There is a man in the sludge of the river under the bridge I cross to get to school. He has built a home in big leaves and trash that people throw into the water, maybe the trash simply swims downstream like oily river eels. I am not sure what to feel when I see him, if he wants me to cry more water into the humid air or pass on my way. There is a detached doll head on top of his home so I think to myself maybe he sees the humor in things.
I bought a plane ticket to Vietnam as if I knew the world. I thought to myself I can handle it all until I cannot. Maybe the man in the river thinks the same thing or maybe he sees my weeping as evidence of my weakness. My tears taste different in my mouth like the fish oil and rice noodles have swam their way into my brain. And I think to myself are these my tears or has somebody passed them on to me.
There is a little girl who says to me as she waves ,”Hello” as if it meant everything in the world. As if it meant you are welcome here and do you like it. Do you have a boyfriend and does he see all that you feel. The man down the street gave you a bad exchange rate. The Vietnamese think the city center is expensive but here it is not. The dirt is like dust that covers the bad memories. Do you have memories like mine. Do they drip and steep in sweetness and condensed milk like our coffee. Are there words at your fingertips and do you feel you must bleed them onto the page. Where is your head dear girl. Do you feel alone.
I tell her things with my eyes as I do the man under the bridge in the sludge water. I tell them things but I do not know what I am saying. Or what I should say. There are bottles and the stems of leaves that float on the water that is thicker than my blood. It coats the man’s legs as he carefully steps from his kitchen to the bedroom. I feel the sludge on my own legs and I wish for clear water to clean myself. I keep wishing for clear water.
I walk home early, wishing to be productive. I pound my head until it rings and I have made my own ache. There is merit in individualism. My sheets have become dirty because the floor is dirty, grains rub against my skin making it rougher. A rough skin is the skin I came here to make. The sounds of my breathing echoes against an indifferent wall, with a loud rooster on the other side.