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from the August 2016 issue

From “Qibla”

《吉卜拉》

(Night. Nadie, an Indonesian domestic worker, lies beneath a mosquito net with Granny, the woman she was employed to look after.)

GRANNY:  Mosquitoes.

NADIE:       I put up the net. There can’t be mosquitoes.

GRANNY:   Mosquitoes!

NADIE:       Argh! You’re doing this on purpose!

GRANNY:   Ha ha! It’s my pak . . . pak . . . (She slaps a mosquito with each “pak.”) “Pak”-kinson’s Disease.

NADIE:       You’re faking. Just so they’ll hire someone to cook and clean for you.

GRANNY:   Yes, faking, faking for more than ten years, faking so well it became real.

NADIE:       Ha ha! Liar . . .

GRANNY:   Why aren’t you asleep?

NADIE:       You aren’t asleep either!

GRANNY:   I’m thinking . . .

NADIE:       What about?

GRANNY:   Trying to think who that girl was, the one my daughter-in-law brought today? Face like a thunderstorm.

NADIE:       That girl was your granddaughter!

GRANNY:   Oh. And what are you thinking about?

NADIE:       Me? I’m wondering when Madam will visit again. We’re almost out of hot sauce, shrimp paste, all that stuff . . . and there aren’t any of our shops around here.

GRANNY:   Almost out!

NADIE:       Because you ate it all!

GRANNY:   Go buy some more. Go on your own. I’ll give you money.

NADIE:       Money’s not the issue. I’ll have to change buses to get there—it’ll take more than two hours. Will you be able to get yourself a drink of water, all on your own? What if you fall?

GRANNY:   Go ask Ah Cai’s wife from next door.

NADIE:       We don’t have any neighbors.

GRANNY:   Oh? Ah . . .

(Granny swats at a mosquito.)

NADIE:       Hey! Stop that.

GRANNY:   Why aren’t you sleeping?

NADIE:       If I was, you’d have woken me up by now. So noisy.

GRANNY:   Are you thinking about that illegal worker?

NADIE:       What’s the point? He’ll be gone tomorrow.

GRANNY:   Why?

NADIE:       They finished harvesting the tomatoes today.

GRANNY:   Already?

NADIE:       What?

GRANNY:   Tomb Sweeping Festival? Already? Wasn’t it just the New Year?

NADIE:       Oh, right. Weren’t you just saying how hot it was the day before?

GRANNY:   Oh, right. And it’s going to turn cold again soon.

NADIE:       What’s the difference? It’s the same everywhere, just like where I come from.

GRANNY:   But you can talk to each other.

NADIE:       What’s the difference? Still practicing Chinese—we’re from different countries.

GRANNY:   Then why go over there every day?

NADIE:       You know what, Granny? He told me they used to work up north, somewhere with a lot of buildings and traffic. Everything you could want, and so convenient. A whole street of shops selling food. Only our people there.

GRANNY:   You can’t trust those illegal workers. Be careful.

NADIE:       It’s fine, Allah will protect me. I’m not scared.

GRANNY:   What if he’s bluffing?

NADIE:       We’re all bluffing. Lie down, you ought to get some sleep. Otherwise you can make all the fuss you want tomorrow, I’m ignoring you.

GRANNY:   I spend all day sitting or lying down. I can’t sleep now.

NADIE:       Look at the mosquito net, all green. What do you think lies beyond it?

GRANNY:   Mosquitoes?

NADIE:       The sea! The blue-green Indian Ocean.

                     Because it’s all sea outside, the ocean kingdom’s sky is blue-green too.

                     Where did I get to yesterday . . . ? Never mind, you’ll have forgotten by tomorrow.

                     They brought her to this place, and told her: You, you’re now called Nyai Loro Kidul, because you’re the queen, and this is the name we give our queen, so she can be majestic.

                     And then they said: In this place, you must treat these people as your family. This is your child, this is your sister, these you must call your parents. And there’s one more person . . .

                     This is your consort. She is sky, you are earth. She is white, you are black. She’s the consort, you’re the queen. The consort is pale and beautiful as snow, although she’s never actually seen snow. Where she comes from, it never snows. She’s only seen shaved ice desserts, and so the consort is as cold and pale as shaved ice.

GRANNY:   I need to pee.

(Nadie helps Granny to use the bedpan, then puts her back to bed, massaging her limbs.)

GRANNY:   Then what happened?

