#2. I Ain’t Gonna Tell Anyone

To this day, I still don’t know what evil forces pushed me into that alleyway, approached that criminal-look-alike creature (spoiler: he was an actual criminal), and dragged him home. Not my home. Not that I own anything. But one must have this illusion that one actually possesses something, anything, to ground one’s feet on the road and stop thinking about death. That sentence is far too long. Madam Lieu always said that if I were to be an author, I would be a bad writer and an excellent storyteller. You have too many stories to tell, she said, but your way of telling them is a bit off. And wordy, I said. Especially wordy, she said.

Back to the story, I didn’t know why I choose to approach the criminal-look-alike man on the crime-scene-look-alike alleyway. I hadn’t had a lot of customers that day. Perhaps I wanted to make the quota. Perhaps in the splitting moment of a crazy illusion, I dreamt that the man was handsome. Or perhaps the ghost of the man I killed decided that finally, there was a punishment that was just for me.

“Hey handsome, wanna go for a ride?” Or in other words, the beginning of my damned luck.

“No, thanks.” He said. He was crouching down in the corner as if he was trying to make himself look small. But this giant can only look more and more stupid.

“Come on. It won’t be expensive, and I promise I’m better than any girls you can get.” I winked at the man jokingly. He was not a good catch, I could tell, but he was a fine man.

“I’m not gay. I’m not interested.”

“Everyone says that before they try.” I sat down beside him, blowing hot air into his ears.

“Your “everyone” doesn’t include me.” He spat at me, then turned away, as if I was a hideous bag of garbage. I laughed at his expression. Well if I’m the garbage, I’m gonna make you smell, too, you fine, stupid man. I leaned closer to him and rubbed my face on his arm.

Then the loudspeaker at the street corner announced the time. It’s seven o’clock. I turned my head toward the sound. The woman’s voice proceeded monotonously, “As of yesterday, there’s still no news regarding the murder of Mr. Phuc, mayor of Da Nang, central of Nam. A warrant had been issued nationwide. The suspect is believed to be a man in his thirties, named Nguyen Van Nha, a construction worker. General Van – the town’s chief police – said the culprit stole Mr. Phuc’s wallet and watch. It is considered an intentional murder.”

I felt the man beside me trembled vigorously at the woman’s last words, and I heard a murmur through clenched teeth, Those bastards. I moved closer to the man, laughingly said,

“Who are those bastards, handsome?”

“No one.” He breathed. His fingers bit into his skin and broke the thin surface. Blood was tripling down his arm slowly. I stuck my face to his’s sleeve; my eyes lit up mischievously, “You tell me, handsome, who are those bastards? If you tell me, I may give you a discount – ” I pulled out a pack of cigarettes, put one to my mouth, and offered him one, ” – And a night you won’t be able to forget.”

“Why do you care? You dirty prostitute.” He stood up and trotted away. I caught up to him and patted his back:

“You’re right. I’m your dirty prostitute. What’s wrong with that? At least, I didn’t kill no one.” I lied.

As if a switch was turned off, his body swiftly turned around. He pushed me against the wall, crushed my shoulder blade against the hard cemented surface, and hissed,

“You dare breathe one more word, and you are as good as dead.”

“So it’s true? So you’re the murderer?” I asked nonchalantly and puffed my cigarette. He started trembling. He looked at me, his eyes were a dark, bottomless abyss, screaming to anyone willing to listen, Save me. He had the same eyes as me.

His hands were hanging uselessly in the air as if the last piece of life had abandoned him, and he fell to his knees. His towering figure couldn’t hold him up. His strong feet couldn’t hold him up. Even the brutal force he used on me just now couldn’t hold him up. He kneeled on the rough pavement, his mouth opened in a long, silent bellow. His large hands held onto the hem of my jacket as if it was the only beacon of hope that was trying to hold him up.

“I ain’t gonna tell anyone, don’t worry.” I touched the man’s shoulder slightly. “No one’s gonna believe a prostitute anyway.” He couldn’t hear me. His fingers were scratching the dirt of the pavement as if he thought that if he dug deep enough, he could find the life he had lost. And if he couldn’t find it, maybe he can bury the life he currently held within him.

“Now, don’t do that. Don’t do that. Come here. You little boy. Can you stand? There. Stand on your own feet. Can you walk? You can’t? Don’t worry, here, lean on me. Good boy. I ain’t telling anyone. You ain’t done yet. Ain’t you a brave one? You killed a governor! What kind of damned luck is that? Did you steal his wallet? No? And his watch? I see. Damn liars, ain’t they? There, there, no need to cry. It ain’t worth it. He must have done something terrible, didn’t he? Those bastards. You never find a good one in them. You’re called Nha, right? You must be tired. Let me bring you somewhere good.”

I rambled on, literally dragging Nha beside me. The man howled, quiet at first, then louder and louder as my soothing voice caressing him, as if my voice had finally broken the spell controlling the wounded beast inside him. “Don’t do that,” I repeated gently, “you don’t want no one to notice, do you?” I patted the man’s broad shoulders. Nha inhaled deeply; his heart-rending howl was quickly reduced to little, broken sobs. I smiled brightly, “Now, that’s a good boy.” I looked up at the dimly lit sky of the barren summer evening. What kind of damned luck is this? I snickered. Just imagine what Hell I would get into when those cops find out. But Nha’s warmth over my shoulder, the small whimper in my ears, and the sound of heels clicking on the dusty pavement successfully muted my reasoning. I remembered the dried, gentle, smoke-induced voice of the dust-covered past and the thin figure in a white shirt standing by forgotten windows. The figure in my memory sang softly, Dù tình yêu đã mất, em ôm trọn thương đau, nhìn bước anh đi –*

*Translation: And even if love was lost, I hold onto the agony, watching you leave.

***************

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