Dawn itself is still asleep. In a little wooden hut rises the noise of fabrics and rags. Outside, tired embers have been watching all night. A silhouette emerges from the shadows, the mind still clouded. It is 4:30 in the morning in the heart of the forest of Angkor Wat and Batman puts on his mask.
Batman is 2 and a half years old. Today, he leaves to watch over the “world of the grown-ups”. The world of his brother. He puts on his cape, adjusts his mask and climbs into Daddy’s tuktuk. He’s on the way to the city.
For Batman, the “city” is the pagoda. A Buddhist temple located just minutes away, where houses are made of brick. In recent years, his brother goes there every morning, although he is not a monk. If he goes there, it is to take classes in the small houses next to the pagoda – the ones that are red. It’s school. Our school. The one next to the Bayon temple. Ah! By the way, this morning it’s back to school.
It is 6:45am and the school is already busy. Parents, children, babies and teenagers. We talk, we laugh and we move. Even the year-round dogs come to watch the ceremony. Only the monkeys are still sleeping. For Batman, it’s a lot of unknown to watch. Fortunately, from the cradle of his mother’s arms, the view is clearer. In the distance, he sees Superman. He knows him. In truth, Superman does not come from another planet. He comes from his grandmother’s house, who lives in the forest and cares for him since his parents left.
While the older ones are gathered in the yard of the new kitchen to listen to the speech of the directors, Batman wastes no time. He takes off his mask to show Superman and Spiderman – who is actually a girl – who is the strongest at the “flip flop”.
The battle of microphones and amplifiers rage between the school and the pagoda as the sky darkens. The retreat is ringing, the rainy season is still not over. In the shelter, the children are wise and discover the faces of their new teachers. Behind them, moms chatter and give breast. The universal “row of dads at the back of the room” is waiting patiently. The teenagers are finally directed to their new classes while the little heroes marvel at the chrome faucets that dispense water at will.
Superman and Spiderman do not move away from the arms of their moms. For Batman however, the moment of departure is late. Going back to school is the opportunity for the small but also for the big ones to meet again. We meet neighbors from surrounding villages, we take news of the distant families and introduce newborns … Everyone knows each other, regardless of their opportunities to attend the school year. The perfect time to fill up on gossip until the end of the year. Unfortunately for Batman, there are neither criminals to stop, nor princesses to save in the vicinity. Waiting, he leaves to pick up mushrooms growing at the edge of school.
The sun is high in the sky when the knell rings. Batman, his pockets full of mushrooms, is watching his older brother one last time. He received a breakfast, a nice uniform, new notebooks and even a bike! If this is school, he understands better why his brother returns here every day. Reluctantly, the child leaves the playground to face the outside world, he puts his mask back on. Outside, the world has lost its innocence, even for a child of 2 years and a half. Although he is still too young to enroll, he sees that at school, “it’s not the same”. The institution seems to protect people from problems: no debts to refund, no drought to bear, no money to beg for. Children even have the right to express themselves.
Deep in his heart, he thought that it would be great to be able to wear the same uniform as his elder brother next year: the super-costume of childhood.