ATIN

By
Her hair is a musty brown; it is wavy and big, unlike the other girl’s. Her footsteps are bold and heavy; I know it is her coming around the corner, and I never make her wait; she likes her spiced ayam hot. Her clothes are beautiful. The colors are in so many; it always hurts my eyes just a little to look at her, especially when the sun is fiery; I have to wait a few seconds until I can look at the color rainbows a little more. But I always look at them. She has little pink frogs on her dress, looming elephants at the corners, and tiny sparkles around her neck. I can never, ever, forget that the sparkles are there. The evil and wonderful sun never neglects to tell me they are needy and want to be seen, and they flash, like the tourists’ cameras and blind me even more than her colors. They are tie-died, her colors, and there are so many. I have never seen so many, and I don’t know what they are called, and I don’t think I will ever see so many again. They are like the arc in the sky, but also like the market, where all the fabrics and foods and people and voices and sounds smear into a giant fountain.


She never wears anything but that deranging dress; I don’t think it is because she does not want to. I do not think she has any other dresses. And it makes me so happy. I don’t have any other dresses either. I am so happy that I can see her, look at her, look into her world, and be her some days. Even if she does not eat my spiced ayam everyday, I will still love her. But she does eat my spice ayam everyday; I know it is because she loves me.



She has never been at our stand Ma says. Ma had never seen this girl, she says. This girl does not exist, she says. But how can I believe it? I know she walks by our stand in the market just for me, just to eat my spiced ayam. I remember her coming. I know she comes! Every day she comes! Why does no one believe me? Her colors stop in front of me everyday…her colors are is so many…I know it…I know her colors keep me alive, they are the only reason I can live. And if I don’t make her spiced ayam hot for her, just the way she loves it, I know she won’t come back…I love her…but Ma says she never came! Ma says I’m sick. Ma says the ayam made me sick. NO. NO.

She wears so many colors. She is always there. She has to be there. NO. She is there. I know she is there. I need her to be there. I need her colors, that smearing, swirling, spiraling fountain. Where is the fountain? I miss it. She must come back. She wants to come back to me. She knows that she needs to come back to me! I want her to come back! Don’t leave me! Please don’t leave me…please. There are so many colors. Colors. Colors. NO. Please. I need you. I’m not sick. I’m not sick. She is real.


Her hair is a musty brown; it is wavy and big, unlike the other girl’s. Her footsteps are bold and heavy; I know it is her coming around the corner, and I never make her wait; she likes her spiced ayam hot.


I’m NOT sick. Ma is NOT sick. I did NOT kill her. It was the ayam. I am NOT going to die.



The narrator of this story and her mother sold spiced ayam, or chicken, in an Indonesian marketplace. Shortly before her death, a local girl, Atin, who used to buy their chicken, said the girl became delirious. Officials believe that the Avian Flu, which recently began passing from poultry to humans, caused her and her mother’s deaths. Thank you to Atin for recounting her story. The names of the mother and daughter are unknown. Indonesia has the highest rate of deaths occurring from the Avian Flu.





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