All Us Girls

Neon-red-skinned girls.
Paper thin.
Wrapped up in miniskirts, cigarette smoke,
and their mother’s betrayal.
Devotees.
Uttering a prayer while swallowing the excrement
of foreign men
in the same breath.
In and out, in and out.
The repetition of vile deeds amalgamating with the hymns of life
could save a soul and kill just the same.

Buddhists.
Our religion warns us of the danger of women –
weak, inferior creatures
whose very tainted nature can never attain nirvana,
nevermind a moment of saving grace.

What are we do with this mark we were born with?
How are we to live?
How are we supposed to go on when we see our fellow sisters
being sold in broad daylight?
Young. Fresh flesh.
“Asian street meat.”
We became nothing more than cheap commodity
for people to make money with, and deflower, and
break.

Six years old, still cradled in childhood bliss,
was the first time I saw the utter disregard for a woman’s life.
At the back of a motorcycle taxi in the middle of the night
a mother and a girl, with blood stains between her legs,
came to my grandmother’s clinic.
The girl had recently been raped.
The man who raped her threw her body in a ditch
and left her for dead.

My grandmother stitched her up, while her mother held her hand.
Telling her not to cry,
while she continued to cry.

And then they sent her home.
The older women told her to forget and move on.
Bury it.
Said it in the monotonous tone that could only come from
constant repetition and bitter acceptance.
It sounded like defeat and broken pieces never quite made whole again.
No polices were called, no justice sought.
“It wouldn’t matter what we do.”
“This is just the way it is.”

The Pali Vinaya, one of Buddhism’s earliest scriptures,
categorizes women into ten types.
“Women to be bought with money” and
“women to be used and enjoyed occasionally”
are just two of the ten labels that we are marked with.
Because we are deemed as inferior,
the acts of selling us, using us, raping us,
destroying us,
are all justified on religious grounds.

So there we stood.
Two girls.
Daughters of a culture and religion that was built to see us bleed.
Same age. Same height. Same ghastly expression.
The loss of innocence, the singular moment when we realized
that our parents’ embrace and promises of protection
were lies.
Foolish lies.
Realizing this while we lie in hospital beds, tears straining our eyes,
strange metal objects prodding our insides,
wishing for the cruel world to go away.

Looking at her that day,
I realized
she and I could’ve easily switched places.
Every one of us could have easily lived each other’s lives
and the end result would still be the same.
Our oppression and trauma means nothing.
We would all be subjected to hurt and shame and violence.
Flesh and bones.
We walked about with the gentle grace they berated into us to have
while wishing, praying
to the same religion that condemned our beings
and validated the violence
for no one
to shatter our graces.

I have stopped praying since.

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