Forty years marked by the passing of Shani, my joy, my canine best friend. What makes it more poignant than to live a life of pure love and joy. I often forget my place in the universe, but she is the one who has reminded me of who I am, my place in the world. I am 50, and I am the 10 years old of 40 years ago in her eyes. I am playful, I’m no longer the lonely 10-year-old on a beach at a refugee camp in Thailand.
How would one note one’s life in the flicker of eyelashes, through the tears, and the years in passing? My then 30-year-old parents, now grandparents to successful adult grandchildren, have adopted Shani too into their family. Shani, insistence on popping in to see my parents through Covid-19, her stubbornness the joy in a moment of my parent through their window.
What would break the human spirit, the hopelessness of never being whole again, the homelessness, the exile, the foreign places one could never belong. But, I did for a short time. I belong to her, I was her trainee, I learned not to fear the darkness around me, and I learned how great it was to get caught in the wet, and walk in the rain, though she believed me to be crazy wanting to tread through an eminent thunderstorm. No one could wish for a better companion, a guardian angel through the darkest storms.
I am paralyzed with fear and grief upon my broken body and Shani walks through the door with favourite ball. Bark at me for being so weak, bark at me for missing out on football on the pee-bleached lawn – do you not know how great it smells out there in the world, there’s not a single shadow of a cloud!
40 years exiled, 40 years a refugee, 40 years in the land of my adopted country. 40 years, and I have been loved.
Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the blogger, poet, and translator, was born in 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.