THE TILES IN the kitchen were white, with a grey diamond pattern. The grout was a light greying brown – I’m sure it had been white at some point, but we didn’t mop the tiles as much as we should have. They were cold on my feet, especially in winter, especially when I’d forgotten where I’d left my indoor slippers. I spent a lot of time looking at those tiles, my eyes downcast. I was afraid to meet my parents’ eyes, especially when they were angry. When I became a teenager, this anger would manifest in the form of prolonged yelling. But when I was a child, my punishment, more often than not, was a specific number of strikes of the cane.
There were other punishments, too. They included ‘罰跪’ – kneeling on the tiles, facing the wall, for a specific period of time – and I was once locked out of the house and made to sit outside while the rest of my family ate their dinner. But the canes were my parents’ most commonly employed tactic against my sister and me – probably because, in their eyes, they were the most effective.
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