Today is the 1st August of the lunar month. It is then one month since anh Quách Ngọc Bửu Chương was not any more with us. He left us forever after a tragic road accident. A month like a blink, just like yesterday.
Anh Chương is a very close friend of my brother, Trien Le Vinh as his classmate. They grew up together, came to junior, secondary, high school, university together. They shared joys, arguments, dreams, success, failure, friends and more.
By that, anh Chương is a friend of our family as well as his family is friend to ours. We are all families whose father are Republic of Vietnam officers. Those fathers who went through the war together, shared time in re-education camp and moments in street cafeteria the years after their coming back from the camp. I heard that anh Chương’s father has brought a pack of rice to our family during those difficult years, and not only once. Can I ever forget that?
Politics in those days were not values or freedom or democracy or anything the likes. It was the need for rice, nuoc mam, sweet potato, sometimes a slice of meet, those so abundant before 1975 became extremely rare because of the idiotic communist planification economy.
Anh Chương’s family is originally Chinese that has come to Vietnam many years or generations ago. There are a lot of families like his in Soc Trang. His family had a cafeteria shop with a big television like business, which could explain that they were somehow a little bit better off than the average poverty of the town. Together with my father we used to go to spend time during the evenings, myself hanging around or watching Michael Jackson’s moonwalk while the fathers talked about everything from war to the HO programme, passing by the souvenirs in the re-education camp and the news.
Anh Chương still called his relatives by pronouns like Tia, U, Che, Hia, those words that amazed me a lot. But not only that. What I was amazed the most about anh Chương is that he looked always very elegant and posh. He did wear always shirt, put inside of his nicely ironed trouser. He wore very often the nicest cap in town, slightly put on top of the head and never let the cap spoil his well combed hair. Among the Hoang Dieu high school students of his year, anh Chương was one of the best. He did win at first try the very difficult test to the Finance-Accounting University during the beginning of the 90s. Those days it was very difficult to win at first try to University in Saigon, particularly for youngsters from small provinces, who were sometimes not well sourced of books listing the Maths, Physics, Chemistry problems that we call Bo De in Vietnamese.
I remembered always the day that anh Chương came to our house to inform us about his good news. We were all very happy and thrilled and celebrated his good news and that of my brothers. Together with my brothers, he went to Saigon, and afterwards lived in our house a few years with others also friends to my brothers to fulfill their studies in different universities. My mother cooked for all and considered them all as her children. Oh, years of memory!
Once, when he still lived in our house in Saigon, anh Chương showed me his bicycle, equipped with a dynamo part touching the wheel and could make light. What a hit for a small boy like me those days, I cried out of amazement. He was winking and smiling malignly, half Rhett Butler, half Play Boy. It was that I felt of him, from those days, until now.
Yes, anh Chuong smiled and winked often and seemed always enjoy and looked at life the most positively possible. However difficult the situation is, he always took this life as a stroll, found the way out with a funny and intelligent quip, never seen him over stressed, raised his voice. He was a continuous joker. Whenever I came back to Vietnam, we came out and had a drink together, he could always poke me with his joke. He was one of the last to leave, came out of the restaurant, arm over my shoulder (he is tall, not many can arm over my shoulder), and asked me gently and listened to me about life abroad.
And now he was not any more with us. What a sudden strike of fate. I don’t know why and still ask myself, is it that everyone has a fixed sum of talent and life, the more talented one is, the shorter is his life? It certainly not the rule, but it is very possible that applies to him.
Anh Chương, you are away but memory of you always stays with us. We will miss you and think about you every beginning of lunar month of July.