David arrived at his restaurant entering through the back door. All his employees were already busy preparing for the lunch service. David entered the kitchen and greeted his staff. The kitchen was a large, spotlessly clean and busy room surrounded by bright white walls. The chefs’ white uniforms and tall hats made the place seem even brighter. There were colorful red and green peppers neatly lined up and ready to be chopped on the stainless steel counters in the centre of the room. Above them were shiny pots and pans hanging from the ceiling. The shelves along the walls were neatly stocked with boxes filled with various food and spices. On the opposite wall the cupboards were stacked with alabaster white plates and bowls.
David greeted each employee with a smile and asked if everyone was ready for another busy day. They all stopped for a moment to chit chat with David. He was respected and loved by his staff. David was more like a cheerleader than a boss to them. So young and full of enthusiasm, you could tell David loved his business and his employees. Bill, through David’s eyes, observed how David was treating his staff. Bill became quite jealous of David.
‘What makes him so special? He’s just a kid… Helen loves him… Now all these people... I don’t get it? What does he have that I don’t?’ Bill thought while cursing David.
After David was assured by the chefs that most of the preparation for the lunch was completed, he thanked everyone in the kitchen and proceeded to walk toward the front desk. There he was met by a very attractive Asian lady – 5 foot 3 with a slender figure. She was his assistant manager Lynh. Though she was over 30, like most other oriental ladies, she looked much younger than her true age. She was a single mother who was lucky to get out of Vietnam a few years before the end of the War. She was one of the first employees David hired along with a couple of reputable French trained chefs when the restaurant opened two years prior. He hired Lynh not only for her beauty, but also because of her competence. She had many years of experience in successful restaurants in the U.S. She could also speak French, the language David could not quite master.
Lynh was busy checking the lunch reservations when David approached her. As an assistant manager, it was also Lynh’s responsibility to make sure the restaurant was running smoothly. She was blocking certain tables for the guests having special celebrations and for regular customers requesting their preferred tables. Sometimes it became very hard to please every customer’s needs. But Lynh knew each customer was very important. Without them, there wouldn’t be a restaurant.
“Hi Lynh. How are you this morning?”
David greeted her with a big smile as she was one of his favorite employees in the restaurant.
“I feel great David. Are you ready for a busy day? The number of reservations is increasing every week, you know. You must be doing something right. Oh, yes, I have to remind you that we have a wedding reception tonight.” Lynh answered with a big smile.
Through David’s eyes, Bill saw Lynh. At first Bill did not recognize her as the front desk area was dimly lit compared to the bright kitchen. Bill could not see much of anything. However, once his eyes adjusted to the dark room he suddenly remembered it was the oriental lady he had seen the day before. She was with a young lady in the downtown area. He could not believe the coincidence.
“How odd?” Bill thought, still inside of David.
Lynh was wearing an off white jacket over a short dark blue dress that complemented her skin perfectly. On her chest rested a small gold pendant. Her shiny dark brown hair was bouncing as she walked gracefully though the hallway leading into the kitchen. David walked along with her and kept conversing with her until Lynh approached the kitchen. Bill could not keep his mind off Lynh. ‘She looks so familiar’, he thought. ‘Where else have I seen her?’ David opened the kitchen door and let Lynh in. When the bright light showered Lynh from the kitchen, Bill suddenly remembered the hot bright summer afternoon in Vietnam. He began to wonder if she was the same girl he had met that day so many years ago.
After David left Lynh in the kitchen, he continued to walk through the hallway and entered into his office in the back of the restaurant. Today, he had to work on the books during lunchtime as his accountant did not work on weekends. Rather than waiting for the accountant to balance the books on Monday, he preferred to do it himself. This way, he could keep up the accounting skills acquired at university. He left the management of the restaurant to Lynh while he was working in his office.
After a few hours in his office David finally finished balancing the account for the Friday night shift. Feeling satisfied with completing his paperwork and full from the lunch he had while he was working on the books, he rested his head on the desk and fell asleep.
