Erasmus Mundus IMCEERES Program Tastes of life

On Trauma — Campfire(1-3)

Maybe they were like campfire
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash<deepl-inline-translate style="z-index: 1999999999;"></deepl-inline-translate>

Campfire stands as one of the most important elements in my tribe. People spend time gathering around campfire to talk and to connect with each other.

The first time I met him, I was helping with my aunt’s small business. Her business started in winter. Therefore, I remember that we usually had dinner around a campfire to keep warm and talked about our day.

One day my cousin came to visit my aunt. That was the first time that I met him again after I started studying out of the village. The last time we met was when I was still below 5. We used to play video games or run after each other all around our village. After that, my impression of my ‘cousin’ came from my parents describing his appearance, where he studied, and so on.

He looked like my oldest uncle (father’s side), they shared the same features. I was impressed by his look when I first saw him at my aunt’s small coffee shop. But that was it, I was just hoping I would have a boyfriend who will be as cute as my cousin.

In the first few days, he came and left with his friends. But one day he decided to stay later and had dinner with us around the campfire.

It was my mid-winter vacation, and I still had to work on my homework. Therefore, when they were gathering around the fire after dinner, I was the only one sitting indoors for my writing tasks.

Listening to the song while doing my homework, I heard steps walking in, and there came a male voice.

“That is my tribal name in the song. What are you doing here alone?”

“Oh really, good to know. I am working on my homework.”

“Come out and stay with us; I’d like to get to know you more after so many years.”

“I will come after I finish.”

It took me a while to finish. When I came out, the girl who partnered with me at the coffee shop, the daughter of my aunt’s husband, was already talking with my relatives and cousin and his brother.

Before the story goes on, I need to address some complicated issues. My cousin who’s the son of my oldest uncle (let’s call him R) has a brother (Let’s call him B). B had the same mother as R, who is the cousin of my mom.

Complicated and messed up? Yeah, I know. But I didn’t know I would be dragged into a nightmare by them to surround myself with them both and their friends.

Anyways, I walked towards them. At first, I sat right in front of the fire. However, it started to get too hot because we didn’t really keep a significant distance from the fire. R came up to me, moved his chair at my front, and said, “stay behind me, I will protect you forever unconditionally because you are my most precious and cherished cousin.” Later on, he looked at the girl I partner with and said, “you don’t have anyone to protect you.”

I didn’t know what the feelings I had were. Looking back, I probably felt shy, warm, protected, and preferred.

After that, he came to visit us every day. Helping with the business, chatting with us, and taking me around. We became really close. At first, I thought it was just a stronger bond between cousins. But soon, I stepped into hell of shame and blame without any hope of coming out.

In the beginning, there was only cousin R who would often come to spend time with us. But then B would come with him and talk to us whenever he had holidays on weekends. (he was a professional soldier). After a longer while, they would bring their friends and introduce them to me. They told me they could all be my cousins to protect me as their own. We started to get along with each other better, we knew each other more (or maybe it was just my illusion), and spend a lot of time together whenever they came to visit.

I was so happy that I finally had someone, or some people to rely on because I thought they would protect me. I would tell them what kind of situations I faced in my elementary school, all the bullies and hatred against my identity. They were always angry with me and told me they would teach those kids lessons. Even though they never did, I guess the fact that they listened to my sufferings made me feel loved and cared about. And maybe that was the very reason I trusted them and ended up falling into a trap.

Sounds dirty? Messed up? Yeah, I think so too, and I have never fully forgiven myself. I always feel that I should’ve done more to keep myself away from the tragedy in the beginning or run away in the middle of the nightmare. But I never did.

I still couldn’t figure out what kept me in the nightmare. Maybe those people were like campfire. They warmed up and lit up my life of black and white. I thought I could have been cherished and loved among a group of the same identity. But obviously, I put my trust in the wrong people.


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