down. How is life here?

I work, I breed, I get slaughtered. This is my fate. My fate is a machete slashing through jungles. Fate and destiny are two sides of the same coin.  Janus. Yeah, yeah are two of my favorite lazy words. She smiled. Especially when I am talking with illiterate zombies.

They are same word. I spit them out twice at light speed. You accent the last consonant, drawing it out like a sigh, a final breath a whisper. Y-e-a-hhhhh. It’s crazy English believe you me. Impressive, eh? I can also say OK twice with a rising sound on the k sounding like a meaning I understand without internal meaning or personal truth-value. It’s vague. Why be precise? Many people have conversations using abstract metaphors. Ok? Ok?

Ok. Address the very low literacy rate.

Hello, literacy rate, how are you, she said.

I am well and speaking with improved elocution. My English is getting better. I know my English is not grammatically correct but I know my English is fluent. The more I see the less I know.

Well said, said Ice Girl. Someone said literacy means reading and writing.

I doubt it, said Literacy, Who needs reading and writing? Humans need food, sex, air, water, shelter, clothing and red dust. Hope is in last place. In fact, hope may be the greatest evil because it’s a myth. It’s the last thing that dies.

Let’s not have this conversation in the abstract, said Ice Girl, sawing cold. I love myth, fiction, truth and inventing stories.

I thought you said eating and fighting, said Literacy. You must be fucking crazy. My survival depends on eating and fighting. Reading and writing is for idiots. Millions never learn how to write, let alone scribble stories. No chance. No money. Poor people see education and school as a waste of time and money. Education and medicine are expensive.

I see, said Ice Girl. When I write my stories filled with immediate direct sense impressions and precise details they lose their magic. They are like ice. Ice loses its essence in the big picture. Existence precedes essence. It’s lost between heart-mind-hand-tool-paper. Spoken stories lose their edge fast. Spoken words float around looking for a character, like plot.

Too many people talk out their stories. Lost in the telling. Lost tales float around looking for ears. Talking kills and rejuvenates magic and mystery. Ghost stories.

World tribes memorize chants, rhythms, songs, tales and star trails with a side order of red dust. You never hear a kid say, Let’s take the day off and be creative.

Here’s my secret. I look for a literary agent. Someone said they help writers. I sent one a query. One wrote me a letter. I will share it with you later. I write at night. During the day I’m busy with school and selling ice. If they ask me I will send them a manuscript. Maybe they will love it. Maybe they’ll find a publisher with a big marketing budget and the rest is history as they say. If not I’ll be independent and publish it myself. Ice is my life and I will never give it up. Besides writing, laughing, loving and living, it’s my life.

Wow, that’s lovely, said Leo.

Yes, she said, I follow my bliss. If it’s not in your heart, it’s not in your head. I’ll tell you about the agent later.

A man arrived on a broken motorcycle. She gave him a blue plastic bag of ice. He gave her Real currency.

Sure. I follow my blisters, laughed Leo.

Where are you staying, she asked.

I don’t have a home. I live in small houses along the road. For now I sleep at Future Bright.

I know it. The woman owner smiles and lies at the same time.

What’s the difference between hearing and listening, Leo asked.

98% are asleep with their eyes open, she said. They don’t know and don’t care. It’s endemic.  They look without understanding. The remaining 2% are dead and long gone.

She opened her notebook. She spilled red ink on white paper. Red is a lucky color of wealth and prosperity. Living in a red dust town brings everyone good luck.

Tell me about your visionary skills, said Leo.

I am ahead of the future. The day after tomorrow belongs to me. I connect the dots forward. I practice detached discernment. My job is to pay attention to direct immediate experience, get it down and make sense of it later.

People here live in a perpetual disconnect. They are talking monkeys looking for a place to happen. They can’t focus. Their attention span is ZERO. Like Year 0 in 1975 before I was born. No attention span? No problem.

How about your town, asked Leo.

Red dust roads in Banlung are paved with blue Zircon and Black Opals (nill) reflecting Ratanakiri, or “Gem Mountain.” Rich city women wear blue Zircon, gold necklaces, rings, bracelets, sparkle bling. Rural women do not wear this wealth.

Married women wear red bead strings. They fashion yellow, red, blue, green, glittering plastic bangles on necks and wrists.

Here it’s about food and honoring Earth spirits. Animists believe taking stones harms the spirits, creating an imbalance in the natural order of things.

Thanks for Life Lesson #3, said Leo. I’m going to have a look-see. See you later.

 Ice Girl in Banlung

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