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Owen L Boyd
Owen L Boyd
Lindsay Boyd is a writer, personal carer and traveller originally from Melbourne, Australia. He has visited more than sixty countries and lived and worked in a number of them. As a writer he is principally a novelist though he also writes shorter pieces, fiction and non-fiction.
 

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Love in the Midst of Distractions

Nov. 4, 2017 12:01 am
Categories: Travel pieces
Keywords: None

I knew she was special when I first clapped eyes on her on level 1 of Da Nang’s Ho Motel 2. I had been the premise’s unofficial ‘writer in residence’ for the past month, having elected Da Nang as my location to knuckle down to some week’s solid writing in the midst of a four-month long trip to Asia.

“Excuse me. Do you mind if I sit there while I check something?”

I lifted my gaze from the computer balanced upon my lap to the young woman crossing my vision from right to left. “Of course not. Make yourself comfortable.”

I was on the right-hand side of the three-seater (or four-seater with a tight squeeze) couch positioned by the back wall on level 1. The young woman took the place beside me and without further ado turned her attention to her phone.

I would think later it was remarkable we crossed paths. The motel’s wifi connection had worked well enough in my fourth floor room for the first ten to fourteen days of my stay. But an unexpected glitch abruptly upset the smooth running of things, necessitating daily sessions on level 1, the only place in the building where I could still hook up.

It was essential I did so regularly, immersed as I was in pre- and now post- publication strategy for a just released novel. I supposed the one who had just graced my presence had encountered similar technological problems in her room. Busy as we were, neither of us were so intent on what we wished to do on our individual pieces of gadgetry that we could find no time for each other and a different, more old-fashioned, sort of connection.

“What’s your name?”

“Susan.”

I smiled, partial to the habit many of the young Vietnamese women had of adopting English versions of their names, names they feared might be unpronounceable to Westerners. I mulled over Susan and concluded it would do fine. “Where are you from, Susan?”

“Hanoi.”

In part to return the favour, I told her to call me Lin or Linds, chopping my name from the standard two syllables to one.

“On vacation?” It was a reasonable surmise on my part. The motel sat a few minutes walk from the heralded sands of My Khe beach and the other eleven rooms were often occupied by Vietnamese from different parts of the country, especially it seemed the north. Susan was in the same boat, with a party of friends and / or family, though I never inquired how many her group consisted of.

But there was a unique twist to her being in central Vietnam. “I’m just back home after four years in Taiwan. I teach Chinese.”

I admired the fact that one so young could claim that experience. It could not have been common by any means, I thought.

“Happy to be home?”

“Yes.”

“I can imagine,” I commented, from my own experience. “I hope the euphoria lasts.”

“After being away a long time it’s good to see something of where you’re from,” I added, a moment later. “It grounds you in a way.”

When she learnt I was a writer her eyes lit up. “I’d like to read your work.”

That was easily attended to. I delayed not in in sending her a book of short stories I had self-published two years previously.

The longer she remained by my side the harder it became for me not to look at her. She reminded me of someone, or something. What was it?

“Do you speak any Vietnamese?”

I tried to rustle up a couple of the few words I had committed to memory but ultimately spared her the indignity of my butchered pronunciation, which I was sure it would have been. “I’m far from mastering it, I’m afraid. Terrible, isn’t it?”

Yet I was aware of no shyness in this radiantly beautiful one’s company. Quite the contrary. I sensed an overwhelming peace, as of one who had reached home at last.

Another of her questions set the seal on the love she was inspiring in me. “Are you travelling alone?”

I had been asked the self-same thing numerous times over the course of more than twenty years world travels and sometimes hesitated to answer. For good reason. In certain parts a lone wolf traveller was an enigma. Vietnam was a case in point. I had met many Vietnamese unable to comprehend mystery men, or women, who roamed alone, with neither spouse nor children to speak of. More than once I had felt like offering a handkerchief to the one I was speaking to, such was the distress the reality of my solitude brought on.

Coming from Susan, the question amounted to checkmate. If my answer rattled her like it did not a few of her compatriots my heart would go out to her more than it had already done and I would want to allay her distress. On the other hand, if she understood … !

“Yes,” I replied. “Travelling with someone can be really good too. But I’ve gotten used to going it alone. Sometimes it’s easier.”

The look she gave me made it clear; she understood. And I understood that for her to have understood, she had to have known what it was like to be the stranger in a strange land. Well, of course she knew what that was like. It stood to reason. She had embraced the loneliness of the wayfaring path and emerged victorious. The eyes of a soul mate, or a help-meet, as they were called in India, were fixed on mine.

To read the rest of this essay, please go to http://www.anaksastra.com and click on 'current issue'.

 
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