Em ơi, đi đâu?

‘Are you afraid that your mother might be worried or that our neighbours may gossip about us?’

‘They are already gossiping about us.’ said he.

My mother has an ear illness. And I don’t want our neighbours look down on me, which can make my mother’s health worsen.’ he continued.

‘Do you speak Vietnamese?’ asked he.

‘Of course I do. It is my mother tongue.’

Perhaps he has noticed that I always speak English.


And he told me that he once used to have a boyfriend, seven years ago, before he was married and had a son, and that it was because it was tradition that he would get married. I tried to imagine how his boyfriend was, how they loved when he had been at my age when I was still in college. I would love to talk to him in his language, of which my command was confined to basic conversational phrases.


And I and he, we were talking in our sign language when we were making love in silence.


Em ơi, đi đâu?’ asked he. It was one of the very few sentences he can speak, in mine. And with that he cracked a wide, beaming, childish smile. And I would teach him how to say Happy New Year in my language, adding that I am speaking with northern accent, which has more tones than its southern counterpart, and which is more difficult to a foreign ear, in my opinion.


‘I do hope that one day you will have such freedom as I have now.’ said I, though I am not sure how much freedom I have at the moment.


And in the morning, I will wake up, deep in my melancholy, standing by the window, looking towards the opposite building, to wait for him to appear right in the frame of his window, to see him smile, half naked, whose the lower part of the body I already know quite well, thinking that we had only brief moments together while birds are jumping on the very tole roof where every noon those s’va would play their game.


Sohm mawng pak ch’muy keo. I told him when I called. I would tell him that he is sang-ha, and he would tell me that I am s’aat. Khnyom sro laeng naah. I would tell him, after which he would repeat the sentence. And with him, I have learned the word p’teak vinh, “home” in English it is. He told me his birthday, which was September 9th 1987 when I showed him my passport with my photo taken five years ago and my own birthday.


I felt a sudden pang in my heart when the thought that one day, when he is old, he will say to himself, in a hot afternoon like this, thinking about me, came to my mind. Will I think about him then? Or will I be alive then to think after all? Where will I be then?


I woke up this morning, with the hangover which I did not know of alcohol or of love, waiting for him at my window, thick grey clouds hung in the sky, signalling a hard rain, which did not come. The day before yesterday I took a photo of his window when he was not there, and pictured him in the middle of it, my imagination served me well, and then he told me that he rented the house, and gave me his address in the countryside, which is about more than 70 kilometres from P. and that I could find him there, which I thought was more improbable than the scenario that Patrick would meet me here.


We hugged when we said lia-hao-ih and riet th’ray sua s’dei at two in the morning when he had to leave for his house, just metres away from me across the narrow street.


I will try to remember when we kissed, and when he loved to play with our mixed semen, with childish joviality.


One day, will he think about me and say ‘Em ơi, đi đâu?

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