An Alien in America An Alien in America

It's now two-thirty in the morning. My three angelic children Tam-Teresa, Tan-Paul, and Trung-Joseph are still asleep, so is my wife Monique. I woke up only to reminisce about the cold nights on the hills of the Marine Base, Camp Pendleton … a millennium ago. No, it's just twenty Autumns that have come and gone.  That was an unforgettable Spring for a refugee who at the time discovered a brand-new world! Everything was fascinating. I was lost in a black hole of memory. I was wondering about the new planet I was walking on. Nothing like the place I had been just a week before…What was it called?… Oh…Vietnam…                                                                  

The frozen dew on the little wild plants that were wrapping my strange footprints were like little eyes watching me, an alien - as it was printed on my refugee ID. The tall soldiers with white faces, black faces, in dark green outfits were everywhere on this vast hilly land. They carried no guns. They were so loving, friendly. They talked so beautifully. Oh, each time a voice came out, there was smoke. Not the cigarette's. I know. It's the freezing cold of the dawn.                                                                                   

How old was I? Nineteen? I remember I was a kid all over again. The memory evaded me and thinned in the air of this place. Where was this place again? Oh, California. Sounded familiar. I learned about this name when I was in Vietnam. The people of America came to help us chase the Communists, Viet Cong, back to their north side whence they came. On the bags of powdered milk were printed two hands shaking, in red, white, and blue, one hand was smaller than the other - I understood the bigger one was American; the smaller, Vietnamese. The printing read "From the people of the United States of America." The powdered milk tasted delicious! I had mouthfuls of it.    I also saw mountains of bags of wheat, the strange rice in a brown color. They were being lifted out of the trucks at the elementary school, where I was attending, to be given to the villagers later. My mother cooked some and I enjoyed the strange rice very much. It tasted so different.

    Oops! Back to reality. The Vietnam War just ended last week. I was brought here on the huge airplane, a C-130, from Tan Son Nhut Airport, Saigon. The soldiers were so kind. I felt the peace. A 180-degree turn. For the first time in my life, I did not hear the familiar noises of guns, bombs or mines. My surroundings felt very serene. No more fear of the Viet Cong. They were far away from me for sure. Sure they were left behind, very far.

    I smiled fully and happily.

    I felt like a little boy inside.

    I forgot I was nineteen and an alien.

Linh Duy Vo

Saturday, December 9, 1995 ©    





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