It was little after 2:30 and the restaurant had closed for the afternoon as usual, reopening for dinner at 5:00 p.m. The employees began to leave the restaurant for their few hours of rest before facing another busy night. Lynh came into David’s office to talk to him. Gently knocking on the office door there was no reply. The office door was slightly opened so she quietly opened it and found David sound asleep at his desk. She hesitated for a moment but quietly entered the office. Lynh tenderly touched David’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry to wake you David, but I’ve got to talk to you about the M. Harrington’s reservation before I go for my break.”
“Oh, I must have fallen asleep. It’s okay Lynh, what is it you want to talk to me about?” David replied.
“Well, as you know M. Harrington has a wedding banquet here tonight. He made a reservation for 55 people. The waiters and I did everything to make sure we were ready for his big night but I want you to do the final check, just in case.”
“Lynh, you’re the best. I really appreciate you being my assistant. Well, I should get moving and make sure we have everything for this banquet. Lynh, please make sure you have enough rest before the evening shift. It will be like a zoo here tonight. At least I had my rest for the day! I’ll be good for a while. See you later.”
Bill suddenly realized that he was no longer in David’s body but in Lynh’s. When Lynh touched David’s body briefly, Bill’s spirit transferred to Lynh. Bill watched David walk away from his office and into the dining room. Bill could not figure out why his spirit was moving from one body to another. ‘Is this God’s punishment for me? If it is, then why now?’ Bill thought. Yes, he had done many despicable things since he went to Vietnam as a young soldier. But these sins were sins in the eyes of others and not Bill’s. Bill himself never felt he did anything wrong. To him, killing enemies during a war or inferior races in the U.S. was God’s will. God would rather have only white Christians living in this country. That was the way it was supposed to be. As far as Bill was concerned, he was helping God, not acting against God.
Lynh, with Bill’s spirit in her, left the restaurant. She hopped on a bus and went home. The bus ride was a short one as Lynh wanted to live close to her work. This way, she could go home during the afternoon break and was able to see her daughter Angel and eat together with her. As she worked until late at night, it was the only time she could see her daughter except on her days off. When Lynh had a late shift at work, she would take Angel for an early dinner in the downtown as she did the day before. Lynh’s home, which was a renovated older house, was located on the east side of the city. When she arrived home, it was a little before 3:00 p.m. Today, Lynh had to go back to her work by 5:30 p.m. and Angel was out shopping, so she would not be able to see Angel. Lynh had to eat alone and set aside the dinner for Angel.
As soon as she entered her home Lynh quickly changed her dress to a red sweater and a pair of jeans. She washed her hands and began to prepare the rice, then the chicken and vegetables. All the time she was cooking, Lynh hummed some childhood songs from her old country. These songs took Bill right back to the Vietnam War. In Lynh, Bill remembered the battles he had faced, and the friends who died. Some memories were so shockingly gory that they made Bill sick to his stomach even after all these years. Bill had a vivid vision of being back in Vietnam for a little while. However, when Lynh stopped singing, Bill remembered that he was in Lynh’s kitchen.
After the dinner was prepared, Lynh sat in the kitchen table and began to eat. She hated eating alone and wished Angel was there with her. It would not be too long before Angel would leave their home permanently to live by herself. After all, Angel was already 16 years old. How lonely it would be without her. Though Lynh had to work to support Angel, she always made sure that they could spend at least a little time together each day.
Many years ago, Lynh once considered marriage. There were a few men in her life who were interested in her, both in Vietnam and the United States. Lynh even loved one of them. However, she could not bring herself to marry any of them. She liked them from a distance; but when they tried to get intimate, she would get scared. She could not commit herself to anyone.
After she finished her supper, she cleaned the dishes, then turned the television on just to relax for a short while before she had to return to the restaurant. On the screen, they were showing a program on the financial institutions in the city. The camera focused on one of the executive meetings at a financial company. There, she spotted a man in the meeting room sitting at the head table. Startled by his face, Lynh approached the television set to get a closer look at the man. The man was older and a little heavier but there was no doubt that it was the man she remembered from Vietnam. He had the same thick eyebrows and a mole on the right side of his face, just above his jaw. Lynh watched in disbelief and she became terrified. He was right here in this town all this time.
