By J Gavin Allan
As a little girl, the waters of the Xepon, or as Westerners spell it, Sepon, would frequently greet my skin. The clear surface gave my wide eyes murals of spawning fish and frightening looking catfish cleaning the bottom.
Every morning the women would take the children for bathing. It was time for cleaning and inspection of tiny bodies treated harshly by the jungle. Even my mother, strict and unbending, saw it as a time to relax in the nude, witnessing the frolicking of her children. Watchful of the calm, but deep waterway, she still could carry on a gossip filled conversation.
Dusk would bring my Aunt Mai, the matriarch of our family, and her grown daughter to wash clothes and give me the opportunity to hold my infant cousin. My feet with a slow and deliberate walk would enter the water up to my knees. Using the excuse of controlling his fussiness, I would advance further, to rub the handfuls on his bottom. It would bring smiles and an occasional giggle from the baby, and the two pretending to be serious women. My aunt expressed that I was born to be a mother. A statement that brought joy to my young heart.
Water was so much a part of our innocent life. My name means water flower.
Fetching the clear liquid in wooden pales built by my grandfather years before my mother was born, I would pretend to be hurrying to my own one room home.
The burden for an eleven year-old girl was balanced by my imagination that I carried a baby nestled in a sling to my front.
Along Route 9, so many new and pretty homes have been built. I knew when I married one would be mine. The waters of the Xepon would be our baptismal oil, as my new family would continue the unsoiled tradition.
Nudity was part of life. The wind, rain and thunder that so frightened even the men, did not change it. Our little hamlet was safe haven to the children and women who unashamed strolled in certain areas for comfort and solace. The heat made it necessary even in the darkest and harshest of storms. Though I cried when the gods would bellow from dissatisfaction with those of other villages, I knew we were all safe. It was the more developed and at times scandalous villagers located in the cities where people rode gas belching two wheeled bicycles and big metal four wheeled monsters.
Those people were located so far from the graceful ripples of the Xepon and its luscious all-cleansing water. No wonder nudity was ridiculed and debased. How could anyone think as a city dweller?
The loss of innocence for my village and myself was born as twins.
Walking one day, proud of the tiny accumulated fat circling my miniscule nipples, the engineer from the city saw me. He made not a sound or expression. But his eyes told me to cover-up.