Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Overseas

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Overseas

Article excerpt

She had planned to go herself, or rather: they had planned to go together.

Now when people ask her where her brother has gone, she says only: overseas. Pressed further about the departure, its date and cause, she ignores the question, looking out windows, into her glass of water or her teacup with its sugar sediment, at the children playing nearby, at her brother's left-behind wife artfully dismembering a single skinny fish for dinner. How much did it cost, some neighbors want to know, and: where has her brother gone? When will he return?

Consider, she wishes she could say, the traveller I might have been myself.

She had thought for a long time about how she might use her own holidays, where she might go on a trip to another country, but those were plans she made in the days when her education was still ahead of her, not yet forfeited, when she thought of university, when she thought of a glorious week in Kuala Lumpur, saved for on a civil servant's salary she has never made, planned for with the aid of a husband she has never had. In an hour her plate will be full of rice and fried fish and she will extract the bones from each mouthful. There is no point now in telling anyone what she knows of overseas, where it is, how much it costs, the exact hour at which her brother had left. Why would she tell them where her brother has gone, when the point is not where her brother has gone, but that she too had wanted to go?

As little children-littler children, their mother would say-they longed to see the rubber plantations, where, some generations ago, they knew, other Tamils had gone. They talked about the cave temples, eat- ing chili crabs, shopping in new malls. But her brother has gone overseas without her, and here is the truth, here is why she does not answer: she does not know where her brother is. Is that face, a face made like her own face, in Ipoh now? Or Melbourne? Or Bali? Canada? Did he take a ship, or a plane? If the travelers went by boat-and thinking about it now, she is sure, it must have been a boat-how big a boat might it have been, and how many others would have been beside her brother, in the place where she should have stood, wobbling? …

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