Bill saw himself on the television. From Lynh’s frightened reaction, it confirmed that Bill was right about Lynh. She was the one he remembered from Vietnam. How bizarre this whole situation was, Bill thought. The reaction and emotions Bill experienced through Lynh while she was staring at Bill on the television surprised him. Why had she become so frightened? That was a long time ago. Surely, this is was some silly overaction on her part. But Bill did not realize how deeply he had scarred Lynh when she was a young girl.
Suddenly, the chime from the clock in Lynh’s living room struck five and she realized that she had to get ready to go back to the restaurant. All the while she was dressing, her heart pounded in her chest. She was having difficulty accepting what she had just seen. Nevertheless, she got dressed and left home to go to work.
The Harrington party started arriving at 7:00 p.m. The restaurant was built so that part of the dining room could be closed off for private functions. The banquet room began to fill with well-dressed, excited people. The waiters and waitresses were busy serving drinks and appetizers to the guests. Then the bride and groom arrived. Though she had checked many times, Lynh made sure for the last time that the tables were all set according to M. Harrington’s request. Each table was covered with a rich lavender tablecloth, on which there was a beautiful water-filled glass dish with fresh flowers floating delicately around tall white candles. Those candles were lit and illuminated the room elegantly. All the utensils, crisp white napkins and dishes were set perfectly in place. At the head table was the tastefully decorated wedding cake and flower arrangements. Mr. Harrington looked at Lynh with a satisfied smile. Lynh felt pleased to know that one of her important customers was pleased with the work that she and the wait staff had done.
By 7:30 p.m. the restaurant was filled with wedding guests and other customers. Lynh was in charge of this wedding banquet while David was overseeing the rest of the dining room.
Through Lynh’s eyes, Bill observed everything that went on in the restaurant. Every time he had a glimpse of David, it reminded him of earlier in the day and he became filled with anger and jealousy each time. Yet, he was also watching David with a compassion that Bill never felt before. What a terrible night David had to live through as a little boy. But David overcame the tragic experience and now he seemed to be very happy with his life.
Bill also watched Lynh’s behavior very carefully. Though Lynh had such a devastating moment at her home that same afternoon while watching TV, she kept herself calm all through the wedding reception. There were many small incidents happening at the restaurant that Lynh had to deal with throughout the night. But no matter what was the occurrence, Lynh made creative and resourceful decisions and got each one solved effectively. This surprised Bill. He never thought that an oriental woman had this much intelligence, especially under pressure. As far as Bill was concerned, anyone who could not speak perfect English was stupid. Yet here was Lynh, switching between speaking in English and French with ease, and handling some difficult situations without any hesitation and, most noticably to the guests, with a warm smile.
By the time the last guest left from the restaurant, Lynh was exhausted. She had worked for 12 hours that day because of the wedding party. Though on the outside, she appeared to be very calm and graceful, her brain had been working in overdrive. It took a lot of her energy to make sure everything went smoothly. Harrington had such a great time, he and his guests stayed until two in the morning. After making sure everything was cleaned up and with a feeling of satisfaction, Lynh called a taxi to go home.
‘Tomorrow is Sunday. It is my day off. I can spend some time with Angel…’ Lynh smiled at the thought.
The night had gotten chilly as Lynh wrapped her light coat around her while she waited for the taxi. The downtown was unusually quiet. This must be the only time the streets were empty in this city. There was hardly anyone walking around. Even cars were scarce on the street. The only lights Lynh saw were streetlights and neon on the various stores and restaurants.
