Recently, I read an article in an international newspaper which has really had the wheels in my head turning. The article posed the question, “Is your life an episodic or narrative tale?”
Since I do not normally think along those lines, I at first had to rephrase the question and ask myself, “Is my life like a television series or a movie?” Are our lives punctuated by a series of tangentially related events tinged with subtle or not recurring themes? Or, are our lives and the events within them seemingly meaningless until the story comes to a grand close?
Yeah, I know, pretty deep stuff. Who has the time to think about stuff like that? There is an apparently irreparable hole in your bedroom ceiling that drops rain on your feet every night during the monsoon season and you have just confirmed your handsome mustachioed driver has been romancing the teenaged housekeeper everyday while you have been at work. And yet, trying to find and piece together meaning in events and details is precisely how my brain works when it is not attempting to face and solve the annoying and constant problems of daily life.
Even as I write this, the answer to the question is humorously clear. Not only is my life, and perhaps those of all but the re-imagined lives of historic figures, while unfolding most certainly episodic, my life in particular seems to be a goddamned telenovela full of bad dialog and melodrama, with me, the show’s aging star constantly on the verge of a nervous break down, smack at its center!
If you wish I had a camera at hand while my driver Chamroeun was playing Nintendo two nights ago for the first time in his life and squealing with joy, then you would likely really wish I had a camera handy when I momentarily went home yesterday and walked in on him fucking my housekeeper in the guestroom!
I, of course, attempted to laugh it off, as I tried in my broken Khmer to explain how much I would have preferred them to do their love playing AFTER cleaning up the dog shit left on the floor from the previous night, before I realized I was in the midst of a pretty culturally heavy drama with potentially grave consequences.
Within seconds of opening the door and gleefully repeating to all who could hear, “I knew it, I knew it, the driver IS fucking the housekeeper!” Chamroeun was as those prone to clichés say, sweating bullets, and retreated to my bedroom where he assumed a fetal position and a look on his face which pleaded, “Please do not kill me!”
My dotting Khmer brother David, who familiar viewers may recall had in previous episodes been stricken catatonic by imagined Muslim magic, and my ever angelic husband Narorn who is soon to depart to exotic Denmark, were absolutely livid and seemingly wanted to execute Chamroeun on the spot. Meanwhile, I the immigrant spouse from the land of free loving, furrowed my brow at their reaction and tried to laugh the situation off, while saying again in my broken Khmer, “No problem, no problem, wash dishes first, then make play with fingers and lips, I don’t any want baby making in my house!”
It was not for several hours until I could illicit an explanation from either Narorn or David as to why they reacted the way they did, and stranger yet, why Chamroeun looked suddenly primed for impromptu castration. Only after loosening their lips with chilled beer did David and Narorn explain what my driver did, if not legally, was most certainly culturally prohibited. Scarier for me still was to learn that Cambodian culture not only allows for, but practically forces, retaliation against anyone who compromises or sullies the good name of a family or household. And according to my husband, my household’s name was most certainly compromised.
I, of course, was left screaming to near tears, “Who, if we kill the driver and banish the housekeeper to the countryside, will drive me and clean my house!?”
Close-up on me popping a tranquilizer, cue canned melodramatic music, and roll end-credits.