The day before yesterday I visited one of my friend, a cancer victim, who is married with a little baby and now lives in Van Dien. She is suffering from terminal cancer, and has lost her hair after radiology treament. Doctors said she must not breast-feed her baby, and be isolated from her so that the child is not badly affected by fatal chemicals and radiation.
During our talk, my friend sat far from me, trying not to look at me, probably for fear that I might be affected, too, by the chemicals she held inside her blood vessels, or that I may feel scared to see her terrible terminal cancer. But when I stood up, preparing to leave, she gave me a big sudden hug, and said in tears, “I promise myself that I will survive. I will, for my child.”
She put her face on my shoulder. Though I couldn’t see her eyes, I felt they were full of tears, the tears that she was trying to hold back. I whispered, or to be exact, I said in my tiny and husky voice, as usual, “I see, I see. Come on, friend, you will live. Surely you will live.”
What more could I say? I did not believe in my false words of comfort, though. I thought to myself that this was possibly the last time I saw her. I got her off, saying goodbye, walking out, and almost ran. Yes, I did run. I just wanted to flee, as quickly as I could, from this place of Van Dien – the rural outskirts of Hanoi. Dusty roads and trees on their sides darkened when the evening was drawing in. Winter night fell so quickly. I saw a little glowing light in roadside windows. I saw tens of worn-out faces of those exhausted by the soulless, tiring life in this quiet suburb. Cold winds blew my hair when I rode back to Hanoi, and shivered with cold and with fear. Now I saw more clearly than ever the unexplicit fear deep inside my heart. I had an underneath fear of death, seperation, tragedies, tears, and misery, which I have always scarcely put up with and for which I just wished to run away as quickly as possible. I needed to escape from this dark and destitute land, where hundreds of people has fatal cancer every year generally because of pollution and especially because they are “fated” to die young. It’s the land of poverty. The land of social evils. The land of enviroment pollution. The land of desperate illness. The land of home breakdowns. The land of tragedies. The land where I lived my childhood and part of my youth.
I remember how I felt creepy on sombre days, on hearing of my friends’ death, when I was a small child living with my parents in poor living quarters in the south of Hanoi. I remember women shouting themselves hoarse in fear and despair, “Child, my child…”. I remember tired faces of people hardly earning their life by hundred of nameless jobs: pedicab driving, bicycle bumping, shoe sewing, chopstick chopping, etc. I remember how I wondered why so many people around me died young for countless reasons; so that I asked my friend, “Why does human life cost too little here?,” and he replied, “Whose life? Do you think your life means much?”
Now I knew why I don’t feel like going to mountainous and rural areas in Vietnam. It’s because I hate to see tragedies. I have witnessed enough gloomy lives which can be found in great abundance in Vietnam.
It is lucky to me, however, that the friend of mine who has terminal cancer has never got access to the Internet, otherwise she would find these words a bell tolling her death.