Last night I dreamed I came back to the Grand Manolis. The sentence has haunted me for days.
I drank vodka, with cannabis, which gave me illusions that must be the experience, it is believed, one would have in one’s last moments when one’s life passes before one’s eyes. Je suis tombé an abyss, against whose floor I was beaten myriad of times. I wondered if I was going to die, if death would be like this.
At nights, I would sit by the window, my head on my crossed arms, nocturnal wind ruffling my hair, a cat lying on a air-conditioner outside the opposite building where, I supposed, Riht was deep in his sleep.
‘When I leave, they will rent the house out or maybe sell it. When I come back, I won’t live here anymore.’
‘That’s a pity. I’m so sorry to hear.’ said he.
Toru sent me a message to tell me that he knew a place in our hometown similar to a Mongolian landscape, that he would like us to go there when I am back home. I was writing when Riht appeared at his window, and gave me a sad smile, which was, for me, unbearable.
I would lie on my bed, staring out the window and think I would love to die like this, here, staring out the window to wait for days to pass by, thinking about the next book, a beautiful novel I have in mind but never write down a word, about a picture I have in mind but too lazy to touch on the brushes. Soon, so soon that one day my neighbour, my lover, my dancer will look out his window and will not see me waiting for him there. So soon that if I have ever a chance to come back, I will not have that window for my own use, with the view to the the building opposite, painted in red and yellow, and wake up in the warm sun to the sounds of street vendors downstairs.
He must have stood by that window long before I came and will stand there long before I leave.
It was one in the afternoon when I first came, with my heavy luggage, to start my sojourn of four months here. I must have spotted him several times before I gave him my first smile, with which began our story.
‘I didn’t like Vietnamese before. Until I met you. I think I like you.’
The motorbicycle driver is very nice to me, he taught me some of the local language, and smiled and talked to me almost every time I sat on my balcony, drinking, smoking…
The other day we, I and Riht, went out for dinner. Then we would come back to my apartment, and we would learn ‘yeung peei-l-ngeah’ (we together), and we would repeat the words.
The day after I was gloomy. Only the sight of him could give me joy, but at the same time it is the reminder that I will not see that face before long.
Summers are endless here but they are not endless for me, or anyone else.
I am Riht. I am fifty years old. Each time I visit this part of the city, memories of the short-lived romance twenty years ago come flooding back. I will stand, sometimes for hours on end, staring at the shopping mall, and making up in my mind images of a young man standing there by his window in an old French colonial building, perhaps the most beautiful one I have ever seen, he would appear and hold my gaze. He is three years younger than me.
The building was destroyed, and replaced by a modern one, flashy and chic. And he never comes back. He is the most free-spirited man I have ever seen, easygoing and open with his homosexuality. I still remember his strange accent, his incredibly slow speaking, and his insatiable curiosity in everything in my language, trying to learn it in short time himself.
“You’re a liar. I can’t believe you. You’re too easy to go to bed.” I told him, through his computer, when he told me he had no boyfriend back home at the moment, upon which he laughed out loud and told me that perhaps he was the most sincere person on Earth, at which I burst into laughter.
I have been bored with life, sometimes I think I don’t want to live anymore.
The last day he was here, he gave me a bottle of honey as a gift, such a bad choice he had, I thought, which I could only take a small spoon each time, for I was afraid that it would run out soon, which took one year. I still keep the empty bottle, and two pieces of paper, on which were written his phone number on the first day we exchanged looks and smiles and later his address in Vietnam.
And… tale has it that one day he will come back, my prince, my sok sabaay, my beh-daw.
I am doing everything more slowly, preparing my dinners, reading, working, washing dishes, as if by doing that I can slow down time.
Towards the end of my stay here, my love for the place and the country has become somewhat overwhelming, de profundis. And if I love it that much, will the apartment remember a young man who, in his last days, at nights, would drink and cry his eyes out by the window for the sorrow of being apart?
One day, I will write I stayed at an apartment opposite W. P. Post Office. I was sitting on the balcony while local men were gathering down the street, talking vigorously in the language that some day, became, for me, the language of love. Or perhaps, it is more likely, nothing will be written because memories have chosen to leave me, forever.