THE TALE OF THE GIRL AND THE SEASHELLS
NGHIA M. VO
         She sat alone on the seashore of Palawan, a Filipino island in the Pacific Ocean where a refugee camp had been set up. She talked to herself, oblivious to people around her and to the waves that came crashing down softly at her feet. She did not even care about the sun that started to radiate heat around. She was in her own world, a simple but mysterious one that only children lived in and adults were not allowed. She was neither sad nor happy. She was in that mood that people in mourning lived in, a world apart from the living and the dead, neither close to one or the other. That world is remarkably similar to the one a lover lived in when he/she realizes that the partner had forever left.

         The little girl's world had stopped spinning around. It was not going anywhere and left her staring at the nebulous and recent past. She liked to go back to the past but could not. She wanted to move forward but no one would help her. She wanted life to go on so she could follow it, but it would not move on. It somehow was mysteriously stuck right there and would not go any farther. It was like a carousel the engine of which was broken: she wanted the carousel to spin around but it just stood there, a contrary and unmovable piece of machinery.

         She was playing alone and talking to herself. She must have been six or seven, at that age when she usually hung around her mother, siblings or friends. However, none of them was nearby. She sat alone on the beach and continued to look for the seashells in the sand while keeping her gaze downward. She did not raise her head a single time as if her life was just limited to the seashells. Actually they are her new friends. That is why she talked to them, giving them names and telling them stories. One of these silly stories her mother gently reminded her to stop telling. A few weeks earlier, she would run back to her mother and tell her about her new experiences. Somehow her mother was lost at sea and would not come back and play with her. She is by herself now and has plenty of time to play around. Life is an eternity for her. She has to fill it in with something.

        Please read the rest of the story in THE SORROWS OF WAR AND PEACE.
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