Ho Chi Minh City
It was the end of her night.
‘How are you doing, kiddo?’
Quynh looked at the message on her phone for a few minutes.
Having all by herself for three years, Quynh learned one thing: living by oneself has its own advantages. In her case, it was the freedom to do everything she wanted to without worrying about someone actually cared about it. She looked out into the street indifferently. She wondered what life was, or should be. Did it have any concrete shape, or was it just an illusional, yet beautiful image she had in her own mind? Did everything she was looking at now have any meaning to her life?
Cars. Motorcycles. People. Life. Everything was moving continuously, not caring about anything but itself.
Quynh stood there for a few more moments. She was the type of girl who enjoyed thinking, or remembering. After a few years living with that habit, Quynh concluded that she usually thinks about the things she remembered. This was something she could not really be proud of. Nostalgia brought her nothing but depression. The more she thought, the more she realized how different her past and her present were. Longing for the past actually was not helping. What was the point in remembering beautiful memories and realised how regret one was when he or she decided to move on?
Quynh decided to make a different and succeeded in thinking positively about her future in this neon–lit city. It was better for her to move forward. Strangely, just during nights like this, she could not do that. Her thoughts were filled up with the past, unless she didn’t think at all. Could not foresee her future, did not have a slightly bit of dare looking at the present, she could not helping thinking about the past.
Failed to think what she wanted, Quynh decided to go home.
‘Need a ride?’ A trifling voice rose. In front of her was middle–aged business man, riding an expensive car. He looked at her flirtingly.
‘It’s the end of my shift. There another one at the next corner.’ She replied shortly, somehow rudely, and then walked away. Despite hearing the man swearing something behind her back, Quynh pretended she did not hear anything.
Didn’t see. Didn’t hear. Didn’t feel. Didn’t think.
Then she wouldn’t remember.
She continued walking, failing to notice her slim shadow was merged with other bigger ones.
‘Ba, what is life like in the Sai Gon?’ She asked. The father could see curiosity and happiness filled his daughter’s eyes.
‘Well, there are lots of different lives there…’ He spoke slowly. Seemed like he was thinking very hard about what to tell and what not to tell.
‘Just tell me all of them!’ Quynh urged her father.
‘Don’t be so hast, kiddo. We’ve got plenty of time.’ He rubbed her head and laughed softly.
‘Well, let’s start with this life…’
She grew up with all the things her father told her and taught her. It was him who told her that life in the city was sometimes really great. People didn’t have to work from the early morning till night, yet they still had enough money and time to do what they wanted to do. It was also him who told her that life in the city was sometimes really harsh. People didn’t have a place to stay, or a hot meal to eat. Some of them ended up as beggars on the streets, empty handed, yet they didn’t want to leave the city.
Sai Gon was like a dream to her back then.
It was three o’clock in the morning when Quynh got home.
Throwing her purse on the floor, she tiredly turned on the lights. Her apartment was a good one with reasonable price, including water and electricity bill. She curved her lips to make an ironic smile. Reasonable price. It was reasonable when comparing to her current occupation. She knew what the neighbors were talking about her, but she didn’t really care about that. Strangely, their pity smiles and disgusted eyes for her didn’t cause her any uncomfortable.
She wondered how one’s pride could be taken away so easily.
Letting herself lie on the bed, she took out her phone and looked at the message one more time. He texted her same message almost every week. She couldn’t blame him for that. She didn’t really talked about her life here with him. Obviously she couldn’t tell him the truth, yet she didn’t want to lie. The good thing was he didn’t have a phone, he must have had someone else texted that for him. The good thing was they were all text messages, she knew she couldn’t lie if she heard his voice.
He was real.
Still, in the end, she lied. A little bit, by replying ‘I’m fine, ba. Take care of yourself.’
What could she do then? Dragging another life into the ocean of misery? She just could not stand seeing her father’s disappointed look.
‘Take care of yourself, kiddo.’ Her dad hugged her tightly.
‘I’ll be fine, ba! Now let me go!’ Quynh smiled. Her father had the smell of this land, and she was certain that she would miss this smell.
Through the train window’s glass, she saw some sparkling lights from her father’s eyes. Those eyes were the last beautiful things she saw in her entire life. Those eyes were the boundary between her past hand her present.
Those were her precious mirrors of life, which she might never see again.
‘Stop the car, I want to walked from here.’ She said coldly.
‘Well, tonight was fun.’ The man sitting next to her said. She could saw his smile appeared vaguely in the dark.
‘Thank you!’ Faking a smile, she stepped out of the car.
‘Here. Take this.’
Those were the very last words she heard from that man, whose name she would probably never know. In her hand lay the polymer notes.
Quynh turned on her phone. She had one unread message.
‘How are you doing, kiddo?’
It was the end of her night.
Minh Yên Lâu