Neon lights drip beads of sweaty sugar onto small wooden coffee tables. Men sit with knees splayed and grins wider, hands on bellies laughing until they collect the neon in their open mouths. Coffee the color of deer hide swishes with large tubes of ice cube. Condensed milk is milk with no sugar here. Coffee is syrupy sweet to cool the heavy air. It is night and the colors reflect demonically in our eyes. Short skirts and smooth white skin are milky piqued, coffee laden eyes thirst for something even sweeter.
I like this time of night because people do not stare at me, they are busy looking into each other’s happy faces and clinking beer glasses to chug. I like this time of night because there are big skewers of meat cooked by old men with leathered skin. Tiny plastic doll chairs all occupied by the Vietnamese. The air is cooler and I can see the full moon above the ocean. The water cuts away at the sand hill and falls back in soft ripples that remind me of the mountains at home. Crabs skitter sideways and disappear into the water and I can see ghosts of sand dollars the size of my pinky finger in the wet sand. There are little shiny shells too, ones with little crawling crabs that lift fingers out of their porcelain bodies and play with the veins in my hand. They are so delicate and I want to preserve them from the trash encroaching from the old city.
I walk back through the neon and see the new buildings built shittily with love. Walls are paper thin but still covered in fake tiles. There are drinking shacks for lame cats and Foosball. Where you can get a beer for 15 dong. There is a man in the corner smoking weed or opium. He limps lamely to the left as his friend Facetimes his grandmother. There is hard liquor but it’s like honey here- too sticky to slide down the throat in the heat. The old expat to my left orders a whiskey anyway. The neon winks and reflects off my skin differently than the Vietnamese. To me, it seems to highlight my flaws but the Vietnamese glow in prenatal vitamins and health.
I finish my beer and walk home through the quiet streets where tainted light cannot shed its coat. I kick stones into dead grass and hope for a dreamless sleep.