The taxi arrived for Lynh and while inside, she began to think about the man she saw on the TV that afternoon. She wondered if he was simply someone who looked like the man from Vietnam but not the man himself. However, she had never encountered anyone else with the same shape of eyebrows and the mole in the same place. She reasoned that the man on the TV had to be the man she knew. Even though she was in a warm taxi, she felt a bone-deep chill take over her body. She began to feel terror again. She knew that just because she saw him on TV, it would not mean that he would come after her again. But she could not let go of the same fear she felt so many years ago.
Because of him, her life changed drastically. If she never encountered that man, she would still be in Vietnam with her parents. She would probably have been married to a local Vietnamese man and they would have a couple of children. The thought of leaving Saigon would never have crossed her mind. But because of him, the hatred and fear of Americans that she felt when she was young was never far from her consciousness. She had to fight the feeling that all Americans were savages. She spat at any soldiers that she saw when she was still in Vietnam. Yet, despite of this early hatred she held, she and her daughter eventually became fond of Americans. How ironic her life has been, she thought. Here she was, living in a country that she hated for such a long time. Yet the lives of Lynh and her daughter were so much better here in the United States than the one they left in Vietnam.
When she arrived home that night, she quietly washed herself and went to bed right away. Though her mind was still occupied with thoughts of the man she saw on the television, she fell asleep from exhaustion as soon as her head hit the pillow. She slept soundly, peacefully, for a while. But soon, she began to dream. The recurring nightmare began.
She was back once again in the year 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War. Lynh, (meaning “gentle spirit”) Nueng lived on the out skirts of Saigon at the time. She was only 15. Bright, vibrant and a beautiful young junior high-school student, her life was as carefree and joyful as any young girl deserves.
It was September and she was going home from her first day of school feeling happy After a couple of months of summer vacation, the school began the fall session and she was able to see the friends she had missed over the summer vacation. Not only that, the boy of her dreams finally talked to her just before she left school that afternoon. It happened at her school when she went to fetch her bicycle to go home. He was right beside her with a small bouquet of wild flowers in his hand that he had picked.
“This is for you, Lynh.” The boy said quietly and gently thrust the flowers into her hands.
Though delighted by the attention of the handsome boy, Lynh was taken completely off guard and was speechless. She could not find the words to express her delight. Overcoming her shyness momentarily, all she could mutter was a whispered “thank you”.
Without waiting for her words, the boy quickly turned around and soon disappeared from her sight. Lynh stood there stunned for a few moments and stared in the direction where the boy disappeared. Then she picked one tiny purple flower from the bouquet and placed it in the tight space between the buttons of the ao dai. She carefully wrapped the rest of the flowers with her white handkerchief and placed it gently in the small opening of her school bag. She smiled all the way home, replaying the special moment that she had just experienced over and over in her head.
This was her first love. Ever since she saw the boy during the last semester, she had admired him from a distance. She never felt this way about anyone. Every time she passed by him she felt as if her body was on fire. She even felt ashamed of herself for feeling this way. She knew that the boy had been watching her, but he never spoke to her until now. The moment that just happened was so special to her and she did not want to ever let it go.
While riding her bicycle home, she touched the purple flower on her ao dai with her finger, then pressed her finger against her lips, as if to give it a kiss. She had beautiful white teeth and long black hair that was gently swaying in the air. In her white long sleeved shirt and matching white cotton slacks, she rode through the field as if she was floating through the air. Her suntanned skin, her radiant smile and slender figure always caught everyone’s eye that she passed.
After leaving a busy street of Saigon, she rode past quiet rice fields and bushes. She approached a small hill that was surrounded by tall bamboo trees. There was no one there. Still smiling, she got off her bicycle and started pushing it up the hill, as it was too steep for her to peddle up. She was not too far from her home. She stopped for a while and took out the flowers from the bag and smelled them. The delicate scent of the mixture of wild flowers pleased her. She took a deep breath and placed the bouquet back into her bag. Then she took out the tiny purple flower and planted a gentle kiss on it. She imagined feeling the boy’s lips as she did. She closed her eyes and embraced the warm feeling that shot though her body.