NADIE:       But Nyai Loro Kidul was lonely. She tried to find some friends in the ocean kingdom. These people weren’t from around here, they’d flown in on a giant white seagull, wandering into this place. They were very kind, but the consort didn’t think so. She brought in some other people, some former queens, and said: These are your friends, I’ve selected them for you, to be your friends—you can’t spend time with just anyone you like, because you’re the worshipful queen.

GRANNY:   Wasn’t there a woman who could transform herself?

NADIE:       That’s right. This lady, she could age in a single day from eighteen to eighty-eight. Nyai Loro Kidul kept her company, because only she spoke her language. They only had each other left.

(Relaxed from Nadie’s massage, Granny falls asleep. Nadie quietly stands and brings the bedpan to the bathroom to clean it out, then picks up the phone and dials a number.)

NADIE:       Hello? It’s Nadie . . . It’s me, Nadie . . .  I’ve decided . . .

GRANNY:   Where am I?

NADIE:       Hang on . . .

(She hangs up and pulls the mosquito net aside.)

NADIE:       What is it?

GRANNY:   Where am I?

NADIE:       At home.

GRANNY:   Whose home? Your home?

NADIE:       Your home.

GRANNY:   This isn’t my home. My home doesn’t look like this. This isn’t my bed either.

NADIE:       Granny, I’ll go get your meds, all right?

(Nadie tries to stand, but Granny grabs hold of her, almost falling out of bed.)

GRANNY:   Where are you going?

NADIE:       To get your meds. Let me get them . . .

GRANNY:   Don’t go. Where am I? I don’t want to stay here!

NADIE:       I’ll just be a moment . . .

GRANNY:   No! No!

NADIE:       OK, let’s have a drink of water . . .

GRANNY:   No! No . . .

NADIE:       But you . . .

GRANNY:   No!

NADIE:       Granny!

GRANNY:   I don’t want to!

(Nadie shoves Granny away hard. She gets the pills and water.)

NADIE:       Granny, take your meds.

(Granny is sobbing.)

NADIE:       I’m sorry. I’ll change your pants right away . . .

GRANNY:   No . . .

NADIE:       Then what do you want?

GRANNY:   I want to go back.

NADIE:       Go back where?

GRANNY:   Home.

NADIE:       All right. I’ll bring you home.

 

《吉卜拉》© Shen Wan-ting. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2016 by Jeremy Tiang. All rights reserved.

《吉卜拉》

娜蒂與阿嬤並肩躺在蚊帳底下。

 

阿嬤:蚊子。

娜蒂:都已經掛蚊帳了,不會有蚊子。

阿嬤:蚊子!

娜蒂:噢!妳故意的!

阿嬤:哈哈哈,我…我是啪嘰…森氏症

娜蒂:妳一定是裝的,為了申請一個人煮飯給妳吃。

阿嬤:對呀,我是裝的,裝了十幾年,就變成真的了。

娜蒂:哈哈哈,騙人…。

阿嬤:幹嘛不睡覺?

娜蒂:妳也都不睡覺啊!

阿嬤:我是在想…

娜蒂:想什麼?

阿嬤:想說今天跟我媳婦來那個小姐是誰?臉有夠臭…

娜蒂:那是小姐…妳的孫女啊!

阿嬤:喔…那妳在想甚麼?

娜蒂:我喔?我在想,太太下次來是甚麼時候,辣醬呀、蝦膏那些的快用完了…這裡都沒有我們的店。

阿嬤:快用完了!

娜蒂:還不都是妳吃掉的!

阿嬤:妳去買!自己去,我給妳錢…

娜蒂:不是錢的問題!坐公車要轉好幾次,兩個多小時耶!妳自己在家會喝水嗎?跌倒會說嗎?

阿嬤:妳叫隔壁阿財他老婆…

娜蒂:隔壁沒有住人啦!

阿嬤:喔……?嗯…

 

阿嬤試著打蚊子

 

娜蒂:噢!故意的喔!

阿嬤:幹嘛不睡覺?

娜蒂:睡了也會被妳吵醒啊…

阿嬤:妳在想那個做黑工的喔?

娜蒂:明天就不在的人,想他幹麻?

阿嬤:為什麼?

娜蒂:番茄要收完了啊!

阿嬤:這麼快?

娜蒂:甚麼?

阿嬤:清明啊,怎麼這麼快?不是才過年嗎?

娜蒂:哦…對呀,妳前天不是說好熱?

