A room

 

It was about 4 in the afternoon. It was letting up, after hours of hard rain. He could not hear the sound of the rain outside the windows. He was watching the rain, attentively. He was making up the sound in his mind. Droplets of water were running on the glass windows. It must be cold outside, he thought, as it was cold here, in the room.

His mind was foggy, as it was foggy outside. Images of kisses, the smell of the skin of the body he hugged conjured up in his head. Something was churning up in his stomach, he felt.

The moments had come, and gone.

He watched the white curtain, and thought about Woolf. He seemed to be wondering something he did not even know himself wondering. He was startled, by being his own. The body was fresh, soft, young and voluptuous.

It was a room of the past. And he was ceasing to exist, seconds by seconds.

a tiny lizard

Last Friday I woke up late when the sun already climbed high in the sky, and it was getting so hot. I was having a bath before going to the office when I saw a tiny lizard, whose tongue was flickering out to taste a drop of water sloshing around on the wall of the bathroom. I was watching it, with interest, while cool water was running through my body.

I have been listening to music by Spanish, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Colombian musicians, yet it is Argentina that I want to visit and live in for a while.

Earlier today my mother called to tell me that tomorrow she will, along with some of my neighbours back home, go to the provincial capital for the first hearing of the court, where they filed a lawsuit against the president of the province over the land grab of the area we have been living for more than 30 years, which is precedented, at least to my ears. And I have been wondering for a long time what I could do as the one who was born and grown up there, and as the son of one of the partcicipants. What can I do to help? Should I tell some of my friends who are also lawyers and journalists, to help spread the news about the case? Should I write an article about that?

It can turn out to be something like what happened in Van Giang (Hung Yen Province), Tien Lang (Hai Phong), and most recently in My Duc (Hanoi). And what can I do to help?

… I am just sitting in the darkness and feel that I am somehow becoming a part of it, that I am myself also particles of that darkness before my eyes…

In a rainy afternoon

The boy in the balcony of one of the houses opposite, in the sight from my window, is stretching his arms to catch the rain. The sound of the rain is mixed with that of music, Philip Glass, Duport and Schubert and many more. I can see blankets of cloud far away still reflect the sunlight of the afternoon, that makes them shining brightly white like bales of cotton. I have no clothes on but a black boxer, lying on my bed to watch it raining hard outside.

Sometimes I am dying to write H. a letter to tell him that I have been learning Spanish and about my obssession with D. Even though H. knows nothing about D. Yet I did not write a word, and the letter is just a product of my imaginative mind.

The dusk is falling and life matters no more.

… when I was around 7 or 8 years old, an uncle of my paternal lineage came to live with us. And I had a huge crush on him. He is gay I believe. I spied on him, found every occasion to watch him take a bath. I would sneak in my parents’ bedroom, where windows would be opened during the summer to alleviate the heat, from which I would have the vintage point to watch him perform his ablutions, under blossoming Tonkin jasmines. Once he caught my eyes, and he smiled back, almost invitingly. I liked to sleep with him, to hug him and feel his warmth, and to rub against his body. I thought he liked me too. And he got married. As every guy in my village. My father got married at my age now, my mother bore me when she was 27, the same age as me now. My uncle came to live with us when he was 27 too. He got married, as my first love is going to do, thinking it is what needs to be, that it is inevitable, that it is one of the must-do-s in one’s lifetime. He got married and has two sons, among whom the elder is going to college. He, the son, must have gone through a lot of difficulties, having a gay father, with the fact known in the neighbourhood. He is turbulent, and quite handsome the last time I saw him, about 6 months ago at my sister’s wedding. How has he, my uncle, seen his life? I wonder.

And after the span of 10 years from now, which flies, I will be at the same age as my father when I first went to school. He would take me to my class, on his bicycle. And I would wear a short and a T-shirt, which would make me stand out among my peers, because I was the only kid who wore a short at school. He would play football with me, just two of us, in the playground in front of my house, with a red plastic ball. He would hug me so often and I would tell him everything I experienced at school.

Once he got angry at me and my sister for something wrong we had done. He took a rod to punish us. “How many rods do you think you deserve?” he asked my sister. “Three.” replied she. Then she got three. He repeated the question when it was my turn. “One hundred.” I said. Then he dropped the rod and hugged me deeply in his arms. He could not do it. I knew it. It might be my trick at the time. I was somehow sure that he could not do so. But what if he could?

