One when he comes to get lost:

I and he liked to get lost. Until then we were no longer I, and separately, he.

It was an evening down the maze of alleys round some corner of West Lake. Evening—yet not as dark as normally imagined. The alley was inkling with a stream of yellow from the street lamps silencing in between the shades of green, or emerald.

It was the alley we randomly headed inside. When it came to choose between the straight-ahead or the left one where we parted the coffee shop just seated, we picked the left one with silent consensus.

Every now and then there would be moving subjects that signaled us of the reality—a man washing his car, the sound of basking dog, a police that was shaking his head from sleepiness, or cheering, laughing women from inside the bar we walked past by. But most of all, we did not know where we were going. There were no suggestions of direction from both, so much as we had no suggestion of the real life the other was leading. We were equally clueless.

Nevertheless, as we were clueless, we picked up more clues from the other person we thought we had barely known.

Was it so or was it just me who found a balance of power between us, I knew not. All I knew was: when I walked it slow, almost a few steps behind him, he reached out to hold my hand, dragging me along the same speed as his. When it came to him stopping at the police asking whether the street ahead was To Ngoc Van, I found myself standing right next to him, facing the stranger, and too facing his fairly confusing eyes at our ‘supposed’ relationship. I found it daring. And I liked it.

We were lost, but we were not asked to find the way out. The way out for our relationship, the way out from the streets we walked, the way out of the future it all holds. I suggested visiting Hanoi Rock City. We did the walking, but we did not arrive there at the end. At a certain point of the walking, I felt like sinking into him. He would stop me every now and then. As we arrived into the darkness, where the light found no trace of us, I found myself falling into his well of kisses. They distorted my sense of time. And the location where it happened, I too could not exactly point it out.

It was in between the r-e-a-l-i-t-y that everything happened. I could never recall our fight over our different tastes in music and books, or his liking towards behind-the-scene politics, or the oh-so-boring face-to-face conversation at the cafe. Or what else, I could just believe seventy percent of his I miss you saying. The passage of real conversations occurred just once I started singing so loudly Where love begins the song and he again, for fear of bothering the asleep neighborhood (or his own nervous system of being caught red-handed) reached out to shut my mouth with his kisses. Or once again, behind the empty police booth, when we hid and sought and broke into laughter, he drew me into his arms with the most lingering kisses. I found my running breath against his lips, my sweat down my neck and a sudden laugh crashing his teeth.

Without any of us keeping track of the time, when it ended, we felt this mutual sense of regret towards this surreality. He drove me home, we kissed goodbye – just as an etiquette not as a breathing gesture no more.


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