Five … four … three …, ‘Ciao Bella’, said he when they were two steps away from each other. She replied by a radiant smile. Her heart was beating.
The first day, my heart was beating.
It should have been a sweet dream but that my heart thumped made me wake up. Pulling a blanket, I curled up inside, felt so lazy. The clock rang and I let it sing its boring song. The alarm made that sound in just one minute and then went into the silence until tomorrow, why did I have to disturb its happiness? Everything needed to be active.
I thought about my outfit today. The blue shirt would fit perfectly with the brown velvet miniskirt. I would also change shoelaces of the white Converse pair into different colors, dark blue for the left, light blue for the right. Hey, wait for a minute, how about the red dress with sparkling beads on the back. I could hear it said ‘I am waiting for you’. Red shoes, red hat, red bag, the girl in red. I felt enjoyable when imagining myself as a red spot.
I couldn’t concentrate on sleeping. I tossed and turned, thought about the final project, the website harajuku-lovers.com, the red glasses case I bought and abundance of named and nameless things. At last, I recalled his smile. So sweet. Getting out of a bed, I hoped I would see his smile today. I wanted the dream come true. But I suddenly remembered that if he smiled at me, it was often the rules of etiquette. He smiled with everyone he saw with his eyes hidden behind dark glasses. It disappointed me.
‘Hearty, can you become normal? It’s not the time to beat’, I began a new day slackly.
The second day, ‘If I kiss him, will he stop talking?’
Emily, my older sister, sat on my bed, tried to read some magazine while watching me choosing clothes. She had a very good feel for fashion but this morning, she advised me nothing, just smiled with every skirt or dress I tried on. Her smile made a hard attempt to say ‘I agree’ but she couldn’t lie me. She paid no attention on what I was doing now. Her mind was not here.
‘Wear less black, please, Bella.’
Ok. That was why I loved Emily so much. She always said ambiguous words and I took the meaning I wanted, ‘Wear a shorter black skirt’.
Even on the bus, at the canteen, in class, everyone ‘zoomed in’ on my ‘can not be shorter’ skirt and a T – shirt with ‘If I kiss him, will he stop talking?’ on the chest, except him. Sitting inside the cafeteria, I saw him chatting with other guys at the table outside. Those guys waved and showed thumps up as showing to their chests, but he ignored me. He kept on talking. What would happen if I came outside and kissed him now? Would he stop talking? Would he be very embarrassed or mad at me? Or would he ask me ‘Can you do that again, Bella?’?. I felt half delighted half naughty with these thoughts. How could an Asian girl like me think about kissing a guy in front of a crowd? An Asian girl was expected to stay still and let a guy make a first move. I couldn’t lose my face by doing it. However, what was the taste of kisses? Sweet or disgusting? I never let my lips touch a guy’s lips or cheeks before.
The third day, I wanted to be a priest.
I used to think about changing my gender by an operation so that I could become a priest’s apprentice. I was willing to devote the rest of my life to Jesus, the only one who could make me feel peaceful after my priest died. Paul, my priest, was my best friend. I knew him when I was just a little girl. He taught me not only Bible, but English, German and played with me, told me stories. When my grandpa died, when my parents divorced, Paul was the only one who always was free to listen to me and let me think that was simply the way life went on. When Paul passed away, I admitted it quietly because I thought it was the Jesus’s arrangement. Jesus sent Paul to help me solve my problems and when I was old and wise enough to stand on my own feet; Paul should come back Jesus’s side. Talking to Paul was talking to Jesus. However, Paul was a ‘bridge’ between me and Jesus, if I wanted to keep this relationship, I should find another way to connect to Jesus – become a priest or a nun.
I couldn’t imagine myself as a nun. Nuns were not nice people. When I was in denominational school, nine years old, one nun hit my small hands by a long wooden ruler while I was playing piano because of a bad note. I had thought that a girl wearing a white dress and playing love songs was the most beautiful scene, yet I didn’t want to pay my fingers to be that sweet, romantic girl. I began to think about how to become a priest. That was the first time I hated being a girl. The priest standing in front of hundreds of Christian believers, preaching and being respected was the dream that I hid at the bottom of my heart. When the desire had no chance to come true, the best way to treat with it was to hide it.
Now, I was praying, I knew that I was praying. I usually did it before going to bed and once I was showing respect to Jesus, just He and a story which I wanted to tell were present on my mind.
‘Most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore You, I love You, and with a lively sorrow for my sins, I offer You this poor heart of mine.’
Suddenly, his image appeared and stopped my line of thoughts. ‘Please go out of my mind for a while. I promise to think about you later. Now let me pray’, my wanting – to – pray voice raised.