阿嬤:哦…對。這裡馬上就要變冷清了。

娜蒂:哪有差?哪裡都一樣,跟我那裏也一樣。

阿嬤:但是你們可以說話啊?

娜蒂:哪有差?練中文而已啦!我們國家又不一樣。

阿嬤:那妳還天天那麼愛去。

娜蒂:阿嬤妳知道嗎?他說他們之前工作是在北部那裏,很多房子很多車,甚麼都有,很方便,一整條街都是賣吃的,只有我們的人。

阿嬤:那些做黑工的都不正經,妳要小心。

娜蒂:沒關係,阿拉會看顧我的。我不怕。

阿嬤:要是他們都在說白賊呢?

娜蒂:反正大家都在說白賊啊!躺好,該睡覺了,不然明天又鬧我不理妳喔!

阿嬤:整天不是坐就是躺,我睡不著。

娜蒂:妳看蚊帳,綠綠的,妳覺得外面有甚麼?

阿嬤:蚊子?

娜蒂:有海水啊!藍綠色的印度洋。
因為外面就是海,所以海國的天空是藍綠色的。
我昨天說到哪裡了……?算了,反正妳明天就會忘記的。
…他們帶她來,告訴她,妳、妳就叫羅勒˙基督爾,因為妳的身分是女王,我們為女王取這個名字,是要她有女王的樣子。
然後他們又說,在這裡,妳要把這些人當作妳的家人,這是妳的孩子、這是妳的姊妹、這些妳要稱做父母、還有這一位…
這是妳的皇后。她是天、妳是地,她是白、妳是黑。她是皇后,妳是女王。
皇后像雪一樣又白又美,雖然她其實沒看過雪,她來的地方不會下雪。她只看過雪花冰,皇后就像雪花冰一樣又冷又白。

阿嬤:尿尿…

 

娜蒂幫助阿嬤在床邊的簡易便座尿尿,然後攙扶阿嬤重新在床上躺下。為阿嬤按摩四肢。

 

阿嬤:然後呢?

娜蒂:但是羅勒˙基督爾還是覺得很寂寞,她在海國為自己找了一些朋友,這些人不是海國人,他們是乘著一隻白色大海鷗,流浪到海國來的。他們都很善良,可是皇后不這麼想。皇后為她找來了一些人,一些過去的女王,她說,這些人是妳的朋友,她們是我為妳精挑細選出來,做妳朋友的人,妳不能隨便與人來往,因為妳是尊貴的女王。

阿嬤:不是有一個會變來變去的女人…?

娜蒂:喔!…她啊、她還是每天都得從十八歲變成八十八歲,羅勒陪著她,因為只有她能聽懂羅勒說話,她們只剩下彼此。阿嬤在娜蒂的按摩下緩緩入睡。娜蒂輕手輕腳的起身,拿簡易便座去廁所清洗。然後她拿起家用電話機撥了電話。

娜蒂:喂,是娜蒂…是我娜蒂……我決定了……

阿嬤:這裡是哪裡?

娜蒂:等一下……

 

娜蒂掛上電話,掀開蚊帳扶起阿嬤。

 

娜蒂:怎麼了?

阿嬤:這裡是哪裡?

娜蒂:家裡呀。

阿嬤:誰家?妳家?

娜蒂:是妳家。

阿嬤:這哪是我家,我家不是長這樣。(看床鋪)這也不是我的床!

娜蒂:阿嬤,我去拿那個藥藥先吃一顆喔?

 

娜蒂欲起身,阿嬤緊拉住她,差點摔下床鋪。

 

阿嬤:妳要去哪裡?

娜蒂:我要去拿藥藥啊!妳要讓我起來去拿…

阿嬤:不要去,這裡是哪裡?我不要待在這裡!

娜蒂:一下下就好…

阿嬤:不要不要!

娜蒂:不然我們先喝水…

阿嬤:不要!不要…

娜蒂:可是妳…

阿嬤:不要!

娜蒂:阿嬤!

阿嬤:我不要啦!

 

娜蒂強硬地把阿嬤推開。擅自起身拿藥端水。

 

娜蒂:阿嬤,吃藥喔…

阿嬤:(哽咽)嗚……

娜蒂:對不起…我馬上幫妳換褲子喔…

阿嬤:不要……

娜蒂:那妳要甚麼?

阿嬤:我要回去…

娜蒂:回哪裡去?

阿嬤:回家。

娜蒂:好,我帶妳回家。

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