When I was 22, I came out. And since then we rarely talk. Sometimes, like this time, I want to write to him so much, when I am young like he used to be, drink much and get drunk. I am like him, at least in the way that we can consume a lot of alcohol. At least…

When I was 12, I had an injury in my leg that I had to have a plaster cast. My father took me to and fro to the local hospital, also on his bicycle. He also had me bathed, with all the awkwardness as I was already in my early teenage years, when I started to be able to turn on and had pubic hair, when I learned to yearn for a male body. Then I had a very close friend, who had been my academic foe for years. We would spend summers to naughtily swim in the public lake which was used as a source of water for residents in our neighbourhood, and in the stream so far away from our homes that we had to ride our bicycles for hours in scorching sunny days to get there, where we would enjoy ourselves in the water, naked.

Once when I was in high school, during one of my visits home, after dinner while I was having a walk in the garden. It must have been cold then, and the night fog was falling, my father suddenly came and hugged me from behind. I did not remember exactly but it was not after numerous quarrels I had with my parents during tumultuous years of mine, when my bad performance at school was a headache for them. Perhaps then he had some shots of liquor…

A note from the beach

March 31

This is what I need: some shots of liquor, after which the reality could become some kind of an illusion, or it is not exactly as it is supposed to be; a good table, with good lighting would suffice.

I was sitting alone in the restaurant. There was something kitsch about the décor. I stared at colour-changing globes for a while. It was inexplicable. I could feel my heart beat. And, out of the blue, I touched the cover of the lamp, in the manner as if it was a moribund leaf. In fact, I could feel it that way.

These day I have become somewhat disillusioned about the world around me, and the future. I don’t really care about anything, myself included.

The golden rice paddies brightened in the scorching sun are running fast before my eyes, so fast that in the end it would only form an still image of what my eyes received and perceived at that time…

The sound of the sea has not the power to lull me into going to the beach just to hear it, any longer. It could be sad, but I have no desire to go to the beach, to feel sand under my feet. What do I need now? I do not really know.

… I would, and should, think about the plot of a dystopian short fiction that I have mulled over for months now.

The waves are rolling beneath. I can hear the sea roar, the sun and the wind are playing on my skin. It is strange, so strange that all my philosophical questions have ceased to pop up in my mind, nor the sudden, inevitable pang of fear of the death occurred. I would jump… and nothing would matter anymore. It is the way I would die. I would go to sleep, and never wake up…

It was a month ago, I was sitting in a hotel room after the dinner with my collegues during the two-day vacation we were taking. Some hours before, a cover designer in the publishing house, who had helped me with the cover for my debut novella published in French last year, had a performance in which he dressed as a girl. The performance itself was incredible, and he was really beautiful by any standards of female beauty, which was also stunning. I was very surprised. And it made me think about the politics and philosophy of clothes. Do clothes signify anything? What is all about body and clothes? And my thinking was brought back to the short fiction Story of your life, on which Academy-nominated film Arrival was based, in which heptapods were described as a species who use a non-linear language and have a mind that enables them to know everything before it happens. Consequently, their actions are much like a performance on a stage of theatre. By drawing analogy from this, I have been thinking how clothes play a part as a gender performance of human beings, as other dispositions determined by the society in which a subject lives. For example, when one is born, one’s sex becomes known by his or her parents and doctors. Then he or she will be dressed accordingly. When the one is grown enough to have some kind of perception of the gender they want themselves to be, one can act and/or try to act as the very one and the rest of the society think that fits for that gender role. Why and what makes a man think that he feels more like a woman? Who is the woman in his mind after all? The woman who will wear a skirt, high heels and lipstick. The woman who must have a vagina and breasts? I am somehow very distressed to know that by looking for some measures of surgery to change ones’ sex organs, they are unhappy with the current sex organs they have at the moment. And once again, a man wants a vagina and all female clothes to feel fully as a woman, to perform what a normal woman does by social standards. All he does is just to imitate the image of woman set by the respective society. Why ones need to think of themselves as a specific gender? Can ones be, and become a gender? As regards genders and gender roles, it seems to me that human beings, like heptapods, are just performing the roles set by the society and traditional thinking. And I have been wondering that if it is our binary sight that helps build up our binary mind about the world: right and left, right and wrong, male and female, black and white; that in our world there is nothing like a blurry and heterogenous system of conceptions in which we can think. A man who feels himself like a woman will dress like a woman, and may be transgendered to be a woman. A woman who feels herself like a man will dress like a man and may be transgendered to be a man. Even in homosexual world, they categorise and characterise themselves as masculine/effeminate, top/bottom, active/submissive, husband/wife, seme/uke, and so forth, which fits perfectly into the binary system of gender roles by old standards. So why is that?