‘Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to Your will’, I continued.
‘My God, my Lord, is he my fate? Oh no. Go on’, that guy didn’t go out and the praying voice was interrupted.
‘Please, my God, sweep him out of my heart’, I begged Jesus.
‘Protect me from a midst of danger, comfort me in my afflictions, uhm … uhm … Amen.’
It was the fourth time in this week that I couldn’t complete my praying. I wanted to be closer to Jesus, I wanted to be a priest. My unreal dream seemed to relive. A priest loved everyone, he didn’t need to focus on any one special. I couldn’t concentrate to do anything with that guy existing on my mind all the time.
‘My God, is he a satan? He will destroy my life, won’t he? He will stop me do my work, won’t he? My Lord, I will overcome this trial of yours.’
The fourth day, ‘Teen and stress’ and Nathaniel.
The first thing said ‘Good morning’ to me was an ‘emergency’ mail from my boss. I was a reporter of ‘2!’ – a teenage magazine in Vietnam. Sometimes doing homework and writing articles and stress mixed together. But I still kept my job. The first reason was its high salary which helped me to carry a fashion shop to my wardrobe and fill my passport. The second, it killed free time. I couldn’t image a Sunday that I was lying on the bed till noon. It was more interesting when I devoted my time to know about sex, fashion trends, music, how to renew myself after breaking up, etc. However, I wasn’t in the mood for writing right now. The entreaty from editorial office destroyed my “wonderful Sunday – chat only”. Some collaborator quit her job and ‘2!’ needed me to get the fire under control.
‘Teen and stress
Teenagers face a specific kind of stress. It could be problems at home – with parents, or it could be problems at school – pressure from your teachers, pressure from your friends.
The number one way to prevent a lot of stress is to keep the lines of communication open.’
Send. It took me just an hour and a half to create a two – paged article. I was a stress addict. I performed better under pressure. Stress allowed me to feel the exhilaration of success and the glow of satisfaction. Stress inspired me.
Half hour later, I got a feedback from some editor, ‘What did you write, Bella? Stress is not Nathaniel. Please fill out the middle of this article. You have two more hours to finish it’. Two more hours? Nothing for even two more days. You wanted ‘Teen and stress’? I was a very lively sample. Nathaniel was my stress’s source. He always existed on my mind and stole away my concentration to everything. He made my work become zero. Anyway, how beautiful my writing was!
The fifth day, secret words.
I was the only Vietnamese in this campus and I felt happy with it. As my emotion was out of hand, I could use my own language to show it without bothering or embarrassing anyone. I felt so delighted when imagining his face if I ended our conversation by “em yeu anh”. He wouldn’t know. He wouldn’t know that was the way I, a Vietnamese girl, said “I love you”.
Was it love? I was not sure. I just met him a couple of months and all I knew was his name and some basic information. Nothing else. I tried to find his name on every list hung on campus, the students’ taking insurance list, the volunteer for party list. I tried to catch his voice on the bus but didn’t dare to sit next to him. Love was so luxurious in this situation, I just liked him. Ok. I would end our talk today by ‘em thich anh’ which meant ‘I like you’ if I had a chance to make a conversation with him. The problem was that my words flew out when we were face to face.
Em yeu anh !!!
I hated being a girl. I was so shy to say my secret words even I knew that he couldn’t understand. I kept it, at last, and it burdened my heart.
The sixth day, the rules apply to everything except birth and death.
He knew the way to let me down. Since I was born, the only one could influence my mood was me till I met him. Moreover he broke my schedule thousands of times. I wasted the time between two classes walking around campus just to find him for nothing, which period I should fixed myself into a chair in library. What did I get? He sat alone in canteen with a terribly stressful face. I didn’t take risk to come closer and say ‘Hi’. When I was stressful, a person who came to me would be the most unlucky one in the world. He might be in the same case. I was eager to see him but the emotion shown on his face burned my eagerness. In class, as I began a rare conversation between us, he went out of a room and left me behind. He let me down, down, down.
‘Wake up, Bella. The rule is the rule. Keep it. That guy is nothing. Get him out or get you off the Dean List?’, a voice of strict Bella woke me up. It was 2 am and I still designed my presentation. It had to be perfect.
‘Go away, boy. Let her do her work’, strict Bella continued her lesson. The red background and yellow texts would be a tiptop combination. I hated the guy who dared to let me down.
‘Hey Bella, the rule!’, strict Bella became more critical, while weak Bella still kept her mouth off.
‘Stop. Shut up’, at last, weak Bella could find her tongue. Let see, one slide with texts, two slides with pictures. He had no right to let me down.
