This week Bill Lapham debuts at cavalcadeofstars. You’re welcome to kick back and read a while.
By Bill Lapham
He remembered Saigon, but he had never set foot in Ho Chi Minh City. He remembered the bicycles and the dresses, the shops and the cafes. The men looked at him with the same contempt they had before and the women still seemed to plead for salvation with their eyes. The odors were the same, as were the short-lived plumes of steam that carried them aloft from the cooking fires. The heat was the same stifling soup he remembered from forty-five years ago (had it really been that long?) and he remembered having the same thought then as he had now, how could anybody live here? His shirt was soaked with sweat and he had just stepped outside his hotel.
It wasn’t noon yet, but that didn’t matter, he needed a drink. He walked in no predetermined direction thinking he would just float with the flow of pedestrians that day. He stood a full head taller than the people surrounding him and he felt self-conscious about it, nauseous even. Or was that the hangover from last night’s binge? His stride was naturally longer than theirs so he had to clip his gait which brought even more discomfort to his stomach. What he remembered before were people getting out of his way. They didn’t do that now; they had more confidence. Or was that defiance? No, there had always been the defiant look.
He was awash in a sea of people who had no memory of the war. To them it was a series of stories the old people kept buried in the mud bog of their lives. It was a generational ordeal the memory of which had died with its participants and witnesses, or, having endured with its survivors, been accommodated somehow, each in their own way. They were all getting older and this war, like all wars, was fading into more and more distant history.
He stopped walking but did not stop sweating. He thought: did the war actually happen? Wasn’t one side supposed to lose and the other supposed to win? Instead, both countries had survived. The people were still here, well, their replacements were anyway. What had the war been about? There had been so much violence, so much pain and death. Why? The soaked shirt he had brought from home said ‘Made in Vietnam’ on the label. Maybe that offered a clue, he thought as he entered the first air-conditioned bar of the day.
Bill is a retired submarine Chief of the Boat and a recent graduate of the MLS program at The University of Michigan, Rackham Grad School. He writes at Six Sentences, Thinking Ten and MudJob, to name a few. http://justapedn.blogspot.com