22 Dec 2014

The town of dust

I could write about Hanoi a thousand time, the way rich and poor villagers of Macondo would tell tales about their haunted village for centuries and keep the ghosts of the Buendías roaming.
I landed on a blazing hot day after a sleepless 11 hour flight and 5 movies on the shitty screen of a very old plane. Daddy picked me up from the airport. I told him not to. But this 65 year old man still woke up at 6 in the morning, took the local bus over 40km to pick his 32 year old daughter up from the airport.

I didn't pay much attention to the misty white fog that was just then lifting up from the Red river, or the roads that were slowly filled up with people on old motorbikes travelling in and out of the city, or buildings that weren't there before. My blissful happiness was focused and contained within about 2 cubic meter of the back of the taxi, with my father next to me.
Breakfast was ready by the time we got home, like how it has been for 22 years and some odd months. 22 years and some odd months that I hadn't left the nest, mum made sure breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are ready whenever I'm home. 10 years later, it has not changed.

In fact, very little has changed. It was the same old house, old walls, daddy's orchid mummy's herbs in the garden, only with new bits of tacky decoration mum has put up over the years. The kitchen was overwhelmed with the smell of dried mushrooms, bamboo shoots, garlic and shallots. Its walls splashed with family photos. As I laid on my childhood bed, occasionally glancing at my wedding photos my parents have put up on the wall, giggling while reading the secret diary of my 12 year old self that I found on the old bookshelf, sadness suddenly blanketed me: A beautiful kind of sadness, the foggy trickling reverie that quietly seeps in your veins and before you know it, becomes you.
I made my brother sleep on the floor next to my bed the entire time I was in Hanoi. He agreed without batting an eyelid, as if it was the most natural request in the world. We didn't even talk much before bed time. We didn't have to. We were next to each other, and that was more than enough. He made food. I washed up. I wore his jacket in Hanoi. He wore my pink scarf when we were in Cambodia. We shared a sneaky ciggy on the roof top. I was blissfully happy.

Hanoi was not the same. It's never the same. The city changes so fast that every time I came back, I found myself in a mixture of awe and confusion. I felt its beauty and smelled its old rotten air all at once. I cringed at the amount of dust in the air, the loud noises that were eating up the citadel. I "aww"-ed at the fresh young waiters who were all overly cute, polite and well-mannered in Cộng cafe. But this time, for the first time in years, I felt calm being in my city.

My disappointment with Hanoi was over.
Let it go!
And I did.

Bright and soft like the first light of day, I saw the dust all over my city, landing gently on corners of my quiet memories, lovingly wrapping everything in a pleasant haze of kindness.

My dusty city. Where love begins, and forever stays. With dad, mum, and VF.

Photos: Amy, Khánh & Selfies

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