“Was this country not spoilt even rotten already? Do you see what happens in the Centre of Viet Nam? Do you see Formosa and now hundreds of thousands of people without job, home, future and even you and me here threatened every time we eat, in touch with anything relating to the sea: fish, fish sauce, let alone bathing in the sea? And sadly not only Formosa! Do you see that Viet Nam is losing its control of its sea? More than 40 years, the communist party has an absolute power in this country. If they don’t do it well, share the leadership with others!”
“You are too idealistic. No ruler does that, particularly in this country. If you are strong, you are fine. Otherwise you are crushed, crushed. However bad the situation is, people just ignore and take any possible occasion to crush each other. It is very hard.”
“That’s it. I don’t say it’s easy. At least we should recognise that there is a problem, that it is bad, and then discuss to find a way out. We should discuss, and different voices should be heard, the grip should be loosened. The communist party should stop jailing people because people speak out. And we will find together a way out of this.”
Trung kept silent for a while. He lit another cigarette and smoke. Trong moved his head slightly, his breath was less steady and he made little sounds like hiccup from time to time. Poor Trong, he was one of my closest friends. I recognised now that he wore eyeglasses, which had not been the case last time we met, maybe because he read too much. He loved reading, particularly political and historical books. His hair turned now to white nearly completely. It had been gray since the days we were studying together, because of some kind of bad blood problem, as he often explained when we posed joke (not at all kind we were) about his hair. He was small, mild and very kind to me, as always. He took me to see all of his friends whenever I went to the South.
“It is not that easy to tell all out in one shot.” I continued “But at least what I can say for now is that this country is failing, the environment is dying, irreversible, it is vital. And the responsibility is with the communist party, who runs this country alone for so many years. I am sorry that I talk too much, Trung, but…”
“Don’t worry. I would like to listen. You say we should discuss, don’t you?” Trung replied.
“Thank you, I appreciate that. Coming back to your allusion between the management of a country and company, what I can say is that country is not a company. In a company, the boss can be sacked by the board or can go to another company. In a country, you have nowhere else to go unless you leave your country. Or at least most of you, you can’t go all. Here it is your house; it is our house, your children and grandchildren’s house. Do you love your daughter, your son? Do you want to send them away forever? We are here to love each other and love this country.”
I looked at him, tried to catch his eyes. Trung opened the other bottle and turned to Trọng, who was at the moment half awake.
“Wake up guy. You sleep enough. Your name is Trong but you don’t show any respect to us. Wake up and drink your round.” Trung tapped on Trong’s back and moved his shoulder. Trong gurgled and moaned slightly.