There are ghosts in Vietnam, didn’t anybody ever tell you that? There are silent tears on every corner and wide smiles too, real smiles mingled with the salty water in the air. Do you know why the air is so heavy here? The air is heavy with the weight of ghosts, ghosts that are made of droplets of memories that are not forgotten. I come home most nights smelling of grills cooking chicken and meat and ducks and sometimes dogs. But the smoke curls from these little grills like accusing pointedness with double joints and too many fingers. It stays in my nose all night and I wake up with a scratchy throat.
But I am not scared. These ghosts are friendly ghosts, they have funny smells and timid smiles. I am not scared but sometimes they make me sad. I am reminded of a history that is part of me and not part of me. Just like the smoke that curls into the threading of my clothing and the strands of my hair; I did not ask for it to be here but it has made a home in the knowledge that I feel the soft brush of beings that are in-between.
This is a new place and an old place. Sounds of newness pervade every corner as buildings are constructed with dried noodles and crushed peanuts. Bricks made of ground teeth and the scraps of broken grenades hold up the houses of families huddled on their mattresses soaking in the television. I see them from my walk home and I love that a whole family can fit on one mattress. This is a new place but it has been built on the ruins of the old. Remnants of truths that we have chosen to forget. Why do you smile and hand me a cold beer? Why do you hook your arm in mine and chug with a kind nod of your head? Why do you pat me on the back and touch foreheads?
There are ghosts in Vietnam, somebody has now told you that. Maybe they are not silent but we choose to see through them. Maybe they follow us, huddling on our strong backs and experiencing the world from our tanned shoulders. Maybe the extra weight just feels like the humidity. The smoke just like smoke.