She was so wrapped up with her pleasant thoughts that she did not realize that someone had been watching her from a distance. When she placed the flower back on her ao dai and was just about to get on her bicycle again, a man suddenly grabbed her shoulders from behind. Together with her bicycle, her school bag, and the bouquet of flowers, she fell on the ground. Leaving no time for Lynh to scream, the man quickly covered Lynh’s mouth with his right hand. With his left, he dragged her between tall bamboo trees. Lynh tried to fight with him all her might, but the man was so strong that she could not free herself from his arms. She was powerless against him. The man pushed her down on the ground and struck her a few times. She caught a glimpse of the man’s face. He was a young American soldier. His short hair was light brown. He had unusually thick brows and a mole on the right side of his face just above the jaw. This would be the face she would remember for the remainder of her life with fear and hatred. Lynh used all her might to stop what was going on, but it was a losing battle. When Lynh finally gave up fighting, he forced himself into Lynh’s body. With of the excrutiating pain that shot thought her body and the shock from his strikes, Lynh lost consciousness.
It was a couple of hours before Lynh regained consciousness. It took a few moments for Lynh to realize what had happened to her. Silence filled the air. The sky was strangely blue and the white clouds began to color Lynh’s heart with a dark shadow. Looking around cautiously, she determined that the man was now gone. Lynh got up, her body shaking, her knees ready to buckle, her face smeared with blood, tears and dirt, her clothes ripped and soiled. The experience was too much for young Lynh, making her feel overwhelmed and breathless. She really did not know how to react. How could anyone know? She staggered through the bushes and finally approached the spot where the attack began. She did not have any strength to pick up her bicycle. She stood there and stared at the bouquet of flowers for a little while. Then, in anger, she began to pull the flowers apart into a hundred pieces. When there were no more pieces of flowers left, she buried her face in her hands and wept till the darkness began to surround her. The sun sank below the horizon as unsympathetically usual, as if nothing happened.
She cried until she had no more tears. A couple of hours into the evening passed. With her body and mind totally exhausted, she began to walk toward her home leaving the bicycle and the bag behind. She suddenly remembered the purple flower on her ao dai and pulled it out gently. Surprisingly, the petals of the flowers were still intact. She stopped for a while and pulled each petal from the purple flower, letting them float away in the night breeze.
This day’s once beautiful, bright, happy afternoon became the darkest memory of Lynh’s life.
When Lynh went back to school a few days after the incident, she could not look at the boy of her dreams. She felt so ashamed of herself. Though the boy tried many times to approach her, she acted as if he did not exist. Not knowing what went wrong, the boy eventually gave up trying. A few months after this incident, Lynh found that she was pregnant. Both Lynh and her parents were devastated. In Vietnam, a woman with a fatherless child was a social outcast and treated harshly, especially if the woman was raped by an American soldier. She stopped going to school and it tormented her. She knew she could no longer be accepted as a student when her loose clothes could not hide her pregnancy. Lynh hated the American soldier who placed her in this hardship. At the same time, she hated the baby inside her. She knew it wasn’t the baby’s fault, but because of it, she experienced torment at the hands of others in many aspects of her life. If she had a choice, she truly wanted to abort the baby.
In her desperation, she remembered a Catholic church one of her friends had mentioned while Lynh was still in school. According to her friend, this church in Saigon welcomed anyone, especially the ones who were in trouble such as Lynh. For the first few months, she only attended mass, sitting far in the back pews, and kept her distance from everyone at the church as most of the clergy were white males.
One day she was given a bible from a local nun. It was written in Vietnamese and she found it so captivating, Lynh finished reading the bible in no time. The man described in the bible also was a Whiteman, but she perceived him as gentle and wise. Lynh then realized that not all Whitemen were as wicked as the one she encountered a few months ago.
