solitude: memories of the river

Stepping onto the boat to cross the Cửu Long river, I could not stop the overcoming feeling of solitude. The scent of this river was all too familiar to my nostalgic senses, even after all these years. The inhabitants of this river, generations after generations, remained the livelihood of this part of the Mekong Delta. I have always been a visitor here, though as a child, I have bathed and swam in its branches reaching far into the outskirts of town.

As far as my eyes could see, through the haziness of the tropical sun, a few small clusters of water hyacinth aimlessly float on the river’s glassy surface. As a child, I often wondered how lonely life must have been for them. I remember, some thirty years ago, counting them as they passed by on the side of the ferry crossing this river. It was like they somehow shared their sentiments in a moment of vulnerability. It’s not the kind of calming and introspective solitude you’d wish for, but a futile sense of yearning to belong. Life was not easy even as children. I couldn’t possibly imagine how hard it must have been for my mother. I would wander up and down the ferry jam-packed with people, some crippled, some diseased, and some was just trying to make a living. My mom would wake us early, even earlier than the rooster’s crow, to take the four of us across this river into the city. My two older sisters and younger brother would be half-asleep for the first part of the trip. It was always an all-day ordeal. By the time we make it to the city, mom was exhausted, and we were wide awake. Even though I feared these trips back then, I only long for them now just to feel that way again.

Once in a while, a blooming hyacinth bud would pass by, shining atop of the muddy brown river water. I can still see myself as small as the greenest leaf, as crisp as the freshest bloom. As the lightest of touch of lavender smiled at me with solitude, a childish sense of yearning came to me. And I realized, what I yearned to be, I have become, and where I longed to be, I am.


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