It was the fall of 1969 and I was back in Vietnam, a civilian. On my own with
no one to answer to and no where I could not go. I had an apartment in the
Saigon Port Building, on Hoang Dieu street, two blocks from "K" docks. "K"
docks was a place where I had spent a lot of time a year earlier when I was in
the army. I had also spent a lot of time in the bars across the street from the
docks. The Saigon Port Building was a relatively nice place. In the building
were several army officers, a few families and a number of ladies of the evening.
One of the young ladies befriended me and I used to go up and use her shower, as
mine had a very poor water flow. She invited me up to have dinner with her once
in a while. Sometimes I would just go up and we would talk or watch TV, which
was all in Vietnamese and she would explain the stories to me. She was a
delightful person and I enjoyed her company a lot. It was interesting that
since the bathroom had no door there was no privacy at shower time. It was
even more interesting that there was never a need for privacy and there was no
awkwardness in those times.
One evening I was down in my room reading a book. There was a knock at the door.
The Girl from upstairs and another girl came in. The girl from upstairs explained
that her friend was visiting when a customer had arrived. It was after curfew
and her friend could not go home, could she stay with me for the night. I said
that would be fine. She and her friend both thanked me and she left. Her friend
came in and sat on the bed. We spoke little as I was near the end of a chapter
and it was getting dark. As I continued reading she undressed and got in bed.
I finished the chapter, put the book down, and closed the shutters. I put my
feet up, slouched down in the chair, and said good night. She asked "do you not
wish to sleep here"? I said that's all right you may have the bed. I am fine
here. She said "no, I do not want you to have to sleep in the chair, come here."
I said "I don't have pajamas". She giggled and said "that is all right". I went
over and undressed and lifted the covers. She was so pretty and had an exquisite
figure. Her hair was long, black and shiny. Her eyes were so bright and so dark
that I felt as though she could see right through me. Getting into bed I held
her and ran my hand over her side and back. Holding her close we hugged and fell
asleep in one another's arms. In the morning I was awakened by the feel of the
bed moving. I turned and looked, she was sitting on the end of the bed just
getting her socks and shoes on. She was all smiles and so pretty. She got up
and said thank you. I said you are quite welcome. With a good bye that was
lyrical she was out the door and gone. I lay in bed just thinking about her.
Yesterday morning I did not know she existed. She was so pretty, so soft and
warm. She came into my life, there was a moment of such closeness and beauty
and she was gone.
I got up and went out. I spent most of the day around town. Coming back I was
on Doung Nguyen street, having just crossed the bridge over the Ben Nghe Canal.
As I passed a restaurant, that I had passed twice a day since I arrived in
Saigon, I was aware of a commotion. I looked in and it was she. She was talking
a mile a minute, pointing at me and gathering the other waitresses, cooks and
customers. Soon everyone was listening and looking at me. They came at me like
a mob and pulled me in. Seating me at a table. Everyone in the place was now
part of the conversation, except me, who did not speak the language. They were
all pointing and smiling and touching. Then the food arrived. They wanted me
to try everything. There were a few who were not initially smiling but the others
would talk to them and explain and they too would smile. I can only guess that
the conversation was about the night before and what had happened and what had
not happen. They would not let me go and since I had no where to go anyway I
had a most enjoyable afternoon. I did not wish to get up, leave and offend
anyone. Eventually I was able to excuse myself and be on my way.
In the days and weeks after that, whenever I passed the restaurant I would look
in, but I was never to see her again. At times people on the street would come
by and touch me, and start talking, to me or to the person they were with. It
is like Walt Whitman said. "When you pull on the smallest blade of grass you
will find it's connected to everything else in the universe."
It was one of the wonderful things that happened to me in that beautiful country
filled with beautiful people. As time passed I realized that I was in love with
her, and I never even knew her name.