Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
The movements of swinging a long bamboo fishing pole back 90 degrees, releasing, swinging back again come instinctively to Ang Nguyen. It is a ritual he learnt from his father and has taught his own son in turn on the very same lake. The muscles built up on Angs right side from the repetitious act show clearly through the wet t-shirt clinging to his otherwise small frame. The fishing line under water is connected to a large three pronged hook but there is no bait. The swinging movements he performs while perched on a concrete block on the lake creates the soft underwater current that will perhaps snare a curious passer-by fish.
The Sun is high, back and forth swings the long bamboo pole, the line is drawn in and unleashed back out to the placid waters of the West Lake. Fishing the lake is not recreational for Ang. The one or two catches he makes will mean food for his family, perhaps a good sell at the market. But although he spends the first half of every day on the same concrete block, his mind goes elsewhere as the mechanical movement of his body send him into a meditative state. The ripples on the water are in communication with the wind that speak to the swaying branches in the trees whose roots exchange life with the earth. All this beauty and life going on, but the turmoil of the human soul seems so isolated and detached from the energy of the world. Ang feels like his soul is as deep and dark as the water in the West Lake.
But what else moves below the surface of these waters besides hundreds of thin fishing lines waving enticingly with a hook at the end? As life hustles and bustles in a thriving Hanoi, have the people forgotten about the legend of the lake? Perhaps dwelling below the murky surface the mystical creature waits to be forgotten about, waiting for metropolis to turn a blind eye to the story that unfolded hundreds of years ago.
Five minutes till the bell rings and another dreary school day comes to an end. There is nothing particular about this day, it’s not yet the weekend, just another day in the week. Another miserable day to get through until that bell sounds, marking a pivotal point of survival. If I have survived the day until now, the rest of the day can be passed in a fog of half unconsciousness, melting away the uneasiness and tension that comes with your average day in high school. Well maybe not your average day, but mine. It’s an excruciating process of denial, loneliness, humiliation, rejection and of course, forced education. When I hear that bell ring I can begin the shutting down process. I can get the fuck out of these school walls and find shelter. Until the bell rings I bear the pain of being in this body, feeling the ugliness of reality and the discomfort of awareness. When I’m granted leave from this facility my mind races like a junky to a fix, nothing matters, there is no need that can’t wait, there is no responsibility in the world that can keep me from the journey my mind is about to embark on.
Like every day my solace is found under the old forgotten bridge by the Lincoln quarry. Overgrown with weeds, sometimes this hideout smells of piss and sometimes of beer, but by the time I get here the bums have starting to congregate at St. Mary’s for a warm meal so the place is mine for a few hours. Of course a few hours used to be more than enough, but now every minute passes me by and I desperately cling to every last one of them. With a firm grip on the bottle I feel suddenly reassured, breathing stabilizes: deep inhale, slow exhale. Until this point I’ve been painfully coasting, like being in a bumper car race track but with no controls and no arms all together, just a bumpy, uncontrollable ride. For a few fleeting seconds while I know safety is at hand some interactions from the day come into focus and I see them in my mind as if they were decades ago. I feel a pang of regret for the words I said purely out of my own scared and defensive nature, but it was years ago now and who cares, it will all go away soon enough…the pills are welcomed into my body like the hospitality of an old friend.
Now that I’m here, where was I?
In my marriage sometimes I forget that I can have my own identity, my own life. After almost five years of being so completely content in our one-ness, I’m feeling the need to break off, to find my independent self again. It feels almost foreign, like I’ve forgotten who that person was, the girl that could be on her own, so strong and self-dependent but now is just a scaredy-cat. Now we are adults and marriage is normal, we can be our own person and be confidant at the end of the day that our spouse will love us and be there for us, I can be independent and have a life. Tonight I forgot that and was frustrated with myself at my lack of independence. All of life is an adjustment stage, I guess, and now is my time to adjust to this awareness of my new needs for freedom.
So there’s that.
Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.
Let my guard down more
Be more real, be honest with and about myself
See more beauty in more of everything
Be amazed and feel in awe at even the small moment in life
Love people more
Love me more
Be more daring