Of course, the crazy chap, which was one of the ways they would address him by, could scarcely have felt of his existence as a human being in this world stinking of discrimination. Unlike most of us, he wasn’t endowed with an endearing exterior; and with some sort of problem he came into this life which hindered him from speaking with the normal flow of speech. Quite often, some of his acquaintances would be too impatient to keep listening until he finished his words, and would wear a contemptuous expression or sigh again and again over his doleful plight rather than immerse their attention in his speech. More than that, the poor fellow was afflicted with a curse on his birth: a mental handicap, and his life formed in the sphere of poverty. Deprived of intellectual ability, he wasn’t much privileged with education. So, disdainful eyes always glared at him. With such a weird style of interaction and behavioral pattern smacking of abnormality, he would mingle with those cynics around him that they grew to view him as a clown to alleviate the tedium of their everyday lives; and for them to be overcome by a sadistic pleasure of humiliating a gay in some way and blaring out unconstrained laughter over the embarrassing situation he was ruthlessly thrust into. Once, a gang of drunkards commanded him with a one-thousand note to woo a girl named Phyusin on her stroll to the monastery, disregarding his imploring refusal. (Gays, as a fact, feel ashamed to say words of love to females and would never conceive this.) When she stormed away in disgust of his faltering and crazy way of talking, they confiscated the money they had earlier compromised with and amused themselves in giving him generous kicks and punches. Poor Zawmin, whenever he experienced the harsh treatment of people, regarded this as the mere moment he tripped over stones on the path of life. He learned to withstand the sharp blow of life with pains you hardly seem to have experienced before and tears_ heavier and saltier_ we have never dropped during our lives. None perceived his inner-wounds hidden and heard the sound of his sobs echoing deep in the gloomy void of his soul because he was a human in the society where stammering was frowned upon as a shame; mental deformity as a disgrace and homosexuality a grave fault.
“At least, it’s going to be fun when you guys are on duty. The crazy stammerer will pitch in tonight,” uttered Oo Hteik Tin suddenly with an expression of ridicule, surrounded by a circle of people who included the Chief of our village, Oo Nyein Hun, Soelin and me.
The fellow was in his early forties; his fragrance had traveled across our small community as a gentleman with a broad scope of ideas about domestic issues and for his whole-hearted participation in social activities. Still, it astonished me that such a man teeming with knowledge happened to be morally lame. Ours was a desolate locality in an up-country region. Dusty. Dry. Fiery. In the daytime, the sun was burning; when night fell, February breath gripped our limbs in shiver.
“I don’t think that gay will be supportive of us even in the least. Let alone run and smite mischievous trespassers, he will be flirting with them. We should know his ulterior motive in joining us tonight,” Soelin finished his words, letting out a scornful guffaw and the others, excluding me, exploded hysterically in unison.
I had to quench my indignation at their heartless attitude toward innocent Zawmin with restraint.
Being compelled to change their pessimistic view of him, I explained: “Zawmin isn’t like other flirtatious sissies you know of at all. You see, while an individual’s existence is a gay, it doesn’t necessarily justify one should always call him by this term. I’m rather doubtful of that people are the highest intellectual creatures on earth. It’s stupid of humans to divide their own species into separate categories. Despite diversity, we’re all a single existence as humans. We’re the same, aren’t we?”
My speech had strikingly affected them: they were all plunged in meditative silence. They had a blind belief in words said by a decent degree holder like me. Five years had elapsed as I had been in service at the English Department of Mandalay University. Now, I have been in my village since the outbreak of the global crisis. But this time, I wasn’t sure whether they accepted my ideas or not. Anyhow, I felt satisfied with myself for what I had done. I was always the one who would protect that pathetic little chap against their filthy tongues.
As noon progressed, they grew drowsy and bored of their conversation. Just before all began to diverge, our administrator broke in a serious tone: “As we’re in danger of arsonists as in the 88-revolution period, keep watch on him as well. A hypocrite with bad intentions. He may await mid-hours to break in. Like what he did over six years back.”
Zawmin wasn’t a transgressor indeed. He was once shackled for sneaking away Yewin’s belongings; however, none observed his circumstance through his heart. He only attempted for his invalid mother. He needed money. Sadly, he was out of work. So, he looked to the owner of the village tea-house for a loan so he could keep her in a hospital in town. He said he would redeem it by working for him for his lifetime. The stubborn owner replied he would consider if the guy could afford the speedy return of the cash in a few months. Unsympathetically, he added that a lunatic like him wouldn’t make any contributions to his business. At length, as he found no honest means, he yielded to the temptation of evil sin to deliver his feeble mother from the mouth of death. I couldn’t help him because I was still in my final M.A as the one from the lower social class. All I could do was reassure him about his mother. His sister was a secondary teacher in a local high school and with some of her income and the aid of the ineffective village clinic, the old woman’s life lingered. Not very long, she was subjugated to the summon of Death, leaving the two siblings to take over their inferior dwelling. Later, her daughter, with her scanty salary, sustained her life and that of her poor jobless brother the world had forgotten.
