Going home or not, a woman trapped in a hard choice (Excerpt)
Going home or not,
a woman trapped in a hard choice
She was totally immersed in horror and repeatedly expressed her wretched feelings. Finally, she signed as if relieved of a heavy load. “I was so lucky, life treats me well.” I was sad to find that she no longer expected the outlook of life with standards of common people; she had already put herself in a model of the suffering, hence she could find comfort with self-deceiving reasons, relying on which she could continue her hard life. Though I sympathize with her miserable lot, yet also feel pity for her cowardice and weakness.
Night fell, we walked back to her “home”, her husband was really an honest man, we asked why he treated Peng so well, he said, “She was a poor woman, I bought her to help me support the whole family.” His former wife died years ago, leaving the old and weak man four children. So, Peng’s husband had the idea to buy a woman to do farm work, cook meals and look after him. He didn’t want to make things difficult for her. I walked toward a beautiful girl beside Peng Guangfang, and asked, “Are you her (Peng Guangfang) neighbor?” “I am her husband’s nephew. I heard that both you and the police asked her to go home, in my view, she should go home, if I were her, I would go home.” “Do you know that she was bought?” I asked. “I know this, and I feel…” the girl choked with sobs, tears full of her eyes. “ I feel pity for her lot, how miserable the woman is when she became merchandise!” she finally couldn’t help bursting into tears. Later, I got to know that she was the daughter of the elder brother of Peng Guangfang’s “husband”, the girl was almost the same age with Peng Guangfang, who failed to pass the college entrance exam after finishing her senior middle school. She found a job in Guangzhou and worked there with many girls, to whom the factory often said that they should be careful to avoid being cheated. Though the girl saw with her own eyes the whole process of this trade, she had no means to help her out besides treating her kindly. Surprisingly, Peng Guangfang had no emotional changes when this girl cried bitterly. She had become numb, or women’s weakness of taking things as they are controlled her at this moment. Now, even the police could do nothing for her beside herself.
It’s time to say goodbye, she walked together with us, carrying a burden on her shoulder, her black skin as well as her breasts nearly hanging to her waist showed that she had already become a peasant woman, though she was only 28 years old, all brilliance of life had faded away, she had undergone too many vicissitudes, and she would continue to be on the road of hardship, this was her choice. The police and I had to respect her choice even though we were unwilling to accept such choice, we could do nothing.
Now, there only left piles of unclaimed bones under the green mountains, as well as stories with no readers.
It was May, the weather of northern Guangdong this time was uncertain, sun and rain closely followed each other. The road there was also rugged. Returning from Peng Guangfang’s home, we passed that high cliff again, and I recalled it was under the cliff that several days ago local police told me the story of Deng Jinming’s buying wife, and I just couldn’t help writing down this story. At this picturesque mountain foot, beside the green mountains and clear springs, I had to tell such a miserable story. I hoped that I was just in a dream, however, this tragedy was so real, it happened cruelly, just on this land beneath my foot, under the tree within my reach.
That day, we first went to Deng Jinming’s house, and Deng’s parents received us. The old couple said that they couldn’t figure out whether their son had violated the law, but now their son had been put into prison, their daughter-in-law gone, leaving them a huge debt which they had no means to pay off. Villagers here told us that last year Deng Jinming bought a wife, who was maltreated by him. The girl was only eighteen or nineteen years old, she suffered bitter beats after being taken back from her getaway. Finally, one day, the girl could no longer stand such inhuman torture; she sneaked out that night, and when the villagers ran after her from faraway, the girl was in such a panic that she chose to leap from the cliff. Some said that she just wanted to run away and it was her carelessness that made her take false steps; some said that she just did want to end her life due to helplessness as she was gotten backed after several times of getaway. I couldn’t know which kind of view was true, but one point was certain that the girl had not surrender to and fought against her abducted life again and again… even at the cost of her life.
I wrote down the above words just under the cliff where the girl plunged to her death, yet I felt no fear nor discomfort. There green grasses spread, flowers blossomed along a clear creek. The tragedy of the girl was contrastive to stories of the group of abducted girls who would not go home, and I didn’t realize this when firstly told her story, then I was sad about her plight, I just wanted to show through her story the injuries to those abducted women due to crimes committed by the human traffickers. But now, I picked up a flower and put it in the water, for this girl, I wanted to salute to her, for her persevering character, for her strong will and her soberness… I thought of her mother, whose beloved daughter disappeared from this world forever, she had no means to find her; maybe there was a boy who was in secret love of the girl, who had brothers, sisters, friends… They had no way to know her whereabouts. Because no one knew what the girl’s name was, what was her surname, where she came from, the buyer didn’t know, villagers needn’t to know, now, there only left piles of unclaimed bones under the green mountains, as well as stories with no readers. A gentle breeze blew through the bending flowers, and it seemed that noting had taken place. I stood up and folded my diary, looking at the cliff in the opposite for a good while.
