In retrospect, I never thought I would use a word like retrospect.
It is one of those words I have learned in the camp. Our language instructor, a very small man, loves big words, the other boys laugh at him, and I do too some times, but I listen when he teaches. He says I am his best student yet, that it is a pity we met in such unfortunate circumstances, when he said the last sentence, it was a whisper.
I do not know when it will be my turn, I would love to be eighteen before I die, but if there is one thing my short life has taught me, it is that we cannot always get what we want. When I think back to my life before now, I realize it was scattered, just like under the bridge at night, not arranged at all. I was always trying to survive. Either carrying cement blocks at construction sites or mixing, I didn’t think of the future. When I ran between speeding cars on the expressway hawking pure water, I never thought of death.
So in a way, I am happier now, or maybe this is not happiness, I don’t really know, I used to think happiness was to be inside a fine car and live in a fine house, and eat anything you want. But at least I know where I will sleep today, and what will happen sooner or later. Keeping a diary is not against camp rules, the camp commander told us on our second week here, all thirteen of us, new members, that when we were gone, our personal effects, he said effects means our things, will be returned to our parents, I have no parents, I do have one uncle, but I do not know where he is, so I guess they will either burn this diary or keep it. I like to write, I went to school once when I was little, I don’t remember it all, but I remember some parts, little flashes come to me if I lie down and look at the clouds — I am a little boy, about five or six, walking with my exercise books under my arm, multiplication tables, dictation, blue short knickers and black and yellow striped pencils, also flash before my eyes. When I stopped going to school and started hawking, I never needed to write, but by the second week here, I found that I had a beautiful handwriting as our writing instructor calls it, some of the other boys cannot write at all, but I can, that is one reason I decided to keep a diary, because I love the way the thoughts in my head come out in blue ink on this paper, it makes me smile.
Let me tell you how I came to be here.