*

I have been learning Spanish for two weeks with an instructor who is also a Mexican nun at a foreign languages centre named after Alexandre de Rhodes, a French missionary, whose major book Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum, based on works by previous Portuguese missionaries Gaspar d’Amiral and Antonio Barboza, laid the very foundation for modern Vietnamese writing system. The language sounds very breezy and sexy. And I believe I have a head start for I have learned French before and the two languages have so many similarities. Though I do not think that Spanish is as easy as many people claim. The verb system and conjugation must be as complex as in French.

I have been listening to Alvaro Soler (a singer based in Barcelona, born in 1991) long before the first thought of learning the language ever came across my mind. And it was incroyable for me today when I played a CD by him and could understand some words of what he was singing. I come to realise that while in French textbooks you can easily find materials by and about Camus and Sartre, French famous writers in 20th century, both Nobel laureates, who happened to be philosophers; cuisine of course; and clothes; along with their obsession about politics, labour unions, elections and demonstrations; you can find also, in Spanish textbooks, many topics from cuisine (of course), and literature (García Márquez and Pablo Neruda, both Nobel prize winners, yet they were not philosophers for good!), films too (Pedro Almodovar) and so much about music and how to spend free time. It seems to me that Spanish-speaking people have some kind of a movable feast, which is safer to conclude after watching some Spanish music videos. I find that Spanish has the most vivacité among the languages I have learned, perhaps mostly by the spirit of those who speak it.

*

I stare out of the window to catch the sight of the national flag moving in the light wind. One of my cats has gone away, and I do not know if I am able to finish the story I started writing. While the night wears on…

like a song

Today I walked home from the office. I believed I had enough time, not to say that much, to take a stroll, thinking on the way. I always think about something while having a walk. It was not a long road though, just two kilometres. And along the way, I have seen several couples, who, in a flash, reminded me that I used to be like them. I was not nostalgic then, in fact. It was just like a French song that I really liked when I listened to it on a channel of RTBF devoting totally in French music, all old songs. The only words that I can remember, from the song, are “en Italie”. I told myself while listening to the song that I would try to remember the lyrics, to search for it in the Internet afterwards. But my memory was defeated. It was, perhaps, several weeks ago. And I has opened the web player almost every day ever since, just to catch the song. But I could not. And it was quite the same feeling when I recall some images from my previous relationships, in a moving collage that was sometimes played in my mind like a broken trailer of a bad film. It was that the song was beautiful, and you loved it, just like the way some moment was beautiful, and you were a part of it, you loved it. It was all that mattered. Just that. Like a song that you loved, but could not hear again. It was lost, maybe forerver. You can hear it somewhere, in the future, when, it is likely that you cannot even discern that it is the song that you’d ever loved long long time ago.

Sometimes I open the note in my phone, in which I scribbled something that came across my mind when I was in the bus, through the night, before we, I and my college friends, were on a ferry to the island where we passed a weekend, just to find out that my memory is hopelessly terrible, and to know that there was another me that had this and that thought. The note has in the least helped me remember that I once thought, or recalled, about the times my mother took me with her to the local market back home, when I was a child, on her bicycle. I would have some cakes in a stall, while staring at the opposite stall, where they were selling sweetened bean soup. There were butchers’, footwear shops, and so many more…

Sometimes I stare out of the window in my room and don’t know who I am.

The late afternoon, I watched the sea, and the islets nearby, and the stones beneath the water, with trash dispersed around and corroding parts of a long forgotten structure that was once promising to become a building, I was not sure.