On the evening of May 29, again, I got to know an abducted girl with unknown name. One villager told Captain Li on the road to Yanbei that one in his village bought a woman to be his wife, and the woman didn’t utter a word for several months since the purchase. Thus they called the woman “Dumb Sister”. After the discussion, Captain Li and A Du decided to save the “Dumb Sister” on the night of that day. Led by local police, we arrived at the house of “Dumb Sister” at 1:00 a.m. And the “Dumb Sister” was in the bed, and her husband sleeping beside her firstly realized our arrival and recognized the police, he woke up his wife. However, the “Dumb Sister” was expressionless, and she even didn’t look at anyone, it seemed that to her all things happened before her eyes had nothing to do with her. Captain Li and A Du tried to explain to her repeatedly that they came to save her. But she remained poker-faced. She put on her trousers, got out of the bed, accurately and exactly following the directions of others, like a robot.
After showing their certificates, Captain Li and A Du asked the buyer: “What is her name?” “……” It was obvious that the buyer didn’t know. “How long did you buy her?” A Du asked. “Over 9 months.” The buyer said. “How much did you pay?” “Thousands of yuan.” When Dumb Sister was brought into the car, I sat beside her and passed a bottle of water to her. She took it and put it aside. I thought she might be too nervous, so I comforted her not be afraid and the police were saving her. But she was indifferent and didn’t make any response to every word I said. Sorrow, dreariness and depression soaked each granulocyte of her face and there were no people but sadness, anger and restiveness in her eyes. She didn’t say anything, nor take any information. She had already lived in her own world, mournfully and desperately, and didn’t want any change. Having entered the police station, Captain Li and A Du began to try to persuade her to say something, because a person in that village used to hear her voice. That person said that she was resold for 3 times and had children. She was abused much and wrote a good handwriting. However, after she was bought by this husband, she didn’t speak any more. All these were impossible to be confirmed but there was one thing we were sure, which is Dumb Sister is not dumb, because she can understand any instructive words and carry them out accurately. Captain Li and A Du spent several hours trying to persuade her but failed. At last, they both looked at me and said helplessly: “Have a try, we are counting on you.”
Hence, I began my 5-hour persuasion again, trying to communicate with her by the most moderate and unadorned words so as to warm her, move her and make her frozen heart melt. Finally, her emotion began to change. Her hands began to tremble in spite of her constraint. Her breath became rapid and she compressed her lips tightly and grinded her teeth, preventing her from crying out. Her facial muscle couldn’t help twitching. She tried to tighten her face but the tears were out of control, falling from her tightened and expressionless face. More tears were fallen from her nose. I passed tissue to her and that’s the only action she didn’t reject in the whole 5 hours. Was she crying? I had never seen people crying like this. How sad the person was would cry like this? How desperate the person was would become so separated from the outside world? We couldn’t enter her spiritual world. Except allowing unrestrained body, she kept everything for herself and locked herself. She was refusing dumbly. Was she resisting? Or she got the psychological disorder because of so much hurt? Anyway, she was absolutely a normal and strong-minded person. She is not a dumb person, nor a psychopath.
Of course, all of that was not important to the buyer, because he wanted her to labor in the daytime, and needed her body at night, while the “Dumb Sister” turned out to be such a “machine”, he couldn’t read her expression on the poker face and not to mention explore her inner mind. The man kept smiling when asked by Caption Li and A Du, moreover, his answers were irrelevant. Day broke, the “Dumb Sister” was sent home as she didn’t tell us any information about her, and we had no way to save her as we couldn’t know where her home was. We couldn’t help but asked her husband to take her home. Three days later, unwilling to accept this, Captain Li and A Du decided to have another talk with her, and then we went to her house at noon that day. We had a long talk with her for several hours; at last, she remained reticent, and refused to give any reply to what we wrote down on the paper. Finally, I got an idea and said to her, if you thought what I said was right, please nod your head, if not, you could shake your head. “You are not dumb and can speak, is that so?” I asked. She nodded. “Why didn’t you speak?” I asked, “…” no reply. “You are too sad, that is the reason why you don’t speak, am I right?” She nodded. “You want to go home, do you?” She shook her head. “So you want to stay here?” She again shook her head. “Where do you want to go?” She didn’t give any response. …She didn’t give any more answers to my questions. I had no means but put my address, phone number and RMB 200 in her hand.
