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Anytime, Anywhere

Nguyễn Xuân Hoàng

translated by Lưu Diệu Vân


(nguyên tác Bất cứ lúc nào, bất cứđâu)

Don’t ask me what am I doing and where am I. Right now, while writing these words for you, I am sitting in the publishing house on

Pham Ngu Lao Street

. That street, which hosts many printing houses and publishers as you probably had already known, is a small street full of dusts and cars. There is a letter on my working desk from “a-playwright-will-who-will-never-produce-a-play” but I understand nothing. Perhaps he has mistaken me for someone with a similar name. Those similar names! How many similar names to yours and mine exist in this world? And you, my Vy, your name must be written with i or y? How come with y but not i?


While these words are being written for you, the type setter is laying on my table the short story of the author of Rung Mam. The ceiling fan is moving at a sluggish speed and rain is falling outside. Rain pours with a sorrowful cry of a prey, awaiting its death. I don’t know why I always like to watch the miserable rain falls. Violent rain, barbarous rain; rain plunged mercilessly like an unsympathetic barrel.


What about you? Is it raining now where you are? Those much anticipated rain falls at the beginning of the sunny season are always appreciated. Rain constantly makes me miss you. I miss those days you sat behind me on my silver Lambretta. Your breath of love glides warmth through my back, heats up my frozen heart, chases away those gloomy clouds that have haunted my life all these years. Oh, those joyful rainfalls; ocean rain, forest rain, plateau rain, delta rain. Rain flows over me a belated love, rain pours into your pubescent love. Those hopeful rain drops are soaking our lives.


Yesterday, news from the battlefront read the war is getting fiercer; a friend of mine recently deceased. This morning, the delta sent news; another friend of mine had died. Those news brought tears to my eyes. So many people my age are facing death, why am I still sitting safely here? And why, our love? Perhaps I am an ill-fated lucky person; lucky because I have survived, unfortunate because I have not lived sufficiently in this lifetime.


Isn’t it nonsensical that we talk of love in an era of death? I have often thought the intimacy people get from love is leading them toward the proximity of death. To love is to die. And yet in front of death, people always desire life. What is life if not love? Paradoxical, right?


Vy darling, until now I still can’t imagine the place where you live. That elevated city has perceived my maturity, has heard my breathing, has seen me love, has witnessed those vengeful fights on Doi Cu, has lured me into Huyen coffee shop midnight until dawn. And now, your foot prints on the crimson road under the torrential rain are making me miss you. Can one see the pinnacle of the Langbiang Mountain from the view of your window every morning? What book are you reading? And which unfinished letter are you writing for me?… I am thinking about you, about your breath, about your angelic face… It would be extremely melancholic if my imagination ever loses its capability to envision, the capability that makes our love life more embellished, more kaleidoscopic…


Do you still remember the restaurants and coffee shops we had visited: a classy place, a common place; the movies we had seen together: passionate, atrocious, or gentle and dreamy; those melodies we had listened to together one of those nights: seductive and alluring. And your breathing immerses inside my chest. Your body in my amorous embrace.


Yes, many times I wish we were grass or animals; we will make love like untamed beasts beneath the naked sky and be unafraid of the God of Hopelessness. Just like animals, we will run wild in the forest, lie underneath the airy shades of the trees and sleep blissfully on the bed of desiccated leaves. Just like weeds and trees, we won’t grow too hasty. We rise with the wind, and sunshine, and the rain will turn us more robust. That sparkling golden circle will awake us every morning, the rouge evening sun will call us back home, and the starry moon will shine through our love.


Vy darling, it is now ten o’clock, morning at the publishing house. The rumbling sounds of printing machinery. The typefaces are dripping wet ink and water. The rain has ceased. The sky is crystal clear and sunshine is gusting warm breaths upon the city where I live. Perhaps the shady streets we used to stroll after the storm are flooded with puddles of water. The curve of the gleaming wet tamarind trees, its stretchy branches toward Saint-Paul school front gate are leaning onto our heads following the touch of delicate wind. Right at this moment, I don’t remember the number of cigarettes I had lit up today but I surely know I am thinking about you.


Vy love, do you remember the way the Japanese advertise about their exclusive product? Anytime, anywhere, there is only the two of us. Yes, only the two of us.


Tomorrow, I will be re-admitted to the hospital. The recurring signs of my old illness are surfacing and aggravating me. My friend said: “You won’t die yet. Don’t be scared. Living is indeed difficult but death certainly is shared by everyone.”


This morning, the road in front of the publishing house is extremely clean after the rain. But my essence is cramped with your images. Missing you, missing those long strands of hairs strangling my life, missing those two silent brown eyes, missing that prideful nose, missing that strangely sweet voice. I miss your submerging smiles in my hallucination, miss your long sinuous legs, miss your ample bosom, miss your sultry breath, miss your two abashing hands, …


But somehow, I still have an apprehension that we will never get to see each other again. Because, between you and I lie numerous rivers and mountains, numerous abysses, numerous valleys, numerous oceans and skies. There are fog and thunderbolt. There are nights and days. There are also morals and values. And…


Correspondence is unnecessary for words are useless, when people no longer want to read each other.




September 1968

bài đã đăng của Nguyễn Xuân Hoàng