A piece written on airplane in tonight’s flight from Hanoi to Saigon
The spring’s meetup. With this special person who is the first and one of the only two people who feel like Hanoi to me. The purest and most beautiful essence of it.
Because of my job, I used to travel to Hanoi a lot. I made it a point to spend time with my family whenever I was here so I rarely met with a friend in Hanoi. But he’s this special person I always wanted to see. 6 times, 7 times per year, or more than that, I never had to count how many times we met.
Until one day, I had to say, when we were talking on viber, ‘from now on, I will meet you only 4 times per year. For her. Once every season.’ ‘What about you?’, he asked. ‘What about me?’ ‘How many times will we meet when you’re also married?’ ‘Probably even less – twice a year, maybe,’ I said. ‘Not too bad.’ ‘No, it isn’t.’
So it’s our spring’s meetup today.
I texted him, ‘Anh oi, do you have some time this afternoon?’ He said, ‘yes, what time can you make it?’ That’s only about 40 minutes before we met. We are this close he never minds me making an appointment last minute (and I never have to feel guilty about it.) I knew he knew it’s not that I treat him as ‘the last thing to do’ when having nothing else on the list. I knew he knew that on the contrary, although I barely have time, whenever I have some for myself, seeing him is among the first things I want to do.
Then I told him every little stupid thing about my life. What I have done, where I have been to, what I have seen, whom I have met, he listened with a smile. And when I was done with all of that, I would ask him things like, ‘anh ơi, đây là cây sấu hay cây xà cừ?’ (‘Is it a sau tree or a xa cu tree?) And he would explain to me how to tell the two apart.
I love being outdoors so although it’s hot and sunny outside, we sat in the balcony, our seats pulled backwards against the wall to avoid being too much in the burning sun. ‘Do you think I can catch a falling leave from here?’ ‘Perhaps.’ I knew he remembers that I’m fond of catching falling leaves.
When we were driving along that line of trees in the small segment of road we shared on the way home, he gently reminded me before we parted until the next season, ’em nhớ đây là cây xà cừ nhé.’ (‘Remember these are xa cu trees.’)
A while ago, I saw a book on Hanoi. I bought it for him. He asked why. I said I wrote the answer in the cover. He opened it to see my handwriting which said, ‘Because you are Hanoi to me.’
Last year, some time after his wedding, I texted him, ‘do you know it’s very hard to find someone like you?’ He responded, ‘yes, I do.’ He wasn’t arrogant when saying so. Much as I know it myself, he knows that we are…’different’. And with his ability to read my mind, he knows that my definition of a great man deviates quite a bit from the common ideal. I reckon he is described as physically attractive by not many people. Nor is his career regarded as something shiny. But I think he knows that to me, very very few men can compare with him – a person who has enough courage and wisdom, passion and judgment, to not strive for the meaningless things an ordinary man pursues.