“We have to go, if you figure out and want to go home someday, you can call me, and please keep the money, maybe it can help when you need.” I said. She put back the money and the paper with my address and phone number on my book, expressionlessly, and I knew she refused me. Suddenly, my tears came out, not out of sympathy for her, but my inability to help her, I could feel my rising sorrow, I saw her sufferings, I could hold her hands now, however, my kindness had no way to warm her heart; the police were there, but they also couldn’t do anything but to see her be taken away. She gave up, gave up. What she had given up was not going home but her life. Living or dead had already lost the least of significance to her. Whose fault? What could we do? At that moment, I was just too sad to think rationally, what I wanted was to find a place to cry out. Well, we had to continue the journey.
She travelled thousands of miles to go back to this poverty-stricken family from the home of that rich buyer with a son, and the reason why she had this done is not only for her husband and daughter.
On May 29, I left northern Guangdong. Before setting off, we filmed some exterior near Mingjing, and as we shot by her house, we happened to meet Peng Guangfang who was carrying a burden to work in the field, and she warmly greeted us and invited us to have meals in her house. Then I thought of what a philosopher had once said that the one who lived on the surface of life was happy. Maybe Peng had just let herself live on the surface of life. Some crew member said that such women as Peng would never understand what the surface of life was as she was uneducated. I thought that Peng had no need to get this knowledge since she had chosen superficial happiness out of unconsciousness. However, only through looking at her eyes, you could find that there was no happiness in her deep heart, and she just wanted to spend the rest of her life with this superficial happiness.
On May 30, we returned to Guangzhou, and came to the boarding house to the opposite of Liuhua Police Station again to see the girls rescued. Several girls we interviewed long before in Pingjiang and Chengcun now had found jobs and worked in different factories. I gave them some money and asked them to buy some books. At the boarding house, Shang Bifang and Zhao Buhong came to know Liu Xiaohua and introduced her to me.
Liu Xiaohua, whose hometown was some village of Lichuan, Hubei, came here to look for job because of her poor family. After being abducted, she was bought by a wealthy family in the suburbs of Guangzhou, and she ran away after giving birth to a baby boy. And these days, human traffickers were hunted down in Guangzhou Station, she said she wouldn’t go home until the human trafficker cheated her was arrested. Liu Xiaohua said she missed her family and her daughter so much, her sad looking was so frail, making others have the impulse to protect her. Li Yong and I persuaded her into going home, and then her tears came down. She said she was afraid that her husband wouldn’t forgive her and her mother could not accept such things. I asked whether she feared her villagers would laugh at her, she answered that she didn’t care that because it was not important, and what she really cared was her husband and parents. I continued to ask where she had a better life, she said, of course, she liked the life in her own family, though poor, yet she had an equal position with her husband in her own family, though the buyer was rich and didn’t beat her, yet she had no position, and people there saw her with strange looks. And others in the buyer’s family treated her as a buying thing, and she even didn’t want to speak there and found that her character had changed…“I have been missing my daughter, she was only three years old when I left my own family, what a poor child!” she said sadly. “Don’t miss your son in the buyer’s house?” I asked. “I can’t take all things into account; I hate him though missing him. I don’t know. But I know that he doesn’t belong to me, he is not mine, I can only wish his father could treat him well, the family is rich, I think he will be brought up well.” She said. At last, she decided to go home.
On June 6, our camera crew started out together with Liu Xiaohua to go home. After a day and a night’s train trip from Guangzhou to Enshi of Sichuan, police of Enshi Public Security Bureau received us. Then we arrived in Badong by boat before a day’s journey on bus, finally, we walked to a small village of Bainikuang Township. Liu Xiaohua seemed not tired at all after such a long journey, she saw her mother and both cried sadly. The moment Liu saw her daughter and husband, grief and joy intermingled to immerse her. Her husband had kept waiting for and looking for her, and she told him what she had suffered. Her husband had no word of scold but looked at her ingeniously, Liu smiled. The next day, Liu Xiaohua happily went back and forth in her house, and her state was completely different from what she was in Guangzhou. Now, she was an independent, happy and strong-willed woman. Her family was rather poor, but Liu Xiaohua lived as she like there, there she could be her true self. I believed that the reason why she travelled thousands of miles to go back to this poverty-stricken family from the home of that rich buyer with a son is not only for her husband and their daughter, but more for her own dignity and personality. There was moment that Liu Xiaohua seemed somewhat to drift away. Li Yong asked what she was thinking about, she answered, she thought of that son, whether he wanted to have milk as he had just been weaned, and wanted to know whether he had cried for mother.
[Editor, Ma Shanglong]