One day during dinner, I saw my brother Dom starring at his left index finger, squeezing the tip of it with his right hand. He frowned “I have a thorn in here…” 

“Oops… Little princess touches the rose!” I said and laughed.  

Dad didn’t find it funny. He said “I once had a thorn in the middle of my right feet, and did not pay much attention to it at first. But then the thorn grew. The wound swallowed so big I needed to go to the hospital. They did a mini surgery. When they took it out, the damn thorn’s root had grew to the size of your pinky fingertip, black and hairy.” 

I looked at Dom’s finger. “Maybe there’s no thorn in there anymore. I can’t see it,” I said. 

“If if you feel sharp pain when you touches it, the thorn’s still in there.” Dad said, and continue with his bowl of rice. 

We all have thorns, don’t we? 

We all know how it is to touch a rose and feel its thorn pierce into our skin. 

Life is rose. Colourful, beautiful, and at times painful. Life isn't white silk cloth. "I was born. I grow up. I go to school. I go to work. I get married. I have children. I grow old. I was buried.” Life doesn't happen to you like that. 

In the midst of it all, you lose your bicycle, break a promise; you kiss, you cry; you drop a bowl of fish sauce. You have a lover. One morning you wake up; he’s no longer there. You have a job. One night before bed you realize that you hate your job. Your grandmother, who made yogurt for you when you were 5, die. Life. 

The thorns of life pierce into the skin of our heart. But no hospital does mini heart surgery to take them out; surgical glasses can’t see life thorns. So they remain hidden in our rib cage. 

Those things, they don’t go away. Nothing eat them up. They’re not gone. They are there on the skin of our heart. Whenever we or someone, something, touch them, it hurts.

I remember when I was in first grade, all girls had to wear dark navy, knee-length skirt to school. One day, as I was sitting in the class, I caught a boy staring at my legs. 

 “Look! Her legs are so ugly!” He said so to other kids. I bent my knees, jerked my feet back, hid my legs under the chair. I was confused. No one had said that to me! I looked down at the desk. My face was so hot. I crunched my eyebrows together. I was ashamed of my legs. “Why don’t I have my mother’s legs? I’m a girl! Why do I have dad’s legs?” I cried that night.

Even though I had forgotten that story of the boy, I continued spending 15 years with the leg-shame. I tried to hide, fix, cover. I was in constant paranoia. I wore only long jeans. If I have to wear a skirt, I would use black panty-hose even if it’s 38 Celsius. I spent my high-school saving on expensive leg spray bottle. Whenever I saw a girl wearing short skirt my heart sank. When I had a boyfriend, I didn’t let him touch my legs. I went to spa so they can rub my legs with freaking “Swedish Salt”. No matter what I did, I didn’t stop hating my legs, and together with it, hating myself. 

Oh my God! I wasted so much money, so much time, and so much joy. 

Did you see the thorn? Did you see written on it are the 5 words: “I am not beautiful enough.”? Did you see how the thorn stole life away from me - or better - stole me away from life? Did you see how the “I am not beautiful enough” thorn kidnapped me away from myself? 

And that’s just one thorns. Life isn’t just one rose. Life is a garden with 100 roses and 1001 thorns. 

Dad is right. It’s important to take the thorn out fast. Otherwise from the wound, our heart blood begins to drip, drop by drop, slow like Vietnamese coffee in a dripper. The effect is slow. We’re not quite dead but somewhat dysfunctional, little by little. And here comes one morning, we wake up, the dripping is done, and in the dripper top the coffee ground has dried up. And our heart has also dried up. We look okay outside. But inside we’re no longer alive. This “no longer alive” state has many names: mid-life crisis, quater-life crisis, depression, suicide. 

So I must say again: it’s crucial to take the thorn out of our heart - much more crucial than out of our left index finger. But…


Milena NguyenComment