One afternoon at the church, she was introduced by one of the nuns to a Canadian Priest from Montreal. His name was Father Pierre. They were able to converse in French fluently. He was a large elderly man with a kind green eyes. Lynh began to go to the church not only to attend the masses but also to talk to Father Pierre. Soon, Lynh developed a trust in him and for the first time, she felt free to talk about the incident. Father Pierre listened to Lynh’s story with great compassion. Gradually, he took time to teach her all about God and how He is kind and merciful and does not discriminate with his grace. Lynh later found this fact first hand by watching people around her at the church. While her relatives and friends treated her cruelly after they had found out about her illegitimate pregnancy, the people at the church, in stark contrast, continued to treat her with kindness and love.
Soon, she was visiting the church every day. There she learned more and more about God, as well as attended English classes. As she was still young and already knew French, learning another language was quite easy for her. Before long, she was conversing with the nuns and priests at the church in English without difficulty.
Father Pierre also taught her that her unborn baby should be loved. As difficult as it was for Lynh, she gradually accepted the baby as her own. When she let her parents know that she would keep the baby, they were relieved. As much as they were concerned about the future of Lynh and her illegitimate child, they were more afraid of losing Lynh’s life should anything go wrong during an abortion. Those days, most of abortions were done by illegal local doctors. As a consequence, many women lost their lives during the complicated procedure which was performed in unsanitized rooms. Though they knew that a difficult life lay ahead for Lynh, at least she would live. She must live.
Once Lynh decided to keep the baby, she talked and sang a lullaby to her unborn baby while gently patting her tummy. As the baby grew, it became very dear to her. She felt a love she never had experienced before when the baby kicked her from inside. At that moment, Lynh was determined to be a strong mother for the baby. She would love it and protect it from any adversaries. She would only be sixteen years old at the time of the baby’s birth, but Lynh resolved to act as if she was already a mature woman.
Nine months passed quickly and Lynh was admitted to a hospital near the church. Though her mother and one of the nurses at the hospital explained what Lynh should be expecting during her labor, young Lynh could not comprehend what she was just about to experience. The pain she felt just before her baby was born were so excruciating that she screamed over and over while clinging tightly to her mother. She asked God why she had to go through so much pain. But soon all the pain was gone and Lynh heard her baby’s first cry. Lynh sobbed with relief and her mother smiled at her proudly.
A nurse cleaned the baby and wrapped it in the white cloth, then placed the little baby girl right beside Lynh on her hospital bed. Lynh and her mother immediately fell in love with the sweet little infant. Though exhausted from the long labor, Lynh could not take her eyes away from the baby--her baby. The baby fell asleep quickly in her mother’s arms not knowing what her mother went through.
Lynh continued to watch her baby’s every move. She gently brushed her baby’s shiny and wet hair.
“Mom, was I this tiny when I was born?”
“Yes, Lynh. You were even smaller than this baby when you were born. I remember the dark beautiful eyes staring up at me. In the old days, we didn’t have babies in the hospital like this. You were born in our house with a help of a midwife. It was a difficult labor and I thought I was going to die. But it was worth it. How lovely you became. Look! The baby is smiling at you.” Lynh’s mother said.
Lynh touched the baby’s tiny fingers and the baby squeezed her mother’s finger. Lynh marveled at the baby’s long black eyelashes. The color of the baby’s skin was much lighter than that of her mother. Though the baby was fast asleep, she often smiled as if she was content being with Lynh. This satisfied Lynh immeasurably. Somehow, Lynh felt that she could now survive through anything as long as her baby was beside her. She thanked God for the precious gift and prayed for a few minutes there on her bed. Then Lynh, too, fell asleep, exhausted and content.
A few days later, Lynh and her parents named the baby Tuyen, Vietnames for ”angel”. When Tuyen was one year old, Father Pierre baptized her with holy water in the fount at the church. At the same time, Lynh was baptized and took the catholic name, Monique. She truly began to believe in the Creator. Believing in God helped her cope with many difficult times after she had the baby. Fortunately, her parents were very supportive of her situation unlike her relatives, friends and neighbors.
Lynh’s mother assisted in caring for Tuyen. Lynh’s parents seriously thought of moving away from the village with their daughter and granddaughter, but their farmland had been owned by their ancestors for more than a century. They did not dare move away. It would mean disrespect toward Nueng’s ancestors if they deserted the land. They did not have choice but to stay and accept the ill treatment from others.
