Vietnamese original by Ta Thi Duc
English adapted version by Lou High
Excerpts from A Girl’s Diary.
Waking up I discovered a cloth bag under my head. I remembered lying in an evacuees’ tent without a pillow the previous night. I therefore wondered what had happened while I was sleeping. I hurriedly sat up, trying to figure out who had placed the makeshift cushion under my head when I saw a fellow escapee looking at me with heart-warming tenderness. His longing eyes made me embarrassed because I had not experienced such a strange fond look since my childhood. The next day I chanced to see him carrying the same cloth bag. I started feeling ashamed of having slept too soundly to see him raise my head, this fact being a taboo according to the then traditional culture.
A few days later he handed me his hand-written poem:
“You are like a wild flower
“with natural beauty,
“with the eyes like those of a gentle dove.
“Seeing you sleeping
“with your head on the ground
“during the evacuation,
“I instantaneously fell in love with you at first sight.
“I wish I were your husband;
“I’ll love you forever;
“I’ll love you till I die.”
From then on I often looked at the image of myself in the mirror to be sure of my seductive beauty. I had a dream every night during which time I re-lived my childhood as if in a serial fairy tale with successive episodes, vividly shown on the silver screen in a slow-motion movie.
Lo! That little angelic, trouble-free girl was me. Life was bed of roses to me in every aspect. I took everything for granted without having the least doubt about the future. I would wander in the garden, picking flowers to stud onto my hair, chase after multi-color butterflies while listening to the sweet-singing birds. I would wade into the winding, knee-deep creek with sparkling crystal-clear water to watch shoals of small fish. I also would sit on the grass, looking up at the sky to contemplate the ever-changing clouds floating on high.
Awakening from those sweet dreams full of bygone memories, I now faced reality full of uncertainty. There seemed to be something missing, probably due to kind of vaguely-defined lovesickness. I sometimes anxiously looked out of the window, pensively watching the cloud floating towards the far horizon. I had the feeling of being under the influence of the so-called love potion described in the love story of Tristan and Iseult.
I naturally thought of some lines of verse by Xuan Dieu:
How can one explain what love is!
Did a certain evening not mean anything at all
When my soul was filled with light sunshine,
A gentle cloud and a caressing breeze… (?)
I imagined asking him, “Why did you enter my mind and my soul? Did you know you left a blood oozing wound in my heart?”
Due to the war conditions I did not hear from him for about two years during which time I cherished the fond memories of the evacuation from my home town to the Capital City. One day he visited the Girl School I was attending. What a nice surprise for us to be reunited in the school office under the supervision of the principal!
He came to bid temporary farewell to me pending his departure for France with a four-year scholarship to study engineering. Although the school principal was briefly absent out of courtesy, all that we could do was to look into each other’s eyes as if to say, “Please wait for me”, and, “I’ll wait for you no matter what.”
Forty years later, a daughter of mine chanced to read the draft of my fulfilled love. She asked, “Mommy, what’s the title of this story?”
The answer was, “Seemingly in love.”
“Why ‘seemingly’ instead of ‘certainly’?”
“Because love is not something you know for sure.”
“OK, your reasoning is seemingly right!”