“It’s hard to find someone here that stays long enough that you can really fall in love,” I said to Simone, with a lit Kent in my right hand. The smoke circled, hovered a bit before it disappeared in Ha Noi’s bright summer sky. The day started gloomy, which made me ditch my initial plan of visiting Van Phuc, the silk village some 8 kms away from my place and came here at Oriberry Cafe instead to spend my usual me-time. The skin of the lake was smooth and looked like a mind that didn’t have any worries at all and for a moment, I wished my mind was exactly like that: smooth, linear.
Our first meeting was a typical one here in a city of ESL teachers. She needed a cover for her kindergarten class while she was away for Christmas holidays. Our meetings thereon were always serendipitous. There she was, ordering take-away at Che Huyen’s fried chicken outside Rastaman. There I was, just arrived, waiting for my past-midnight humans. But after several happenstances either here at Oriberry or at Rastaman, we sat down and talked for two hours.
I struggled on my essay about my father. I’ve been working on it for more than a month, but it seems that it is not progressing. Perhaps, I added a sentence or two here and there. Flimsy, weak, unnecessary additions. The essay is at stalemate.
I went to the balcony with my read of the month, Anchee Min’s Empress Orchid, about to light my third Kent of the day, half-thinking, half-assing my way through a genre I always struggle writing. It’s for an anthology.
“Poetry is a comfortable choice,” I said to the editor.
“Jona?” I heard.
“Oh dear, Simone!!” A tight hug ensued.
“Indeed, these days, I feel that I’m always in “Lost in Translation” phase,” she said. She looks gorgeous. Her hair wrapped in a boho turban. A mermaid dangles in each ear. She was doodling before I arrived.
When two humans found themselves in a city they are now called “home” or Point A, what else there is to talk but the city and its humans, especially the men we slept with and the men we wanted to keep, perhaps for a committed relationship, but there was always complications that kept us from pursuing such thought.
The heart needs a break after all.
I see Ha Noi as a city of transitions for many. A city of lost, confused souls grappling with many options laid before them. And I don’t know, I don’t find most of them attractive. Perhaps because I’m attracted to people who know exactly what they are and what they want to do with their lives. Humans who live a purpose-driven life. Now, this doesn’t have to be about careers; rather, it is about passion.
“Ha Noi is weird,” she said.
“I think it’s the very reason we find it charming.” It doesn’t escape us that we live in a bubble.
She drew a big circle in her sketchpad and said, “This is the Tay Ho bubble,” and drew a tiny bubble far from the circle, “and this was me. But now, I’m here” and made a small circle on the fridges of the huge circle, “Perhaps a bit more inside.”
21 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho