Hot dusty afternoons on streets that echo the faint songs of French Indochina, bicycles and motorcycles clatter, and you and I smile sweet sugarcane juice down our throats, sitting at plastic tables under tattered vinyl umbrellas. This was your dream but I will adopt it, because it doesn’t feel alien to my own dreams of phở with red chili paste, or riding slow boats smelling of diesel through Vịnh Hạ Long. We can count islets and look for horseshoe crabs there, hold hands and say “em yeu em” beneath the kissing rocks.
I would rather draw parallels with The Lover than try to remember The Quiet American, but we are literary-minded so these questions will be raised, of how an American in Viet Nam is disturbing and traumatic. In Washington, D.C., we think of Viet Nam as a deep black scar, sliced into the green of the heart of this country. Americans don’t like to look at the scars on Viet Nam.
So I will pack my bags and I will move in with you, and we will laugh on our plane ride over the Pacific, with a stopover in Hawai’i to drink lemonade and eat shave ice with friends, and we will help each other with our Vietnamese (you will probably help me more than I help you) and check the weather forecast for numbers higher than those we know.
And on a hot and dusty afternoon you and I will sit at a plastic table under a tattered vinyl umbrella drinking nước mía and I’ll smile into brown eyes and you’ll smile into green eyes and for a moment everything will be worth it.