Whatever happens is truly the will of
Heavy raindrops fell continuously for
several days. Water from the tiled roof poured through the rain gutters in
torrents, too fast to be drained, overflowing in tiny whirlpools to drench
the lower steps of the porch. Gusts of wind splattered sheets of rain into
the windowpanes. The glass fogged up and water dripped into the house.
NgocLan wiped the windows and peered outside
into the garden. On the small- pebbled path that led to the house, fallen
plums lay scattered amidst leaves and a few broken branches. Several of the
hanging floral baskets tossed dizzyingly from side to side, listing as if
wanting to cast down the frail, tattered orchids to the ground. These
delicate flowers had tightly knotted roots and appeared to be holding on for
their lives. None of them had been evicted. Some of their rich purple
flowering branches were broken at an angle, still tenaciously clinging on,
their colorful offerings swaying easily while the heaven let loose its power.
It was the bamboo that did not fare as
well. The entire cluster was laid flat, one plant atop the other. The sharp
bamboo leaves cleaved to each other in a thick green mass, their tips
pointing down to conduct the rain water as a thousand tiny spouts, melting
the earth around them into a huge mud hole.
A small bird suddenly flew into view
and landed gently on the leaves of the rose bush. He turned his head intently
from side to side, a friendly bird who had lost his
way, chirping all the while. So strange! The rose stems were so slender and
fragile, yet under the weight of the bird they did not bow down. His spirit
must have been as light as air. NgocLan remembered
her mother telling her that a person with evil or sinful thoughts had a
spirit as heavy as lead.
Mother must have been right.
The bird finished chirping and
launched himself into flight out of sight. Suddenly, the verses of the 19th
century poet Nguyễn Công
Trứ came into NgocLan’s
“Kiếp sau xin chớ
Làm cây thông đứng giữa trời mà reo
Giữa trời vách đá cheo leo
Ai mà chịu rét thì trèo với
(In the next life, do not be a man
But a pine tree under the sky,
Under the sky, by the steep cliffs
Who’d brave the cold to stand with the
No, to be an evergreen pine standing
in one place on the mountain was too lonesome. NgocLan
changed her mood,
“Next time I will be a bird
Spreading my wings to fly high
And to roam
All corners of the sky”
“I will sing
I will drive
A chariot of
“Be my space,
Be my heart,
Be my all,
Poetry led NgocLan
to the piano. The young woman sat pensively for a second before her hands
took on a life of their own, drifting lightly over the ivory. Ah! “La prière d’une Vierge” by Badarzewska. It had
been a long time since she’d had any time to practice, but the music sounded
smooth enough. She then dreamily went into “Le Lac De Côme”
by Mme Louis Roche. Floating in the air was the joyful sound of a bubbling
condolezza first, so comforting! The music
changed tone to the sorrowful dolorosa . “Oh Virgin Maria, oh please hold me in your
arms and transform my life …!” The prayer went deep into one’s soul. It
lifted the spirit to diaphanous clouds and from there, Eternity took place….
April 30, they came and won the war.
disciplines, the Government manages, the People own.
more precious than Independence and Freedom.
Honest and Just.
Those were propaganda on richly bright
yellow banners everywhere. A portrait of Ho Chi Minh was displayed at the
entrance of each home.
NgocLan was cleaning up after lunch when Nhi came to visit. Nhi was a
distant relation of her husband’s. He was just thirty-one years old, a
security deputy from the North recently transferred to Ho Chi Minh City. Nhi had a bright countenance, calm manner and speech, and
a frequent smile. Among the number of relatives, distant and otherwise, Nhi seemed to be the most sincere and down-to-earth.
Nhi draped his raincoat over the chair on
the porch then stepped inside. He bowed in greeting,
“Good to see you again, Nhi. Sit down and relax.”
NgocLan went in the kitchen and came back with
a pot of tea. She poured some hot green tea in a porcelain cup and offered it
to the young man.
The latter took one gulp and lamented,
“Lord, the rain here is endless. Just
sitting around and watching the rain makes me homesick.”
“We are in the rainy season. But it’s
quite strange this year! Usually in Saigon, we have huge rainstorms. They
come and go, not dragging on like this. Maybe God despairs as we do—“
The woman realized her slip too late.
She stood up, pretending to pour more tea.
Nhi’s face became somber. He said,
“I know the people of the South are
not yet used to the new regime, and there is still much bitterness. But the
difficulties that you are facing are only temporary.”
He grew thoughtful for a minute, then
“You see, even the people in the North
have obstacles to face, not just you. Like me, for example. I was very good
in school, but the only way for me to advance myself is through the police
“Why don’t you apply to go abroad to
“Goodness! Only the children of the
big fishes in the Party can go abroad. My father is a Party member, but he is
among the ranks of the lowly shrimp, so what does it matter?”
The lady of the house walked over to a
desk nearby and took out a small box from a drawer. It held the new Seiko
watch that she had bought the day before. Falteringly, she handed it to Nhi.
Nhi stared at the wristwatch for a moment and burst out joyfully,
“Really, this is for me? My God! I’ve
dreamed of having a watch with a date window like this for such a long time.
You really want to give it to me?”
NgocLan nodded, touched, as Nhi tremblingly put the watch on his wrist. Again, he
“A lot of the other Northerners and I
came here to liberate the people from the domination of the American
imperialists. But we truly did not know that the Southerners were so
prosperous. I think this time, it is more correct to say that it is the
Northerners who are being liberated…”
He shivered and ch