February, 2021 ( The period of civil chaos when the country had unjustly fallen under the junta coup) As dark hours drew on, the entire land stayed vigilant against prisoners released by the military terrorists to vandalize public properties. This way, the tyrants were trying to bind us in fear not to rebel against their rule; nevertheless, the perverse civilians with their own defensive tools had made it their responsibility to safeguard their respective neighborhoods when darkness fell. It wasn’t an easy business though. One might fall prey to danger and risk his life. Tonight, Zawmin would be with us in watching out for the intrusion of mischief-makers.
Daw Ayeye with her worry-stricken eyes entrusted her mentally-impaired brother into my supervision and I told him beforehand not to associate with those horrid fellows. The chap had always been pleased with my company and he took my protective words seriously. After all, it was a way of keeping him from their verbal assault.
When quietness shrouded the village, our squad busied ourselves in guarding over the houses. We tried to banish the monotony of the hours by chatting and sharing tea-leaf salad served by Chief’s wife. Night hurried on.
“Tunwin, I’m ever happy to be with you. I’m….in love with you. Love me back,” spluttered Zawmin bluntly.
“What a joke! We’re of the same gender. How possible!” I exclaimed in shyness.
“Love is not to see, but to feel. You will never see love with eyes. Eyes are what teach you to discriminate love. Love itself in its genuine form is boundless and free. The heart has no eyes nor brain, it knows how to love freely and ignorantly.
His queer notion made me smile. He went on: “Do you….Someone there!”.
He instantly took his laughing eyes off me and tossed them far toward an obscure figure in the distance. His following alarm startled the sleepy fellows occupying the nearby resthouse. Preceded by Zawmin, we ran at the savager with bamboo sticks. The intruder was thrashed and then held in custody. When morning came, no one praised Zawmin. Some said he pretended to be cooperative; others remarked he couldn’t have done this by himself. I couldn’t see why they had taken against him as such.
As time dwindled, days grew into weeks. Random shots from the military troops were threatening lives. Still, the whole country was swollen with Democracy-seeking strikers. Commotion prevailed and days passed with distressing occurrences. Sometimes, a number of bloody deaths and arrests happened in nearly every city within a day. In the midst of omnipresent turmoil had broken out what seemed to be a never-ending battle between civilians and dictators.
Whenever I bemoaned appalling incidents, my thoughtful grandmother would soothe my weary heart: “Don’t be disappointed with Life. The ill world surrounding you isn’t what makes your life. The ongoing uproar isn’t the sound of Life but the clamor of the world of evil beings. The real sound of Life is that of peace within. Try to seek it inside you and listen to its subtle music. Then you feel what the essence of Life is like.”
That night, they didn’t stay outside long. Neither did I. My eyes were heavy with fatigue from going on strike the whole day long. Only Zawmin with penetrating eyes clang to his place, clasping his usual weapon. I provided him company for a brief time and then abandoned him there all alone. The moon looked drenched in blood unlike the other nights. Through the rest hours, I lay awake in an uneasy mood. I didn’t know why. The howl of dogs sounded like the wail of Death and strangely, it haunted me. In a few minutes, I lost consciousness of the world. A boom tore its way into my slumber. But, it only blended with the sounds in my muddled dream.
I never imagined I would wake up on that morning to learn of the news which would shatter my heart. The chap was dead. He had been shot by a wandering army of killers the previous night. Grief ensued. Sobs and words of remorse filled the air and his ill-fate had left his sister in a frenzy of anguish. Soon, burial was arranged. The whole village wistfully attended his funeral and mourned his tragedy. I stood by him and regarded his soulless body with misty eyes. Man may live wealthy, but he dies poor; the little fellow lived poor and died in glory.
“Zawmin, at last, we knew that you are a hero for us. We are sorry. We weren’t good toward you,” our Chief spat out these words muffled with tears of regret.
The little outcast lay still, oblivious to their kind farewell. They never called him by those names again from that day. In the end, my poor little boy sought profound peace and liberation, free of sufferings he had in the human world. Sorrow is a disease and tears its symptoms. I made a vain attempt not to show my pain; tears, though they are only tiny drops, weigh too heavy to keep them in the eyes without letting them fall in torrents. I wanted to celebrate my little hero who sold his life for our security with the award he truly deserved. It was a mere word; yet, the one he coveted more than anything in his life.
“I love you, my heroic boy,” I whispered heartfully.
But, my poor little chap never knew that I loved him finally: when he was no more on earth.