… like a song…

the corpse

Last night I had a bad dream, in which I was attending my cousin’s funeral. He was drowned. My aunt and my mother were crying their eyes out over the shabby coffin. I was watching all this, without shedding a tear. The corpse was dark purple and drab, rusty brown, wrapped in a transparent plastic film, underneath droplets of water from his decaying body condensed. Suddenly, the corpse moved, its mouth opened in a fruitless attempt to go out of the bag. My mother and my aunt told the corpse, in unison, that it had died and it had better stay there in the bag in a disciplined way. Then it stopped moving and lied still, without making a sound.

In a flash, it dawned on me that this was a dream, but I could not say for sure, nor I could do anything about it. It was all the more harrowing that I could not even wake myself up from it, I was trapped in the dream. I was scared stiff because that was the corpse of my cousin, who was of the same age as me, and that I knew that some of my dreams would become true, somehow, if I did not tell it to anyone; all unfathomable. My phone rang, it was a call from my uncle, my cousin’s father. He cried and told me over and over again that he would revive his son then he hung up.

After a while, I found myself standing perplexed in the middle of the back court in my home where I had cried when a litter of rabbit kits died in my hand. It was sunny and dry, and I could smell a whiff of fetid odour in the air, supposedly from the coffin.

I woke up, in the end.

Hạt cát hay cục phân? :D

Có những ngày, dài ơi là dài, mệt ơi là mệt. Tưởng như riêng chỉ năm mười phút đọc đề thi tốt nghiệp chính trị của bà giám thị trường Học viện Cán bộ cũng dài như miên man không biết bao giờ mới hết. Thế rồi cũng hết. Chữ đã chép, thời gian cũng đã bỏ, bài đã nộp và người đã về nhà, nằm trên giường, có tí men. Mà cứ nhìn cái ánh sáng mờ nhạt từ khu đối diện hắt lên trần nhà, in bóng hai cái chuông gió, phất phơ. Đêm, gió ngoài cửa sổ thổi mạnh đến mức cả cái chuông gió nặng bằng đồng của Trung Quốc cũng đua nhau kêu với cái chuông sứ của Nhật.

Chẳng biết từ đâu, hình ảnh một vũ trụ quay quay nhảy đến trong đầu. Rồi thì thế nào nếu hai vũ trụ va vào nhau? Hai thiên hà va vào nhau? Hai hành tinh va vào nhau? Sẽ vỡ ra và rồi chẳng còn gì ý nghĩa nữa. Thật sự. Cứ nghĩ nếu như trong một thứ bé tí teo như nguyên tử cũng có bao nhiêu là hạt, biết đâu cả vũ trụ cũng chỉ là một thứ hạt trong một nguyên tử, nguyên tử của một hạt cát dưới biển một thế giới nào, hay trong cục phân đang trôi theo dòng nước xối ở một bệ xí nào. Lúc ấy, rõ ràng là hạt cát ấy hay cục phân ấy, không ai ở đây hiểu được. Làm sao hiểu được thứ lớn nhường ấy, nếu cả vũ trụ chỉ là một cái hạt, trong một nguyên tử, trong một hạt cát hay trong cục phân ấy. Thực ra, hạt cát ở đại dương nghe đẹp hơn cục phân. Nhỉ?

Thế rồi, tự nhiên đầu óc lại lang thang nhớ lại buổi trình diễn thơ chỉ mấy tiếng trước. Rồi tưởng tượng: ta sẽ làm gì nếu lọt vào vòng trong ở Hà Nội? Thực ra, việc viết lách và bình luận, và chia sẻ với người hướng dẫn về ý tưởng, về cái gì làm đầu óc có những hình ảnh đó, ý ở chỗ này chỗ kia là gì, thì rất thú vị. Nhưng khi lên sân khấu, thì đã là một cái gì đó thật khác. Hết cả cảm xúc, hết cả tự nhiên. 😀 Chả hiểu sao…

Lâu lắm rồi mới viết bằng tiếng Việt. Khi bắt đầu viết bằng tiếng Anh, nó trở thành thói quen, các câu cứ thế nhảy múa trong đầu bằng tiếng Anh trước, viết ra, đôi khi tra lại từ điển, đôi lúc sai. Tiếng Pháp thì ít tự nhiên hơn, tra từ điển nhiều hơn.

Chả hiểu sao, một ngày dài ơi là dài, cứ nằm nghe chuông gió kêu rồi nghĩ đến cái vũ trụ là cái hạt gì đó trong một nguyên tử trong một cục phân, hay một hạt cát?