Blind, buttered, and bred: Stories of parents and children
Four or five years ago, I returned to Viet Nam, a place where I‘ve been often. While I was there, I had a seizure of parental doting in downtown in Ho Chi Min City, which I report here despite my embarrassment.
Whenever time and finances are right, my son and I take off traveling together. We don’t go off after famous places, historic ruins or culinary splendor. Our thing is to just displace our daily life, out and away from Tokyo’s Asagaya where we live. I have my picture postcards and my son Yuta brings his guitar.
We were at a small hotel (clean and cheap!) tucked back in a maze of backstreets. It’s a place we know well where we always get separate rooms, where the days are steeped in the smells of grilled squid and pickled vegetables mixed with incense lit to fight off the same cloying odors. Besides eating meals together, we’re both pretty much on our own.
So it was that in the early days of our trip, on a day much like the others, we decided to have lunch in a local canteen (home-style Ho Chi Minh cooking: great taste at a small price!) just in back of our hotel, and once finished, went our separate ways. Not that I had any particular place to go. I never know where I’m going. I just go out and run around, walking like some driven spirit looking for a home. And, now that I think of it, I remember it being said that my son has this same way of walking.
I’d been walking around for some time while trying to keep clear of the blistering sunlight. I needed something cool to drink, tea, anything, so went into a café on the main drag (no taste at a big price!!). I was just taking my first sip when something attracted my attention. Way down on the other side of the street, across the current of bicycles and cars, I’d spotted the back of a man walking down the opposite pavement. ???? By the time I’d figured out there was something familiar about the silhouette, I realized that it was Yuta who I’d just left behind me. His shoulders were slowly rolling down the street. He looked so much bigger than usual, as if he were somebody else. Or as if there’d been some transformation in the little time since I’d left him.
And then, just as quickly, he was swallowed up by the oncoming crowd. For a moment I had the strangest feeling. I realized that I had just seen my son for the first time. At first, this filled me with emotion, but then, just a little pride.
The little part of me that had gone off so long ago and made its way to become Yuta was now showing me the next step in its evolution. Out of nowhere, it had sent the image of this gallant figure in the streets of Ho Chi Minh straight to the heart of my brain, where its winds blow still to this day.
(translation © victor woronov 2007)