Once Lynh’s mother could handle the baby by herself, Lynh returned to school to complete her high school education, albeit at another school. At the same time, she took a part time job at a local French restaurant in Saigon. Though her mother helped her babysit Angel most of the time, it was still hard for Lynh to go to school, to work a few nights a week, and look after her small baby whenever she could. She was still a teenager herself. But Lynh knew her future would be jeopardized if she did not get at least a high school education. She already saw some of her friends quit school and were leading the life she would never want for herself and Angel. Some were living on the street working as call girls. Some married young with much older men and were treated as slaves by their new families.
When Lynh was small, she had wanted to be a teacher. She loved small children and she thought it would be a perfect career for her. However, having an illegitimate child eliminated the chance for her to pursue that dream. The colleges that certified teachers would not have accepted her as soon as they had found out that she was a single mother. Though she had to give up the dream becoming a teacher, she did not give up the will to obtain a higher education. With her perseverance, and her parents’ support, Lynh managed to graduate from high school.
Against what others had predicted for her, Lynh continued to educate herself in Saigon and finished business college. This accomplishment led Lynh to land an assistant manager job at a French restaurant in Saigon. She worked hard there and eventually became a manager. She was very happy that she could obtain such a job. She thanked her parents and Father Pierre for being supportive over the years.
Though she was treated with respect and kindness around her work and at the church, she was still treated with cruel indifference by her relatives and neighbors. Obtaining a good education and having a good job did not change their sentiment towards Lynh and Angel. To those who should have been closest to Lynh and Angel, they only saw them as the whore and her bastard child. As an adult, Lynh could cope with the treatment she received from those people, but she could not stand watching Angel being treated cruelly. When Angel was old enough to play with other children, Lynh witnessed the other little children throwing stones at Angel and calling her names. Angel often came home with her hair messed up and crying. Lynh’s heart was broken to see Angel suffering so much. Lynh became determined to leave her country.
Seeing both Lynh and her daughter suffer, Father Pierre encouraged Lynh to move to America. By this time, Lynh no longer hated white men and even respected some because of Father Pierre. She eventually realized that she had been a victim of circumstance. Though she could not quite understand why God imposed so much suffering on her and her daughter, she learned to accept fate. Fate had brought her Angel. Sweet little darling Angel!
Seventeen years after her horrible experience, Lynh continued to have nightmares. In her dream, everything was in slow-motion and every detail was exactly the same as she had remembered. However, seeing Bill on the TV that afternoon made Lynh’s dream even more vivid than usual and made some of the details change somewhat. At first the young soldier’s face was replaced by the older man’s on the television. Then she herself changed from a young 15 year old girl to a much older woman. The sunny beautiful autumn day changed to a dark late night in January. The bamboo forest was changed to a deserted back street of the downtown of the city in which she now lived. The man she saw on the television suddenly appeared from the corner of the building around her restaurant. Then he attacked her when she was about to leave by the back door. Nobody saw or heard what was going on. The man beat her and raped her behind the large garbage bin. The pain and helplessness she felt in her nightmare was so real, Lynh screamed in her dream.
Bill experienced Lynh’s emotion through her nightmare. The sensation Lynh felt while she was being raped was so strong, it ripped Bill’s heart into pieces. He was there, too. He was the soldier who attacked her in Vietnam. The incident he thought exciting at the time was a terrifying moment to his victim. To Bill, it was just a game. He thought it would be fun to attack one of the local girls. Then he could talk about it proudly to other soldiers later. The victim was just a Vietnamese girl, not an American lady. The girl happened to be there. And she would never see him again. She seemed so happy and filled with love. Why should a soldier like Bill have to sacrifice his life to save a girl like her. Bill had an urge to destroy. It was her bad luck. He never once stopped to consider how such an experience like this could be so devastating to a young innocent girl like Lynh. Bill sobbed for Lynh.