‘The rules apply to everything except birth and death’.
‘My rules control everything and you, shut up’, now it was the turn of weak Bella to lead the way.
Exhausted. This early morning, I slept only four hours. Though I was not in full possession of my senses when doing presentation, I got A as usual. No surprise, my effort deserved it. This A made me find it difficult to sleep. Whenever I got the best, I didn’t want to waste the time. I often counted sheep and if it reached one hundred, I sat up and studied or wrote for ‘2!’. Three and fifty, three and fifty one, …, three and seventy, … ‘The rule is the rule’ kept going back and forth in my mind. I should bind my heart. My life had already been scheduled and until I graduated, no space left for love.
‘You win, strict Bella. My rules are out. That guy is out.’
The seventh day, rhythm of the tintinnabula.
‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’, mom said me that when I was a little child and she made it become my habit. She also told me the Greek myth about three goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite struggling for a golden apple inscribed with ‘for the fairest’. She was a ‘for a fairest’ hunter and she always tried to pass this trait through to her daughters.
Aries, my horoscope, controlled my life. The horoscope book said that an Aries girl would become an assertive, ambitious and independent one who always wanted to stand out. Mom believed that completely and she brought me up to be the perfect Aries girl. However, that stupid book also said ‘An Aries girl often loses control easily’. Mom tried hard to repair this characteristic for me even it didn’t appear yet. Moreover, according to Egypt astrology, I was born under the protection of Osiris, the God of Death, and if I fell in love so early, my life would turn into zero. Why? Osiris girl would use all her mind to create a romantic love and left nothing for other work. Mom relied on that too.
I braided my hair, put on a pink dress and black shoes. I hated pink, just wanted to do something really strange, something I didn’t do before. Orange for the upper lip, purple for the lower lip, green for left eye, yellow for right eye and brown mascara. How poor my making up knowledge was! I left my room and went around my house before reaching the terrace. The light rain turned into the downpour when I got there. Silence stayed for a while and then I began to make the music. I mixed the sound of tintinnabula with the rhythm of the rain. I wore twenty one tintinnabula around my ankle, they made sound whenever I stepped. And the sound became noisier when I danced. Faster and lower, louder and softer. Softer and louder, lower and faster. It was the perfect mixture of music.
The tintinnabulation left the rain play its melody alone. Dancing in the rain, so romantic but I wished if there had been someone doing it with me. I sat down on the floor, began to count the stars. For the first time, everything was interesting. For the first time, I counted stars at a rainy night. For the first time, I tasted the rain, so salty but good. For the first time, I saw mom cried. It beat me. When I saw her for the first time after eight years living away, she was much more different than the mother existing in my memory. Brown – dyed hair, thinner, white dress and dark green scarf, high – heeled shoes and the most important thing was she looked younger. How could an Aries woman like her cry? ‘Crying is a weapon for a woman but if you don’t need a weapon, it’s a symbol of the weak’. You told me that, mom. Now, you didn’t need a weapon and it meant you were weak. I knew you still loved dad but you didn’t come back even ten years passed. You decided to leave dad when he forced you to choose between career and family. You chose to break our happy family because you wanted the title ‘PhD’ decorating your name. So why did you cry when knowing about dad’s wedding? You found your happiness when work was up to your ears and people respected you. Dad also had the right to find his happiness again.
Never waited for a man or a bus, there would be another one along any minute. But if I could take this bus, why did I have to wait?
I wrote a list of things I would do if I had a boyfriend. Motorbike, roller – skating, ice cream in December, dancing on a table, cutting images from magazines to design our own collection and a very surprising gift for his birthday. I began to believe that Osiris really controlled my love life. To me, everything had to be solved quickly and effectively, every minute had to be stuck into some goal or plan. But looked at all the ideas being in flames, they promised a ‘childlike’ love which seemed not to be my style.
Closing my eyes, I began to play the question – answer game.
‘It’s 2016. Ten years have passed. What are you doing now?’
‘I see myself as a busy woman who travels around the world for her work’.
‘It’s 2011. Five years have flown. Who are you now?’
‘A new Art Director of Saatchi & Saatchi’.
‘It’s May 2006 now. Where are you now?’
‘On the plane going back Vietnam for the summer break’.
‘It’s tomorrow. How are you?’
I took a deep breath and jumped into a hard decision. I wrote a note to ask how Nathaniel felt about me. I would send it to him tomorrow. I had to suffer a week full of thousands of battles between myself and my feeling about him. I couldn’t tolerate another seven – day itinerary. I had to find a conclusion for my second love, even it would be good or bad.
My very first story. 5 years ago. When I was still this girl: