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IHAVENOCHILDREN. CHEA by Serena Castro Stera

The Cambodian woman I have to interview, when she was four years old was traded for money by her parents to an “uncle” who sold her back to a brothel when she was seven. At seventeen, she left thanks to a member of a humanitarian organization who found her while visiting that dump in an attempt to negotiate the ransom of some girls as young as nine. In order to free her, the man married her, willingly, in a rare moment of clear thinking. She did drugs from the age of seven, she was kept in a cage from where she only came out to give services to clients, some of whom were particularly aroused by the aggressiveness that she demonstrated despite the total dehumanization. That made all the more satisfying beating her and raping her.

Freed thanks to her marriage to a Westerner, she disappeared shortly after, taking refuge in the bush. She leads a sort of guerrilla war against the prostitution of girls, she killed, castrated, set on fire and above all paid real fortunes to free even only one of them. Apparently she is behind a series of targeted and very well organized robberies, but above all she seeks and finds legal funding to free child slaves and has founded a shelter and recovery center where freed victims learn to play children’s games. It seems that sometimes, she participates too.

But, they say, she never smiles. I have prepared myself, I have studied everything known about her story, I have prepared a pattern of questions to ask her, however I would like to leave a lot to chance, to the feeling of the moment.

When she sits down in front of me, well-composed, I realize that no feeling is possible because it is appalling, she is beautiful but it is beyond that. Unfathomable. Thus, the only need that arises in me is to bring her back to life. We talk for a while, she rarely looks up and speaks in a whisper.

Finally, the only explicit question I ask her is the most trivial and terrible one. “Chea, would you, like every woman, want a normal life, a man, children?” Her eyes are like nails and every single word is a hammer that crucifies me. “A man, you say? I never looked into the eyes of the man who redeemed me by asking him why he was there. He tells me that he went to that dump in order to find a way to save the girls. I could see if he was lying, and I would have killed him then. A man, you say? It’s impossible. Kids? I have no children, I won’t have any. When I was twelve years old I gave birth to a girl that I killed by drowning her in latrines, and the only maternal gesture I really owed her was exactly what I did. Her life was marked, I spared her. I’m not sorry, I have no regrets, my existence was going in this direction. No, I would never want to have children, they could be boys. A life, you say? What is a normal life? Maybe you know, but I don’t have time to think about it. I have a thousand daughters to save. They have stolen a thousand from me, they keep stealing as many from me every day.” She gets up, gives me a brief nod and walks away. I put the pen down. I turn off the tape recorder. I look at a piece of my heart that writhes for Chea. A thousand daughters she said… Christ is those daughters and his mother had her same pace.


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