Waking up in a hostel in Hà Nội with sweat on your face, or maybe it was tears, is never the best way to start the voyage to Ha Long Bay. Good thing I’m on the top bunk and no one can see me. I am wilting on the inside.
— the morning after (1)
Circumstances gave us 20 minutes to fit an entirety of a life. You cried for 19 of them. You couldn’t look at me for 8 of them. You yelled at me for not knowing Viet for 3 of them. You’re still crying. You turn away from me. You tell me you could only care for me for 10 days. I ask you about my name. Ocean. You say it was because I was so big. It took me 20 years to come back. Security puts his hand on my shoulder. Detachment ensues.
On the way to meet my sister in Long An. She’s a buddhist nun. She comes out from the monastery living quarters to meet me. I see so much of myself in her. She puts her hand in mine. Her smile is contagious, her laugh is synonymous with joy. She bugs me about not knowing my mother’s tongue. She calls me “Em” so I call her “Chị”. She tells me Mẹ gave her up when she was 7. So I wasn’t the only one. She is grateful that I am not mad at our mother. She assumed I never came back because I was mad (2).
Once someone in Vietnam learned my birth name, they would only call me that.
I am home when my ears are here (3).
My sister messages me over Facebook that my oldest brother dreamed of finding me one day. He adds me on Facebook.
The language barrier created beauty in smiles, embraces, shared stares, synchronized breaths, communal meals. Language isn’t just spoken.
In Saigon’s airport — I spent 34 days in the country of my birth. I spent 14 hours in
the village of my birth. I spent 20 minutes with the mother of my birth.
In O’hare’s airport — I scheduled a flight to go back to Texas, because I missed the
mother who raised me.
At Chipotle, I placed my fork down, full from eating three-quarters of a bowl. Naturally got up to throw it away before the weight of knowing my Mẹ lives off of a $1.50 a day choked the guilt down my throat. I sat back down and finished the rest of the bowl.