Phong came and startled me with this news:
- Thinh is dead!
I was even more shaken when Phong told me that Thinh died of a horrible accident on the city street, where the Public Services workers were cutting trees to widen it. There was a big tamarind tree with all branches and roots cut off, with only a 4-meter high big bare trunk of two persons’ arm length left. At 6:30 that afternoon, Thinh was speeding by on his Mobilette motorbike. Fate made it that the trunk fell down at that very time. It broke the motorbike into pieces and killed Thinh instantly. Some policemen, together with a dozen passers-by, worked really hard to lift the tamarind trunk and removed Thinh’s crushed body.
At each miserable event of the nation. Tâm remained seated in the dark, holding his face in his hands. He had developed this habit for a long, long time. It was not that he took this position to cry or to reflect on his own miseries. (Tâm was not such a coward, was he? Nor were any of us!)
As Loan approached, I greeted her with a smile. She smiled back, but with a shade of sadness. We both looked at the deserted houses. With a sigh, Loan repeated:
- They are such a desolate sight, aren’t they?
Before I could say anything, she continued:
- They’d better be run-down houses or dilapidated inns!
I held Loan’s hand in mine and said:
- I am sure the houses will not be empty forever. They will be inhabited, there will be light inside, smoke from the kitchen.”
I held Loan’s hand more tightly and continued:
- Houses in good condition like these should not be abandoned. They should be renovated to be lived in again. This is their wishes and the wish of this scene.”
He made himself very much at home, walking around, admiring the bookcase and the painting on the wall by artist Duy. He then stopped by the window, drew aside the blue curtains and exclaimed with pleasure:
- Look at that pretty garden!
I said I liked it too, for the simple reason I could see it from my window, as if it were all mine. He liked the mock-orange flowers with their tiny leaves, the young plum tree laden with fruit, the rose bed in full bloom, the morning-glory trellis with purple flowers, his favorite color. Then he came to a sudden conclusion:
- Actually, the garden has no value in itself. It is beautiful because it’s right beside the house of a beautiful lady.